A plan for parenting ADHD
When my son was diagnosed with ADHD Thanksgiving week 2008, I was thrust into a new parenthood I knew nothing about. I spent countless hours over several years learning all I could about ADHD from as many different sources as possible. I also spent a great deal of effort getting to know my son’s intricacies, so I could tailor a parenting plan that would be successful for our family, despite ADHD. Here are the top 10 strategies I compiled over the last five years.
Top 10 for Raising a Child with ADHD
(From a Mom Who Had to Learn the Hard Way)
- Remember: You don’t have an “ADHD child” and saying your child “is ADHD” would be a lie too. You have a child with ADHD – there’s a very big difference. This change in mindset alone will do wonders for you and your child! A child who has ADHD is so many other (wonderful) things; they should not just be defined by their ADHD.
- Every child has gifts and dreams. It may be tougher to discover their gifts, but a child with ADHD has talents and interests just as any other individual. Help your child uncover what they are good at and provide an abundance of opportunities to nurture their gifts and pursue their dreams.
- Determination is a gift. A strong-willed child may be tough on their parents at times, but the determination at the core of a strong will is a blessing that will help your child reach goals and make great accomplishments in life.
- Recognize and accept your child has a disability. Merriam-Webster defines disability as: “a disqualification, restriction, or disadvantage.” Anyone with ADHD has a disability. Accepting this allows you to stop looking for a “fix” and focus on raising a happy, healthy child in spite of his disability.
- Work Together: The parent-child dynamic cannot be a dictatorship when raising a child with ADHD. A dictatorship is never a good idea in general really. Discuss all issues (except safety matters, of course) with your child as though it’s a problem to solve together. Provide opportunity for your child to share their potential solutions too and come to a mutual agreement. This usually circumvents yelling and helps your child feel like they have some control in a life riddled with a lack of it. Remain calm and work together (for more on Collaborative Problem Solving, see Dr. Ross Greene’s website, http://LivesInTheBalance.org).
- There is no magic bullet for ADHD. Another truth you must accept sooner rather than later. Medication, vitamins and supplements, special diets, neurofeedback, free range parenting, home schooling, etc… will not erase ADHD. ADHD is a neurological, physiological difference a person is born with or attains via brain injury. If there were a cure, do you think there would be anyone over the age of diagnosis with ADHD? Of course not. You cannot change ADHD, but you can change how it is managed, structuring a fulfilling life for your child where ADHD is just a footnote.
- Grades aren’t everything. The sooner you accept that your child may never make the honor roll, no matter how high his I.Q., the better off you and your child will be. Grades aren’t everything and they are not a true measure of future success.
This may help gain some perspective: Einstein did terrible in school; Mark Twain dropped out of school at age 13; Quentin Tarantino dropped out of high school his freshman year; Peter Jennings got terrible grades in school; Stephen Spielberg was denied entry to film school due to poor grades; Thomas Edison’s teacher told him he was too stupid to learn anything…
- Every individual with ADHD is just that, an individual. No two people are alike. While many disorders and diseases present with the same symptoms, that is not the case for ADHD. It can manifest to varying degrees and in different ways. What works for Mary’s child may not work for your child. This is an especially important fact when working with your child’s school to ensure they implement appropriate accommodations and services to achieve academic success. There is no formula to educate a child with ADHD, especially when you layer in other conditions that commonly occur with ADHD. My son has ADHD, but also Sensory Processing Disorder, Dysgraphia, Written Expression Disorder, significant Executive Functioning delays, and a Gifted IQ. That is a very distinctive set of needs and his education must be tailored accordingly. Your child with ADHD is completely different – their education must also be tailored accordingly.
- Take time for yourself. This is a lesson I still haven’t truly taken to heart, but I’m trying to. The oxygen mask theory applies – you must put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you can help others. Taking time for yourself does not have to be time-consuming or costly. You could take a walk alone each day, set aside a bit of time for a hobby each week, get a massage or a manicure every now and then, take a nightly bath, etc… You can even go to the Happy Mama Conference & Retreat for a weekend of respite just for moms like us. If you wait for available time for self-care, you will never take time for yourself. Make time for yourself; schedule it if you have to.
- This too shall pass. Kids grow up and mature. Even our kids with ADHD. As they get older, it typically gets a little easier. ADHD is not likely to go away, but life with ADHD gets simpler and the extreme difficulties will pass, for the most part, with the right strategies and supports in place.