Parenting is a full-time job. At all times, pieces of our hearts travel with our children. We worry about their health and safety. We dream about their futures. But, sometimes things don’t go as we hope. If you have a child who struggles with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), it can be a very frustrating and often, an isolating experience. If you have a child with ADHD, you are not alone. Believe me: I understand and have experienced it all raising two boys with ADHD, both diagnosed at the age of six.
Parenting a child with ADHD has many difficulties, whether it’s the family dynamic, mental wellness or simple tasks. I understand these frustrations too well. I know what it feels like when you are talking to a child who immediately looks away. I understand how challenging it is when instructions are repeatedly given and simply not followed.
ADHD is a chronic neuro-developmental disorder, which is thought to affect approximately 3–7% of children, with a higher prevalence amongst males. The disorder is associated with a number of problems, including conduct, learning disorders and mental health difficulties. Generally, it is diagnosed on the basis of three factors: attentional deficits, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Treatment approaches include use of stimulant pharmacotherapy, dietary modifications and supplements, behavioural interventions and counselling.
Before a child receives a diagnosis of ADHD, as a parent, our mind cannot help but think, “what is wrong?” Thus, it begins your child’s experience with daily negative feedback from adults, who cannot see his PRO-abilities and only experience frustration with his DIS-abilities. Feelings of doubt, anxiety, and shame begin to fester within them. My sons have shared hearing the phrases, “Why did you do that? What is wrong with you? Stop talking. You are so annoying,” through their childhood. Their response? To become frustrated with themselves and lash out at others. Early on, their self-identity is scarred by something out of their control.
I’ve lost count of the number of times teachers, coaches, and other adults have simply washed their hands of my sons. Often times, it was done without a shred of empathy. I’d witness the pain in their eyes, which became internalized hatred towards themselves. In their mistakes, tears filled with regret, from their impulsive actions, which they truly could not help. This is not to say they are inexcusable or justified in their behaviour. Like neurotypicals, they make mistakes and hurt others. But, as parents, we must consider our response to their behaviours, so as to come from a place of compassion and love.
Let us teach our children, ADHD is not a curse, but a superpower. Magic happens when you see the true mirror image of each trait. Look beyond ADHD, you’ll find a child hoping to be understood and respected. Negative labels are destructive to everyone, especially to a person who labels him/herself. Dump those negative labels – ignore the negative chatter – and see just how amazing your child is.
Both my sons, aged 15 and 21 today, see what others don’t see and see so much more; champion multi-taskers; philosophically deeper than most people; find something they love, do it with passion; out of the box thinkers; resilient; work well under pressure; have a photographic memory; compassionate and empathetic.
Embrace your superhero and celebrate their bright, shining gift. When he grows up, he’ll never forget who cheered him on… and who didn’t. That friend that moved on? His loss. That horrible teacher he had? He’ll still be there in that classroom unfortunately crushing another child’s spirit. But your child? Who knows… he no doubt will be changing the world with his words, his music, his art, his science, or even just his smile. And, he will never forget those wonderful teachers, and true friends, who saw his beautiful talents and always had faith in him.
Today, through determination, preservation and hard work, my oldest son is currently in his last year at University of Toronto, majoring in Humanities and my youngest, completed grade nine, both with honours in addition to achieving their second degree black belt “Kyo San Nim” in Tae Kwon Doe.
So, before you write off any child with ADHD, I ask that you consider joining us on this journey. I ask that you look into their eyes and see potential, see a work in progress, see someone who will help you grow as human being. I ask for your understanding. I ask for your patience. I ask that you step up to the challenge and help their light shine bright.
The Mother of Two Boys with ADHD.