ADHD,ADHD Children

Parenting ADHD Kids Is Not So Easy….24 Nov

Robert Wilford, Ph.D. and Sarah Ferman, Psy.D., L.M.F.T.

Raising a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can often be extremely frustrating, emotionally draining, and can be expensive. It is easy to forget that the role of all parents is to teach their kids (especially those kids with ADHD) how to develop a healthy personality, regulate impulses, stabilize moods, integrate feelings & actions, focus attention, and plan.  This is not an easy task for most parents even in the most perfect of circumstances.

Many times, the child’s ADHD-related problems cause ongoing problems in the parent-child relationship. These seemingly never ending or inconsistent problems create the foundation for an unhappy, guilt-ridden relationship between the child, parents (and siblings) that very often continues well into adulthood and beyond.  Many marriages can be strained to capacity especially if parents disagree in their belief in ADHD as well as their approach to dealing with it.

Frustrated parents come to see their kids as “all-or-nothing” children who have difficulty calming themselves.  There is a vexing emotional rigidity and reactivity that is present in many ADHD kids that startles and destabilizes families’ attempts to encourage rules, order and predictability.  Attempts at discipline seem to never have much impact on correcting the situation. It seems as if ADHD kids, “just can’t learn” from their mistakes.

Well meaning family members often criticize both the child (for being bad) and the parents (for being ineffective).  This only creates more tension and stress between the parents and their child. These criticisms from family, teachers, and peers also play a powerful role in a child’s development of their own self-concept.  Negative messages that if they “would just listen and try harder” which were learned in youth continue on throughout adult life. As adults they often do not seek treatment or help for their ADHD due largely to the belief that they are lazy and if they would “just try harder” they could and would be more successful in life.

In an attempt to regain control of the situation, parents of kids with ADHD resort often turn to yelling, long winded criticisms as well as punishment after punishment only to find that it seems like nothing works! What does work is short, situation specific identification of what the person did, what did not happen, and what to do now and how this can be made to more successful in the future.

A good rule of thumb is the fewer words the better. Working memory is very limited in people with ADHD.  Lengthy and historic recounts of disappointments simply don’t stick in the ADHD memory. What typically results is your ADHD child saying things like “I got it already”, “Your not helping, your making it worse”, “Shut up, you always get this way”.  That usually means that the parent is using too many words and the kid is now lost and mad.

Compounding the problems is the fact that most children and adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are exquisitely sensitive to any feedback or criticism from others. People with ADHD seem to be able to “dish it out” if you will, but are deeply injured when it is their turn to “take it”.  This begins a cycle of outbursts toward others seemingly without regard, and an inability to defend against the pain of incoming criticism.

Complicating things even more is the fact that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is genetically transmitted from one generation to the next.  Often, we find an ADHD child being raised by an undiagnosed and untreated ADHD parent. A parent who has a very limited understanding of why the child is having problems, and is not able to provide the consistency and structure the child requires to be successful.

Both the undiagnosed ADHD parent and the diagnosed ADHD child have low frustration tolerance, so both seem to easily “fall apart”, dissolving into tears.  Both are emotionally reactive when either does not get their way immediately.   Parents who were never diagnosed or recognized as having had ADHD as children, often have no idea what is needed to soothe their child as they themselves never received such care.

Raising children and knowing what to do is a full time job, one that does not come with a set of instructions. There are always going to be times when as parents you question if you are doing the right thing, and if you are making the best choices for you, your partner and your family.

Remember that children come to view themselves as others see them. If ADHD kids are told over and over “you could do so well, if you would only try harder and apply yourself” they grow up believing that they are “worthless because they cannot control their behavior.”  If you want to help your ADHD child be the best they can be, tell them what they do right, what they do better than anyone else. ADHD kids will only raise to the level that others see them. If you see your child as broken and hopeless, then you will probably get an adult who still does not know what to do with themselves or their life.

Here are a few simple things you can do to help your ADHD child be the best that they can be:

1. Acknowledge that much of your child’s misbehavior is the result of an imbalance of neurochemicals in their brain, not because they are bad kids.

2. Get the best help you can find. ADHD is a complex disorder and you will need lots of support, insight and education if you are going to be successful in helping your child manage and succeed with their ADHD.

3. Pick your battles carefully. ADHD kids can be emotional and are often quick to respond.  By deciding ahead of time that your child is going to need to be and do things differently, you can adjust your mindset to allow for differences.

There are things you can do right now as the parent of an ADHD child that will make this journey much easier:

1.   Connect with a support system of other ADHD parents. There are support groups for parents of children with ADHD both online and in person.  A good place to start is finding your local C.H.A.D.D. chapter (that stands for Children and Adults with A.D.D.).

2.   Find a psychiatrist that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD. Medications are still the most effective treatment for relief from the symptoms of ADHD.  Most pediatricians will not understand the changing needs of your child’s ADHD over time.

3.  Take a few minutes each day as a parent to do something nice for yourself. Even a few minutes in the care alone listening to your favorite song can help recharge your senses.

Our culture places a great deal of emphasis on conformity especially when it comes to raising and educating children.  Children with ADHD are simply not your average kids, and they require different approaches in order to be successful.  Much of the trouble parents have in raising ADHD kids comes as a result of trying to compare them to other non-ADHD kids.  When you can stop comparing, and start understanding and accepting your child as someone who will probably find their own unique path in life, then you are one step closer to helping your child be the best that they can be.

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Most medical doctors who treat ADD/ADHD do so as part of a larger practice. ADHD Specialists focuses primarily on only treating ADD and related conditions. This intense focus allows us to continually sharpen our clinical skills, attend specialized training, utilize the latest therapies, and build our process to meet the specific needs of our clients.

Often medical, testing and counseling services are all separately owned and located practices. It just does not make sense to have to travel from one location to another to treat the same condition. Besides the issue of time and travel, how cohesive and effective is care being delivered in multiple locations by multiple, unrelated providers who don’t have time to talk to each other?

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