Having a child with ADHD is hard for most parents. Let’s face it, there aren’t many of us proudly telling other parents “Oh yes, my child has ADHD, and I’m so proud of him. It is such hard work, but it’s so rewarding”. It’s exhausting, never-ending and not for the faint-hearted. Because of the stigma attached to ADHD, most parents tell very few people. ADHD is often linked with other issues such as dyslexia, oppositional defiant disorder, sensory processing disorder, and a whole heap of other “labels,” so parents can find themselves feeling even more overwhelmed and lost in a morass of labels and confusion.
When you type ADHD into Google, a mere 58,100,000 results come back, and I can guarantee you that the majority of them will be negative, scary and gloomy. On the first page of Google results, ADHD is described as a brain disorder or a mental disorder involving neurodevelopment – talk about focusing on the negatives! However, there are so many positives to this type of personality that aren’t always discussed or highlighted among stressed and overwhelmed parents.
There is a legend that the Native Americans couldn’t see Christopher Columbus’s ships sailing to shore. It’s said that because they’d never seen anything like this before, their minds simply couldn’t process the information and their brains wouldn’t allow their eyes to see the ships. As the story goes, one man noticed ripples in the ocean, so every day he would watch the ripples, until eventually he could spot the ships.
Once he spotted the ships, he told all other the Native Americans, and then they too could see the ships. Now, where am I going with this? I’m telling you this because if your child has ADHD, like most other parents, you have probably spent an enormous amount of time sifting through some of the 58,100,000 Google results, and you are probably feeling sad, confused, overwhelmed and scared for the future of your ADHD child.
Well, today, I would like you to think of yourself as one of those Native Americans, and I’m man who has just seen the ships. It may be hard for you to see the ships, and I totally understand that it could take some time, but just allow yourself for the next few minutes to open your mind to a more positive side of ADHD.
1. Learn about all the people in the world who are thriving with ADHD
There are so many amazing people on this planet right now who have ADHD and are thriving. There are so many writers, musicians, artists, actors, athletes and entrepreneurs who have ADHD and have learned to see it as a gift. They have learned how to use this “superpower” as their ultimate positive trait, and they are thriving in life. And it’s not just grown-ups, there are children and teenagers with ADHD who are making a mark in this world and sharing their journeys. Start to read about these people, gain knowledge about them, and empower yourself. Then you can empower your child and watch their confidence grow. Try searching Google for things like: “ADHD is my superpower,” “Thriving with ADHD,” and “ADHD kids rock.” You get the drift!
2. Discover who you are
There are so many parents who discovered they had ADHD after their child was diagnosed. I’m not suggesting that every parent who has a child with ADHD has ADHD themselves, but it’s becoming more recognised that the little ADHD apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Think about who you were as a child. What did you parents say? What did your school reports say about you? Were you a drifter or a wanderer? Remembering who you were and discovering who you are now could help not only yourself but also your child. And, better still, it may strengthen your bond with them. Remember the saying, “birds of a feather flock together.” Maybe you and your child have more in common than you think!
3. Help your child to find his or her passion
I know it’s hard when you feel that you can spend most of your day either screaming at you child or wanting to scream at him or her, but take some time to discover your child’s strengths. Does he or she like art, nature, or building things? Is your child good at running, dancing, or gymnastics? There was a little boy in America named Pierson Feeney (he’s one of the positive ADHD searches you should type into Google). His mum noticed that he would constantly move his feet and that he found it difficult to concentrate in school. Medication didn’t work for Pierson, so his desperate mum decided to try something different. She enrolled him into a dance school, and the rest, as they say, is history. Pierson now dances after school every day, and because of his love of dancing, he has learned how to focus on something he loves. He is now able to focus more in school and is thriving in life – for Pierson, ADHD is his greatest asset!
4. Don’t feel embarrassed when talking to teachers
Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer, has won 23 gold medals, but when he was younger, he couldn’t concentrate in school. His mother was told by his teacher that Michael couldn’t focus on anything, yet he has gone on to be the most decorated Olympian of all time. He couldn’t concentrate in the classroom, but he could focus on swimming, and like Pierson, through his passion, he learned how to focus. Instead of talking about what your child can’t do, ask the teachers to explore what they are good at. Are they good at sports? Are they are a fast runner? A good singer? Do they have rhythm or a good ear for music, or do they have artistic talents? Oftentimes, kids with ADHD are very creative. Ask the school to work with you to find your child’s passion. If they are good at something, their confidence will grow, and they will thrive – this could be the thing that makes them succeed!
5. Accept what it is and go with it
So many parents want to try and change their child, and this could simply be because of peer pressure. We all want to conform and come across as a “normal” family, but kids with ADHD are different, and making peace with the situation and accepting it can be very liberating. Parents want their child to stop being impulsive, hyperactive and inattentive, but realising that their brains are wired differently, letting go of how you think your child should be, and embracing the child that you have is very healing. Recognising and accepting their flaws will help you stop and see their rainbows on a rainy day. Every child is good at something, but it’s often hard to see this when you are hell-bent on trying to change them.
6. Try to make peace with your child’s bad days
So many parents feel that their ADHD child does things to upset them on purpose. They don’t listen, and they are hyperactive and defiant. However, learning to make peace with it and accepting what is will help so much. When they act out, often it’s because they are over-stimulated or feeling anxious. Kids with ADHD can have emotions that are so much more intense than other kids’, and they struggle with the simplest of changes. A change in routine, a different teacher, or even a different type of clothing or meal can flip them into a rage. Remembering this on bad days or during bad moments can help so much. Just go with it, accept it and be confident in yourself as a parent. Try not to feel embarrassed in front of other parents; everyone is going through something, it’s just that no one talks about it!
7. Use a positive type of discipline
At the end of the day, we are raising mini-humans, and just like in the animal kingdom, they need the leaders of the pack to keep them in line. However, like animals in the wild, if you try taming your spirited children too much, they will fight back! This can then mean that you can’t even get them to obey a single instruction, which is draining and hard for parents. Using a simple method like “pasta in the jar” is great because it’s visual and easy for both the child and the parent. You simply place some dried pasta in a jar, and each time the child doesn’t listen to your instructions, you take one piece of pasta out of the jar. As soon as you take pasta from the jar, immediately give them a way to earn that pasta back. This allows them to act in a positive way and helps them to self-regulate. If they have all the pasta in their jar by the end of the week, then they get a reward! Simple!
8 One-on-one time parent time is crucial
Having one-on-one time with your child who has ADHD is often something that can fill you with dread, but having that special time with your little bottle of pop can often be the thing that helps their behaviour. Don’t overthink it; this special time could be as simple as doing crafts together, taking the dog for a walk, or visiting the park. Try not to use this time as a reward for them; instead consider it essential “mental health” time. Even if they’ve had a particularly “bad” week and you feel like you don’t want to give them this special time, try and remember: the children who need the most love are often the ones who ask for it in the most unloving ways.
9. Give them a safe space
ADHD kids will often have more thoughts before breakfast than most people have all day, and in time, this could be their greatest gift, but when they are young it can send them into sensory overload! While going to a friend’s house to play or meeting friends at a café or restaurant might seem like nothing to you, to them it can seem like the end of their world. Allowing yourself to see who they and accepting it will help you in these moments.
Be honest with family and friends that you may not always be able to attend dates, and don’t apologise for this. You have a different type of child who needs to be nurtured in a different way. When you see that your child is overwhelmed, encourage your child to go to his or her safe space. It could be their bedroom (this is why it’s great not to use this space as a punishment room). It could be a den that they have made, even under the table – but it will allow them to self-regulate once again. Trying to get them to conform will often end in disaster for the parents.
10. Choose Love
ADHD kids can be hard to love, but at the same time they are often very intuitive, and they know when people don’t like them. They will feel disapproval from their parents too, and the more they feel this, the more they will rebel! Being mindful of how you talk to them and how you speak about them (when they are in earshot) will affect their self-esteem so much. Low self-esteem in children causes them to be anxious, which can then supercharge their ADHD. Their impulsivity, hyperactivity and inattentiveness will then be on steroids, and it will become almost impossible to parent them. Showering them with love (even on bad days) won’t breed spoilt children with attachment problems. It will instead raise their self-esteem and give you a happier, more compliant little human.
Instead of thinking about all the negative aspects of ADHD, we need to think about the positives. We need to imagine Mozart composing his symphonies or Dali and Picasso drawing their masterpieces. We need to think about Jim Carrey and Robin Williams making people laugh, Steven Spielberg and Walt Disney creating some of the most iconic movies of all time, and David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue Airlines, making positive changes in the aviation industry. All these people not only had ADHD, but better still, they had someone who believed in them. Someone like that one man who could see not only the ripples in the water but the ships themselves. ADHD kids are hard to parent, but with a little compassion and understanding and a truckload of patience, they can become the most awesome humans! We could be holding the key to the success of future writers, musicians, artists, actors, athletes or entrepreneurs – let’s be the ones who help them achieve it!
Featured photo credit: Jason Rosewell via unsplash.com