Parenting a Child with ADHD
Growing up, I don’t remember anyone being concerned with allergies and the many behavioral problems we hear about today. In fact, the only thing I remember being odd was a boy in my class who was lactose intolerant. Can you imagine not being able to eat ice cream? Perhaps that would have worked in my favor as I was a chunky kid growing up, but that is another topic altogether.
As parents today, we face many worries and challenges that our parents could not have imagined. Peanut allergies, Red Dye 40, gluten-free diets… the list goes on. I took a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school everyday for lunch. Today, many schools will not allow any peanut products to come into their facilities, even for lunch. Have we become overly sensitive to some of these issues that affect a small part of the population? Sometimes it feels like it.
On top of that there are many disorders that can cause concern for parents, especially those who adopt, such as RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
I want to talk about our personal experience with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder).
Our son Jackson was diagnosed with PTSD as well as ADHD shortly after being placed with us. Most of the time, when children are placed into foster care, the back-story is far from pleasant and foster parents are relied upon to help these children through the transition to the next stage of their lives.
The unknowns related to both PTSD and ADHD have been some of the most difficult and stressful aspects of parenthood for me. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a problem of not being able to focus, being overactive, not being able to control behavior, or a combination of these.
After his initial diagnosis, we were torn on the idea of putting him on medication. Eventually we decided to try it the summer before he started Kindergarten. I was concerned that he would not be able to focus at school unless we did something. In the end, I am glad that we did, as I believe it has been helpful to him overall.
Like many parents out there who have a child with ADHD, I have many stories that now, in retrospect, are hilarious. For instance, in our previous house, the master bedroom and bath were in the basement. Directly above the master bath was the bathroom that the boys used. One morning when I was brushing my teeth, a pounding noise started echoing through the wall and as I turned around and looked behind the door, water began pouring out of the top of the doorframe all over the floor. I ran upstairs assuming that the toilet was overflowing and to my surprise the bathroom was empty and the floor was dry. I went to Jackson’s room and there he sat on his bed waiting for me like any other day. What we eventually discovered was that Jackson had poured two glasses of water down the heating vent in the bathroom thinking that the water would simply go outside. I was furious at the time, but today I can look back at this incident and laugh about it.
His impulsivity has been a source of frustration for me, as I have often wanted to bang my head against the wall. Still when you are a parent, the road can be rocky with several potholes that slow you down. When they say that parenthood is not easy, they aren’t kidding. However, it is not always about the child, parenting has a lot to do with you and how you approach it. All kids are different and have unique personalities, as do we parents, and each may need something different in order to be successful.
My advice for anyone out there who may have a child with ADHD is to take a lot of deep breaths, count in your head, meditate, do something to relax your mind and remind yourself not to take their behavior personally. Think about everything from a prospective of how you can help him or her be successful: sticker charts, consistent rewards, and finding outlets to release energy will be key.
As with many other aspects of life, just when you think you are on the right path, there will be a fork in the road and you must decide which way to go. I finally appreciate the difficulty my parents had with my older brother who was disobedient and had little respect for authority. What I have learned is that when you parent a child with ADHD, you need to be proactive and often ready to change your plan or approach at the last minute. What works today may not work tomorrow, let alone next week. Furthermore, children with ADHD can struggle with transitions, often resisting change or being the last to move away from one task to another.
The best advice I can give you is to hang in there and just remember to take it one day at a time.