Healthy Living Wasn't Enough
I'm a big believer in a healthy, nutritional approach to life. My kids went to pre-school with tofu squares and chopped red peppers, and my Vitamix grinds out green smoothies on a daily basis. I treat “nuts and berries” as its own food group.
So you can imagine how difficult it was for me when my children started to face significant challenges in life and in school, and my healthy lifestyle wasn't enough to help me overcome their challenges. It turns out, I have 3 children now diagnosed with ADHD – a condition they've inherited from my husband and I.
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More Than An Excuse
I know there's a lot of hype about ADHD in the media, and it's easy to want to dismiss it as a diagnosis of convenience. But consider the parent who painstakingly watches as a bright child takes two hours to complete 10 minutes of homework; or loves a child who is just unable to manage his or her emotions or impulsivity in a healthy way, no matter how hard he tries; or struggles with a child's inability to sit for even three minutes at the family dinner table. For that parent, understanding that ADHD is, in fact, a very real, but manageable condition can make all the difference in the world. ADHD can be painful, and stressful, and devastating if not properly managed. I speak from experience.
A New Hope
Nearly 10 years ago, now, as my healthy family was spinning out of control, I was facing the serious implications of what happens when ADHD goes untreated and unmanaged. It nearly destroyed my family and my marriage. We knew that many of us had ADHD, but we had no idea what to do about it.
After years of struggling, I found two things that saved my family: a nutritionist, and the world of coaching (in that order).
The nutritionist introduced a gluten-free diet (this was LONG before gluten-free was something you could readily buy in the grocery store), and put us on a regimen of fish oils, pro-biotics, and other supplements. She helped us start what would turn out to be a long healing process. To this day, I thank Kelly Dorfman for saving my daughter's life, in particular.
The coaching taught me how to manage my life. It gave me an empowering outlook, and the strategies to make life work. It's been the number one game-changer for my entire family.
ADHD Is A Tough Opponent
You see, undiagnosed ADHD does a number on you – not just on your body, but on your soul. ADHD is properly diagnosed when the challenges that an individual faces significantly interfere with more than one aspect of his or her life. It is not a character trait or a tendency. Rather, it is marked by an individual's inability to produce desired results, despite the intention (and sometimes the effort) to do so. As ADDers, we know what we're “supposed” to do, but we can't quite figure out how to get it done. From our perspective, it can be absolutely maddening. And then you start seeing yourself as bad, stupid, lazy, and ineffective. You can imagine how that plays out. It's a vicious cycle. Coaching gave me a framework to turn all that negative self-talk around.
There are so many things we need to do to make the world more manageable for all of us, especially those of us with ADHD. It would be wonderful if the world slowed down a bit to give us all a chance to catch our breath. It would be magical if children received more outdoor education, frequent breaks and healthy food in schools – and if class sizes were significantly smaller, so many more children would be able to thrive.
But in the interim, while many of us are working hard to make these changes a reality in our world, it's important to provide support and understanding to those who struggle with ADHD, a complicated neurobiological disorder. While we are supported by a healthy lifestyle, there is much more that we need to overcome the very real challenges we face.
Facing It With Understanding
ADHD is a lifestyle management condition, much like living with diabetes or allergies. Parents need to be encouraged to understand the condition, and make the healthiest choices they can make. NOT identifying and managing the challenges can be devastating to families, and to society.
After I turned my family life around with an active management of ADHD, in combination with our healthy lifestyle, I co-founded ImpactParents, focusing exclusively on helping parents learn how to manage ADHD. One way that we do that is by “activating the brain,” which I see as any measure parents might use to understand and then address what is actually happening in their child's brain. Since ADHD is a neurobiological condition, some measures can improve the efficiency or effectiveness of the brain, such as exercise, nutrition, brain-training, sleep, hygiene, or other options. Some parents choose to use medication as an activator, others do not. I do not want to prescribe for parents the choices that they make for their children. I do want parents to be aware of the importance of engaging the brain in effectively managing the impact of ADHD.
The good news is that people with ADHD can be creative, brilliant and incredibly successful. But for these children to grow up to reach their full potential, they must learn to manage themselves. In order for them to do that, their parents must learn to understand what they are dealing with, and help their children learn to manage themselves. Denial of their children's neuro-biological challenges does not serve anyone.