ADHD Diagnosis: The Good, The Bad, and The Parent’s Role
The Benefits of an ADHD Diagnosis
All 3 of my children have ADHD. When they were diagnosed with ADHD, my reaction was not typical. Because I’m an expert in the field and I have ADHD myself, I was excited. I know that ADHD is as much a marker of talent as it is a potential problem, and I know the issues can be taken care of.
I am thrilled my kids can think outside the box, are intuitive, persistent, and creative, have a “special something about them,” have huge hearts, and desire to march to the beat of their drum. These positives make people with ADHD so interesting and potentially successful. Knowing all this, I was thrilled that my kids had a condition that could lead them into phenomenal lives. But I was happy only because I have the special knowledge most parents do not yet have. I embrace the condition of ADHD. I do not see it so much as a disorder but as a trait that can lead to tremendous success, joy, and fulfillment in life.
My wife was a little more skeptical.
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The Challenges of ADHD
People with ADHD indeed tend to contribute to the world in a very positive way. But first, they must get a handle on what’s going on. And they cannot do it alone.
Being married to me, my wife also understands ADHD and how positive it can be. But, being a mom, she was also a bit afraid, especially with our first child. Would things REALLY work out all right? Did I (me, Ned Hallowell) REALLY know what I was talking about when I said this could be a blessing, not a curse? In the beginning, she was apprehensive.
ADHD is a trait that can lead to terrible outcomes (the prisons are full of people with undiagnosed ADHD). With tendencies toward impulsive behaviors and stimulation-seeking activities, people with ADHD are at increased risk. They are more likely to suffer from addiction, get into accidents, and engage in not-well-thought-out risk-taking behaviors. Having ADHD is like having a race-car engine for a brain with weak brakes. Once you strengthen your brakes, you’re ready to win races! But those breaks need some work first.
The challenges of ADHD show up in all aspects of our children’s lives – in school, social dynamics, family relationships, and especially in their self-concept. Our kids run the risk of believing that their “bad behaviors” are a reflection of them. As the adults in their lives, it is our job to teach them to manage their challenges while celebrating their strengths.
What’s the Role of the Parent?
One of the reasons my kids, thank God, are doing well is because my wife provided the love and structure that they needed. I could not have done that on my own, nowhere near. My wife, Sue, deserves so much credit for being such an awesome mom. She always believes in the positive, even when dealing with problems and conflicts. She never gives up. This is what these kids need more than anything else. Love that never gives up.
Ultimately, as Sue did with my children, a parent’s love and a healthy amount of structure can steer a child with ADHD to success in adulthood.
Team-Work – Everyone Has a Role
Just as we encourage our children to find their islands of competency, we parents should try to do what we do best. In our family, Sue was a master of structure, organization, and ensuring each child went to school fully clothed, book bag in hand, with a good breakfast in the belly. I was more the fun-maker, the new idea generator, the soft touch. This sometimes led my wife rightly to resent that she had to be the “heavy,” and I got off easy being the fairy-god-mother. But we worked this out with discussions. I tried hard to follow her lead and not undermine her attempts to create order.
There is usually one parent, more often the mom than the dad, who takes on the role my wife does in our family. It definitely helps when one parent can take the lead. But when there are reasons that will not work – like when both parents have ADHD- dividing responsibilities based on strengths can make all the difference in the world.
This varies from family to family. Let the best organizer tend to the organization, and the best cook makes the meals. Let the best mathematician help with math homework, and the best ball player play catch. There are many tasks that both can do equally well. The point here is to try to ensure those tasks are divided more or less equally. And, don’t forget to give your kids chores as well!
Finally, my most important single rule for parents is this: Enjoy your children. If you are doing that, you are doing it right, almost for sure.