You know, some people are never going to understand what we're dealing with here. ADHD is complicated. Even more so than we give it credit, ourselves. No matter how well-meaning, some of our loved ones will never fully grasp the reality of our lives.
ADHD Can be Hard to Recognize
After all, ADD/ADHD looks a little different for every person who has it. It's not tangible (like blood sugar numbers) or visible (like a cast on an arm).
Even those of us who deal with it every day don't fully understand the ways that it creeps into all the cracks and crevices of daily life.
Seriously, how often does something happen when you furrow your brow – like, how on EARTH did THAT happen? – only to have that glimmer of recognition. "Oh, yeah, THAT was impulsive! Oops, I was totally thinking about something else! Wow, I forgot entirely!" You get the picture.
They Don't Get It
As complex as it is, some friends and family are never fully going to grasp – much less accept – our circumstances. And while I know that this is a reality I must come to accept, I have to admit that it still makes me crazy, sometimes!
Why is it that I can forgive the naïveté of strangers, but I have such a short fuse for the relative ignorance of members of my own family? (Okay, that's a whole other conversation that I'm not going into, here.)
I confess, I'm having a hard time letting go of this recent example in my family – but I've learned a lot in the process. Allow me to give you a shortcut around the dark path that other people's judgment would have you walk.
The text exchange went something like this:
Me, reaching out for help: “Any ideas? I could really use some guidance. “
Family Response: “Isn't she at a point where she ought to work on it herself?”
In this particular circumstance I was trying to help a 19-year-old teen with executive function challenges, living 3000+ miles away from home, find a safe, used car. I don't know about you, but my knuckles go pale when I even start THINKING about purchasing a car, so I can understand how ANY teenager would find it daunting. Seriously, I've never bought a car alone, have you? I must admit it never occurred to me that anyone would think she “should” be handling this one on her own.
It doesn't take much to have us doubt ourselves, does it!?
Stay the Course – She Still DOESN'T Get It!
So as I processed this recent family text-bomb, I went through my self-doubt, my self-reflection, my self-blame…and I landed on the other side.
I considered all the other things my daughter has on her plate, and all the other stressors in the mix. The same week we were beginning to talk about buying a car, we were also dealing with a major glitch in health insurance that needed to be handled by my daughter – I couldn't do that one for her. So while I was beginning to get clearer on the next steps for purchasing a car, she was being asked to handle some very specific tasks around her health insurance. Talk about daunting!
Sometimes the best way to support our kids is by providing scaffolding in some areas, while they're learning to manage other areas. This is a perfect example: I was handling the car while she worked on the health insurance.
But trying to get her to do everything at once? That was just not going to fly!
3 Things to Manage the Self-Doubt
So, here it is, plain and simple, the 3 things to remember when the uninformed comments of loved ones launch you into a deep pool of self-doubt:
- Bless her heart, she just doesn't understand. ADHD really IS complicated, and whether our family members WANT to understand, or not, many of them just don't. That's honestly not their fault. More important, it's not likely to change.
- You know what your child needs better than anyone else. As parents, we've gotta trust our instincts. If we're really over-protecting, we're going to know it somewhere deep down, and we need to listen to that, for sure. But if you think your kid really needs your help, don't let other people's “shoulds” stand in your way.
- Stay focused on scaffolding, section by section. Day by day, section by section, we're teaching our kids not to be overwhelmed by managing the daily logistics of life. It's really hard for them. We want to help them learn in a way that is lasting, which means one step at a time.
Ultimately, if I want MY KIDS to learn to manage their lives, I have to ignore the “helpful” comments of people who don't understand, trust my instincts, and empower my kids, one step at a time.
And let's be serious. Since that's hard for me to understand, I can see why my family member didn't. Bless her heart.