Reflections On Parenting ADHD
We all want to do the best for our children, but sometimes we just don't know how. When her son was young, Linda Roggli didn't know, either. But now that her son is grown, she knows how she'd handle a “do-over.” Thankfully, we can all benefit from her words of wisdom…
My youngest son, Matthew, was diagnosed with ADHD when he was about eight or nine. Because he was also visually impaired, he already had an IEP at school, so everyone (including me) thought that sitting closer to the board and being pulled out for one-on-one tutoring would solve both problems.
We were wrong. So wrong.
It makes me tearful to remember how many times I ignored the all-too-obvious signals that he needed more help than what was provided. But I honestly didn't know what to do. I was a single mom at the time, newly-married with a blended family. When my son got to high school, he moved 500 miles away to live with my ex-husband. "Anything would be better than living with mom." Can you spell "failure to thrive as a parent?"
Time Can Heal -- and Allow For Learning
Today, my son brags about his terrific mom (yes, that would be me) and how she stood by him when the chips were down. Huh? Were we living in the same life? Time heals all wounds, I suppose. And now that we know we both have ADHD, we can laugh at each other's foibles ("Mom, did your ADHD get in the way again? You forgot to deposit my money in the checking account!")
These days, as an ADHD coach, I am full to the brim with strategies to help the ADHD brain. But they don't work in arrears. Matthew's childhood is just a memory. I have deep regrets about my lack of advocacy for my young son. So, if I could have a "do-over," knowing what I know now:
- I would have listened a lot more than talked (or nagged).
- I would have fought tooth and nail to find doctors and therapists who truly understood ADHD.
- I would have dismissed the slew of psychologists who told me there was nothing to be done when they labeled my son with "Oppositional Defiant Disorder," "Slow Processing" and "Auditory Processing Disorder."
- I would have ignored advice from teachers and parenting books advising me to set expectations and then let Matthew "grow into them," even when he faltered over and over. Instead, I would have put loving structure in place until he let me know it was OK to let go.
- I wouldn't have compared my son's progress to that of his friends or his brother, or even my own. His young life was unique. I forgot that he would eventually find his own way.
- I would have put a positive spin on everything he did, regardless of the consequences. ADHD kids are beaten down enough by the world. They need someone standing with them every step of the way, telling them that things are going to work out fine.
- I would have spent less time worrying about a messy room and more time figuring out a way to neaten his room that worked for HIM.
- I would have stopped pushing him into sports and activities that he didn't want to do, and hated after he got there.
- I would have understood that ADHD kids mature more slowly than others -- and that brains don't really "gel" His didn't until about age 30!
- I would have read tons of books about ADHD instead of tons of books about parenting and logical consequences (after all, what's logical about the ADHD brain?).
- I would have sought out programs that might have made a difference in his working memory (like Cogmed memory training) or his balance (like Dore) or his hearing (like Integrated Listening Systems).
- I would have relaxed a little bit more so he could relax a little bit more.
- I would have had that massage (or pedicure or walk in the woods) and taken better care of ME - regularly!
- I would have shared my angst – with friends, coaches, other parents -- instead of trying to "tough it out" on my own, so I felt connected instead of isolated.
Most of all, I would have loved my son even more tenderly because of, not in spite of, his differences.
And one more thing: I would have told him I was proud of him every single day. Because I was. And I still am.