How do we as parents set expectations for our children, or ourselves, when at least one of us has an attention deficit disorder?
When our children are born, we have conscious or unconscious expectations of how we will be as a parent, how our children will evolve and how we will grow together as a family. Sometimes, as our infants mature into young people, everything comes to a complete halt. A child starts having some struggles, ultimately has an evaluation, and we are told that our child has an attention deficit disorder. Now what?
Mourning a Loss
First, there is the process of mourning your child's diagnosis. After all, you did have expectations for yourself and your child as s/he developed over the years, and things are now different. The mourning process is similar to any loss. While there are many stages, there is no order, no rhyme/reason, no recipe or directions. Sometimes you'll mourn on your own, and other times with your partner or family.
When you allow yourself and your partner to go through this process, rather than avoiding or denying yourself that time and space, you'll set the stage for the next step to success. Keep in mind that you might experience this again over the years, as new milestones arise that do not meet original expectations.
The second step to success is to “re-define” your expectations. Redefine does not mean to lower or raise your expectations, it means…
- Clarify your expectations based on the child's developmental stage (as you would any child).
- Define your expectations based on your child's neurological abilities.
- Establish your expectations based on what's important to you for your child's success.
- how you run the household on a daily basis.
- how you put chores and responsibilities in place.
- what things need to be in place at their school to make his/her school day successful.
- how, when and where they do their homework.
- how you respond to their moods/needs, etc.
- how you put rewards/consequences in place (and change them constantly!)
- how you go about your daily activities.
- how you go on family vacations.
- how, when, and where a child interacts with his/her peers.
Focus on Strengths
Keep in mind that your kid can do anything s/he puts her mind to with the right tools and support.
Children with an attention deficit disorder are like any other kid, with their own particular/special needs, wants, desires, etc. They also have their own unique qualities and strengths. It's important to keep their special qualities in mind. Channel them, encourage them and highlight them! These qualities will build your child's confidence and enable him/her to find success and satisfaction.
You will have an easier time with shifting your own expectations if you pick your battles, and teach your kids why your battles are important to you! Instead of focusing on should's/would's/could's, think about what makes your kids smile, makes them happy, provides pleasure, and gets them excited. Encourage your children to use their passion as a guide. If they love what they do, then it is not a hardship – for them or for you.
To help your kids find success, take some time to get clear on your own expectations, keeping in mind their developmental stage, their neurological abilities, and what you think is important for them in the long term. And remember: our kids don't always have to go through the front door to be successful. Many satisfied people walk in the side or back door and are completely successful at what they do! Who wouldn't want to wake up everyday and love to go work because they love what they do!