If your son or daughter has been diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), s/he may have many feelings and even quite a few misconceptions about what it means to have ADHD. You can help correct these misperceptions by talking openly with your child.
Learning about ADHD and the unique ways it impacts your child's life is an ongoing process. When you communicate in positive ways with your child, it will invite him or her to come to you for support, and help answer questions or concerns s/he may be having.
Some parents may feel reluctant to talk about ADHD. They may fear the “label” of ADHD and worry about the negative effects such a diagnosis may have on the way their child feels about himself or herself. One of the areas kids with ADHD often struggle with, secondary to the ADHD symptoms, is a feeling of low self-esteem or a feeling of being different from peers -- What is wrong with me? Why can't I do this right?
Children are very aware of struggles they are having. Unfortunately, when they don't have accurate information, they are likely to attribute problems to reasons that are much more hurtful, believing that they are simply lazy, stupid, or a bad kid.
Knowledge is empowering. When a child understands more about his or her own ADHD, there is no longer such mystery around challenges. With an awareness of innate strengths and weaknesses -- and an understanding of what ADHD is and what it is not -- comes a greater sense of control, hope and optimism. Understanding brings with it the ability to advocate for what you need, an important skill for all children, adolescents, and adults with ADHD.
You have many opportunities to talk with your child (and to listen to him or her). Many of these conversations occur spontaneously, often in response to situations that your child may face at home or at school. In addition to conveying your unconditional love, respect and appreciation of your child, here are five things your son or daughter needs to know about ADHD.
1. ADHD is a small part of who you are.
It does not define you. It is simply one of the many aspects and traits that make you a unique and wonderful human being. We all have areas of strength, as well as areas that can be more challenging. The key is to nurture and grow these strengths and develop strategies to help with the areas in which we are weaker. Knowing that you have ADHD is a good thing! Now that we understand why these things have been more difficult for you, we can work together in a much more effective way to find solutions and strategies that will help.
2. You are not alone.
Many people have ADHD. With proper supports in place, you can successfully manage the challenges that can come with ADHD. ADHD runs in families. In most cases it is something you simply inherited, like the color of your eyes, curly hair, or a tendency toward having allergies, diabetes, or nearsightedness. (Here parents can share about other family members who have ADHD, or a grandparent/aunt/uncle who faced similar challenges with attention or impulsiveness. Parents can also share about their own learning or behavior struggles growing up, and the strategies they used to cope and successfully manage them. A child who has struggled at school, at home, and in friendships, often feels very alone. Remind your child that s/he is not alone, and that there is a strong support system in place made up of adults – parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, etc. - who love and care about him or her.)
3. ADHD can affect people in differing ways.
Not only are there three different types of ADHD, but ADHD can look very different from person to person. The way ADHD impacts your life on a day to day basis -- at school, at home or with friends – is also likely to change as you grow older and move from elementary school to middle school to high school, college and beyond! Becoming an expert on your own ADHD takes time and is a continual learning process. Know that finding appropriate systems of support, and asking for help, is a great strength and can make your journey with ADHD a little easier.
4. For most , ADHD is a life-long condition.
Some kids do seem to “grow out” of ADHD -- or no longer have symptoms that result in difficulties -- but in most cases, kids with ADHD grow up to be adults with ADHD. It is important to know this because sometimes the way ADHD affects you, the different ways it may show up in your life and how it makes you feel, isn't always obvious to others. (Parents, this is especially important for you to understand. Many kids with ADHD may show fewer outward “visible” symptoms as they move into adolescence and adulthood, yet often continue to struggle in hidden ways.) Again the adults in your life are here to help you understand your own ADHD now and in the future, so you can successfully tackle the problems ADHD can present.
5. Your future is bright!
ADHD does not limit your chances for success and happiness. Now that we recognize and are aware of ADHD, we know we can find solutions to better manage it.