How Does a Parent Cope with a Child with
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
Many children and teenagers are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Parents are familiar with the list of symptoms and often get professionals to help their child modify their disorganization, distractibility, and hyperactivity. But rarely are the parents given guidance on how to handle their own feelings about their child’s problems and actions and many parent-child arguments and conflicts ensue which only worsen the child’s shame and confusion and fill the parent with less parenting self-confidence.
Parents care deeply about their child but don’t know what attitude or mindset to have when they are faced with their child’s irritability, loss of emotional regulation and control, disorganized homework and clothing, loss and misplacement of articles and assignments, and erratic judgment. Parents are often both saddened and angry all at the same time, feel a great deal of self-doubt in their parenting, and find themselves becoming frustrated saying things to their child they sincerely regret.
Parenting Tips: The Helpful Parenting Mindset
- It’s essential to recognize that your child is not intentionally irresponsible and purposefully poorly self-disciplined.
He knows right from wrong and seeks approval. Look for all the ways you can to offer approval and recognize effort, if not success in organizing one’s things.
- Be careful to not blame yourself or your child for his impulsivity. As hard as it may be, staying calm helps your child and yourself.
How can we blame a child’s brain for short circuiting any more than we would blame him for catching the flu? The difference is we nurture someone with the flu with soup and blankets and his aches and pains make sense to us. The child with ADHD needs nurturance, too, even when his pain doesn’t always make sense to us.
- Try not to see your child as lazy or willful because he’s neither.
The effort to stay focused for increasing lengths of time is extremely difficult for the child. Medicine helps him concentrate but then leaves him with side effects of loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. It takes time to titrate the medicine to his individual needs and the parent needs to reassure their child they will find the right levels of medicine and when to take it.
- Your child needs to know you are on his side and there through thick and thin.
This attitude reduces anxiety that only adds to ADHD symptoms. When he loses something reassure him you’ll help him find it. When his backpack is in disarray, organize it with him without disapproval. He’ll learn from watching you and feel relieved.
- When you get notes from teachers and even camp counselors about misbehavior, counsel him quietly on alternative reactions.
Don’t punish these problems but instead console and instruct kindly to prevent too many recurrences. Advocate for him with his teachers and camp counselors, so they, too, can be more understanding and offer alternative reactions.
- Be mindful of your child’s reactions to slights and criticisms from others.
He is already very critical of himself so it’s best to help him talk about those feelings.
- Encourage conversations about your child’s self-image. He most likely feels different, sometimes like an outsider.
He knows he doesn’t know “how to put the breaks on” but he can learn. He knows his “stop button” doesn’t always work but being aware of it helps the next time. He knows he chatters and rambles and sometimes forgets mid-sentence what he was saying, reassure him that you know it’s awkward and again, you’re on his side.
When you follow these tips, your attitude changes because you feel with your child in his battle with himself not against him. It improves his self-esteem as well as yours as a parent. This parental mindset helps him absorb new skills and temper his emotional lability because he feels your love and assurance inside him. He carries you inside him as a reassuring trusted parent every day. That makes all the difference.
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst and author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior that has an elaborate story about a mother helping her eight-year-old child with ADHD. The book can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Familius, and wherever books are sold.