One of my goals for the summer is to teach my daughter more about ADHD so that she will continue to develop the understanding needed to manage it well. We are using the book “Putting on the Brakes: Understanding and Taking Control of Your ADD or ADHD” by Patricia O. Quinn, MD and Judith M. Stern, MA. The book has an accompanying workbook that is pretty good. We don’t do every exercise in it, but it does direct discussion well.
I occasionally run across debates on this topic that range from “Should I tell my child they have ADHD?” to “How much should I tell my child?” Personally, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t tell your child they have ADHD. They already understand that something is different, and keeping them in the dark while having regular conversations with teachers, appointments with doctors and sometimes counselors, as well as conversations with friends, simply builds the belief that there is something wrong with them. Having ADHD does not mean there is something wrong with you, it means your brain works differently.
Children are smarter then we sometimes give them credit for, and keeping secrets about something involving them increases anxiety and insecurity, doing nothing for self-esteem or problem-solving. Children respond as we respond, and if they observe us being uptight, even secretive about an issue that involves them, they will respond in kind. Why not empower them instead?
ADHD seems to carry the same stigma as any mental illness–and I don’t clearly understand why it is often referred to as a mental illness. I have seen it firsthand, for I have ADHD, and most responses are casual or interested, like it’s no big deal, but every once in a while I see the instant distancing, coupled with an “Oh” as if I had just told them I had leprosy. Then, they treat me differently, almost as if I were a little bit dumb. I have long since moved past getting frustrated about this, but it does make me ache for my daughter and anyone else with the diagnosis, for I know that they, too, will eventually come across this response, and I just pray that by then all have developed the understanding necessary to realize that this response comes from ignorance. As common as ADHD is, many people still do not understand what ADHD is, and have latched on to some of the myths floating about. I wrote a book trying to explain it simply for anyone who wanted to understand it better. I hope it makes a difference.
I told my daughter right away. I wanted her to understand immediately that there were reasons for some of the challenges she faced, and that there are solutions. We are partners in managing ADHD. The name gave us something to research and learn about. As her mom, it is my duty to equip her to become a successful adult, and understanding ADHD is part of that process. She will take over her own care one day, and how can she do that well if she is not prepared? I balance everything I teach her, for there are challenges, but there are many gifts. She has her fair share, for she is funny, smart, gifted, creative, precocious, sweet, sensitive, energetic, fun, curious, well-grounded and excited about life. I want to grow those gifts, not stifle them. She is a courageous warrior and a gentle princess–who happens to have ADHD. It’s like having asthma, diabetes, or any other health-related condition that will require attention and care for ever. Other conditions don’t cause such an uproar, so why does ADHD?
Do your children a favor and just tell them. Teach them to understand it and handle it now. Buy a book and read it together. If you want to teach them honesty, then be honest with them. Tell them “You are so awesome. I love the way you danced and sang in the front yard this afternoon. By the way, some of he challenges you have been dealing with have a name. It’s ADHD, and we will talk more about it over time. Right now, I just want you to concentrate on being you and on remembering how much you are loved. ” Not so hard after all.
- An ADHD Primer (everydayhealth.com)
- A New Understanding of ADHD in Children and Adults (routledgementalhealth.com)
- Overcoming Adhd: a Guide for Parents (digitalproductsoftware.wordpress.com)