Parenting Children with ADHD: Always Devoted, Hardly Distraught

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Perhaps so. And perhaps parents have to do the work of a village to raise a child. They are teachers, chefs, clowns and horrible bosses. Most   Disorder (ADHD), there is no doubt that they are everything and are willing to be anything.

While fidgety hands, classroom daydreams and Sunday laziness are the hallmarks of childhood, children with ADHD are consistently inattentive, hyperactive and impulsive regardless of situation or environment. A stern look or a prolonged time-out yield little results as studies suggest a strong, hereditary biological component. According to research published in ADDitude, “ADHD is a brain-based biological disorder. Brain imaging studies using PET scanners show that brain metabolism in children with ADHD is lower in the areas of the brain that control attention, social judgement, and movement.” In fact, multiple studies suggests consistent differences between the brains of children with ADHD and those without including differences in the structure of the pre-frontal cortex and cerebellum as well as chemical differences such as lower levels of dopamine. Contrary to popular belief, ADHD is a real disability that affects 1 out of 10 children.

Yet, in the public eye children with ADHD are commonly perceived as rambunctious, misbehaving and even hostile – a reflection of poor parenting and neglect. Due to its non-visible nature, wide range of symptoms and levels of severity, ADHD garners incredible social stigma and discrimination. Not only is it branded as ‘imaginary’ and ‘fictitious’, ADHD is considered the ‘Lazy Parent’s Excuse’ as if daily battles to get children with ADHD to brush their teeth is anything but real.

When it comes to parenting children with ADHD, the struggle begins long before the diagnosis. Signs of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, although apparent, may go unnoticed or considered a small learning curve. Since children develop at different rates with different personalities, temperaments and energy levels, an expert’s opinion is usually regarded as unnecessary. As a result, most children with ADHD remain undiagnosed until they run into problems at school; a humiliating and discouraging affair.

This is quickly followed by numerous visits to professionals – a parenting nightmare as they try to pinpoint the exact treatment, medication and counselling needed. To make matters even more complicated, child psychiatrists and psychologists, developmental/behaviour pediatricians, and behavioural neurologists are trained in different methods of diagnosis and not all can provide appropriate prescriptions and therapy needed. For parents with children with ADHD, selecting a specialist can be especially time consuming and ongoing as issues resolved by one emends the complimentary expertise of another to prevent new problems from arising.

While Provincial Health Ministries across Canada formally recognize ADHD as a developmental and health risk, effective treatment options that currently exist are limited. Medication expenses often result in under-treatment of children with ADHD which leads to other psychiatric conditions in later years. Above average rates of anxiety, depression and substance abuse are commonly associated with childhood-onset ADHD thus parental support is crucial.

Parenting children with ADHD is challenge that lies not in seeking a permanent solution, but practicing patience and understanding. Parenting techniques found in books written by developmental specialists does not take into account the fundamental brain and behavioural difference between children with ADHD and those without. As child psychologist Dr. Robert Myers advises, parenting techniques must be adapted to children with ADHD. This includes modifying classic correctional methods to be rewarding not punishing and leveraging the child’s desire for positive attention with a focus on their strengths. For example, rather than a full 5 minutes of time-out, offer them the chance to reduce the time to 3 minutes if they are willing to sit quietly without complaint. A compliment or two afterwards to encourage like behaviour can also be an equally effective and simple tactic that instils a sense of pride and accomplishment. Tackling daily obstacles in positive angles can truly make all the difference.

A safe and encouraging home setting ensures the proper building blocks for children with ADHD, and it is equally important to have carry the positive training techniques into other environments to ensure consistency and growth. The education system, although appropriately structured and well-intentioned, can be ill-equipped to instruct children with ADHD. In fact, those with ADHD are frequently pigeonholed as troublemakers and distractions despite being recognized as having a learning disability. What’s more? With an average of 25-30 children per classroom, it is easy get lost in the shuffle. Here, parents must represent and protect the child’s best interest and ensure that an effective program is developed to suit the child’s academic needs. Professional help and expertise as well as personal experience should be provided in order to properly tailor lessons to engage and motivate the child. Open communication and a collaborative attitude is necessary to achieve the common goal.

Indeed, parenting children with ADHD is a full-time job. One can become easily overwhelmed, frustrated and exhausted. Juggling numerous trips to specialists, out-of-pocket prescription updates, and impromptu parent-teacher meetings, it is unsurprising that parents of children with ADHD commonly experience emotional turmoil and financial difficulties. Parenting children with ADHD is no small feat and in providing the best for their child, they risk losing sight of themselves. To ease their parental stress, there are many available resources including child disability tax credit, but most importantly, it is the sense of empathy, acceptance and community. After all, it takes a village to raise a child.

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Comments

  1. I’ve never had to deal with this but I do know some families with ADHD children. From looking in it does seem a safe and encouraging home setting ensures the proper building blocks for children with ADHD… So I really do completely agree! Such a great post as usual!

  2. This post was a real eye opener. I love the tip about consistency and carrying the positive training techniques into other environments not just at home.

  3. What a wonderful article with so much helpful information! I think children that have ADHD are often very misunderstood.

  4. These are great tips! Thanks for giving us some tools for when we are around children with ADHD

  5. I really like the adjusted acronym, always devoted, never distraught. Although I know it’s normal for any parent at any time to feel distraught, with help, patience and boundaries, you can continue to be devoted and loving. We need to be more accepting and supportive as a society and in the school system.

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