Living With An ADHD Child
*I’ve written before about parenting and ADHD, most recently here.
I’ve been reading the Summer 2012 edition of ADDitude Magazine. I’ve scanned through the magazine before while sitting in front of the magazine display at Books-a-Million, but this is my first foray into reading the articles carefully. I’m a little overwhelmed. The magazine is full of great ideas and tips, but it’s also full of opinions that cover the whole range of approaches to treating the disorder. Some of the ideas are great. I’m just not sure how I could possibly implement them and still have time and energy left to parent two other kids (ok – a kid and a young adult) and hold down a job. Where is the balance?
In one article, they ask for reader feedback on what therapies, other than meds, help manage ADHD symptoms. I saw the kind of input I would expect: watch sugar intake and pay close attention to nutrition; get lots of exercise; have a routine. Then there was this response: “I parent him differently. I don’t make him go to bed at a certain time. I don’t insist that he does his chores. I don’t harangue him to join us at the dinner table. I expect his sister to do these things, but he is different and so are my expectations.” What??!! I mean, I understand that you need to take different approaches about some things with ADHD kids, but they still have to be able to function in the real world. In the real world, you’re expected to do chores and follow certain schedules and meet certain expectations. I’m guessing that he is required to go to the cafeteria with his class at school at a particular time. I would hope this mom expects her child to be able to hold down a job one day. And bless the poor sister’s heart! ADHD isn’t just hard on the individual with the disorder. It affects everyone in the family.
There is an article entitled “No Medication for My Child.” I cringed when I saw it, thinking that it would be another diatribe about the evils of medicating ADHD children. I have fought this battle for two years, dealing with the judgmental looks and “tsk-tsking” of other parents who would never consider putting their child on medication. All I have to say is this: ADHD medications have saved my family and have facilitated a complete turnaround for my son in school. It isn’t the perfect solution. It isn’t without certain drawbacks and side effects. But it has been the best solution for my family, so until you’ve been in my shoes and until you know what you are talking about (through thorough research with physicians, psychologists, and teachers), please keep your judgmental looks and “tsk-tsking” to yourself. I was thankful to discover that this particular article offered great advice for addressing some of these very concerns with family members and friends.
Another article asked readers to share their best tips for getting a child’s homework done. This was a huge problem for my son in his pre-diagnosis days. Homework time was HELL – often leaving multiple members of the family in tears. I am dreading next school year. He will be in 3rd grade, which seems to be the grade where homework becomes more serious and more time-consuming. I was interested to read in this article about “fidget toys” having a calming effect. I’ve recently noticed how playing with little Lego men or tiny Lego blocks seems to help my son behave better in the car or in restaurants. I would have considered those kinds a toys a distraction while doing homework, but maybe it would help him. It’s worth a try. Other suggestions included withholding a favorite toy and/or bribes to get homework done. Been there, done that. I think my favorite is this one: “My best tip is to have the patience of Jesus.” Amen to that one!
The statement that best sums up where I stand right now as the mother of an ADHD child comes from this quote by Dr. Seuss: “If you judge a fish on how well it climbs a tree, it lives its life thinking it’s stupid.” My son is not like me. He is not like either of my daughters. He has different gifts and different challenges. It is my job as the mom to figure out how to accommodate the things that need accommodation and how to change the things that need changing – and how to know the difference between the two. I pray daily for the patience and wisdom to do just that.