When my perfect little cherubs came into this world, I could not have imagined the heartache I would feel to learn that they would struggle with ADHD. Our family actually already had some tough stuff that we were going through at the time, so I wasn’t sure how to handle things. We existed in a state of limbo for a while, and went through the motions. But I knew I had to help them find their way in the world, so I started trying to figure out what my role was in it all. Once I began to know what I can do to help them thrive, I was able to let go of my original belief that this all happened because I had failed them somehow. Now, I am connecting with other parents who are at the beginning of this process and facing a diagnosis for their child, and I see the same fear and uncertainty in their eyes that I had once felt. One of my goals on this blog is to share the information and experiences that have helped us so that I can help other people to feel empowered during something so daunting. The following is a list of things that helped me to support my kids in the best ways possible!
Learn about ADHD- There are a lot of really intimidating misconceptions about the disorder that might prevent you from taking the right steps to support your child. But hopping on the internet to read up on things might lead you straight to the wrong information. I was grateful when the doctor recommended some websites with current and reputable facts. After learning more about ADHD, I was able to observe my child’s behaviour and provide feedback to the doctor that was helpful in making a diagnosis. In addition, I learned that some of those behaviours are the product of the disorder and not blatant disobedience, which helped me to be more patient and supportive of my child.
Don’t blame yourself- In the process of learning about ADHD, you might be curious about factors that may have played a role in causality, such as genetics. But feeling badly about whether your genes may have influenced this outcome, or convincing yourself that letting him watch television while you wash the dishes was to blame is not going to help you find proactive and constructive ways to help your little one cope. Keep a positive spirit and focus on finding solutions to problems.
Learn to smile and nod at naysayers- Misconceptions about ADHD would not exist without people who believe them. Armed with the proper information, you must learn to smile and nod at the well-meaning but ignorant comments and advice you will inevitably receive from even close family and friends. Your choice to medicate or not, etc. is not anyone’s business, and whether or not you chose to impart that kind of information to others, resist the influence of their judgement. From the time my kids were born, I have heard all manner of opinions about how I ought to raise them, and I’ve found that the most peaceful way to handle these situations is to simply thank them for their advice and then do whatever is best for you and your family.
Have an open communication with other caregivers- While going through this process, I was given mixed information about whether or not to share the diagnosis with other caregivers. On one hand, you have the right to keep that information private, and on the other, the option to include other caregivers/teachers in supporting your child. I understand that many people are intimidated by the stigma surrounding ADHD, but people like teachers are less likely to judge and it can be an important step to communicate with caregivers so that there is a better understanding of your child’s strengths and limitations. At school, your child’s program may be modified with your consent based on which learning approach is best. As an example, my son has been persuaded by his teacher to sit at the front of the carpet during story time to reduce the distraction of other students. The more information you can provide to other caregivers, the better equipped they will be to support your child in your absence.
Reach out to social services and support groups- There is a wealth of information and resources to be found in government-run agencies designed to help families struggling with various different challenges, but there is often a lengthy wait-list for these kinds of services. It is important to find out if there are agencies that can help you through any problems you are having and get on that wait list so you can get support as quickly as possible. It may also help you to feel less alone to look into support groups made up of other families dealing with the same issues. Then you can swap parenting tips or coping strategies and open up to people who understand what you are going through.
These tips are really just a starting point. In my own journey with parenting and ADHD, I am only scratching the surface of the information and parenting strategies that can help me to be the best mommy and I plan to post on an ongoing basis about the things I learn as I go along and the challenges we face. Please feel free to reach out to me if you are looking for a friend along your own journey, connecting with others has been instrumental for me and I hope to help others in the same way if I can!