You remember back to the days when he was toddler. Friends and family laughed when you expressed worry. “He’s just an active boy,” they told you.
Even your pediatrician seemed less than concerned. Call it mother’s intuition but somehow you knew he was somehow different.
You were, however, forced to suffer in silence, perhaps even your spouse blew it off. When the school years began his constant activity and talking finally began to receive notice.
You realize his young kindergarten teacher meant well when she implied that some redirection and structure at home would help him at schoo, as if she were suggesting that you were too permissive of a parent. It wasn’t until first grade when his experienced seasoned teacher called you concerned early on in the year.
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She gently suggested a referral for evaluation and alluded to the idea that your son may have ADHD. Sure enough, once an evaluation was completed, a diagnosis was confirmed.
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On some level, it was a relief, a validation that you were right. You anxiously awaited for someone to tell you what the ‘quick fix’ would be; over time it became clear, however, there would be none.
Over the next few years you and your spouse began a journey. There was therapy and medication. You quickly realized that finding the right medication seemed more like an art than a science.
At home there were star charts and rewards and a lot of structure, structure, structure. As parents, you and your spouse quickly learned how to help your son negotiate even the most mundane of situations such as going to the grocery store or out for a family dinner.
You learned to help your son capitalize on his strengths and talents.
Even so, there are continuous bumps in the road. He has trouble making and keeping friends. His ability to stay focused on one task is compromised along with his low tolerance for frustration. This often means temper tantrums or angry outbursts at the most inopportune times.
Homework completion is always a battle and although he now has a tutor you still dread the two hour war you must endure every night. You long for a break.
Some days you feel tired, alone, and frustrated.
Your friends acknowledge your son’s diagnosis but, because ADHD is seemingly so common and supposedly innocuous, very few of them really know what you go through day in, day out. At times it gets depressing.
Some days you lose it and then feel guilty about yelling. If you have other children you struggle with balancing your time and focus so that no one feels left out or ignored. You love your son but some days, you just wish you could run away.
According to the NIMH, 9% of children ages 13-18 are diagnosed with ADHD. Boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed than girls. The average age of onset is seven years old.
These days there is a lot of information available to parents and teachers regarding ADHD. Effective interventions have been researched and validated.
Although information regarding intervention abounds, as a parent of an ADHD child, this does not dilute the daily struggles you may encounter in parenting your child.
Here are some hints on how to cope:
- Seek support. A quick search on the Internet will reveal many resources related to ADHD. In addition, there are many community support groups available. If group talk is not your thing, check out discussion boards and chat rooms that focus on the daily struggles faced by parents raising kids with ADHD. Knowing you are not alone can be reassuring . In addition, you may learn some helpful hints on how to cope from other parents.
- Know your limit. If you can feel your frustration rising and your tolerance lowering, it is time to take a deep breath and step away.
- Rely on other resources. Sometimes it is helpful to share the stress. You and your spouse should take turns managing home situations when possible. In addition, turn to friends and family for help. They are often your best resource and would probably welcome the opportunity to help out.
- Create a crisis plan. The best time to come up with a plan is before a situation occurs. While you can’t plan for everything, you can create a plan to help you in times of need. Knowing you have resources you can tap into when you are feeling overwhelmed and spent can relieve much of the stress you may be experiencing. Feeling like you have nowhere to turn to when you need it most can result in feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Again approach family and friends about being a part of your plan.
- Guilt does no good. Would have, could have, should have. Being a parent is hard work. Give yourself a break. No one is perfect. Stressing over mistakes will only make you feel worse. Instead, focus on making it up. After all, you are only human. You teach your kids a better lesson when you are able to take responsibility for your missteps and move forward.
- A little laughter goes a long way. Some days you have to take a step back and let go. Stop taking everything so seriously. At times, when stress is running high a spontaneous hug or laugh with your child can cut the tension and give you both an opportunity to back down and regroup.
- Remember, this too shall pass. In the blink of an eye, your children will be grown-up. The older he gets the better equipped he will become to manage symptoms associated with ADHD. While research has questioned whether you can ever really ‘grow out’ of ADHD, it is clear that as kids grow older they are far more able to manage the related symptoms. Enjoy your time with him! It all goes so quickly.
- When you take care of yourself you give a gift to your kids. The more rested and relaxed you are as a person, the more resources you have available to your children. Give yourself a break when you need one. Go out and get that mani/pedi you have been thinking about. Both you and your kids will be glad you did.
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Jennifer Powell-Lunder and Barbara Greenberg are authors of the hit book, “Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent’s Guide to Becoming Bilingual.” They’ve set up an interactive website for parents and teens to listen, learn and discuss hot topics and daily dilemmas. You can find it at www.talkingteenage.com.