A few weeks ago, someone Googled “how to support my friend whose child has ADHD” and found my blog. I think he/ she found one of the ADHD poems I’ve posted. I do hope this person found something useful… but the search inspired me to write a post for anyone else who might be wondering about the same thing, and I think family members can use the help too… ADHDers are special needs children after all, their disabilities are not physical, hence AD/HD is often “invisible”, but it’s very real and we as parents- single or not- really do need help!
To start with, I’ll give you a prime example of the kind of thing that helps me immensely- the kind of thing I appreciate no end… a while ago, my bestest best friend phoned me on my cell phone to let me know she’d seen Damien walking down a street in our neighbourhood. She knows Damien is an ADHDer, and is supposed to be supervised in the afternoon, so she was just checking if he was okay and whether I knew where he was, and she managed to do this in a perfectly non-accusatory manner! As it was I didn’t know he was walking around and after a quick phone call I established that he had permission from the woman he spends his afternoons with to visit the Warhammer40K shop nearby. I didn’t tell him I knew he was walking around and I made a point of keeping my tone conversational rather than confrontational.
Thank you my BBF- I love you so much for being prepared to do this for me!!
So call me paranoid for wanting to know where Damien is and what he’s doing… but he doesn’t do well when he’s not supervised. And please don’t get me wrong, any parent will react unhappily (to put it mildly) when told their child has been up to mischief- so please don’t take it personally if we pout or sulk… we react the same way to teachers, doctors, headmasters and anyone else who dares criticise our little genius shit stirrers…
For example, my family NOT telling me when Damien pulls a stunt, recently boiled over into a huge argument with lots of hurt feelings… my family, thinking they were protecting me by not telling me, actually made things worse for Damien and for all of us when they could no longer take Damien’s seeming lack of respect for their space and their things… and I have ALWAYS dreaded not being invited to friends and family’s homes because they can’t trust Damien.
You see, I know what Damien is capable of- nothing he does suprises me entirely anymore, but I do need to know about it so that I can deal with it immediately and try to prevent it happening again. My conflicts with my family are largely self-inflicted because I spent years trying to do the “raising an ADHDer” thing alone, more out of shame and embarrassment than pride- although pride is also a huge factor for me!
So here’s some advice from me, as an ADHDer parent, to anyone who knows an ADHDer parent- whether you’re friends or family or colleagues- and would like to help them out.
- I know it sounds like a cliché… but try first of all to put yourself in the ADHDer parent’s shoes, imagine how you would react if it was them or someone else talking to you about you and your child…
- ADD/ ADHD is for life! These kids do NOT outgrow it. They learn as they age to control certain impulses or behaviours, and as adults they can learn to focus. Just because they no longer bounce off the walls doesn’t mean they’re no longer hyperactive.
- Do NOT ever tell the ADHDer parent that maybe their ADHDer needs better or different discipline or just needs a good hiding, and related to this point…
- If the ADHDer parent is a single one- do NOT mention that maybe the other parent is necessary/ needed/ should be around more… keep in mind that by the ADHDer parent tells you their child is an ADHDer, they’ve probably been dealing with it for a long time and have run the gamut of emotions- including and often above all, guilt!
- When ADHDers are not at home- when they’re visiting friends or family or attending a birthday party or spending a weekend with the other parent- its different and exciting so they’re often better behaved and engaged with what’s going on around them- this means that unless you see the ADHDer often, you will see a very different child to the one he is at home and at school, please please please– do not assume this means the ADHDer parent is exaggerating…
- If an ADHDer parent mentions that their child is medicated- do NOT immediately frown and ask if they know how bad “it” is for the kid and start telling them horror stories that you read in the YOU magazine or other tabloids… don’t assume that an ADHDer parents takes medication lightly, we have ALL investigated EVERY single option before making the decision to medicate our children, and we continue to examine our choice for the rest of our child’s life!
- If we seem to ignore our ADHDers dressing like a scruff, or looking like a hobo with unmatched clothes and/ or unkempt hair, or making noises, or talking non-stop, or doing anything you deem as “bad” behaviour- remember that we’ve dealt with whatever it is for a loooong time, and most of us have learnt to pick our battles… it sounds a little ridiculous to explain it but if whatever it is doesn’t hurt as such AND they’re doing well at school- we consider it a bonus and they can pretty much dress how they want to, and we’ve often learnt to tune out the constant noise and or chatter…
- If you do read about a treatment or a therapy that looks like it might help- by all means mention it! And better yet, email it… with all the attached links so we can research it too! We might seem a little offish if you mention something new- and I apologise here for all ADHDer parents when we do that… its because we feel we’re doing as much as we can already, and if they’re like me, it takes me a minute to tell myself its NOT criticism and the person means well.
- ADHDers are absolute masters of something that’s referred to as “hyper focussing”. Basically this means that no matter how hyper they are, they can often sit for hours and do something they enjoy- be it LEGO, Playstation, drawing or reading. This does NOT mean his parent/s are delusional as to his diagnosis.
- ADHDers are all different- and this is often a contentious issue- you WILL find ADHDers who love reading and loathe math and vice versa.
- ADHDers are master manipulators… even if you catch them red handed they can put on an act that will make you doubt your own eyes and if you’re not careful, they will convince you you’re wrong and they’re being unfairly accused… trust your instincts! Arguing will not work- but getting to know the ADHDer in your life will help you find the buttons to push to get him/ her to tell the truth.
- ADHDers have no concept of time management and they are very black and white thinkers- there’s no middle ground or grey areas… if you promise them they can go to the toy shop for a reward of some sort come payday in two week’s time- please don’t expect them to understand NOT getting the promised reward if you quickly stop off at a toy shop for a birthday gift for someone the very next day. Two weeks time and tomorrow are not what stuck in their heads- all they’re thinking is toy shop! toy shop! toy shop! (remember the hyper focusing?)
I think that about covers it as basically as I can… if I think of anything else I’ll add it!