The Vital Piece Over-Looked By Parents When Parenting A Child With ADHD
Do you have a child with ADHD?
In this rich, brave and courageous story, Helen shares with us the things she experienced, the lessons she learned and the vital piece she had over-looked when parenting her son with ADHD. This is key in knowing how to parent a child with ADHD.
Our ADHD Roller Coaster Ride
Looking back, it was when our son moved into Grade 6 that we started seeing a change in him. I couldn’t put my finger on it exactly but over the course of the year, it became clear to us that he was struggling. His marks started dropping but it was his changing attitude that bothered us more.
Granted there were now tweeny / teenage hormones rearing their ugly heads but it was more than this. We saw a bit of anxiety but he was very dismissive of it and any help or conversations around it. His attitude was just so out of character. He was certainly not the same boy that we had raised in the earlier years. At times my husband and I would just look at each other and our eyes said it all:
“Who is this child?” “What the …….?”
“What do you know about that anyway. I’m not anxious. It’s you and Dad that have a problem. It’s not me. I’m doing fine. Stop worrying about me and back out of my life. I hate you. You are the worst.”
he would shout before storming out or slamming a door.
These types of replies became more the norm. It was devastating for us.
His grades started to slip more (not that grades matter at this stage) but we noticed he was not doing as well as he had been doing. And, he was falling behind with homework and had NO desire to do it. When he sat down to his homework, he would effectively do nothing. All he wanted to do was play video games. We don’t mind a bit of video gaming but only when the non-preferred activities are done first (like homework and chores). Whenever I sat down to help him, he was nothing but rude. I would try harder to help him do whatever it was that needed to be done and he would get ruder.
I was afraid. I didn’t want him to fall behind. Then there was the fear of judgment:
- What would everyone think of me?
- I thought I was a good mom?
- I am smart, intelligent. I held a senior position in a large organization, why can’t I do this?
- What’s wrong with me?
Then there were the devices… The games and the incessant pull to Social Media. Not to mention he was then at the receiving end of some pretty serious cyberbullying.
It was crazy.
One night, at around 2 am, my husband thought he heard someone moving around in the house. He got up and found our son, Snapchatting his friends and playing games at 2 am. How long this had been going on for, we don’t know, but one thing was for sure: our son was exhausted. Despite our son returning his phone to the central charging station at 8 pm (something we all do), he had been sneaking down to get it when we had gone to bed.
It was then that we knew we needed to do something about it all. It was out of hand.
We spoke to his homeroom teacher. We spoke to the principal. We went to a counsellor. And from all of this, we decided to have him tested.
The results of his Psychological Educational Assessment established that he had ADHD, had a designated learning challenge and suffered from mild anxiety.
How did this all happen so fast?
Suffice to say, we were on it. We were on board. Over the course of the next year, we got many things set up for our son. We covered all the bases we could think of and had been advised to do and it felt good:
- He started to see a tutor to help him catch up
- He saw an Executive Function Coach to teach him some organizational skills (task planning, scheduling, note taking, filing, time management type of things)
- He started seeing a Counsellor to help him deal with his anxiety
- He got extra time for tests at school
- We got advice regarding medications and whether we “should” start him on meds (it was not our first choice. We wanted to try everything else first)
- We looked at dietary adjustments as we had read that it can help significantly
- We signed him up for a school sport to keep him feeling involved and part of a community
- We learned everything we could on the subject of ADHD and how to deal with it to help our son
We did everything and yet… nothing changed.
In fact, it got worse. I can’t even bring myself to share with you some of the conversations we had. Suffice to say it was bad. I felt so guilty. I felt such shame.
I was at my wit’s end. I was exhausted. I felt so alone.
All the appointments that I had to schedule and set up and take my son to meant that I had no time left for anything else. There were times I could barely get dinner on the table. It was having a negative effect on my marriage, not to mention the fact that I was barely around for our younger son.
I would find myself able to hold it together for a while but I always ended up exploding and losing my sh*t with my son. It was so hard. He would take me to the point where I just couldn’t take any more. He would push me. He was so disrespectful that I would find myself crying in all sorts of ridiculous places. I remember one day I went to London Drugs and dropped a bottle of shower gel which exploded all over me, the floor and everything else in its path.
I broke down. I couldn’t stop crying.
I was done. I had reached rock bottom. Or I thought I’d reached rock bottom only to find the bottom got deeper. It got worse.
It went on for a while longer. Taking me into the depths of despair.
I needed help.
In all of this, I had put all my focus and attention on my son and helping him. It’s what we do as moms, right? But I’d lost sight of myself. I didn’t even know who I was anymore.
I found a Counsellor and worked with her and part of that involved a referral to a Parent Coach.
“Parent Coach?” I said to her, “I didn’t know such a thing existed, what does that involve?”
She shared with me many success stories and what it was that helped turn these moms around.
If you are reading this, and like me, have not heard about parent coaching, THIS is what working with a Parent Coach did for me and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It was absolutely this that got me on a better path. This was THE most important piece of it all and the most helpful. It was practical. It was very real. It wasn’t just words and advice. It helped hold me accountable and it translated into action and into the steps I need to take to implement the changes that were desperately needed. It did not happen over-night.
It had taken time to get to where we were and it would take time and effort to get us out but out of it, we came. I am sharing with you my takeaways: This is what you need to do. By the way, the coach I worked with was Louise and she helped me put this next bit together! It was a joined effort. I didn’t have all the lingo…
The vital thing that most parents over-look when parenting a child with ADHD:
- You need to look after YOU (I had lost sight of myself – totally), if you don’t, you are effectively useless to your child and your family (I was but it took me a long time to realize it and it definitely caused more issues than it was worth)
- You need to understand the cycles and patterns that you will be stuck in. There are three big ones and they are almost unavoidable:
- You have to raise your awareness for the 3 imposters that will be showing up all too frequently: impatience, frustration, and judgment – they kill us, our relationship with our child and our child’s developing self-esteem. My coach helped me deconstruct all of these and now I am better able to deal with them. It’s on-going but now I have the tools I need to continue doing it
- I learned that whilst I wanted to control everything, thinking that it would help me and my son, it only served to have him fight against me and resist the help. The coach I worked with helped me understand and unravel the deadly and toxic patterns of control. This helped enormously
- She helped me work through the guilt and the shame which I now know was pivotal in it all. I didn’t realize that they are different but they are.
“Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it- it can’t survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy. When we bury our story, the shame metastasizes.” Brene Browne
- You need to find a way to cope with the overwhelm that sometimes IS in life with a child with ADHD – this is different for everyone but has to be done
- You have to learn how to balance the amount of help you give your child: too much and you render them incapable and redundant (this was me…); too little and they feel like they can’t cope and feel like a loser and incapable. There’s a bit of trial and error here but it is essential
- You will need to learn how to manage your expectations – my expectations of my son were so far out of line with his. He fought me all the way on this. But I found it so hard to let go, it was so hard and so scary. Being aware of this was so vital to me being able to move forward
- Find a way to deal with your fears – it’s normal to be scared, who wouldn’t be, but unless you can be aware of when it drives you, it does no good at all
- Find a tribe: there are many online groups that support moms who have a child with ADHD. I particularly liked the ADDitude Group on FB. It’s private but you can request to join. It’s great and it really helped me
Over the course of a few months, I learned to take charge of MY life again. I now understand that I cannot change my son (I was trying to do this and he was fighting it) but I can change things about my behaviour.
It was doing this that brought about the biggest shift for me.
As much as I can, I now try to view things through a different lens: one of compassion and empathy. It has been HUGE. It has helped so much. It really helps me in the moment when I’m dealing with my son and notice that I am slipping into judgment. My coach also recommended that I also read a book called The Judgment Detox by Gabrielle Bernstein.
“Judgement and compassion cannot co-exist. It is through compassion that we can extinguish judgment.” Louise Clarke
I hope that in sharing my story here, you have learned something from me. It has been the most challenging thing I have ever done but it has been the most deeply rewarding. I am finally beginning to see ADHD as being a gift, to both me and my son.
Love Helen xo
Helen’s story is a very typical one. I hope that it helps you feel less alone and understand the power and need for supporting yourself and not letting yourself get to rock bottom before waking up to doing something about it.
I know you have the best of intentions. We all do. The problem with us moms is that we can go far too far on no fuel and it really does no-one any favours!
Make sure you learn to refuel before you hit empty!
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PPS. Did you know I have a podcast with over 100 episodes on all things parenting? You can find it HERE – The Parenting In The Thick Of It Show.
Other blog posts on ADHD that you might find helpful: