Inside: Despite living with many daily stressors, parents will learn how to help their child with ADHD not only survive but to thrive both cognitively and emotionally in their life.
I had a knot in my stomach that had been steadily building all morning, and it took me a bit to realize I was holding my breath as we sat the blanket down on the damp grass. We were at my 5-year-old daughter’s first ever soccer game.
Due to her ADHD and anxiety, she often struggled in these types of situations, due to the overwhelm from new stimuli and many complicated social dynamics all happening at once.
My mind raced with possibilities of potential ‘disasters’.
Would she be distracted or overwhelmed if we cheered for her too loudly?
How would she handle being knocked down or the game not playing out according to her expectations, would this cause a meltdown?
Would she understand and properly interpret social cues in order to follow game rules and be a good teammate?
We are the only ones that can see many of their challenges.
Every day a child with ADHD walks (or likely jumps) through a world which expects kids to be quiet, sit still and keep to themselves. While these expectations are developmentally incompatible with many young children, they are downright impossible for a child with ADHD, and our children carry the weight of this every day on their wiggly little shoulders.
The looks. The gasps. The hushed whispers. Being loud, active, curious and outspoken gets you attention in our culture, mostly the kind you don’t want.
Because of this, as parents, we worry. We consider how to set limits and guide our children, while also allowing them to be who they are at their core.
We want our child to succeed in a world that views many of their greatest strengths as deficits.
What can we do to ensure our ADHD child will be ok?
1.Allow them to discover and follow their gifts and passions. When our children are in tune with and connected to what they love doing, they will be in touch with who they are at their core (which by the way is basically the magic key to emotional well-being).
Even though we kinda thought from the beginning (actually in Utero, I swear) that our daughter was built for soccer, if she didn’t get joy out of it, we would trust her instincts and allow her path to veer elsewhere. Although soccer would be a great place to burn energy, this is her path, not ours, and we are honored to be her guides and see where it leads.
2. Let them live in the here and now. Kids are naturally mindful beings, soaking in all the good the present moment has to offer. Then parents come in, projecting their own adult thoughts, histories, and anxieties onto their child, speculating about what may or may not happen weeks or years down the road in their child’s life, forgetting that their child’s story is brand new. When we pull in the reigns of our negative thoughts we give our child the chance to write their own story.
3.Parent them as a unique child. There are cultural assumptions about parenting that run rampant through our schools and communities. Parenting a neurodiverse child requires that we implement approaches that look different, sometimes very different.
When we are out in public and our daughter gets overwhelmed, her fight or flight kicks in. This is anxiety 101 (and is extremely common with any child experiencing ADHD, SPD or anxiety ect). It is completely pointless to attempt to discipline (teach) her in the moment, as none of our feedback would be absorbed and it could actually send her into a full-blown explosive meltdown. We guide her to a quiet place, wait for her cortisol levels to regulate and then firmly but calmly discuss what happened.
When in public, ignore the looks, ignore the expectations, and repeat a positive affirmation to yourself “I’m doing what’s best for my child, I’m doing what’s best for my child…”
4.Focus on strengths. While many days are full of challenges like transitioning out the door for school and disruptive behaviors, we often forget to focus on the hilarious, creative, and amazing things are awesome kids are doing. It is highly likely our child is intellectually gifted in some area and has a highly creative mind and fun personality traits. Positivity breeds positivity. When we try to consciously focus our attention on the bright spots, an amazing thing happens, the light suddenly starts to grow.
When our hearts and minds are open, amazing things happen.
While my thoughts spiraled that Saturday morning (which is so often helpful, right?) the whistle blew and the pint-sized players were off to a start. Literally within minutes, our spunky, active girl turned to us from midfield, jumping up-and-down exclaiming “I’m good at soccer! I think I’m winning!!”.
My heart burst. What may have been an ordinary moment for most parents was extraordinary for our girl with many invisible challenges.
Our five-year-old pistol ended up scoring seven goals that game, but honestly, that wasn’t so important to us.
It took awhile to get here, and there are still plenty of days that the darkness brought by challenges makes it hard to find the light, but when I step back and look at the larger picture, I know that her future is bright.
Want more information and support on how to be the best parent for your ‘outside the box’ kid? Click the image below to join thousands of parents in the PWC Community to get bi-monthly emails with new articles and resources from a child therapist.
Angela will also be offering online parent coaching starting this summer to support parents of children with ADHD!! Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free consultation!
Amazing Resources for parenting your awesome kid with ADHD:
- Tilt Parenting. “Support for parents raising different wired kids”
- Understood. “Helping millions of parents whose children are struggling with learning and attention issues”
- Impact ADHD. “Helping parents help kids”
- Blocked to Brilliant. “ADHD Specialist and Educator of 30 years”