There have been times when seriously I could have packed my bags and left. Living with a child with ADHD is tough. My son was oppositional, rude, challenging and defiant. We had numerous holidays, family outings and celebrations ruined because of his rudeness and his behaviour.
But I now get it. After years of shouting and getting furious with him I now understand what is going on.
He was trying to communicate that something was wrong.
He was overwhelmed by the sensory environment, couldn’t get what he had to do and why he had to do it. He was inappropriate socially as he couldn’t read social cues. He felt left out of conversations and felt all emotions intensely. He couldn’t process information and missed vital signals and messages. His brain was always on high alert and would instantly go into fight or flight mode.
And all I had to do was ask him how I could help him.
All behaviour is communication. It is a symptom of what is going on.
We now understand that ADHD is a neurological condition. Our children are not giving you a hard time, they are having a hard time. Your child is reacting to his circumstances and trying to communicate that something is going wrong and isn’t right.
So we need to find out why is this behaviour happening and become a Behaviour Detective. That way, so many challenging behaviours can be avoided.
Our children want to do well and to please. They do not want to be screamed at, frowned at or told they are a disappointment and have ruined everything. It is no wonder that many children and adults with ADHD end up with anxiety and depression. To feel that you are responsible for so much stress and pain in a family, as well as self-loathing, is a short step to mental health issues.
This must stop.
We must change and rethink ADHD.
We can help and support our children live a happy life.
Be a detective
Look at the behaviour and work out what your child is trying to communicate. He is too tired, uncomfortable, overwhelmed, distracted, worried, upset, over excited? There will always be a reason. Take these emotions seriously. Don’t dismiss them. Our children with ADHD are hyper-sensitive to emotions which appear bigger and more threatening.
Change what you expect of your child. Often there is a huge gap between capability and expectation. So work out what your child is actually capable of. It is better for him to feel successful than for you to push to an unreasonable limit. He will shut down, be rude, defiant and refuse. Put aside difficult homework, expect less at the dinner table, help to manage finances and give your child the benefit of the doubt.
Your child will have memory problems, time blindness and finds it challenging to hold on to information. Quite often there are too many instructions. Use visuals in form of apps, calendars, lists, post-its, pictures, photos, planners. Arguments quite often are over forgotten homework, letters, equipment, PE. Teach your child to use physical supports to act as reminders.
Be a good role model
Show your child how to stay calm, problem solve, use visuals, self-regulate when you’re overwhelmed. Show that instead of speaking out loud something inappropriate, you can say it inside your head. Take deep breaths. Practice mindfulness. My son currently is worried about the end of the world due to global warming. We listen, take his fears seriously, provide him with some evidence, but overall the thing that is helping most is seeing that we are not worried and being good role models.
Your child wants to be good. He doesn’t intend to be disrespectful. He wants your approval and for you to proud. So find out what is going on. Ask “How can I help you?”. Your child is clever and smart and will often have the solutions. Step back from being the strict authoritarian parent that our parents were. That doesn’t work with our children with ADHD. Punishments don’t work and just then adds to their feelings of shame and damages their self-worth. Instead, be the parent your child needs.
Join me on Saturday 3rd November at 9.30am in Hertfordshire for a morning of impassioned learning, understanding and to completely rethink ADHD.