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Raising an ADHD child when you have ADHD yourself
Before it existed
I had ADHD before it even existed, before it had a name, before it was an "illness". Back when I was a kid it was just called being hyper or having a lot of energy. There wasn't anything "wrong" with me other than my mom couldn't get me to sit still to save her life.
I was never medicated and while I may have irritated a TON of "normal" people, I turned out just fine. So when "they" tried to tell me that my son had ADHD I refused to consider medications. After all, I've read the side-effects and long term effects of those things and in my opinion ~ they are all poison.
Difference between "back then" and now
Since no one recognized my symptoms as symptoms, I was punished just like any other kid would be for "inappropriate" behavior. I was raised in a home that believed in punishment, not discipline. It was never teaching or learning from the mistake, never natural consequences, it was always fear = respect. Needless to say, I was punished A LOT. Since it was more difficult for me to control myself than the average kid, I was always getting into trouble at home & at school. My mom hated bringing me anywhere. "Why can't you be more like your sister?" was one of the most common phrases out of her mouth (when she wasn't screaming my full name)
Now, with the understanding that there are certain chemical and neurological issues that cause this type of behavior along with some handy information on symptoms and treatment, things are much different for my son than they were for me.
Not only does he have a parent (2 actually) who understand what he's going through, I also have the tools to combat the difficulties naturally. While he is still held to the same expectations as his siblings, we work with his ADHD rather than against it.
How do you work "with" ADHD?
Simple really, well... simple for someone who has it and has lived with it for their entire life.
I understand that he has a short attention span, especially when it comes to things he doesn't want to do. I work with it by providing him with simple check lists that he can carry, hold, look at, and mark off. This breaks it down for him and allows him the chance to succeed.
I can look at it and say "way to go! you have 3 out of the 5 things you are working on."
Setting a timer is also helpful. Along with being "on the go" all the time, he loves being challenged to beat the clock!
When splitting up the chores between the kids, I give him ones that are quick and easy and/or ones that take more energy to accomplish. He isn't going to be able to sit down and put all of the missing DVD's back in their appropriate cases. That takes too much concentration and patience. Feeding and watering the dogs is quick and easy, while can crushing takes energy ~plus it makes a really cool sound when the can gets squished.
Knowing which type you have helps
There are 3 types of ADHD.
- The kind with hyperactive behavior but ability to concentrate
- The kind with an inability to concentrate but normal activity level
- The combo of both hyperactivity and inability to concentrate
When I was a kid I had the combo. As I've grown into adulthood I was able to focus and concentrate more. I believe this is a trained skill.
My son also has the combo. His attention span is short and his energy tank is always full.
I can totally work with that, because I know exactly what it feels like! Plus, I know that he is going to master the focus at some point because both myself and his father were able to. (without medication)
Choosing to home-school
The school system was killing my son's self-esteem. They had him on a "plan" which involved behavior notes being sent home every day. He was taken out of his classroom every day and sent to the "behavior tech". One of his teachers actually picked on him!
My son is a smart kid. Really smart. He always tested higher than the state, school, and class scores for the MAP tests. His grades were poor because he was horrible at remembering to either bring his homework home, or getting it from home back to school. His behavior was getting worse each year because the school had labeled him "a bad seed" and the teachers & staff acted accordingly.
This year, I chose to home-school him (and his genius older sister). She was dumbing herself down because she was getting teased at school for being too smart ~ but that's another story. So I went with an at home "online" school. It's technically still a public school. The kids have teachers and classes online. They hand their homework in online, and they are held to the same standards as other public schools. My role is called "teaching coach".
It's only the first month of being back in school, but both kids are doing a ton better than in regular school. My son is able to take movement breaks when needed and is getting all of his work done without losing any!
Strength or weakness?
While the majority of "normal" people have told me that, in not so many words, ADHD is a weakness. They don't understand how anyone could possibly have that much energy or get anything done with an inability to concentrate. "You're always just go, go, go! When do you slow down and take a break?"
For me, I look at it as a strength! I don't need as much sleep as the "average" person. 4-6 hours is completely enough to keep me at peek performance. That means I have at least 2 extra hours in my awake day! Yes, we like to move! Do you know how many chores you can get done when your body is used to working at a quicker pace? We want to hurry up and get to the next thing, so we hustle.
When I was sick, I mean really sick, I called the doctor's office to set up an appointment because I knew something wasn't right with me. I tried to explain to the nurse that I was lethargic and sleeping way more than usual. When she asked me how much, I said "Like 8 hours a day!" Needless to say she thought I was insane.
I got my appointment anyway and saw my usual nurse and usual doctor, both of which actually knew me and my medical history for over 15 years. They weren't laughing. They could tell something was "off". Turns out my anemia had played quite a number on my body and it was so low it scared the doctor.
We got me patched up in about 4 months and I was back to my same old hyper self. During the time when I was sick, slower, and had 1/2 of the energy I was used to... I asked a co-worker, "is this how normal people feel?" She said "yes."
"Well, I'm glad I'm not normal then, because this level of energy is killing me!"
Is it possible for us to sit still?
Yes! We can be "still" when we want to be. Not when we "have to", but when we want to.
When someone with ADHD finds something they are fascinated by, they become obsessive over it. We can spend hours upon hours totally focused. That's one of the reasons kids with ADHD love video games. Their brains still get to go a million miles a minute, even when their butt isn't going anywhere.
For me, it takes the form of crafts, cooking, and writing. I love to write. My mind gets to be as active as ever even if I'm not moving my body around. The focus and concentration required for making my homemade jewelry is intense. It is one of the most "calming" activities I have ever experienced. But my total favorite thing to do.... is make lists & charts.
I love making lists for everything. I spend hours fine tuning them to be the most efficient and effective they can possibly be. I am obsessed with it. Which is awesome, because it helps my family function so much more smoothly.
I've excelled at different jobs because of that skill. Lesson planning as a preschool teacher, documentation when I was a DSP, stocking inventory way back when I worked fast food as a teen... everyone loved my ability to document, organize, plan, and improve efficiency.
Our family is one of the thinnest bunch of people I know. Not a single one of us has anywhere near an ounce of "pudge" on us. Why? Because we love to move. (and I'm one of those crazy parents that doesn't allow a whole lot of junk food)
A parent with ADHD is a parent that likes to (needs to) move! We go to the park, walk, bike, play tag... none of this sitting around all of the time. Why watch someone on TV moving when we can move around ourselves? Let's get up and go already! Hey, I have an idea... lets have a dance party! Who can run around the yard the fastest or the most times... ready, set... GO!
It's all in how you look at it
If you look at ADHD as a "disease" or an "illness"... if you look at it like a set-back or limitation, then that is what it will be for you.
If you look at it as a gift, then you are blessed!
We're impulsive, spontaneous, active, energetic, enthusiastic...
I have ADHD and I am proud of it. I wouldn't want it any other way. I love that I have so much energy. My son has been gifted with the same energy. Just think of all the places it can take him! He is just the way he was meant to be and I couldn't love him more if I tried. He's awesome!