ADHD and Guilt: How to Handle Parenting and Boredom
Back in January, I posted an article titled Letting Go: Embracing the New You where I talked about the sadness one often feels when thinking of how life might have been had we not been born with ADHD.
I'd like to explore this topic a bit more; specifically, the feelings of guilt most of us- maybe all of us- have felt at one time or another when realizing how our ADHD affects those we love; particularly when it comes to our children.
The other day, my daughter asked if I would like to do a jigsaw puzzle with her. Forty years ago, I would have jumped at the chance- I loved puzzles as a child! But as an adult, I have always hated most children's games and activities. Board games, which should be spelled "b o r e d", do just that to me: they bore me to death. Card games do the same. When my children were small, I forced myself to do these things but what followed was a sense of guilt because I simply hated these activities and felt awful that I showed little enthusiasm for doing them. I tried to escape from then whenever I could. WHY did other parents seem to enjoy these activities? They didn't fall asleep clutching their playing cards or scrabble tiles. But I did. And obviously, I still do. As for the other night, I avoided the jigsaw puzzle activity and re-directed our attention to something that would engage me a bit more. Am I a bad mother because my brand of ADHD finds these kinds of activities beyond boring?
Children and adults with ADHD cannot handle being bored. We need to be stimulated. I've heard people say that being bored was worse than being sick. But what is a parent to do when children demand to engage them in these types of activities? How can we handle the guilt we feel when we don't share their enthusiasm and further, find ways to avoid these situations?
And it's not just an aversion to board games, playing make believe, watching endless school hockey games or re-reading Charlotte's Web 100 times. It's trying to stay emotionally connected while listening to non-stop chatter and not zone out. It's getting distracted when listening as your child describes the endless details of her day's events. It's feeling restless at the G rated movies and impatient with the tantrums, potty training and many other daily living situations parents face when raising their children.
I find that parents, let alone those with ADHD, rarely discuss these feelings of guilt associated with the boredom that is part of raising children. We are supposed to be ecstatic, enthusiastic and over the top active in their daily lives.
Some parents may over-compensate for these feelings by buying their children too many "things." They might become too permissive in allowing for certain behaviors. Whatever it is that we do, it's important to be aware of them, how they affect our child and our relationship with our child and...how it affects us. Mother/father guilt is alive and...not doing so well in the hearts and souls of parents with ADHD.
What to Do
The first thing to do is to recognize and accept these feelings within yourself. With understanding comes power. With acceptance comes the motivation and ability to change. That's not to say that we should go overboard and agree to a game of Mall Madness every time our child wants to play. Or that we watch Full House re-runs every night for five years when we'd rather be watching an occasional football game.
Yet we do want to connect with our child in ways that make the parent/child relationship strong. And as most who read this might guess, it isn't always an easy thing to do, given the points raised earlier in this article.
Now that you've allowed yourself to begin to acknowledge and accept the guilt, it's time to let go of it. Because holding on to it and not taking appropriate action is not healthy for you or your child. After all, if you didn't feel the guilt, you wouldn't know- somewhere in your heart- that something was amiss; that something needed to change. Nor would you know how to make changes; changes that will improve your relationships and help alleviate the darkness that has been lurking within for many years. Perhaps it's time now to stop the cycle of guilt and make changes so you and your child can be happier together.
Whether your child is five or 15, it's not too late to enjoy time with your child without falling asleep at the wheel. For ideas on how to connect with your child, read my article on 12 Boredom Blasting Tips for Parents.