When a child is first diagnosed with ADHD many parents wonder if, and how much, they should tell their child. Most experts agree it is important to talk to your child about ADHD and how symptoms impact their daily lives. The discussion should empower your child. Learning about ADHD should help him (or her) take control of the symptoms. You want to keep the conversation upbeat and focus on the positive aspects of ADHD while balancing discussions on how symptoms might interfere with daily life.
The following are some do’s and don’t’s to talking to your child about ADHD:
Do keep the conversation positive and upbeat. Focus on the positive aspects of ADHD and your child’s strengths.
Don’t start the conversation listing everything your child can’t do. Mention their interests, such as sports, art or music, and remind them of their accomplishments.
Do explain that ADHD doesn’t impact his intelligence or his ability. Do let him know that his having ADHD doesn’t change how you feel about him.
Don’t allow them to blame ADHD for their bad grades, not handing in homework or forgetting assignments. Explain that despite having ADHD, he still has responsibilities.
Do choose a calm time to have the discussion. Make sure you won’t be interrupted or there won’t be a lot of distractions going on. Remember that discussing ADHD is an ongoing conversation. Gauge your child’s interest and focus and decide how much to discuss at each conversation.
Don’t rush the discussion. Make sure you have enough time to answer any of your child’s questions and address any concerns he may have.
Do let your child know that he will have lots of help. Let him know that you are also learning about ADHD and you will work together to find ways to help him. If you are planning on talking to his teacher, let him know ahead of time.
Don’t ask your child to learn more about ADHD and learn ways to manage his symptoms. Let him know you are part of a team.
Do let your child know that he is not alone. Explain that many people have ADHD, including many famous people. Let him know that having ADHD doesn’t mean he can’t succeed.
Don’t imply that ADHD is who he is or that something is "wrong" with him. Explain that he has ADHD but that ADHD does not define him.
Do explain the positive sides of ADHD symptoms. Let him know that endless energy is a benefit. Talk about his racing mind in terms of having great ideas; impulsivity lets him be spontaneous.
Don’t give him reason to use ADHD symptoms as an excuse for poor behavior. While you want him to see the positive side of ADHD, you want him to understand these positives happen when he learns to manage the symptoms.
Do break the discussion up into small parts, especially for younger children. Remember, your child doesn’t need to learn everything about ADHD. He or she needs to know information that will help him understand and control symptoms most bothersome to him.
Don’t use technical terms and go into a lengthy discussion of the medical definition of ADHD. Talk about symptoms in real-life terms, for example, instead of talking about hyperactivity, use words your child would use, such as "feeling like a race car that can’t stop" or describe inattention as similar to constantly switching channels on a television.
DO remember to tell your child you love him and a diagnosis of ADHD doesn’t change that.