Parenting a child with ADHD isn’t always easy. Because every child with ADHD is unique and comes with a different set of challenges, there isn’t a roadmap to tell you what to do. Every day, it seems, you are faced with a new set of trials to overcome. When you finally think you have control of one issue, a different one pops up.
The following are six things parents of children with ADHD wish that someone had told them when their child was diagnosed.
You are the expert and the advocate
When your child is diagnosed with a medical condition, you might expect doctors to understand how the condition impacts everyday life. But not every doctor understands ADHD.
Some doctors might diagnose based on a few questions, and some might suggest medication without a thorough evaluation. Some might not understand that ADHD is more than just the major symptoms. While doctors today are more knowledgeable about ADHD than 10 or 20 years ago, you as the parent still need to be the expert.
Read everything you can about ADHD and how symptoms manifest in children. Read the pros and cons of medication and other treatment methods. If your doctor can’t provide answers, ask for a referral to a specialist. As the parent of a child with ADHD, it isn’t enough to rely on others for answers — you need to seek them out.
Your child needs an advocate
Children with ADHD are often seen as lazy. They are frequently immature for their age, and they may need extra assistance or accommodations in school to help them succeed. Some children may need extra help navigating social situations.
When you have a child with ADHD, your job of parent extends to the role of advocate. You might need to regularly meet with teachers, attend IEP or Section 504 meetings, discuss treatments with doctors, explain your child’s behavior to classmates’ parents, and work to find social settings where your child feels comfortable. In each of these situations, you are the parent and the advocate. By acting as both, you can make sure your child has every chance of success.
You should be on the lookout for other conditions
Sometimes symptoms or challenges from these conditions overlap, and it is hard to know which condition is at the root of some behaviors. Your child has the best chance at success in life with an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
It’s worth your while to know the major symptoms of conditions that are associated with ADHD. That way, if you have a concern, you can immediately bring it to the attention of your child’s doctor or school and have it addressed.
Schools don’t always agree with your accommodation requests
To you, it might seem like common sense that your child needs extra time for tests, an aide to help him stay focused, that he not be denied recess to complete work, or any other accommodation you believe will help. But schools don’t always agree.
Meetings about ADHD accommodations can sometimes become contentious, and sometimes parents end up frustrated with the process. It helps to understand the laws regarding accommodations and commonly-used accommodations in other schools.
As a parent of a child with ADHD, you should become especially familiar with the laws governing IEPs and Section 504. It is going to be up to you to request evaluations and meetings, and to advocate for your child every step of the way.
Your child is going to be frustrating, but he is still just a child
There are going to be days when you are pretty sure your child is being purposely defiant. You might think, “she must have heard me and is clearly ignoring me,” or “he can’t possibly have forgotten to do that, he is being stubborn.” If your child has ADHD, he probably isn’t being defiant on purpose.
She probably isn’t “acting out to get your attention.” Your child isn’t trying to be ADHD. Your child has ADHD.
As a parent, it’s your job to love your child anyway. It’s your job to remember that as frustrating as it can get, your child is still just a child. He or she still wants your acceptance. In one way, it isn’t any different than any other child; love is what your child needs most.
You should take time to celebrate your child
It’s easy to get caught up in the constant cycle of trying to improve your child’s behavior, improve grades, to get your child to listen when spoken to, and get along with siblings.
When you have a child with ADHD, there is always something that can be improved. But don’t forget to celebrate your child’s successes, no matter how small, and his or her unique way of looking at the world. Take the time to enjoy your child’s sense of humor, enthusiasm for life, endless curiosity, and boundless energy.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.