by Edward Hallowell, M.D.
I have ADHD, as does my daughter and one of my sons. If you have a child diagnosed with the condition, it's important to help him feel good about himself.
In my daily practice, I see and treat kids with attention deficit disorder. Being with them usually makes me smile. They have a special something -- a spark, a delightful quirk that they sometimes try to hide. I seek it out and try to nurture it.
You should do the same. Search for and promote your child's strengths as you deal with his challenges. When your child feels good about who he is and what life has to offer, he will be happy and successful.
It’s Hard WorkI’m not saying it’s easy. I don’t have to tell you how hard it is to raise a child who has ADHD. Here are a few things I find challenging:
> Asking, "How many times do I have to tell you?" and never getting an answer.
> Socks that migrate to the attic, basement, behind the washer, in the freezer, toilet, or car — everywhere but the dresser.
> Homework without end. In your child's mind, homework is some strange creature that seems to grow as she tries to cut it down to size. Your daughter works on it for three hours, then shows you what she’s done, which is almost nothing. When you scream, "Why didn’t you spend those three hours doing the homework you were supposed to do?" she looks at you and answers, honestly, "I don’t know." That’s the truth. She doesn’t know. This makes you feel like going ballistic.
> Personal time zones. In the world of ADHD, there are only two time zones: now and not now. Test in a week? Not now.
> Teachers who don’t understand. After you think you’ve explained your child's ADHD to them, they send home a note the next day, saying, "Joseph needs to pay more attention in class. Please urge him to do that."
A Mystery to You -- and OthersSometimes you don’t even understand your child’s behaviors. You can’t figure out why your daughter behaves in such an inconsistent, self-sabotaging way. How can she be prepared for a test the night before, only to forget everything when she takes it the next day?
Your mother certainly doesn’t understand. When you ask for help, her refrain is: "All he needs is discipline. You remember what I would do if you ever did that?" You do remember, and you shudder. You’re glad your mom isn’t in charge anymore.
Words such as structure, supervision, and persistence don’t begin to describe the task you have to tackle every day. Your job is greater than you ever expected and more taxing than anyone knows. Some days you just want to give up.
But you don’t, because it’s not in you to do that. You ask, "How long will this take?" It reminds me of the Supremes song, "You Can’t Hurry Love." It’s especially true of the extraordinary kind of love parents give. You have to hang in there with your child, loving him in the face of adversity and the nasty comments you get from people you might otherwise like and admire.
It is hard to listen to some of the things people say about your child. You have to be careful how you respond, because you are trying to build bridges, not burn them. Still, it is tempting -- and perhaps healthy -- to do a little burning now and then for the sake of your child.