Find out how to be a Higher Guardian to a Little one with ADHD
The world hurls negative news at those of us with ADHD every day, and unfortunately we are used to noticing it. Even the best-intentioned people in our lives often speak out to us about our minds and abilities that traumatize and sabotage our lives.
I know this because I was diagnosed with ADHD as a child, which made me a recipient of my parents’ fears and hesitations about the disease and how it will affect my future.
For a good part of my life, my family did not take my diagnosis or my mental health problems seriously. Growing up in this environment made me feel “less than” and believed that ADHD was a moral mistake rather than a disease.
If experience has taught me anything, it is that if not properly treated, ADHD can lead to a range of problems including, but not limited to, substance abuse, anger problems, self-loathing, and other psychological and emotional difficulties.
As tough as my youth was, I have learned some valuable lessons about the meaning of words and the meaning of compassion. These are lessons all parents of children with ADHD need to hear in order to raise healthy, resilient children who feel heard and supported.
[Get This Free Download: 13 Parenting Strategies for Kids with ADHD]
The importance of compassion
Compassion and empathy are critical to successful parenting.
In Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being (#Commissions Earned), Dr. Kristin Neff describes compassion as learning a more empathic, resilient approach to judging ourselves and others, and the challenges we all face. This means that we shouldn’t seek or accept excuses or use unhealthy skills like avoidance or distraction to help meet our challenges.
I love this concept of self-compassion as a tool that enables us to face our challenges by choosing how we define them.
Self-compassion is an incredibly powerful antidote to shame, especially when dealing with an often misunderstood condition like ADHD. Emphasizing and embracing the importance of language is one way parents can help their children develop self-compassion and self-acceptance.
Language as a way to compassion
Language is not just what you say to your child – it is what you say to others, in person or online, and even to yourself. Blame yourself for your words, tone of voice, and reactions, especially when they relate to conditions, vulnerabilities, and other factors that are beyond the control of another person. Your child will take in these clues that will affect how they view their own diagnosis and challenges.
Here is an example from my life: My parents thought that my ADHD medication was a panacea and that I would have a problem-free life without ADHD. This is clearly not how ADHD drugs work. Even so, my parents considered me selfish and a nuisance if I ever mentioned my challenges.
[Read: “I Believe In You!” How to Vanquish a Child’s Low Self-Esteem]
My family’s unsupportive approach eventually led to my closure. Why talk if I am only being embarrassed and ridiculed? So I stopped talking, which led to the darkest time of my life.
Most people don’t know how much shame and humiliation people with ADHD endure in their lifetime. As Dr. As William Dodson explains in ADHD and the Epidemic of Shame, it is common for people with ADHD to feel like failures from childhood through adulthood for failing to meet the expectations of our parents, friends, teachers, and others.
When children hear and feel these negative comments, they begin to internalize them. You start to see yourself and the world through these hurtful and harmful comments.
As I am nearing the end of my peer support professional training and reflecting on my personal experiences, I would like to teach the following lessons for parents of children with ADHD.
- Believe, affirm, and respect your child’s thoughts and feelings. This contributes to healthy emotional regulation and builds trust. Acknowledge by repeating and summarizing your child’s feelings. Thank them for sharing their thoughts with you and work with them to resolve the issue. Negating your child’s challenges can only cause harm and resentment in the long run.
- Use strength-based language to combat self-destructive mindsets. For example, you can say, “It’s okay to fail as long as you’ve done all you can. I am proud of your efforts. “
- Enable your child to take steps to address their challenges. Help your child take a proactive role in their ADHD journey by involving them in problem solving. Ask them open questions about their struggles and use their perspectives to find solutions. This allows your child to build self-confidence and be clear about where they need support – important components in developing resilience.
- Emphasize the importance of mental health and self-care. Help your child understand that treatment for ADHD, be it medication, therapy, and / or another approach, is important to their wellbeing.
- Nobody is perfect. Show your child that it is okay to make mistakes. Give examples from your own life. These simple actions will really mean the world to them. In this sense…
- Apologize if you made a mistake. If you’ve lost your temper or accidentally said something hurtful to your child, stand by it. We apologize and acknowledge your mistake.
If your child is more likely than others to be bombarded with daily negativity and stigma, it is your duty as a parent to do everything in your power to not only protect your child from it, but also to prevent them from contributing to the problem .
How to Become a Better Parent: Next Steps
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Updated June 21, 2021