When To Let Go: Fostering Independence in ADHD Children
What does it mean to promote the independence of our children – especially those with ADHD? We think about it all the time, especially since one of our worst fears is the derogatory term “helicopter parent”. When do we move from caring, compassionate parents to a piece of machinery? Is that what teachers call us behind our backs when we advocate and manage our children, their diagnoses, and their educational and emotional needs? If we are strong as parents, do others judge us for giving voice to our children’s needs?
These are questions that come to my mind and to many of the parents I have worked with over the years. When a child is diagnosed with a medical or emotional label at any age, the rules for our participation in our child’s life inevitably change. We want to know how we can help. We research, we talk, we advise, we meet, we review, we advocate … and the list goes on.
Promote independence if your child has ADHD
If this child has ADHD, we also take on many of the missing executive skills. We become CEOs because they have planning, time management and organization challenges. We are becoming homework monitors, schedulers, planners, project managers, time managers, list builders, file organizers, paper editors, and many other roles. We compensate.
The bigger question is, “At what point do you let go of being the CEO of your child’s life?” This is a critical question to ask yourself. It is not easy. We have a lot of fears around the concept of “letting go”. While this is true for all parents, it is different for those of us whose children REALLY need us to help them with their executive skills. Many of us fear that if we let go, everything will collapse. Children in high school have a fear of letting go and going to college or that things will fall apart so college is no longer an option.
5 questions to ask yourself
When you are ready to ponder this question for yourself, your child, and your family, here are some questions you should ask yourself:
- How old is your child?
Teaching your child self-management skills is important at any age. But when they reach middle and high school, these life skills become even more important. You begin to have greater demands and more responsibility as an individual. It is important to consider age-appropriate expectations and what is appropriate for your child’s stage of life. If college is an option, consider what skills it must have in order to be successful.
- Which fears in you do you have to address?
What do you have to find in yourself to let go? Often we hyper-focus our energies on challenges our children have for themselves and for them because of our own fears. What are your biggest fears? How do these affect your parents? Once you can address these, you can get a clearer picture of how to help and let go of your child when the time is right.
- What can you start with?
When you’re ready to let go, what is a reasonable place to start? Look for something small to let go of, be it homework or scheduling, or any other area that you feel like you have really tight control over. What small layer can you start with to test the waters?
- What tools can you help your child develop?
Your child will need some tools to tackle the challenging areas. What can you use to help? This doesn’t mean you should buy your child a diary unless they ask for one. Children with ADHD have to develop their own creatively designed organizational system. You can work with your child to come up with a creative solution, which could include technology, phones, sticky notes, and anything else they can think of.
- What must be there – must it be you? Many parents I work with are looking for a coach who supports the transition from “parent” to child. A coach can be a great facilitator in helping your child develop their systems, tools, and confidence to move forward once their parents start letting go.
What works best for you – and your family?
There is no right or wrong answer to any of these questions. Only you, as the parent of your child, know what is right for you and your family. It is important that you have all of the information you need to make informed decisions about when and how to let go. First, reach out to teachers, other parents, a coach, or the ImpactParents community. And then … trust yourself. If you are really honest with yourself on the questions above, you will know how and when the time is right to promote independence in your ADHD children.