By WMM Contributor: Elizabeth Braatz
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 6% of children in the U.S. have some form of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This condition is one of the most common mental disorders affecting both children and adults. Symptoms of ADHD include: inattention (not being able to keep focus), hyperactivity (excessive movement that is not fitting to the setting) and impulsivity (hasty acts that occur in the moment and without thought). Children and adults will ADHD often also exhibit signs of anxiety, depression and mood swings.
As parent of three children with diagnosed ADHD, I will tell you that it’s no cake walk being a decent parent, much less a good one.
As parent of three children with diagnosed ADHD, I will tell you that it’s no cake walk being a decent parent, much less a good one. I have one child who verbally stims (makes sound effect-type noises all the time), can’t sit still and is often in his own world. I have another child who cannot calm her body and will often get distracted in her own mind, and can then not listen to what’s being verbalized to her. My third child can concentrate decently but often has her own agenda and will dominate situations by trying to take control, especially in a devious manner. She also exhibits strong signs of anxiety.
In order to properly cope, we’ve created some mechanisms and practices that help in making life as smooth as possible.
- Daily practices follow a rigid schedule. The kids are expected to get dressed at a certain time and be ready for school at a certain time. They are not allowed to use devices or read books before they are fully ready and backpacks are packed. With this said, I have to constantly say, “What do you need to do next?” “What should you put on next?” This requires me to hover over them in the morning and means that I also need to allocate time for myself to get ready for work. This requires a lot of time management on my part.
- Constant communication with teachers. My husband and I work full-time so we need things to go smoothly at school. Prior to the start of each school year, I reach out to each kid’s teacher and brief them on their symptoms and coping mechanisms that have worked well the previous year in school. This may include behavior charts and daily reports to us as parents. This keeps my kids on task and keeps the lines of communication open between us and the school.
- Allocate time to check in with a therapist. While our pediatrician is fantastic, we also see a child psychologist who has advised us on coping skills to mitigate situations constructively. I make a conscious effort to visit the therapist with one or more of the kids at least on a monthly basis. This does require a little finagling of work schedules but it’s worth it.
- Recognize that everything is a process and things take longer than expected. Since everyone is a little in their own heads, simple processes can often take longer than they need to. I expect this and am generally prepared. Clothes are picked out the night before, lunches are made and sports bags are packed. I always expect a 10-minute delay for kid(s) to get distracted or incapable of putting on their shoes.
With all of this said, the best way that I cope with life’s stresses associated with ADHD is to look at newborn pictures of my first borns (twins). They were premature and had some major, life-threatening health issues. Given that they are thriving today, I have to check myself with images of them as babies to remember how lucky I am. Life is definitely not perfect but we’re managing, and that’s all we can do.
Life is definitely not perfect but we’re managing, and that’s all we can do.