Reframing ADHD

I was listening to a podcast this week about how to raise children who know their purpose. It struck a chord with me and began ruminating about my three children: their talents, their dreams, their skills, and their personalities.

My 11-year-old son is quick witted, extremely creative, musically talented, very insightful, popular, and extremely social. He truly could be anything he wanted to be. Based on who is he today, if I had to guess what his future would be, I’d imagine he’d be an entrepreneur who plays the PS4 in his spare time.

My 7-year-old daughter is the most incredible drawer, singer, and performer. She is effervescent, loud, hilarious, popular, fantastic with little kids and so very, very funny. I think she will end up being a famous actress, a fashion designer, a stylist, or a teacher.

My youngest daughter is 6-years old. She is the kindest, most selfless, compassionate, helpful child I have ever known. She loves any kind of animal, and they love her back. I think she will be a vet or a conservationist.

It really started to make me think – you know what did not make my list? ADHD. When I thought about my incredible children and who they are, inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity did not make the list. 

How many times, though, does ADHD seem like an all-consuming diagnosis? I know it’s something that I have to think about and deal with every single day. The never-ending hyperactivity that drains me of my own energy and wants to make me scream; the impulsivity that is the reason for many trips to the emergency room; and the frustrations of inattention… seriously, how can you always lose just one shoe!? ADHD can feel all consuming, but it is not who our children are. It is not their defining characteristic.

Don’t think for a second that I am ignoring ADHD. It is very hard to live with. It’s stressful, difficult, and exhausting. The very real fact is that families who have a child or children with ADHD are living with a significantly increased amount of stress compared with families of neurotypical children (Leitch, 2019, Theule, 2010.) You need a good support network around you, including professional who can walk you through this journey.

As I was pondering my children, a quote came to mind:

“What you feed yourself, will eventually grow. Whether be good or bad, it will grow. It will affect your entire mood, environment, and the way of thinking… Most of all, it will affect your entire outcome of your today. (Not to mention your tomorrow.)” – Rafael Garcia

ADHD is a chronic condition. Our children are not going to wake up one morning and be “cured”.  These amazing kids have ADHD, however, these children are not ADHD. The double-edged sword of ADHD means that while there will always be some things they struggle with, and they will likely always exhibit behaviours that are challenging to live with, they have something that makes them incredible and fiercely passionate about life. The key point I want to make here is that our reactions to these qualities actually shape the way our children think of themselves. How often do we focus on the negative aspects of ADHD when we could be focusing on the positive?

Some of the characteristics of ADHD we find difficult to deal with now, could lead to them being world changers! My son gets up at 4-5am every morning. While I find being regularly woken up at this hour very challenging, what a great opportunity for my son to start his day with exercise and watch the beautiful sun rises! My daughter will not be told no: If she wants something, she does not stop until she gets it. Yes, this is frustrating for me when I need her to clean her room, but imagine this quality if she is knocked back by a casting director. Kate Winslet ended up starring in the Titanic movie because she wouldn’t take no for an answer!

Dr. Edward Hallowell, found Children with ADHD hear 20,000 more negative messages by the age of 12 than their neurotypical counterparts. They are not going to compartmentalise those negative messages about their symptoms of ADHD, against who they are. Imagine the toll of that on their self-esteem.  We have an incredible opportunity as parents of children with ADHD to switch the perspective, and thus the narrative. We can recognise that what is typically seen as difficult can be a significant driving force to who and what our kids become.

I challenge you this week to set aside time to ponder who your children are. What are they good at? What are their passions? How can you reframe the qualities of ADHD you currently find challenging, to qualities that can take them to great heights for their future?

And let’s get ADHD Done Differently

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