ADHD

How to deal with non believers and unsolicited advice. Creating Team ADHD.

“Every kid these days ends up diagnosed with ADHD.”

“It’s just made up to cover up bad parenting.”

“Back in my day there was no ADHD. It was called, sit down, shut up and do your work or you will get a smack, not drugging them to make them listen.”

I’m sure everyone who has children with ADHD has heard advice like this. I am often saddened and angered by the comments and advice I receive or overhear.

There are a lot of people still who don’t believe in ADHD. People state it’s an excuse for lazy parenting, made up by “big pharm”to sell drugs to children so parents can have hypercompliant drugged children, and the list goes on. Some scholars even believe that ADHD is an epidemic, due to the lifestyle of children in this modern era: reduced outdoor play, increased demands on learning activities, the over use of screens, and so on.

Thankfully, science doesn’t care what people believe, and the scientific evidence of ADHD’s existence is irrefutable. All major medical associations and government health agencies in the developed world recognise ADHD as a real disorder. The International consensus statement on ADHD was published in 2002 by researchers, scientists, and doctors agreeing on this fact. And for the most part, the world has come a long way in its recognition of ADHD, but we still have an incredibly long way to go in advocating for people diagnosed with the disorder.

There are a significant number of people raising kids with ADHD, who find themselves in a daily battle with family, teachers, friends and strangers over all things ADHD. This adds an incredible amount of stress for people who already are living with higher stress levels, increased marital discord and divorce, as well as anxiety and depression than their counterparts without children with ADHD.

So, what can we do when we are in the position of receiving unsolicited and extremely unhelpful advice about ADHD or the choices we make for our children? A response I’ve always wanted to say is, “Sorry to disappoint you, but I can’t smack the ADHD out of my child any more than I can smack the stupid out of you”. Perhaps not the most helpful of responses, but I do feel like saying it at times.

My goal today isn’t to give you words to defend yourself and the decisions you make in regards to your child, as I don’t believe we ever should have to defend our choices. Instead, I want to give you some concrete steps to work through to be prepared for difficult situations that may arise for you.

I have put together a little workbook for you today with some steps to really make some changes if this is an area that you need support with. Get it below and work through the following steps.



STEP 1. Identify who is giving you unsolicited advice, making you feel bad, or as though you need to defend yourself.

Think about who judges you. Who makes snide remarks or comments loudly next to you? Who doesn’t adhere to your rules you have set in the best interest of your children?

In the attached workbook, write these people down. It doesn’t have to be in any special order, just do a big brain blurt. Grab the workbook, a pen, some tissues (trust me), a cup of tea, and sit out in the garden while your kids chase the dog.

Think about all the people you see on a regular or semi-regular basis. They might give you “advice”, challenge your treatment plan or judge you. Write them all down.

It is natural to be emotional about this step (that’s why there are tissues!) You have poured your heart and soul into your children and to be criticised or judged is painful.

Feel free to take your time with this step as you may not be able to identify everyone straight away. Be mindful over the next few weeks and add to your list as you identify them. 

STEP 2. Determine who’s in your children’s ADHD team

Now, I want you to write down who is in your child’s ADHD team. These people may have to be in the team. These people may be yourself, your partner or teachers.

Other people are invited into the team, such as Paediatricians or Psychologists for support. And then there are people, who are part of the team because they are part of family life, such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, family friends, babysitters or church friends.

Most people are in this team whether they have chosen this role or not. They are part of your child’s team whether they agree that ADHD exists or not and whether they agree with your parenting or not, but they have an active role in your child’s future. These people are critical in your child’s physical, educational, vocational and psychological success. What an important job.

Now look at both lists of people you have just written down from Steps 1 and 2. Are there any people on both lists? Highlight them.

Is it your child’s grandparents? Someone who looks after your children with ADHD while you work or so you and your partner can go out on a date? But they constantly tell you that you have made a terrible decision to medicate your child?

Is it your child’s teacher? The teacher who has worked with your child 6 hours a day most of the year, but consistently supports their suspensions for poor behaviour?

Is it your child’s other parent who loves them deeply, but just can’t get on board with the parenting style that the psychologist recommended?

I believe that the people you have outlined in the first two steps above, fit into two categories, when it comes to how to deal with unsolicited advice, judgements, arguments and non-ADHD believers.

Group 1 – People who we need to put our effort into as part of the child’s team

Group 2 – People who are not in the child’s team or are too toxic, and not worth the added stress of worrying about their opinions.

This may sound harsh, however, after years of listening and attempting to everyone’s opinions on ADHD and raising my children, I’ve realised that in order to be the best Mum to my children with ADHD, I have to prioritise my mental health. This is then where I can make the difficult decisions in the best interest of my family.  


LET’S GET SORTED

So, how do we decide which group each person fits into? We ask ourselves if this person a necessary team member. It’s as simple as that.

Let’s start with how to deal with the second group.

Group 2 – People who are not in the child’s team or are too toxic, and not worth the added stress of worrying about their opinions.

For people who fit into the second group, think about why you are worrying about their opinions when they do not actually need to have input into your child and the decisions you make. The bottom line is this: It takes so much wasted time and effort attempting to change another person’s mind, particularly someone who is set in their ways. I, personally, would rather put that energy into my children and family. This doesn’t have to mean cutting these people out of your life. But it does mean it is not worth battling with them, because even if they are important to me as a friend or family member, they do not have to be an active member in my child’s ADHD team.

Ponder here, what is the current way you are handling the ADHD conflict with this person? Is it working? If they share their opinion, does it hurt you or make you angry? Do you end up fighting? Or do you bottle it up and then explode at your partner later that evening? Or do you end up being frustrated with your child with ADHD? Write this down.

I have found over the years, that when I allow myself to take on board opinions of people who are not in my child’s ADHD team, it adds a significant amount of stress to my life.

I encourage you to write down a kind, yet assertive statement you can say to this group of people, when they start making comments or judgements. Planning your response in advance allows you to simply recall a learned response, rather than reacting to the emotion of the moment. Write out some ideas in your workbook. Here are some ideas to get you started.

“Thank you for your advice, however I might have given you the wrong impression. I’m not looking for advice on this topic.”

“My husband/wife/partner and I have come up with our plan for handling this, but thank you for sharing your perspective with me.”

“I know it must be really hard for you to not have a say into the way we parent our children. Ultimately my wife/partner and I need to make these decisions, and I need you to be okay with not having a say in these decisions.”

Remember to ask yourself: Is it worth the battle? If you believe it is worth the battle, then these people belong in the first group. Let’s talk about them now.

Group 1 – People who we need to put our effort into as part of the child’s team

The first group are people we must put our effort into engaging, because they are a critical part of your child’s current and future team. But how are we able to change somebody’s viewpoint?

Christopher Dwyer,  (a Psychologist from the National University of Ireland) states, it can be difficult to change someone’s mind, “unless they themselves are willing to reflect on their own opinions, be open-minded, seek the truth for themselves, withhold judgement before engaging all the evidence and have a desire to progress or change.” In other words, we can’t force an idea on anyone.

However, while we can’t force an idea on someone, we can present information using a procedure where we state our position, present core evidence, address the conflicting viewpoint as a myth or misinformation and explain why the conflicting viewpoint is a myth, while we reinforce our position.

The key here is knowledge. Learn everything you can about ADHD. Keep up to date with new research. So, there is no need to argue of fight for our point of view. It could look like this:

Grandma: “You know if you give your child Ritalin, they will end up a drug addict!”

You: “Grandma, I love that you care so much about your grandchild. Interestingly children who are medicated with methylphenidate (Ritalin) are at no higher risk of substance abuse compared to their non-medicated counterparts, and studies suggest stimulant use protects against later drug abuse in ADHD. I can understand how it may feel counterintuitive to give a stimulant drug to a child, but it is a myth that using Ritalin will lead to later drug use. People with ADHD who have substance abuse disorders, are less likely to have had been treated with Ritalin throughout their childhood and teenage years. I can print out some information if you would like to read it?

Keep in mind though, that you may not change that person’s opinion about ADHD, however, they may realise you are unwavering in your quest to present evidence-based information, and it is not worth the fight or judgement. Knowledge is vital. There are so many resources out there that you can access to learn all you can about ADHD, so that you can advocate for your child in all situations. Head over to my recommended resources page for books, websites and podcasts that can help you continually increase and update your knowledge.

If you find that education and advocacy alone are not working, I encourage you to come up with a statement for people in Team ADHD. While this is going to be coming from a position of wanting to put forward scientific evidence, I believe this statement can include emotive language. These people are important to you and need to know how their comments and judgements are affecting you and your family.

Write something like this, or something you’d like to say, down in the workbook.

“Dad, I love you and are so thankful for everything you do to help my family. I am finding that you are making a lot of comments about our parenting and the choices we are making for our child with ADHD. It is really hurting me. We are making these decisions based on advice from professionals and research. I know that you may not agree with the choices we make, and that’s ok, but rather than making comments in front of my child with ADHD, could we set aside some time to discuss some of the concerns you have?”


WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

Why is this process important? Because our children are worth it. Because ensuring your children are treated for ADHD and supported by people in their team is a matter of life or death. Think I am overexaggerating? 

Research studies indicate that 64% of children with ADHD will have a co-morbid disorder, compared to only 11% of neurotypical children. A comorbid disorder is when a person has two or more disorders or illnesses occurring together, which have an interaction and impact on each other.

Current Directions in ADHD and Its Treatment (2012) author, Jill Norvilitis, states that in children with ADHD, learning disorders are over two times more likely, Conduct Disorder and depression are almost fourteen times more likely. Anxiety is 9 times more likely, speech difficulties are four times more likely, and Autism Spectrum Disorder is ten times more likely than for their neurotypical peers.

In 2018, Dr. Russell Barkley, found that children with ADHD had a nine year reduction in life expectancy when compared with children without ADHD and in the more severe cases, ADHD reduced life expectancy by twenty-five years when compared to their neurotypical counterparts. This is an extremely debilitating disorder.

Now, these are extremely hard statistics to read as a parent or person who loves and knows a child with ADHD, but there is a silver lining here. These findings were from people with untreated or under-treated ADHD. Research has found that with accurate diagnosis and the continued use of evidence-based treatment, people with ADHD may add years back to their lives.

I did not tell you that to scare you, but to reinforce, that your child needs you to advocate for them. I want to be able to say to my adult children with ADHD that I did my absolute best to raise them, with the information I had at the time. I will be able to stand there, far, far away from parental perfection, but knowing, I did my absolute best for them.

Will you join me, and let’s get ADHD Done Differently?


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