Parenting a Child with ADD/ADHD is Kinda Like Emotional Whiplash

ADHD-activities-1I don’t have answers, I have frustrations, I have the knowledge and experience that the struggle is real, and I have the days of exhaustion and riding this roller coaster of emotions as a parent with a son who has ADD/ADHD, anxiety with a dash of depression.

Over time as a parent, I have hit my wall of throwing in the towel, waving the white flag and choosing my battles.

From the moment my youngest son entered this world, I knew we were in for the ride of our life.   He was always fighting sleep, wanted to touch everything, crawl into anything his body could fit in and never feared a thing. If you said no, it meant yes.  He never slept well and was always going at 100 mph.  In pre-school, we always got told what he did “wrong”, then Kindergarten, the same thing, and every grade after that.  Our child was labelled as the wild one.  Nice on the parent ego.

I’ll never forget the calls from his Kindergarten teacher.  One of the most memorable calls was, the bathroom stint. He went in the boys bathroom, stood on the toilet in the stall and poured water on the kid going pee in the stall beside him.  Another incident: “look Mommy, I got all this money today”, as my kids went to a private school at this time and they had church on Wednesday.  The offering plate was passed around and MY SON took a handful of cash and put it in his pocket.  That was fun walking into the school the next day and having my son explain what he did and returning the cash.  As he said, “they were passing money around for us.”  Then the calls for pulling girls hair, throwing his shoes out the classroom window, crawling around the classroom, turning the hallway into slip n slide and just so much more.  This was only Kindergarten.

I had to learn early that my son’s brain works differently, and some of these things are not done on purpose.  Believe me, if he could better control his impulsivity, hyperactive and lack of focus and overblown emotions, he would.  It’s not fun to struggle with these things.  He has described it as feeling like a bunch of unconnected wires in his head.

ADD/ADHD is complicated.  Many want to argue that kids can control this and to many of us, we should be able to tell a kid something, teach a kid something and they understand and follow the rules.  The reality is, kids with this, struggle in all sorts of ways you may not even notice—-with things you may take for granted in your own kids or other kids you see.  Turning in homework, keeping track of time, organizing things and thoughts and trying to apply what he knows one day to the next can all be a great challenge.  Not to mention the anxiety that comes with this.  I can’t tell you how shocked I was the first time I saw my sons arms from picking. He must have had 100 sores on his arms that he picked.  They were bleeding and to this day, he looks like he comes from a home with bed bugs.

At times he comes across as disrespectful, and not listening, but once my son realizes he has done something wrong or has hurt someone’s feelings, he feels terrible.  It is always an “I’m sorry”, or “I didn’t mean it”, or “I don’t know why I did that” or “said that”…

For years I tried to role play with him, I was hoping he could see both sides.  It has taken time and this is still a work in progress.

By 2nd grade, we started medication.  This was a hard decision for me.  The lack of appetite caused weight loss and trying to get some of his teachers to work with me on snacks during the day was difficult and frankly bullshit on how some reacted, but he got his snacks.  
He wouldn’t wear socks so I got the “your a bad parent” email for that.  If the kid won’t wear something, just don’t fight it.  He wore mammoth crocs instead.  At least I put his feet in something warm.  Seriously, its a compromise at times.

Today at 15, he is at the highest medication dose he can be at.  He struggles more than his peers, yet has a very outgoing personality.  He has sadly set a reputation for his actions and is known as annoying to many.  He is also a great Ice Hockey goalie and has the mind of an engineer.

If people could look beyond the challenges, they’d see the person I see.  He’s funny, smart, loving and has great empathy.  He shows his emotions, he makes awful decisions, lies and we are still dealing with impulsive behavior and some depression.

As a parent, I want to protect my son from being judged, I also know that he has to have consequences for his actions, yet he needs to understand why.  He needs to hear positive as well, because kids with ADD/ADHD hear negative so much of the time that they start to feel worthless and as if they can do no right.  We have been through the suicidal feelings, not wanting to live like this and it is heartbreaking.  We have lost people in our life that can’t handle being around him, and he knows and feels this.

It is a roller coaster and at times, I am stressed to my max and overwhelmed.  At times it is hard to not feel like you fail as a parent.  It requires a kind of constant vigilance, a high level of energy, and being on top of everything my son does.  It’s exhausting.

The hardest thing as a parent is watching your child struggle.  It is also hard to hear the judgement of my child when they don’t fully understand the true struggles.  I know that I get looked at as “why can’t you control your child?”, and of course told how to parent.  This has taught me patience, a deeper understanding of my own students with ADD/ADHD and has taught me that I need to have MY time each day or I will blow up.

Kids with ADD/ADHD may:

  •  interrupt a lot
  •  Do things without thinking
  •  Do things they shouldn’t, even though they know better
  •  Have trouble waiting, taking turns, or sharing
  •  Have emotional outbursts, lose their temper, or lack self-control
  •  Hyper-focus
  •  Some have a sensitivity to certain clothing fabrics and or light

Of course, there are much more to this, but you get the picture.  As a parent I have learned to create structure, break tasks up into manageable pieces, organize his life, limit distractions, encourage exercise (I always made him play two sports a year), now in high school, he continues two sports a year, and sleep….well, that is something we just haven’t had success at fixing yet.  

In the last year in a half, I have found there to be more challenging days than in his early years.  This is an experience and more challenging then I could ever have imagined.  His behavior has been risky and just plain stupid at times.  He has had consequences which have led to a down word spiral at times of depression.

Like many teens, he dislikes being blamed or criticized for his behavior.  Being disorganized and forgetful are not purposeful behaviors, but at times it is hard to see that.  I have had to collaborate with his teachers more than ever and we have put him into counseling to help him with his decision making.  We have made some medication adjustments, but it’s just all a guessing game on what works.  My worries and fear are at their peak level.

Sadly, I have to anticipate pitfalls.  He is going to lose some battles and I will be there to pick him up and guide him.  I will always proactively attempt to resolve and teach.  I have had to set boundaries and set rules of no social media, the phone is plugged into my room at night and screen time is cut off at a certain time.  It is constant, it is exhausting but I am trying to focus on the positives.  I have had to stand my ground and change my parenting a little as time goes.  I have had to make adjustments that are not always easy.  I am trying to allow him to make decisions and build confidence, but I also know there will be lessons learned with this that will not always be positive for him.  As his mom, that sucks to watch and frankly at times it is a heart breaker.

I understand that these teens years are harder than his early adolescent years.  He now will have the peer pressure of drugs, alcohol and has that risk-taking behavior. Which sadly I have to take the precaution of places he goes, people, he hangs out with, always feeling concerned and suspicious of his behaviors.  It is hard, just plan hard.

I have found that keeping calm, researching his condition and trying to understand him more has allowed us to have open conversations.  I am trying so hard to help him develop for the real world.  His motivation comes from Ice Hockey, he is a goalie and loves it.  He is getting opportunities that most kids don’t get.  This is motivating him to finish tasks, work hard on school work, but it isn’t easy.

This can feel very lonely at times.  Trust me.  I am a single mom, although I do have the help of my son’s dad, I am alone most of the time.  It is a lot, exhausting, heartbreaking and something many just can’t understand unless they truly understand or live with it.

My job these next 4 years of High School is to teach my son how to advocate for himself, how to make smart decisions when he is impulsive and understanding there are consequences.  I need to know that he will be prepared for the next chapter of his life after high school.  Giving up is not an option and as hard as this is, I will help guide him to be the best possible adult he can be.

YOU are not alone!  Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor to get your son/daughter diagnosed and take the steps of a counselor who works with ADD/ADHD children.  As a life coach and a teacher, I had to seek some outside help.  Whose child actually listens to their parents anyway.

Becky Shaffer—-Educator—-Author—-Adolescent/Adult/Fitness Life Coach.

Published by beckyshafferliveinconfidence

I did the crazy and left my career teaching job after 19 years to work on and build my coaching business. I took a year off to follow my dream of being a life coach and using my skills, life lessons and training to help others find meaning in their life. While I do this, I am always growing, learning and finding more purpose and meaning in my life as well. Currently, I am life coaching and fitness coaching part-time , I continue to blog, meet with clients and I am back to teaching full time in Columbus City Schools, working with gifted students, teaching. U.S. History.

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