Parents who come to have their child assessed for possible AD(H)D are usually sent by the child’s school. The comments from teachers and on school reports will often mention some of the following symptoms that are at the core of this disorder:
Inability to concentrate for long periods of time
The child cannot focus on school work and needs to be supervised and prompted by teachers to finish a task, the child is easily distracted, the child may drift off and day dream
The child will not be able to sit still, is fidgety and/or talks a lot and thereby distracts his/her classmates from their work
The child finds it difficult to control impulses, he/she may “blurt” out answers without being asked to do so, may find it difficult to wait for their turn.
In order to diagnose AD(H)D, the child will also have to display the symptoms at home. When asked, the parents often mention that it will take the child hours to complete their homework and that constant supervision is needed.
Other feedback parents may mention include:
- My child’s desk is a complete mess
- My child is forgetful and constantly loses and misplaces things
- My child will be distracted by the littlest sound (birds chirping, car driving past, etc.)
- My child talks and talks and talks
- My child struggles to make friends, other children are annoyed by him/her
This can leave parents exasperated and may lead them to scold their child often. The child may make the same experience at school and this continuous negative feedback may lead to children incorporating this into their self-image, which can be detrimental to the child’s feelings of self-worth. It is equally important here to validate and acknowledge that parents of children with AD(H)D may have mixed feelings about their child’s diagnosis and underscore the impact of this disorder on the entire family.
To get an understanding of what their child may be going through, I often ask parents to think of something that they really struggle with and often give the example of something I would struggle with – running a marathon.
Take a moment to imagine what your world would be like if the one thing you were “bad” at, was the one thing you had to display for hours and hours each day.
Focusing, concentrating, sitting still, adhering to rules… all these are skills that children are asked to display from a very young age in order to be successful – children with AD(H)D are therefore set up to fail and are constantly confronted with their inabilities. And in contrast to constantly running a marathon, which would actually help to build muscle strength and get better, being asked to concentrate, sit still, wait their turn, etc. doesn’t improve with mere exposure for children with AD(H)D. Remembering this when guiding children with AD(H)D through life may help parents to be more empathetic to their situation and may be one step to breaking the cycle of continuous negative feedback.
Here are 5 tips for parents:
- Stay positive – having a child with ADHD will test your patience but try and praise your child whenever and wherever possible. If your child can concentrate for longer than the day before – PRAISE, it is an accomplishment!
- Remember – your child is so much more than a child that struggles to concentrate. See your child for ALL that he/she is!
- Ensure that your child can SHINE – explore hobbies in which your child can make positive experiences and build up self-esteem!
- Be a role model to your child: children with AD(HD) struggle to structure themselves and their surroundings – lead by example and show them how to organize their desk, their room, their schoolbag. Think aloud when you undergo a task that requires prioritizing and structuring, so your child can hear your thought process and learn from you!
- Seek help and “outsource” homework supervision if possible – AD(H)D can be treated, doctors and psychotherapists are there to help. If doing homework is putting a strain on your relationship with your child, try and let someone else assist your child!