Things No One Tells You About Having a Child with ADHD
Anyone who has been a parent longer than 30 seconds knows that this parenting journey isn’t for the faint of heart.
Having kids is both the most amazing and most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. And it’s really hard to live in a world where you are bashing into those two extremes like an out-of-control bumper car.
As a parent, you get thrown plenty of curveballs. Some you expect and some you don’t.
Last year, our son was diagnosed with ADHD. And let me tell you, this was one curveball that I’m still struggling to field.
If you don’t have a child with ADHD, you might not relate to what I’m about to write…or maybe you will. To be honest, I don’t really know what it’s like to parent a non-ADHD child.
But don’t let that stop you from reading this. Because even if you don’t relate to these struggles, chances are you have a friend or family member that does.
And they really need you to understand what they’re going through.
The first thing I want to say is that ADHD is about so much more than a hyperactive child that bounces off the walls or seems to have boundless energy. While that is certainly a piece of this puzzle, I have learned that ADHD goes MUCH deeper than that.
If you didn’t click on the hyperlink I just dropped there, let me tell you why you should. It is an incredibly insightful article that explains the relationship between executive functioning and ADHD. Probably the most succinct introduction I can give you without recommending an entire book. (And this is a fantastic summary of how ADHD can present itself in kids. Please make sure you look at it.)
What does this all mean? It means that your child can’t regulate themselves properly and this shows itself in so many different ways.
- An explosive verbal and/or physical outburst for no particular reason (or for a mind-numbingly specific reason).
- Your child hitting you or calling you all sorts of mean names when they’re upset.
- You telling your child 100 times to do something and them stopping to do 100 different OTHER things…and maybe never even doing what you originally told them.
It can happen any time for any reason. Sometimes you can see it coming and sometimes you feel like someone just dumped a bucket of ice water on your head in the middle of winter.
There are a lot of posts and resources out there that give advice for how to help your child learn to better regulate themselves.
But that’s not what I want to write about here.
I just had a HORRIBLE evening with my son. And as I fought back the tears during his bedtime tuck-in, I realized I wanted to write about all the things that I struggle with.
ADHD has this way of sucking all your attention and focus.
Every day is spent wrestling with the beast and by the end, you feel like it consumed every last bit of you. You feel wasted, like you’ve got nothing left to give and you wonder why you ever thought becoming a parent was a good idea.
So I wanted to tell you first, that if you’ve ever felt that way, you’re not alone. Because I have felt that way more than once…more than 10 times. More than 50 times.
But I also wanted to share the other things I struggle with. These are the things that don’t get talked about as much. For me, I barely want to even think about them by the time the end of the day comes around, let alone talk about them or try to process them.
6 Things No One Tells You About Having a Child with ADHD
Despite the fact that I have a team of people on my side working through all of this with my family and my son, I feel alone.
ADHD has changed our lives drastically. We can’t do all the things we used to do. It’s harder to find childcare and breaking from our routines is becoming increasingly difficult. Couple that with the embarrassment I sometimes feel about his behavior in public and the judgment I fear of getting from others, and it makes it hard to go out.
Plus, ADHD isn’t something I want to talk about all the time. Honestly, it can be so front-and-center in my daily life that I need a break.
But this also means that I’m not sharing my burdens with anyone. Mostly because I feel like there aren’t many who would understand. My friends and family are all genuinely sympathetic but it’s a whole other ball of wax to be in the midst of this mess.
I’m not doing a great job at reminding myself that Jesus is there to take my burden and I definitely haven’t been good at giving it to him either.
Which leads me to the next thing:
2. The pain and heartache
This is my baby boy. My firstborn. The one I held in my arms in the hospital filled with hopes and dreams.
This boy is the one who lashes out at me with the full force of his feelings. Saying things that I know, deep down, he really doesn’t mean.
And even the times when he knows he’s hurt me and he hugs me in apology, the sting is still there.
And I’m not just talking an occasional bad attitude or argument. I’m talking about struggles on a daily basis.
It is torturous to experience this with someone you love so much. Someone you are charged with protecting, teaching, and raising.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t crying even as I type.
It hurts. It hurts DEEP.
3. Then there’s the absolutely mind-blowing frustration and anger
This same boy pushes my buttons day in and day out. Sometimes we have the same struggles and arguments for weeks on end over daily routine things like tooth brushing, showering, and taking medicine. These are things that will ALWAYS need to be done and sometimes can cause a 30+ minute struggle.
There are some days when all the interventions and strategies I have learned over the course of our therapy don’t make a single bit of difference. It’s just a hard, hard day. And it makes you want to cry, scream, pull your hair out, yell, and definitely wonder if anything will ever make a difference.
4. That’s when guilt, self-doubt, and shame set in
Guilt over how you mis-handled one or more situations that day. Guilt over how you definitely let him push you over the edge and you completely lost your cool. Guilt that somehow you caused all this hardship.
Shame that you can’t ever seem to get it right.
Self-doubt that perhaps everything you do is wrong and that you’ll never be able to get it right.
These are all obviously lies, but it doesn’t stop us from thinking them. Even believing them.
Mom-guilt is especially fierce on this ADHD battleground.
5. Which leads seamlessly to fear
Fear that you won’t get it right and you won’t raise your child properly. Or perhaps fear that they won’t be able to lead healthy, happy adult lives.
Fear that you aren’t doing enough or that you’re doing too much.
6. And on top of all of this, there really is no quick or easy fix
Sure there are plenty of medications but there’s no such thing as a magic pill that will make everything “normal.”
Therapy is amazing but it’s definitely the long game. It’s work to not only help your child manage things differently but to also have to re-learn parenting.
Because you have to come to grips with the fact that you have to throw out every parenting manual and well-meaning piece of advice you’ve ever heard. It just doesn’t apply. It’s no small feat to have to change everything you ever thought you knew about parenting.
If you’ve been there, you’re probably nodding your head right now (and maybe even crying a little bit.) If that’s you, I’m giving you a virtual hug right now and I want you to know:
Don’t give up.
Don’t give in.
All your hard work WILL pay off…even if I can’t give promises as to when.
We have to keep fighting even when it feels pointless. Even when (and I suppose, especially when), our kids don’t deserve it, they desperately NEED us. Which reminds me of a post I wrote a while ago when I was just beginning this journey…if we don’t love our kids, who will?
So tonight, now that the day’s battles are over, I’m going to lay down my shield and rest. And you should too. After all, we have to make sure we’re ready for whatever tomorrow may bring.