When someone in the family – especially one of the children – is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, everyone feels it. “But as a parent you can help your child overcome daily challenges, channel their energy into positive arenas, and bring greater calm to your family,” says Melinda Smith, M.A. and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Thus, it is not only a condition suffered by one but by a whole unit, making it a family matter. Each of the members must help keep the harmony and the dynamic going. Read this article to learn some psychologist approved tips on balancing responsibilities towards your spouse, your regular children, and your child with ADHD.
ADHD can surprisingly be a blessing to a family. There are values and traits that each member should strive to possess to thrive in harmony, some of which are not present in other families. However, there is a majority of families that are entangled in the big challenge of having a loved one with ADHD. There is a struggle of understanding each other, arguments between parents and children, parent and parent, and amongst each other. The whole family suffers from the turmoil, which can, unfortunately, last for a long time.
“ADHD is a challenge, not necessarily an excuse for kids,” says Steven L. Pastyrnak, PhD The big challenge begins when a child disregards his homework and house chores, disobeys family rules, and is not able to fulfill his parents’ expectations. As a consequence, the parents will set stricter rules and more controlling ways to manage his behavior. The ‘punishments’ may also be more severe. And the worst will happen to the child. He will become angrier, more isolated, and more defiant. People will then see him as a menace, a kid with an attitude problem instead of someone who has a neurological condition.
In this circumstance, not the parents or the child are completely in the right or wrong. The parents think that they are obliged to discipline their child. On the other hand, the child feels choked with the restrictions and fights for his independence. This stressful struggle will only stop if the whole family works for hand in hand to produce a peaceful and healthy environment wherein behavioral patterns are allowed but encouraged to modify these patterns positively. All members of the family should be knowledgeable about hyperactivity disorder and should learn to find ways on how to make compromises and techniques to pacify the member with ADHD.
As parents, you and your spouse can begin this process by first using the lighter strategies, as a sense of humor. Watch light-themed movies that are filled with laughter. Encourage conversation during family dinners. Or read bedtime stories where you can act out the story. All these foster family togetherness. Other equally important steps are listed below.
- The Person Is Different From The Condition. Parents must show their unconditional love for their children – whether they have ADHD or not. The kids will feel this. It is different for the child with ADHD because if you keep pointing out his condition, he might think he is unloved because he is not like his other siblings.
- Involve Everyone In The Family. If having fun is a family thing, so should finding solutions for a more positive family environment. Try working together even on your ADHD child’s homework, project, chores, and so on. Discuss an issue and encourage each member to give an opinion about it.
- Look At The Bright Side. Verbally express your appreciation and praise for your child with ADHD (as you do with your other children). If he does something unpleasant, tell him it’s okay to make mistakes, and he can always make it better. If, for instance, your child can’t wake up on time and is usually late for school, say, “Let’s try to put set the alarm so you can wake up, okay,” rather than, “Why are you so lazy to wake up early?”
- Show Affection Equally. When you have a child with ADHD, he tends to be mostly the center of attention, and the other siblings are often neglected. This may lead them to resent the child with the disorder, and this is not good at all for him and the rest of the family. Love all your children for their unique qualities and appreciate each of their accomplishments. Be there for all of them.
- Share Your Child’s Story. Don’t hide this from your significant others. The more people know about your child, the more help you can get for him. Joining support groups is also an effective way of alleviating the stress of having to raise a child with ADHD when you realize that you are not alone.
“Never dismiss or play down your child’s anxiety,” said Perri Klass, M.D., and Eileen Costello, M.D. Whatever happens, always remember that the big challenge is somebody’s fault. All of it comes with the scope of ADHD. What’s vital is to keep the family united in managing the disorder, and treating the child separately from it. It’s a long road, but you’ll get there, and it’ll all be worth it.