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LAtest Wellness News
November 1, 2023
Robert Simms

My child has been diagnosed with ADHD; What does that mean for me?

Hi, my name is Robert, and I wear a few different hats in life. I’m a professional therapist, which means that I’ve spent a lot of time learning about the intricacies of the human mind. I’m also a parent, a role that has taught me more about love, patience, and the wonders of 3am wake-up calls than any psychology textbook ever could.

One more thing you should know about me is that I’m someone who lives with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Now, you might be wondering how I came to be diagnosed with ADHD. Well, let me tell you a story that I think many of you might resonate with.

It all started with my wonderful, creative, and ceaselessly energetic kid. When my kid was diagnosed with ADHD, it felt like we were thrown into the deep end of an ocean we had never navigated before. But as we began to learn more about ADHD, how it manifests, and how to best support her, I noticed something. The descriptions of ADHD traits, the struggles, and the unique quirks all seemed very… familiar. Not just because I saw them in my kid, but because I saw them in myself.

It was as if a light bulb had switched on. All those moments when I struggled to keep track of time, the endless sticky notes in my computer with half-formed ideas, my innate ability to forget where I put my car keys (one time I lost my truck keys for two years, didn’t find them until we moved)… it all started to make sense. This realization led me down the path of self-discovery and ultimately to my own diagnosis of ADHD.

This might sound overwhelming, and for me, it partly was. But it was also liberating in a way I never anticipated. My own diagnosis has not only helped me understand myself better but also made me a more empathetic and effective parent for my kid. And that’s why I’m here, writing this article, hoping that my experience might offer some comfort, insight, or guidance to other parents navigating the same waters that my kid and I have.

So, whether you’re here because your child was recently diagnosed with ADHD, or you’re starting to see similarities in your own behavior, or perhaps you’re just looking for some understanding – welcome. You’re not alone in this journey, and I’m here to walk it with you.

Understanding ADHD

Before we dive deep, let’s take a moment to understand what we’re dealing with. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD as it’s more commonly known, is a neurodevelopmental disorder. It’s characterized by persistent patterns of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity that interfere with functioning or development. Now, these terms might sound a little clinical, so let’s break them down in simpler terms.

When we talk about inattention in the context of ADHD, we’re talking about a range of behaviors. These might include having trouble staying focused on tasks, easily getting sidetracked, overlooking details, and even forgetfulness in daily activities. I’ll admit, there were times when I found myself searching for my glasses only to realize they were on my head the whole time!

Impulsivity refers to behaviors like acting without thinking, interrupting others while they’re talking, and having difficulty waiting for their turn. And hyperactivity? Well, that’s like the energizer bunny that just keeps going and going. It could show up as excessive fidgeting, difficulty sitting still, racing thoughts, or talking excessively.

These are just a few examples of possible symptoms, and doesn’t cover all of them. And if you don’t see yourself in these examples, it doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have ADHD. These are meant to show some common behviours, but do not use this as a diagnostic criteria.  

The diagnostic process for ADHD often involves a comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare provider such as a psychologist, psychiatrist or a nurse practitioner. For children, this usually includes input from parents, teachers, and other adults who interact with the child regularly. For adults, the process can look a little different, often involving an in-depth interview and sometimes questionnaires or rating scales. I remember during my own assessment, the psychologist confirmed my thoughts that I had ADHD at the end of the assessment. Sometimes it is immediately apparent to the assessor and sometimes they need to look over the data they have collected. With my kid the assessment happened over the span of 4 different visits.

Now here’s something crucial: ADHD often runs in families. Yes, that’s right. Research indicates a very strong genetic component to ADHD. This means that if your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, there’s a high likelihood that another family member also has ADHD. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a parent say, “I thought it was normal to be this way… until my child was diagnosed.” My brother was diagnosed with ADHD when we were children, but I was not. It wasn’t even considered. And looking back on my childhood, I’m fairly certain my mother had undiagnosed ADHD.

When I recognized my own ADHD traits in my kid’s diagnosis, it was like someone handed me a missing piece of a puzzle. This discovery was a stepping stone for me, not only towards my own diagnosis and better self-understanding but also in becoming a more supportive parent for my kid. I am able to understand her experiences better because I’ve been there. And this shared experience has been instrumental in our journey together. A diagnosis of ADHD isn’t a limitation. It’s a starting point for understanding, acceptance, and growth.

Living with ADHD: Personal Reflections

Living with ADHD can feel like you’re on a roller coaster. It’s a ride full of ups, downs, twists, turns, and the occasional loop-de-loop. From the outside looking in, it might seem chaotic, but from the inside looking out, it’s often just another day in the life.

Let me share a bit about my own journey living with ADHD. Before my diagnosis, I was constantly frustrated with myself. I felt like I was always playing catch-up with the world around me. My mind would race with a thousand thoughts at once, and yet, focusing on a single task felt like trying to catch a fish with my bare hands. I was constantly moving jobs, either because I was fired, because I got bored or because I couldn’t stand being micromanaged. It became a running joke in my family. “How long did you last at this job?” lol. I didn’t think it was funny.

After my diagnosis, things started to make sense. I began to understand why I could hyperfocus on tasks I found engaging and couldn’t peel myself away (such as reading fantasy), yet struggled to maintain interest in tasks I found mundane. It wasn’t because I was lazy or disinterested, as I’d often chided myself, due to internalized ableist beliefs. It was my ADHD brain doing what it does best: seeking stimulation and novelty.

But living with ADHD isn’t just about the struggles. It’s also about the strengths and unique perspectives we bring to the table. I’ve found that my ADHD allows me to think outside the box, come up with creative solutions, and connect with people on a deep, empathetic level. These are qualities that I cherish and that have been instrumental in my work as a therapist.

When it comes to parenting my kid, I’ve had my fair share of challenges. There are days when I feel like I’m not doing enough, or that I’m not the parent my kid needs me to be. But then there are moments of breakthrough, of connection, when I can see the world through my kid’s eyes. It’s in these moments that I realize that having ADHD has made me uniquely equipped to understand and support my kid.

Take, for example, when my kid is struggling with emotional dysregulation. I was able to help her to understand why she was feeling such big emotions and work with her on ways to help regulate herself. 

Living with ADHD and parenting a child with ADHD has its challenges, but it’s also filled with these beautiful moments of connection and understanding. In the next section, we’ll delve deeper into strategies and tips for parenting a child with ADHD. But remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting, especially when ADHD is in the mix. The key is to understand, adapt, and celebrate the uniqueness that is your child.

Parenting a Child with ADHD

Parenting is a rollercoaster ride, full of exhilarating highs, challenging lows, and unexpected twists and turns. When you’re parenting a child with ADHD, it can sometimes feel like that rollercoaster is moving at warp speed. But don’t worry, I’ve been on that ride, and I have some strategies that might help make the journey smoother.

One of the first things I learned is the importance of structure and routine. It might seem counterintuitive, given the ADHD brain’s love for novelty and stimulation, but a consistent routine can provide a sense of security and predictability. For my kid, knowing what to expect next reduces anxiety and helps her transition between activities more smoothly. Our household can be chaotic, at the best of times, especially with an ADHD parent, but we are working towards developing consistency and routine. It’s a process and every person, and family, is different and will find a way that works for them.

Also, turning tasks into games can be a great way to engage a child with ADHD. One way I help motivate my child is by engaging the creativity. For example, to get her to help with making lunch, we pretend she’s the chef and I’m the sous chef. She feels important, involved and engaged. And it’s a great bonding activity as well.

Positive reinforcement is also a powerful tool. Children with ADHD often receive corrective feedback, which can be disheartening. By praising their efforts and celebrating their successes, no matter how small, we can boost their confidence and motivation. I asked my kid to clean her room, and although her organization skills still need work, I praised the work that she did do, while also pointing out things that could’ve been put away in a more organized way. However, I also pointed out that that is something her mother and I also struggle with as well, and that it was not a reflection on the work that she did do. I emphasized how how proud I was of the work that she had done.

Advocating for your child in school and other settings is another critical aspect of parenting a child with ADHD. It’s important to build a good relationship with teachers and school staff and to work together to support your child’s learning. I’ve found that being open about my kid’s ADHD and proactively discussing accommodations has made a significant difference in her school experience.

As parents, it’s also crucial to take care of our own mental and emotional health. I cannot stress this enough. Parenting a child with ADHD can be demanding, and it’s easy to lose yourself in the process. I’ve been there, burning the candle at both ends until I was running on fumes. It wasn’t sustainable, and it wasn’t healthy.

Self-care isn’t selfish; it’s necessary. For me, it’s working out in the morning before the day begins, trying to lose myself in a good book, or indulging in my guilty pleasure – a TV show. Find what replenishes you and make time for it.

Lastly, remember that you’re not alone in this journey. If you’re lucky enough to have a partner, don’t be afraid to tap them in, especially during times you are feeling overwhelmed.  As well, there are support groups, both in-person and online, that can provide a space to share experiences, seek advice, and connect with others who understand what you’re going through. I’ve found solace and invaluable advice in these groups. They’ve been a great resource on more than one occasion.

Exploring Your Own ADHD

So, you’ve noticed some similarities in your behavior and your child’s. Perhaps you’re wondering whether you might also have ADHD. I remember when I first started down this path, a mix of apprehension and curiosity. But let me tell you, exploring your own ADHD can be a profound journey of self-discovery.

Receiving an ADHD diagnosis as an adult can stir up a lot of emotions. There might be relief, as it was for me, finally having an explanation for lifelong struggles. There could be some grief too, for the challenges that might have been avoided with an earlier diagnosis. But remember, it’s never too late to learn more about yourself.

Understanding your own ADHD can have a profound impact on your life. It can help you identify your strengths and challenges, and can guide you in seeking appropriate support and accommodations. It can also offer a new lens through which to view your past experiences. I remember looking back at my school years with a new understanding, seeing the unacknowledged ADHD traits that played such a significant role in my experiences.

An ADHD diagnosis can also transform your parental relationships and dynamics. Understanding my own ADHD helped me understand my kid better. It helped me empathize with her struggles and celebrate her victories more deeply. Because of my understanding of ADHD, on by myself and my kid, I have a better understanding of my triggers and I am working on being a better, more patient parent. More than that, it has given my kid and me a shared experience that brings us even closer.

During a conversation one evening, my daughter opened up about the emotional bullying she was experiencing at school, and it struck a chord deep within me. Drawing from my own past, I shared my own encounters with emotional bullying. As we spoke, I saw a mix of surprise and relief on my daughter’s face as she realized that I truly understood her pain. Our shared experiences created a powerful connection, allowing us to build a safe space where she could confide in me and trust that I comprehended her struggles. Through our bond, we discovered strategies together, such as mindfulness and creative outlets, to help her navigate the challenges of emotional bullying and cultivate self-confidence.

These moments exemplify the profound potential for growth, empathy, and resilience that can arise from ADHD. By openly sharing our personal stories, we empower and support our children as they tap into their inner strength and celebrate their uniqueness. Together, we embrace the journey, ready to face any obstacle with unwavering love and understanding, knowing that we are never alone.

Remember, exploring your own ADHD isn’t just about identifying challenges. It’s also about uncovering strengths. Many adults with ADHD are creative, intuitive, and have a unique way of seeing the world. These are traits to be celebrated.

In the next section, we’ll tie everything together and look at the road ahead. But before we do, let me leave you with this thought: ADHD is not a flaw. It’s a different way of being, a unique wiring of the brain. And understanding your own ADHD can open the door to self-acceptance, growth, and a deeper connection with your child. 

Moving Forward: The Road Ahead

As we wrap up this exploration into what an ADHD diagnosis means for you and your child, I want to emphasize that every journey is unique. ADHD is not a one-size-fits-all condition, and the way it manifests in each person’s life is distinctly individual. What I’ve shared today are insights from my own experience, both as a professional therapist and as a parent living with ADHD. I hope these insights provide some guidance, reassurance, and perhaps a little inspiration as you navigate your own journey.

Remember, a diagnosis of ADHD isn’t an end. It’s a beginning. It’s an invitation to understand yourself and your child/ren better, to adapt your parenting strategies, and to build an environment where your child/ren’s unique strengths can shine. It’s a call to be compassionate with yourself and your child/ren, to celebrate victories, however small, and to always keep learning.

And if you’re exploring your own ADHD, know that this journey of self-discovery can be transformative. It can provide a new lens through which to view your experiences and relationships, including your relationship with your child/ren. It might not always be easy, but it’s a journey worth taking.

As we move forward, let’s remember that ADHD is not a limitation. It’s a different way of being, with its own challenges and gifts. It’s about having a mind that’s beautifully wired for creativity, curiosity, and empathy. And as parents, it’s our privilege to support our children in embracing their ADHD, turning challenges into opportunities, and blossoming into the unique individuals they are meant to be.

And so, the journey continues. Together, we navigate the twists and turns, the highs and lows, always learning, always growing. Because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about – growing together, understanding each other better, and loving each other just as we are.

Here’s to the road ahead, full of possibilities. Here’s to you and your child, embarking on this journey together. Here’s to all of us, living with ADHD, navigating this rollercoaster ride with courage, resilience, and a whole lot of heart.

About Us

Our practice focuses on 4 distinct areas: navigating the journey of adult-diagnosed ADHD, fostering healthier communication between couples, unraveling the complexities of people-pleasing to establish firm boundaries, and addressing Indigenous issues alongside the intricate challenges of complex PTSD. What sets our clinic apart from others is that all of our practitioner’s have lived experience in the area of service that they are providing.

We understand what you are experiencing BECAUSE we have experienced it ourselves, and are still living/dealing with it. This practice was started and has grown on the idea of authenticity, transparency and connection. These values are the bedrock of our practice and the guiding principles in our interactions with you. We invite you to join us on this journey of growth and self-discovery, as we collectively strive towards realizing the fullest potential of our lives. Let's all work together towards building our best life.

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