For the parents of children with ADHD, this truth can be difficult to accept. As a new school year approaches, you may find yourself wondering why God made your child “different.” Why does your son or daughter have to struggle with basic skills, like sitting still and remembering instructions, that come easily to other children? These feelings are perfectly normal and natural; after all, none of us want to see a child endure distress. However, it’s important to maintain a balanced view of ADHD as you try to guide your child past its many hurdles.
Identifying and Understanding ADHD
Though ADHD has its share of downfalls, it has some little-known advantages as well. Furthermore, many of the negative emotional consequences of ADHD—like low self-esteem—can be avoided if your child understands that he’s not flawed or “broken.” Knowing that God has made him who he is for a reason can empower your child to see past his occasional setbacks.
Seeing the good side of ADHD can also help your child avoid internalizing the idea that he’s inherently badly behaved. Unfortunately, many kids with ADHD are initially labeled as being lazy, rebellious, or disruptive. Over time, these messages can accumulate and cause kids to act out—to live up to the image others have created for them. Early intervention and the cultivation of a positive attitude toward ADHD can reduce the risk of your child developing antisocial or self-destructive behaviour patterns later in life.
Because negative labels are usually applied to kids with ADHD before they’re diagnosed, early diagnosis is key to safeguarding your child’s well-being. If your child displays symptoms of ADHD, it’s always worthwhile to visit a physician or psychiatrist for an assessment. Some traits to look out for include absentmindedness, disorganization, inattentiveness (especially during verbal conversations), a tendency to make careless mistakes when bored, frequent daydreaming, and habitual procrastination. Kids with ADHD may also move quickly from one project or idea to the next, often leaving things unfinished.
Note that not all highly active kids have ADHD, and not all children with attentional issues appear outwardly hyperactive. The presence of more than one of the traits outlined above is a better indicator of ADHD than physical energy levels.
The Hidden Benefits of ADHD
Once you know that your child has ADHD, you should make a point of reminding him—and yourself—that there are some upsides to his diagnosis. For one, ADHD is not associated with any intellectual deficit; people with ADHD usually have an average or above average IQ. Many ADHD children are even identified as gifted, these children are called twice-exceptional.
While many people with ADHD struggle to adapt to rigidly structured environments (like classrooms and offices), their energy and creativity make them ideally suited to artistic and entrepreneurial pursuits. People with ADHD also have a great capacity for courage; their impulsivity can help them overcome fears that would hold others back.
Make sure your child knows that excelling at a typical “nine to five” job is not the only path to success. In fact, there are many areas of life that are more important, such as developing empathy and compassion for others. Living in alignment with one’s morals and faith is a better predictor of happiness than material success.
Finally, as a parent, you should always do your best to foster your child’s interests—even if they sometimes conflict with his academic obligations. The intense emotionality that usually accompanies ADHD can translate into boundless passion for subjects and causes. A child who is so passionate about video games that he occasionally neglects his studies, for example, might go on to become a successful game designer if his interest is nurtured constructively.
Though ADHD has certain advantages, there’s no denying the fact that it makes it harder for kids to integrate into neurotypical society. Parents must therefore find a balance between embracing the positives of ADHD and knowing how to minimize its more problematic aspects.
For some children, medication can be helpful. It’s important to view medication in the correct light, though: Medicating ADHD is not an attempt to “cure” or change your child. Medication is just one tool among many that can make it easier for your child to do more of what he wishes to do, whether that’s get better grades, complete personal projects, or get along better with others. Medication should, however, always be paired with behavioural therapy—Both because there is no “quick fix” for the downsides of ADHD and because therapy can reduce the amount of medication your child needs.
If you do decide to try medication, be aware that stimulants (like Ritalin) are not your only option. Some people with ADHD respond well to antidepressants, like Wellbutrin-XL and Cymbalta. Antidepressants appear to help people with ADHD control their impulses and slow down their thoughts.
Conversely, you should never feel pressured to dispense medication if you’re not comfortable with it or your child responds well to other treatments. Children with mild ADHD often thrive when provided with education and counselling, even if they never take medication. Additionally, certain lifestyle modifications—like eating a nutritious diet, taking up exercise, and taking specific supplements—can sometimes reduce problematic ADHD symptoms. It should be understood that medication is the last resort and should only be used if natural remedies and psychotherapy fail to mitigate the symptoms of ADHD.
Most children with ADHD begin to flourish almost immediately after finding the treatment modality that works for them. They’re able to channel their energy productively and effectively, and their peer relationships become more harmonious and dynamic. When equipped with the right tools, these kids learn how to work with—rather than against—their innate strengths and weaknesses. When this happens, God’s greater plan for them becomes fully evident in their continued health, happiness, and serenity.