Two years ago, I fired off an email to Bethenny Frankel on the television reality series ‘Real Housewives’ after she spit out an uneducated comment about tourette syndrome during one of the series episodes. (My son has ADHD, yet he also juggles the stress of anxiety and tourette syndrome.) Obviously, Bethenny’s words left me, well, pissed. As in, off came the gloves and Mama Bear went on the defense. It’s been a couple of years since I angrily hit SEND on that email without hesitation, (zero response, by the way) and I’ve learned a couple of things that all parents of kids with ADHD can apply.
1) Invoke the 24-hour rule before sending angry emails out into cyberville. (My husband has even taught me to write the damn thing as a form of therapy, then save it as a draft. 9 times out of 10, the email ends up in the recycle bin.) Unfortunately, I learned this AFTER blasting a couple of teachers with emails upon learning that they handled a situation improperly (and later told my son ‘Hey, tell your mother to calm down.’) GAHHHH
2) People don’t understand _______ (insert condition here), and that’s okay. Teach them.
Why the change of heart in #2? I have learned over the years that offensive comments usually come from a lack of knowledge, not a mean spirit. Heck, I didn’t understand ADHD, or anxiety, or Tourette Syndrome at first, either. I remember thinking our doctor was apparently not qualified when he first diagnosed my son, despite my child touching every canned good in the grocery aisle, never requiring sleep, and meltdowns that we, at the time, chalked up to disrespect and lack of discipline. The doctor spent 45 minutes with him, glancing at paperwork through squinted eyes and came to this life-changing conclusion. How could he know this in such a short visit? And why was his wallpaper brown and orange, and clearly in need of an upgrade?
Well, Doc was right. (And I was right about the wallpaper.)
Since then, I’ve severed ties with friends who made insensitive remarks and quickly learned that no one benefits, certainly not my kids or yours, by slamming doors. If there is a lack of knowledge in the community about these disorders, lets put out what we know. (Hence, this website.)
For the record, some of my favorite websites that are also putting it out there:
Others may not ‘get’ ADHD, and that’s okay. They don’t tuck your child in to bed each night. (Or watch him/her get up 9 more times for a drink, snack, bug bite itch, change of clothes, another blanket, one more hug, a night-light or monster check under their bed). Let’s shatter the sterotypes, the stigma of mental health, and THEN if friends or family still make uninformed comments, you have my permission to stick a boot in their a**.
Okay, not really. But, don’t spend much time debating their comments. I’ve learned that my energy is better spent with my kids. You are your child’s biggest advocate. No one else can be their voice when they are too young to speak for themselves.
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Uninformed people usually fall into 3 categories, from my experience:
The public figure (Bethenny from Real Housewives)
The Co-worker (Who told me my son with anxiety needs to ‘chill, and man up.’)
Friend or Relative (Who said ADHD is ‘just about focusing a little more.’)
For your sanity alone, find ONE person (I’m happy to step up to the plate, if you’re out of takers!) who accepts that your child has ADHD and doesn’t judge the chaos you are sorting through each day. Someone who says, ‘I’m here if you need to talk.’
For me, I have always appreciated a letter my father wrote me that stated ‘Your boys are the highlights of my days.’ He researched ADHD, as did my mother, and told me to find some patience. Despite my kids running circles around my dad with a never-ending fuel tank, he never considered my children a burden and encouraged me to look for the good. All parents need one, more if you have them, unconditional supporter to carry the load when it gets heavy.
YOU are that person to your child. They need parents to guide them through the chaos as it will be a factor in how they view themselves as they develop their self-esteem.
How so? Here’s an example…
Discussing ADHD in front of your child as a negative: ‘There he goes again, never stops talking. All day, every day.’ Believe me, your children hear you.
‘Here we go, throw your fit like you always do.’
What is your DEAL? Did you take your MEDS?’
All of the above phrases can be a true confidence-killer, and taunt the child instead of modeling the behavior you want them to adopt themselves. We wouldn’t tell a child with diabetes ‘There you go with low blood-sugar again,’ or a child with asthma ‘Could you stop with those breathing problems, already?’ so why do we address ADHD as though our children are PURPOSEFULLY causing problems?
One mom emailed me a couple of months back to say her son decided to ‘Pull his crap again today.’
Yet, he didn’t.
He didn’t CHOOSE to misbehave. Often, a child feels out of control during a meltdown, or other factors may be weighing heavily on the situation: Lack of sleep, hunger, overstimulated, anxiety, sensory, etc. Changing our attitudes as parents will begin to change the dynamics in our home. This mother won’t see improvements in her child until she changes her mindset that he isn’t trying to make her life miserable.
It begins with us.
Kids with ADHD need to understand how they are wired, and not be chastised for a brain difference (or anxiety, or tourette syndrome, or any other condition) that is beyond their control. We are on the same team. The scoreboard isn’t us against them (though it may feel that way on many days). Any progress is a step in the right direction, no matter how slow.
The Cubs didn’t win the World Series overnight, correct? 😉
Root for your child. And then share with others when they are misinformed. It’s all part of the job when parenting a child with ADHD.
Be sure to check out Part 2 of this series HERE.