By Todd and Stephenie Craig
Last month, our son Will, age 10, shared his experience living with ADHD. This month we are sharing our parent lessons navigating ADHD in our home. Neither of us are diagnosed with ADHD.
What are the positives of navigating ADHD in your home?
Our son sees the world through a different lens than we do. We can both be singularly focused and can miss the world happening around us. Will has more going on in his mind than we are able to fully recognize until he paints a picture, creates a flipbook, or builds a creation using discarded items. His creativity is inspiring and challenges us to see the world in new ways.
What are the challenges of navigating ADHD in your home?
Often people can’t see past Will’s challenges to stay on task. What appears to be lack of focus or engagement is actually him being hyper focused and engaged with everything around him.
He makes connections and recognizes patterns that others miss. His struggles to focus, sit still, or manage his impulses gets labeled by us and others as disrespect when that is rarely his intent.
What has not been helpful in navigating ADHD as a parent?
Expecting Will to feel, behave, and move through the world like we do is not helpful. He is uniquely created and he doesn’t need to be more like us to be a better version of himself. Assuming challenging behavior is coming from a place of disrespect creates unnecessary conflict. Kids’ behavior is most often about trying to meet an internal need or achieve an internal goal and is not designed to get under parents’ skin (despite how it may feel sometimes). A lack of patience and frustration on our part is the quickest way to prolong follow through on Will’s part. When he feels judged, misunderstood, and labeled as disrespectful, trust is broken and his brain moves into fight or flight. His focus shifts from the task at hand to the emotional battle at hand.
What has been helpful in navigating ADHD as a parent?
In our relationship, Will is the most vulnerable person with the least developed brain. It is not his job to change to make parenting easier for us. It is our responsibility to seek understanding about his experience, find ways to get on the same team, and help him overcome challenges and develop confidence. Will lives with ADHD in a world that is built on systems that expect him to behave as though he doesn’t have ADHD. This dynamic is frustrating for him and offering compassion over judgment makes a big difference. Rather than taking an adversarial approach, we learn to seek first to understand by asking questions, then offering to help him develop strategies that work for him. Some strategies include adjusting diet, task checklists, calming kills, and a reward point system for task completion. More recently, medication has played a helpful role in unlocking confidence in focus, follow through, and impulse control.
What have you learned from navigating ADHD in parenting?
We are all created and wired differently. We cause unnecessary problems expecting kids or other people to see and process the world like we do. Our way is not the right or only way to be.
Slowing down, listening, seeing and appreciating Will’s unique personhood is a beautiful gift to him and to us. We want to manage ourselves well so we are affirming his giftedness rather than stubbornly insisting he be like us to be lovable and acceptable in the world. We want him to know he is wonderfully Will and in the world with an important purpose that will be accomplished because of his brain wiring not in spite of it.
ADHD is one way people experience feeling different. You are surrounded in life by different personalities, brain wiring, emotional processing, and ways of seeing the world. Try remembering your way of being is not the only right way to be. Imagine the growth you might have within yourself and your relationships if you begin seeking to understand others’ ways of seeing the world. As you navigate your journey, connect with us at journeybravely.com for support. Coaching sessions are currently available.