As we bump down the messy path of childhood to teen-dom, I have often found myself explaining away unexplainable kid behavior as being related to the trauma of their childhoods, the lack of a dad, their grief. Irrational eruptions over homework are explained as unexpressed grief from their tumultuous childhood. Acting out and lying I attribute to not having a dad in the house (and this behavior also runs in HIS side of the family of course, so he should have to deal with it, dammit), and perfectionism and delusions of grandeur come from being raised thinking they were somehow “special” because their dad died.
But I’ve made an interesting discovery. Not all is as it seems. This past summer, we (I will use the collective to protect the identities of the innocent) had a diagnosis of ADD, and despite my initial reluctance, began taking meds. The difference in behavior was astounding and so we went into this year thinking issues with schoolwork, particularly schoolwork that doesn’t get handed in on a regular basis would be resolved. Four months in, the problems persist. The meltdowns continue along with other troubling behavior which I immediately attributed, of course to the stress of the 10th anniversary. How very widow of me.
Not once did it occur to me that perhaps the ADD was the problem. Like many people, I was skeptical of the ADD diagnosis. I wondered if perhaps the meds’ success was attributable to a placebo effect. I assumed ADD was just a condition having to do with maintaining focus in school situations, and that my child’s behavior had more to do with laziness, or inattentiveness, which should have been resolved with the meds. I was off and running with the 10th anniversary theory.
When the school thing began to look dire, I started preaching. More tears and tantrums. There was some major acting out that resulted in a pretty severe punishment from the school. We were both horrified by what was happening, but neither one of us seemed to know how to handle it.
And then last night, I began speaking with a friend, one who has ADD herself, one who regularly had to advocate on behalf of her kids at their schools. One who knows everything there is to know about ADD and ADHD. I trudged over to her house in the snow this afternoon and started reading some of her books with my mouth hanging open.
It was all there. Behaviours I had always thought was a result of grief, or trauma, or normal childhood messiness suddenly made sense, had a name, a diagnosis, a medication. I discovered how pervasive ADD is, how it can be seen across a whole slew of behaviors. Suddenly even unusual toddler behaviors made sense and had a root.
I learned that “preaching” to ADD kids is a waste of breath. They tune you out. Pressuring them over getting good marks, getting homework done and handed in causes more stress and is often ineffective. In short, I’ve been going about things the wrong way in terms of helping my kids to be successful.
Once again, I’ve been blindsided by the “grief kid” syndrome, assuming any disruptive behavior stems from their early loss and grief and trauma. What I am finally realizing is that it actually contributes very little.
If you are dealing with a kid with ADD/ADHD, I found this list to help you interact with your child. Actually, come to think of it, it’s a pretty good list for any parent interacting with a child.