As a twenty-something with no kids, I usually leave the parenting advice to those with more experience in this area. But since it’s Mother’s Day, I started thinking about some of the things my mom did that ending up making a real difference in my ability to cope with ADHD as an adult.
So here are 3 ways parents, or anyone who acts as a mentor, teacher, advocate or role model, can change the life of a kid with ADHD.
1. Believe in them
There’s just no way to overstate how important this one is.
Children with ADHD or other learning disabilities will encounter many situations where people don’t believe in them over the courses of their lives. They’ll encounter many situations where they’re tempted not to believe in themselves.
Growing up, I always felt that my mom believed in me. As an adult, I think this has given me more of an ability to believe in myself even when other people don’t and therefore more independence.
Talk to enough people who’ve “overcome” learning disabilities and gone on to build successful careers or fulfilling lives and you’ll see that many of them were profoundly influenced by people who believed in them when they were young, even if these people weren’t always parents. Just having faith in a kid with ADHD can alter the trajectory of their life.
2. Advocate for them
Throughout their time in school, children with ADHD are going to run into a lot of teachers who simply aren’t equipped to deal with non-neurotypical students. Even the most well-meaning teachers don’t necessarily know much about ADHD.
The more you can help teachers understand how to meet your child’s needs as a learner, and the more you do to get your child into a learning environment that works, the better off your child will be.
I was definitely a handful for some of my teachers, but that didn’t stop my mom from doing everything she could to make school work for me.
3. Help them pursue their interests
Students with ADHD and learning disorders in general tend to have a larger gap between what they’re good at and what they’re bad at. That’s why one of my core strategies for dealing with ADHD is playing to my strengths.
The more you can help your children figure out what their strengths are and follow their interests when they’re young, the easier it’ll be for them to focus on the things they’re good at in adulthood.
That doesn’t mean that if they’re passionate about basketball you pin their future on the hope of playing in the NBA. But it might mean you encourage them to pursue that passion because qualities like having a competitive spirit, being good at teamwork, or even just being physically coordinated might be some of their strengths.
Because of the large gap many students with ADHD have between their strengths and weaknesses, it’s easy for them to end up spending all their time focused on trying to shore up the weaknesses instead of exploring the strengths. This is really unfortunately because it’s the things we like and that we’re good at that give us the most pleasure.
When I was growing up, my mom went out of her way to help me pursue my interest in music, even though it wasn’t really something that directly helped me do better in school (in fact, it more often took away from time I could’ve been doing homework). Having my love for music nurtured and developing confidence in this area had an immeasurable impact on my life.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! Know that as challenging and uncertain as things can be at times with kids who have ADHD, support from parents can have a life-altering effect on how these kids learn to cope with the disorder.