For anyone who has a child with ADHD, I think there’s always the question running in the back of their minds of, “Do any of my other kids have ADHD, too? Or will any of my future children have ADHD?”
A lot of parents can confidently answer no to that, but some aren’t so sure. For example, when your oldest child is diagnosed around the age of kindergarten, your subsequent children are probably still too young to be diagnosed. That leaves a lot of years left open for uncertainty.
Granted, there are still signs of ADHD throughout the toddler years (see my post, “Does My Toddler Have ADHD?”) but not everyone can see those signs. And sometimes, it’s really hard to distinguish between symptoms of ADHD and “regular” childhood behavior. If it were that simple to diagnose, there wouldn’t be trained professionals to do it.
I think there’s also the aspect of “What is normal?” for a lot of families who are experiencing the effects of a brain disorder. When your first child has a behavioral disorder, for example, their actions and their mannerisms and their quirks become your normal. You don’t know anything different. You can see other kids behaving differently, but you can’t know the intricacies of those children in the same way you can know your own. Sometimes it’s really difficult to feel what “average” is when you’re so used to feeling what disorder behavior is.
So for a lot of people, when their second child comes along after they’ve gone through an ADHD diagnosis with their first, they start wonder, “Should I compare this child to his/her older sibling? Or should I compare this child to his/her peers? Or should I compare them to no one at all? What is ‘normal’ for this child? Do I know what ‘normal’ is anymore? Does it even matter?”
Not to mention, a person’s first child could have Hyperactive-Impulsive Type ADHD (see my post, “The Three Types of ADHD”, where I describe the symptoms of each type of the disorder), but a parent’s second child might have Inattentive Type ADHD. If you’re used to seeing the symptoms of Hyperactive-Impulsive Type ADHD (like hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and over-talking), you might not feel comfortable searching for the symptoms of Inattentive Type ADHD (like daydreaming, losing things, and struggling to follow instructions).
I think there’s also an added layer of complication for parents who have a child with a disorder because they’ve probably spent hours upon hours pouring over information about their child’s disorder. They know more than most people do about how an ADHD brain works. A lot of them can spot symptoms of ADHD in other people’s children before the parent does.
While awareness and understanding are GREAT THINGS, they can also made impartialness really difficult. Sometimes we tend to see life through the lens of what’s on our minds the most often. For example, a medical doctor often sees health problems through the lens of, “How can I fix this with medicine?” Whereas a chiropractor will probably see health problems through the lens of, “How can I fix this with spinal manipulation?” And a counselor/therapist will see health problems through the lens of, “How can I fix this with therapy?”
That’s now always how they think, but a huge majority of the time, it is. It’s not that they’re trying to be biased, it’s just that they’re submerged in those worlds all day, every day, and that’s what’s on their minds. Not to mention, those are the specific ways they were trained. All options are great, but not all options work for every problem.
It’s the same when an ADHD parent evaluates a child’s behavior. They’re used to thinking through the lens of behavioral disorders and ADHD symptoms, so they have a tendency to see things through, “Is this a disorder? Which disorder is this?” They don’t always do that (some are actually great at retaining impartiality), but a lot of parents struggle with it.
It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a reality of life when you’re submerged in thoughts about ADHD every second of the day. It’s what you know. It’s what you’ve read about, studied, and are familiar with. You see things through a unique lens, just like every parent sees things through their own lens.
So when you take your second child in to be evaluated for ADHD, you might be able to report your child’s symptoms in a way that makes it sound like ADHD, just because you’re so well-versed in the topic. It doesn’t mean you’re trying to get a certain diagnosis (not at all), it just means you might not know how to report symptoms without a bias. We’re all guilty of it because of how our brains are wired.
Also, researching our symptoms on WebMD has a tendency to make us all a little biased, but that’s another story!
So how do we determine if our other children have (or will have) ADHD? Is it even important for us to be thinking about it so far ahead of time?
In my humble opinion… yes, it is important. Diagnosis matters. It’s always important to understand our children as well as we can so we can give them the most individualized care.
I don’t, however, believe that it’s something to stress about before they’re old enough to be diagnosed. Do your best to guide them through life in the way that helps them the most, but don’t spend too much time worrying yourself over it before they can even see a specialist for it.
Remember that they’re still little and a lot of things can change.
If your other children are old enough to be evaluated, go get it done and free those thoughts from your mind. Move forward.
If you haven’t had any other children, yet, ask yourself whether or not it matters if your next child has ADHD. If it doesn’t (if you’ll love them and parent them regardless), then it isn’t a question you even need to be asking yourself, yet. If having two children with ADHD would completely overwhelm you, maybe that’s something to discuss with your partner.
Everyone is different. Every child is different. Statistics change all the time.
And, most importantly, you’re not alone in asking these questions. Everyone does! Even parents who don’t have a child with ADHD ask these questions sometimes, though admittedly less often.
Reach out to medical/behavioral professionals and let your worries stop with them. Be proactive, but don’t be stressed.
You can do this!