Managing meltdowns with my ADHD child is already hard enough. Judging my parenting skills during an outburst only makes me feel worse.
by Sarah Kaczmarek
It may seem obvious to everyone else (especially those rolling their eyes at me behind my back), but it only recently occurred to me that people judge me. It's often said that we are our own worst enemies, but when it comes to parenting my ADHD inattentive type child, I’m finding my nemesis is often sitting across the playground sipping a Starbucks latte.
Believe me, it’s not as though I never questioned my parenting skills prior to my daughter's diagnosis. I used to wonder what I was doing wrong, raising a child who could have a meltdown that lasted for hours on end.
Fortunately, we’ve learned to ignore the behavior, and thanks to the help of a child psychologist, Hadley recovers fairly quickly now 95 percent of the time. But I won’t deny that it’s still easy to get sucked in if we don’t focus on the end result.
I’ve always worried for Hadley. What do people think when she’s wound up? Will her friends accept her as she gets older? What are the other parents' mental reactions to her meltdowns? During a memorable recent meltdown when I’d forgotten a Halloween costume for dance class, one mom said to me, "You know she’s going to end up in therapy when she's 30." I just gave her a dirty look and thought, "Lady, if you only knew."
We ended up skipping dance class. That night, recovery was not swift. I felt terrible, and how could I blame Hadley for being so upset? The following week the mom asked if Hadley had survived. I said, "Yes, she recovered," and proceeded to apologize for being so short. Then she said, "You know things like that are traumatic for them." Again I answered with a dirty look. I’ve ignored her ever since and, until recently, I considered it an isolated incident.
It never occurred to me, even after the Halloween fiasco, that my parenting skills were being judged. Then, within the span of a few days, I overheard comments about other ADHD families -- criticisms of the parents for not doing a better job of managing behavior. There could be truth in some of that. But what I want others to understand is that, while parenting in general is hard, parenting a child with ADHD is even harder. As another ADHD mom recently said to me, "It is exhausting."
One of my most memorable positive experiences was in a local grocery store. I had two kids melting down at the checkout. An employee came over with two cookies, a big smile, and offered to hold my youngest while we waited in line. She didn't judge; she helped. Is that so hard?
Instead of judging parents whose children appear out of control, why not extend some empathy and compassion? To parents who don’t have an ADHD child: The next time you see a child running wild, don’t assume the parents have no control, or are bad disciplinarians. Instead, offer words of encouragement, make a comment to lighten the mood, or better yet -- offer a hand. Or possibly even a cookie.