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ADHD Growing Pains: When Bodies Change Faster Than Emotions Develop

My daughter, Natalie, is hitting puberty, and her body is maturing faster than her emotions and social skills. The hardest thing to navigate is her friendship with Harry, her best friend…a boy.

Like most kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), my daughter, Natalie, is two to three years behind her same-age peers in social and emotional maturity. But somebody forgot to tell her body to stay in sync. In keeping with many other fourth-grade girls, Natalie has started down that path called puberty.

It just isn’t right. No child should need a bra before she is able (or can be trusted) to dress independently. A parent shouldn’t worry that her daughter might start her period while she’s still having occasional potty accidents (when she’s too caught up in what she’s doing to take the time to go to the bathroom). And how in the world are parents supposed to know how to handle the changing dynamics of a boy-and-girl best friendship, like Natalie’s with Harry?

Natalie and Harry have been best friends since the age of 3 when they met at preschool, and I’m all for that continuing. They have a very special loving bond between them. But they just had their last sleepover.

Nat and Harry spent most of the weekend together. Harry played at our house all day Saturday and slept over Saturday night. The two spent hours building a fort in the living room with the kitchen chairs and a dozen blankets and then slept inside it — until 4 in the morning anyway. After that, we all played musical beds in hopes of catching just a little more sleep. Around lunchtime on Sunday, they both went to Harry’s house to play, and later, Harry’s mom took them ice-skating.

By 7 p.m. Sunday night, Nat was exhausted but unwilling to give in and go to bed early, so we cuddled and talked for a while. She’d giggle, shake her head, and share things Harry said or did that were aggravating, silly, or just plain vintage Harry. She talked about how much they love each other, and they do, in the purest possible way. While they often use the words “I love you,” she told me how they both spoke of that love again, just before falling asleep next to each other Saturday night.

It was heart wrenching; beautiful.

It was terrifying.

Because the nature of their interaction is too personal to share, I’m afraid I’ll have to leave you wondering what exactly was said and how it was different than in times past. The bottom line is I felt a line had been crossed. No more sleepovers for the two of them!

How unfair for a child’s body to outpace her emotional maturity. It’s a mean trick that ADHD plays on our kids — not to mention their parents!

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