At the End of My Rope

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    • #56319

      My child, A, is four and a half and was recently diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, and possible sensory processing issues (waiting for OT consult). I am a single parent and an elementary school teacher. I have a very dysfunctional extended family that I purposely live 600 miles away from!
      I feel so incredibly out of my depth with this child. He is extremely intelligent (dr’s words, not mine lol) and has a superior vocabulary (also dr’s words). He is exceptionally active and has not slept well since the day he was born. He typically gets up around 4-4:30am and goes to bed at around 8. I am exhausted and emotional. A is very emotional as well, and is prone to emotional outbursts and tantrums over anything, or nothing. He seems so anxious all the time and I feel so GUILTY all the time because I don’t know how to help him. I can’t really afford therapy right now, but I should be able to in the next couple of months. I am terrified of putting him on medication but I am more terrified of continuing to live this way. He is destructive, violent, and mean when he’s angry but is the sweetest, most nurturing child I’ve ever met when he’s calm. I have two questions:
      1. How do I deal with the guilt I feel over not being the parent to him that he needs??
      2. What can I do to help him??
      Thank you for any guidance, advice, or kind words you can offer. I am beyond frustrated and scared.

    • #56349

      Hi Emily,
      First off, I want to say that from my perspective, you are exactly the kind of “parent he needs”: you love him, you want to make things better for himself and for you and you are trying to find solutions. That’s exactly what he needs.

      I know you feel helpless and frustrated. I’ve been there. As parents, we think we should be able to make everything better for our kids. But the fact is, you may not be able to fix things for him. (And that does not mean you are not a good parent!!) No matter what you do or don’t do, you may never be able to stop him from acting the way he acts and as he gets older, you may not be able to keep him from making bad choices. You may be able to find some tools and techniques that help (like medication) but the reality you can’t control him or change him. The only thing you CAN control is your reactions to what he does.

      In order to do that—to react differently—you have to focus on your thoughts. Sounds weird, but the truth is, your feelings are not a result of what someone else does. Your feelings are a result of your thoughts about what they’re doing. So if you want to change how you feel (and how you then react), you have to change what you’re thinking. For example, you can think, “It’s my fault.” Or “I’m not what he needs.” Which make you feel like crap (which will affect how you deal with him); or you could think, “This is a challenge but I’ve met challenges before. Today I will do my best and at the very least let him know I love him no matter what he does.” Different thoughts, different feelings, and very different reactions that will result. So my suggestion is to not focus too much on what he’s doing right now and how to fix those things; instead, I think right now it’s much more critical that you focus on yourself (which is really the only person you can control anyway!)

      You mentioned guilt. I think that guilt has a place as an emotion, when we’ve done something wrong, because it spurs us on to make reparations and do things better the next time. But you have done nothing wrong. You are human and humans don’t function at their best when they don’t get enough sleep and when they are dealing with a challenging situation for days and months and years on end. So I think it’s important that you find a way to release/change those guilt-thoughts. I wonder if one of the things keeping you stuck in guilt is that maybe you are stuck in the place of wishing things were different, feeling sorry for yourself, feeling sorry for him (and maybe in a way mourning/grieving the loss of your ideas of what it would be like to be a parent, have a son, etc..) The only way out of that stuck place is to fully accept that this is the way things are, at least in this moment, and to realize that your job is to just get through each day in the best way you can and to take care of yourself emotionally. (You know that announcement the flight attendant says on planes: “put the oxygen mask on yourself first….” Well, it’s true–If you don’t take care of YOU and find ways to make yourself feel better, you will have little to offer him in terms of patience, and perseverance—both of which are critical when dealing with a child with special needs.)

      Hope this helps.
      I wish you all the best,

      Joyce Mabe
      Parenting Coach, author, school counselor, mom of adult son with ADHD

      • #56631

        Joyce, thank you so much for your response. It was so thoughtful and so genuine, and exactly what I needed to hear. My friends and family do not understand that A has legitimate issues that cause him to act the way he does – they assume it’s a lack of discipline and rules on my part and that’s definitely not the case. It’s so helpful to talk with someone who truly understands our struggle. And I didn’t even realize it, but I am grieving for the child that I thought I’d have, for the picture of parenting I had before I actually became a parent. I thought it would be so different – difficult, yes – but different. I guess I didn’t realize I could feel that grief and still love my little boy with all my heart.
        Thank you again, your words meant so much to me.

    • #56662
      Penny Williams

      It’s so important to grieve the loss of the parenthood you expected to have. You have to accept and validate your own emotions so you can be in the right frame of mind and with a positive outlook in order to really do your best for him.

      It’s important, too, at this stage to recognize and accept that you cannot “fix it.” ADHD is a physiological difference in his brain. You can help him, with treatment and positive parenting and advocacy, but you cannot change him. It took me 2+ years after my son’s diagnosis to realize I was searching for an answer I’d never find, and I was going about parenting a child with ADHD all wrong.

      Here are some solid next steps:
      1. Make sure you’re getting treatment for his ADHD. The doctor can recommend some ways to help with sleep too. Without treatment, he cannot learn lagging skills and strategies to live well with ADHD.
      2. Start working on behavior modification. This will teach skills he’s deficient in.

      More Than Meds: A Guide to ADHD Behavior Modification

      3. Adopt a positive parenting approach, focusing more on the positive than the weaknesses.

      Become the Parent Your Child Needs

      4. Read “The Explosive Child,” by Ross Greene. It will change your lives. 😉

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #56925

      You are the best person for this child. I have custody of my nephew who is 3. Your struggle is real, but never doibt your abilities. You are providing him with everything in your power. I have had my little guy for almost 2 years now. His kother has given up 2 kids and the father now has 6! I have his half sister whomis also special needs and is 13. I feel like I need to be far away from my family as well. Welcome to what I now call box of chocolates. Anyway dont feel guilty for waiting on therapy. my little guy sounds just like yours. He was diagnosed with ptst, rad, severe anxiety,adhd and possibly even spd. I didnt know where to turn but I put him in play therapy first, then we talked aboutsleeping issues. Without meds he barely slept. I mean 2 hours total tops. Then our doc said to do a chewable low dose melatonin. its allNatural and non habit forming. Thisworked for a while. Then bam back to no sleep! Notcounting extreme violence. It got so bad we called the crisis help line 2 to 3 time a day for 5 days! Now doctore decided to do colonadine very low dose! This is a godsend! Again not a controlled substance we have no side effects and he now get 6 to 8 hours of sleep! Now for behaviors again doc did a liquid xanex low dose again awesome wonders! Agression is minimal unless hes in a meltdown. I was worried about his age ect, but I now cant imagine him going without it! REMEBER YOU ARE STRONG, YOU ARE AWESOME, and HE IS BLESSED TO HAVE A MOM LIKE YOU! THE RANDOM KOMENTS OF SMILES AND HUGS AND KISSES SHOWS YOU ARE DOING IT RIGHT!

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