Grandparents who don't get it

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    • #124717

      I’ve changed the names to protect my kids’ privacy… here’s my story

      Our daughter, Isabella is 9 years old and she has ADHD. She was diagnosed 2 years ago. Her older sister, Olivia, is 12 and she does not have ADHD. It was hard figuring out at first why none of the parenting stuff that worked with Livi worked with Bella. We’ve learned a lot in the past 2 years and changed our parenting along the way. It seems like we learn something new every week! The awful part is that we usually learned what didn’t work by trying it out… and failing. I never knew parenting would involve so much failing. Because nothing that worked with Livi ever worked with Bella. And because it “worked” with Livi our default was to assume it would work with Bella. And when it didn’t work, our knee jerk reaction was to blame Bella. And that means that basically, we blamed her for having a brain that is wired differently. But the good news is that her dad and I would catch ourselves and correct ourselves. We’re both willing to learn more about ADHD and change how we parent based on what we know. You know, do the best you can, then when you know better, do better. But not everyone who knows Bella is willing to change how they approach Bella. The counselor warned us that there will be adults in her life that don’t understand what ADHD is and some who don’t even believe ADHD exists. As her parent, it is our job to help be a buffer between Bella and these adults until Bella is old enough to hold her own. But it is so much harder when the adults I am buffering are her grandparents. They aren’t around a lot even though they only live a couple of hours away from us. They were around more when it was just Livi, and even when Bella was just a baby. Things changed when the girls were about 7 and 4. I tell myself that my parents see us less because the girls are in school now so our schedules are busier. I also tell myself that it’s good that they aren’t around too much because when they are around it is so stressful. They complain about Bella. Their number one mantra is, “She should know better.” They point out her every fault. They roll their eyes, sigh really loud and grumble in general. Around Bella. Right in front of me, they complain to relatives and friends about Bella. With Livi, it is a totally different story. Livi is “normal”. She responds to you in the way you were expecting her to respond. She’s not perfect, but she is a very obedient child. Now that Bella is 9 she sees the difference and has told me herself, “Nana and Poppa love Livi more than me.” I’ve tried to reassure her and stick up for my parents. My parents are good people. And they did a great job raising me. But I don’t have ADHD. All their parenting techniques worked on me exactly the way the books said they would. The worst part is my parents – although they would deny this- have made it clear by their responses that they like Livi more than they like Bella. One time they actually told me that Livi was easier to love because she was more loving. And that hurts. Because none of this is Bella’s fault. If Bella had a physical deformity, if ADHD was something you could see, then my parents would not react this way. If she had something different on the outside we wouldn’t have to constantly remind them that she’s different on the inside. But because you can’t see ADHD they always act like she is being malicious, or manipulative, or bad. They’ve had discussions with me about how poorly I am “letting” Bella act. I then share with them what I have learned about ADHD. My parents then seem to have an ‘ah-ha’ moment. But it only lasts until the next outburst. The very next time Bella acts in a way that they disapprove of we start the dance all over again. So, yes, maybe it is good that we don’t see them often. However, if we saw them more often, wouldn’t they understand Bella better? My parents’ reaction to Bella is very similar to how my husband and I reacted to her before we got the diagnosis. But as we learned we changed. And since we are with her every day, we are learning every day. It feels like no matter how much my parents learn about ADHD it doesn’t change the way they see Bella. Does this mean they are only half-listening to me when I tell them about ADHD? Does this mean they are only pretending to believe what I tell them about ADHD? Should I hope for more contact with my parents or be happy that it keeps becoming less and less frequent? If we were around them more would they understand her better and respond to her better? Would they ever start to like Bella the way they like Livi? If we are not going to be around them more, how do I prepare them for Bella and how do I prepare Bella for them when we do go to see them? How do I gently and respectfully remind my parents that Bella is different and she is not trying to be difficult or disobedient?

    • #124754
      Penny Williams

      That’s a tough situation. Unless their minds are open to accepting the information and changing their viewpoint, nothing you do will make much of a difference. Hopefully, as your daughter gets older and has more self-awareness and self-regulation, it will be “easier” for them to be around her and more understanding.

      They simply don’t understand what they don’t know. Until you’ve raised a child with ADHD, you just don’t get it.

      Enlightening an ADHD Non-Believer

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

    • #124905

      My situation is slightly different, but yet may offer some insight or solutions.

      I am myself gifted (IQ 130+) and have ADD (both never officially tested, yet extremely likely), and (divorced) father of 2 kids, both officially gifted (tested 135+).

      My daughter (11) is (although very sensitive in nature) a “perfect” student, with a slough of issues and troubles of her own, but all in all extremely diligent (to a fault) and quite composed.

      My son however (8), has (as yet to be confirmed by a specialist) AD(H)D (not truly hyperkinetic, but still often impatient, fidgetting, overzealous and *extremely* talkative.

      I had the same issues with my girlfriend, my mother, and *especially* the parents of my girlfriend, who couldn’t seem to understand how an extremely smart, sensitive, caring boy could *also* be prone to “temper tantrums”, “dumb/childish” behaviour and disruptive acts (shouting in restaurants, ignoring demands for quiet, and exploding violently when impatient/insecure)

      All negative words above have of course to be taken with a grain of salt, as they merely describe how his behaviour is *judged*, rather than *lived* by himself.

      I have already been able to convince my mother and my girlfriend of his ADD, and of the ways we have learnt to handle eg his tantrums.

      My girlfriend’s parents are slowly but surely coming around our view (although it takes constant reminders of why eg calling his behaviour “childish”, or calling him “an annoying kid” have the exact opposite effect.

      We have explained again and again how a “classical” approach (carrot-and-stick/”bribing-and-punishing”) and overemphasising his “faults” often have a negative outcome,… to no avail.

      Luckily, we have in the meantime a list of positive experiences with AND without tantrums. We have started to overshare these to the people around us (through facebook, in conversations, etc…)

      We tell about how we didn’t know how to solve his tantrums, until we learnt to let him calm down by himself in his room, then hug him and talk *with* him (not *to* him) about his feelings and what might have brought out his anger. We tell his grandparents how big a difference it makes to *him*, but also to *us*, next time around! How he *learnt* to control his anger & fear enough to learn how to say goodbye, how he *learnt* to take a pencil & paper with him, and channel his creativity when he has to wait or feels overlooked. How he *learnt* to negotiate instead of exploding, *learnt* to hug & express his feelings, instead of crying & running away.

      We share how we use an egg timer to limit his “ramblings” during breakfast, while providing a moment to share his thoughts.

      We share the moments he does something spontaneous, caring, or funny. The times when he shows the world he actually can be *more* caring than all around him, *more* creative, *more* honest, *more* smart or insightful… and dare to tell our friends & family it is a *part* of his ADD, his oversensitivity, his giftedness…

      This way, we hope his ADD doesn’t become an “excuse”, but also a “guide”, a “manual”, a “toolbox”. To my son, as much as to his friends & family (& maybe co-workers)

      I had a harsh & confronting journey in my private and professional life, only to learn now that all my idiosyncrasies (even the “annoying” ones) are my most redeeming qualities, and the reason my close friends and family have learnt to love me.

      I’m sure your kid has some of these moments of *learning* and *wonder*. Don’t forget to be proud of them! And don’t forget to boast 😉

      Kids with ADD (myself included) often have to learn more of these “small social skills” and ways of coping, than kids without ADD. And their journey should never be taken for granted.

      Yes, their behaviour can seem “childish” and “undisciplined”, but that’s also because their brains are far more *active*, *attentive* to everything around them, and *in the moment* than all those slower, regular brains around them. They have to learn twice as much, to adapt to a world that doesn’t care to understand them. In my eyes, my son is a little superhero.

    • #125073

      My in-laws, one of which has ADHD in a big way
      But won’t get tested, is the same way.
      I think it would be harder in your situation as it’s your parents. Try getting some information about ADD/ADHD and have it “laying“ in your bathroom with nothing else to read, maybe they’ll read it then! Lol I know they/she thinks I’m making excuses for my boys, but if they don’t want to accept them as they are, there’s nothing I can do except be more supportive to my boys and if that means I don’t get to spend much time with the in-laws, so be it. It is the adults who need to be accommodating and especially in the children’s house. I’m so very sorry that this has happened and so sad to hear your daughters words of hurt and disappointment. Did you tell your parents that this is how she feels and told you those words? Maybe that would
      Open their eyes, heart and soul to the fact that they are noticeably hurting their grand baby. and that THEY need to make a change as they are all missing precious time that will never be given back. Plus harbouring useless resentment and robbing everyone involved of this precious relationship Thai is being tossed aside. Good luck, and I truly hope that they make the obvious change and so the harsh and uncomfortable feelings go away.🙏❤️

    • #125122

      It’s so tough. My eleven year boy has ADHD and we’ve definitely encountered a number of (usually intelligent) people who think it’s made up. My mother in law doesn’t believe in it, and she treats my son terribly. It’s been a journey for us to learn how to deal with it ourselves, and she’s not willing to go on this journey herself. Our view is that spend a lot of time and energy protecting our lovely son from adults who treat him poorly because of his ADHD. We also need to protect him from his angry grandmother. If we have to choose between the two, it may help her realise she needs to educate herself better.

    • #125294

      I only found out that I had ADD at 19 and looking back on my childhood I was punished for so many things that I couldn’t control, I still have self esteem issue because of it. My older sister was the perfect child while I was a mess. I’m still trying to snap out of my habit of comparing myself to her.

      As a kid I used to have to listen to music to get to sleep (later found out it’s an ADHD thing) but if my parents caught me with my Ipod at night it would be taken away for a week. I had outbursts and a short fuse in which I would slam my bedroom door, my parents would just remove my door for a week.
      They would get angry and disappointed when I failed maths and science tests to which I always tried to remind them that I was a top student in my art and drama classes.

      Looking back it’s hard not to judge my parents because they didn’t know why I was like this, hell I didn’t know why I did what I did.

      I had depression for a few years before my ADD diagnosis (caused by not understanding why I felt like a failure) and honestly it was easier for them to understand ADD then it was for then to understand depression. At least now I don’t get told to ‘pull my head in’ when having a breakdown.

    • #125336


      I’m sorry to hear that your parents act his way. As someone who is 30 and has a diagnosis of ADHD Combined Type, I know first hand what it’s like to not be understood and too have other people look down on me for not being “normal.” My mother believed like many people of the time that it was just a discipline problem despite ADHD running rampantly through my father’s family. At school I was not well liked because of my irritability, and my misunderstanding of what social norms were. I just wanted to give you a bit of my background, to show you that I in part understand what you and your daughter go through.

      It is always easier to tell someone how to parent or how to act when they themselves don’t understand what the actual problem is. These people are often called backseat drivers and cause more harm than good when they point out these faults in others. What your parents are doing is WRONG! I apologize if I myself come across as being judgmental, for that is not my intent. I get very emotional and upset when I hear things like this because I have personally dealt with people like this since I can remember and has caused me a great deal of anxiety and depression throughout my life because I knew I was different but didn’t understand why. I hated myself for such a long time and didn’t understand why God would make me this way, but ultimately realized that I was made his way for a reason. If I can help others who have been through similar situations, I will do all that so can. That being said, there are a few things that I propose.

      1. It is absolutely imperative that you set boundaries with your parents. At the moment, both of your children are noticing how your parents are treating them differently. By standing up for them, you are inadvertently teaching your oldest that it’s alright to treat people in this manner who are different; to point out a person’s every fault and too not accept them as they are. You are also teaching your youngest that it’s alright for people to treat her differently because it’s “not as easy to love her.” This is a sad excuse for being too closed minded and unwilling to work with your youngest. By telling your youngest that they love her equally, is lying to her. I’m sure that you mean well by doing this, but you shouldn’t have to do this. Your parents should be grown up enough to understand that things are different and that she is a child who is still learning. By unintentionally “standing up for your parents “ you are allowing anxiety and eventually depression to take hold of your youngest. This happens often with people with ADHD. They want to be liked by their peers and by people in general, and when we are denied this, behaviors oftentimes become worse. They start to realize from a young age that they are different and that they aren’t well liked by others, but many times don’t understand why. When there are people in their own family act like this, it exponentially increases the likelihood of anxiety and depression taking a foothold.

      2. Hold your parents accountable. I understand that you are doing everything you can and know how to, but. I believe that you need to give your parents an ultimatum. They can treat both of your daughters the same or not see either of them. Now they may resent you for this, but it is up to you to protect your daughters, not your parents.

      3. You should also explain to both of your daughters that the way they are treated is NOT right. One should not be favored & the other discarded. Granted, I would use different wording, this is just the best way I could convey the difference in the way your parents are treating your two girls.

      I hope the way I worded things didn’t come across as being too harsh. I merely wanted to convey the urgency, and the importance of the things that need to happen or else both of your girls will grow up in a way that you may not intend. I hope this helps. Here is also a website link that may help you and your parents understand what it’s like to have ADHD.

      I hope this plays, but in case it doesn’t, it’s titled ADD/ADHD Simulator by Aunghula.

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