Helping ADHD kid show love/let go of anger

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    • #112292

      Hi, our son is 7 and was diagnosed with ADHD at age 5. We are not interested in putting him on medication; that’s not a knock at others who find it useful, it’s just where we are right now. 🙂

      Anyway, at the time of his initial diagnosis by a pediatric neuropsychiatrist, we were doing family cognitive therapy due to his negative attitude and disruptive behavior. Our therapist didn’t fully buy the diagnosis (to be fair, I know that my son played the neuropsychiatrist at least a couple times), but after doing more reading I think that even if ADHD isn’t a completely accurate label, it does provide useful information and advice. Anyway, our child therapist noted that our son is especially fearful or protective of certain feelings. For example, from age 3 until 6 he would hide or leave the room during movie scenes that were very loving or touching, eg: the scene in Frozen when Elsa cries while clutching Anna’s frozen body; the ending of Monster’s Inc. when Sully sees Boo again and his face lights up. Basically, when he empathized with the characters it overwhelmed him, and that led to him avoiding too much empathy. This is the same reason he wouldn’t look in our eyes while cuddling. For a long time we did a game where he earned treats by looking into my eyes while I told him something good about himself. Weird, I know. We also struggled because his reaction to things that are sad or disappointing was almost always anger… and he went scorched-earth. If he couldn’t do X, it was because no one loved him or wanted him to be happy! If a toy broke because he was too rough or careless with it, it was really because bad things happen to ONLY him and he’d end up breaking 5 more toys in anger.

      Anyway, we had to stop doing therapy when we moved, and we’ve tried to find another therapist here but haven’t been successful. I feel like we are still hitting a wall emotionally, and I’m sad to say that at 7 he still struggles with the emotional stuff mentioned above. Yesterday a balloon flew away because he accidentally let go of it: he sobbed, he screamed, he demanded we go buy him a new one, everything that day was AWFUL, I didn’t love him, etc. It took an hour of reflection before he finally let go of his anger and was able to just be sad at his loss. That’s the trouble… he prefers to feel angry rather than sad. I get stuff. We’ve been dealing with this for 4 years and he still jumps to anger. The other day he found one piece of his bicycle had broken so what did he do? Broke the other piece and then cried and screamed double! Anger is like this warm, fuzzy blanket on one side and all poisonous spikes on the other. He wraps it around himself, all cozy and pissed off, then he runs to everything and everyone around him and can’t understand why we don’t want to get poked.

      The loving stuff is also still frustrating. When he’s feeling loving, he now frequently resorts to physical comedy to show affection, instead of just being affectionate. This morning when I dropped him off at school I gave him a big hug and kiss, and I could tell he was happy… so he pulled away, smiled coyly, and suddenly tackled me. I fell backwards cursing and embarrassed AF in front of all the other kids and parents. I know that he was trying to express love, but FFS kiddo you need to just hug me with your arms! I feel terrible for scolding him and making him feel ashamed, but also I’m a human and a mom and I 1) don’t like being knocked ass backwards or having him climb on me like a monkey or just plain turn and run away from a hug, and 2) crave real affection from my kid, not this amped-up facsimile, and 3) kind of resent that he randomly sabotages tender moments because he feels overwhelmed.

      So, if anyone has dealt with something similar I would love to hear how things improved. Thanks!

    • #112319
      Penny Williams

      Intense emotions are often part of ADHD. Both having big emotions and feeling them from others.

      Why ADD Makes You Feel. So. Much.

      I do also wonder about the possibility of autism as well in reading your story. Emotional communication and affection can often be different for those with autism. I’m not a clinician, so this is just a thought worth considering.

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

      • #112360

        Hi Penny, I wondered about autism in the past as well–especially due to the issues with eye contact. However, the neuropsychiatrist and our family counselor both indicated that this wasn’t a diagnosis on their radars. His pediatrician also screened him a few times and felt autism didn’t fit. Similar to what you said about having “big emotions,” our counselor said that he avoided eye contact because it made him feel things “too much” and led to him feeling out of control. Control is a big deal for him. We’re making good progress, but I’d like him to be able to experience emotions without feeling completely overwhelmed by them.

        • This reply was modified 2 years, 10 months ago by firefly_2017.
        • This reply was modified 2 years, 10 months ago by firefly_2017.
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