High-Achieving Kid Envy at Graduation

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    • #52161

      While I know better than to compare my ADD child to the high-achieving kids, there is a part of me that hangs onto the dream that maybe one day DD will excel at…..something. Sitting through Middle School graduation for an hour of accolades recognizing what seems like every student in the school (except our child) with humanitarian awards, academic acknowledgements, music performance awards, and presidential scholars made me want to physically vomit. These ceremonies are certainly enough for any parent to an ADD child to say “I Quit” “I didn’t sign up for this” “I’m ashamed” “I’m so fearful for my child’s future” “I hope they can function in High School”

      How do other ADD parents remain patient and optimistic about their children? Anybody else have to sit through a terminally-long graduation ceremony where you felt all eyes were on YOU, because YOU are obviously such a dumb, inept parent with an unsuccessful child that OBVIOUSLY does not value education? Maybe some encouraging words of parents who got their kids through high school and college can comment.

    • #52168

      First, let me say, “been there, done that!” I felt that same way quite often when my son with ADHD was younger! And it reminds me of this quote that hits home for me:

      “Expectations are resentments under construction.” (Anne Lamott)

      As parents, we all have hopes (which I think are actually expectations in disguise) for our kids; and when they don’t live up to them, we do end up disappointed and resentful (and sometimes even feel like we’re grieving–which is maybe some of what you were experiencing in that audience; maybe in a way you were mourning the death of your hopes and dreams).

      What helped me when I was in the throes of all that envy, resentment, disappointment, etc. when my son was younger was to realize that it was my thoughts causing me to feel bad, not my circumstances. (Case in point: I didn’t think my son “should”/could be athletic, so I didn’t feel bad at all that other kids were getting awards for athleticism but he wasn’t. But when it came to academics, I did…same situation (other kids getting awards but not my son), but different thoughts and feelings about it because of my thoughts about what kids “Should” do in terms of schooling.

      What changed my life (and my relationship with my son…and is the reason why I am a parenting coach now and the reason I wrote a book about all this) is when I finally learned that if you want to feel better, you have to think better –Every feeling can be traced back to a thought so if you want to change the feeling you have to change the thought.

      What I realized is that although I couldn’t change my son, I could examine my thoughts (and expectations) and the “shoulds” I had in my head about kids and school and parenting, etc. and decide if they were serving me or my son–and if they weren’t, then I had to change them.

      Your son may never be what would be considered a “great student”. Your thoughts about this (“It’s not fair”, “Others are judging me”, etc.) are what is making you feel awful. If you change your thoughts (for example, you could think instead, “Although academics are not his strengths, he has others.” (e.g., he loving and caring to others, or he is artistic and creative, etc., whatever his strengths might be.) or, “Kids with ADHD are several years behind their peers; maybe he just needs time to get in the groove.”) When you think better- feeling thoughts (like when you notice and recognize his unique gifts), you will feel better and it will have a ripple effect on how you
      act toward him and how he acts toward you.

      I think the best thing you can do as a parent, especially when a child has a challenge like ADHD), is to find a way to feel good now no matter what your son does or doesn’t do, and to put your focus on having a healthy, strong relationship with him (and finding things about him that you respect, admire and like) so that he will feel close to you and be willing to lean on you when he needs to and most importantly he will know and believe in his heart that he is good, and valuable and loveable exactly the way he is. THAT is what will serve him well and help him become a happy, productive adult–not some award from middle school.

      The bottom line is that you can’t change him, you can only change your thoughts and your reactions to him. The alternative is that your disappointment and resentment toward him will end up negatively affecting your relationship with him, which will in turn just cause a vicious cycle where he might do even worse just to get back at you.

      In terms of you feeling like others are looking at you thinking you are a “dumb, inept parent”, it reminds me of another quote:

      “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do” (Eleanor Roosevelt).

      Every family has issues, concerns, etc. Those kids with the awards may be horrible to deal with in other ways. You just don’t know what goes on in others’ homes and just like they have no idea of your struggles as a parent, you really don’t know theirs either. But as I keep saying, it’s your thoughts about what they are thinking that are causing you to feel bad. What you think is what matters, not what others think. Sometimes easier said than done I know, but I was able to get there so I know you can get there! You are not alone. We are all here to tell you that what you are going through is perfectly normal!

      Oh, and by the way…My son and I are living proof that there is hope. My son is in his mid-20s now and not only is he a high school and college graduate (with Honors), but he’s now a teacher (yes, the kid who did not do well academically and hated school back then now ‘goes to school’ every day willingly and has a lot to offer his students due to his learning how to deal with and/or overcome his own ADHD-related challenges!) So I can tell you without a doubt that there is definitely hope! But I can also tell you that it may not be on your timeframe or go in the way you think it SHOULD. (One of the most important things my son told me now as an adult was, “Mom, I had to get there on my own.”)

      I hope this helps,

      Joyce Mabe
      Parenting Coach for parents of teens with ADHD, author, school counselor, mom of adult son with ADHD
      website: http://www.parentcoachjoyce.com

    • #52262

      I’m not a parent but I do have some encouraging words!
      Change your perspective:
      Look at your child’s ADHD as a gift not a disability – yes it’s a challenge for ADHD kids to fit it and be “like every student in the school” – but these early challenges will allow him/her to develop the attitude and determination to get through all of life’s challenges.
      Why can’t your child be BOTH high-achieving AND have ADHD?

      I was diagnosed with ADHD after high school and I graduated high school as a straight A student with award after award after award.
      Then ADHD nearly killed me and my best friend because I was driving distracted and so I decided to get a full testing procedure done with a psychologist. As I was struggling through University nearly failing my first year, a nurse told me that it was impossible for someone with ADHD to finish University and there was no way I would be able to do it. That really pissed me off and so I proved that silly nurse wrong and graduated with lots more As.
      This website is full of articles about incredibly successful people with ADHD – I encourage you to read them and imagine your child being like that one day.
      Michael Phelps the famous swimmer said once that swimming was how he managed ADHD – it was his way of coping.
      Education/reading was my thing – it’s clearly not your kid’s thing, but maybe swimming is.
      Maybe once your child finds his/her thing, he/she will zone into it with a focus that shocks ‘normal’ people and allows him/her to become WAY better at it than all those kids lining up right now to get their awards because people with ADHD struggle to regulate their focus so when things click they focus, focus, and focus for hours on end – unable to stop becoming really really good at that one thing.
      The world needs incredibly talented people and that’s how I consider my ADHD now – a challenge and a tool that helps me become even more incredibly talented and successful.

    • #52263

      In terms of learning patience and optimism – I’m very impatient. It sounds like you are too. A lot of people with ADHD are. I’ve started going to a free group for families with ADHD/substance abuse problems (ADHD is linked to substance abuse) at my local church where we learn to turn our impatience over, say a quick prayer to the universe, and let go of self-will. It helps me be patient. I suggest you try out a group of some sort like that for parents/families – AA is free and worldwide, there are free anxiety groups, self-esteem groups, etc – to help you work through your feelings of shame.
      You want your son to be successful NOW – he’s so young! It’s up to God to decide when your son’s talents will surface – not up to you. The harder you try to GET your son through college and high school, compensate for his ADHD, organize his life for him, the more damage you will cause to yourself, him, and your mother/son relationship without realizing it – I saw this in my family – but thankfully my ADHD brother is starting college in September and he never finished high school!

      I wish you luck!

    • #52304
      Penny Williams

      I think Joyce hit the nail on the head — you have to change your perspective. And, even then, it’s hard to sit through 2 hours of others’ achievements getting acknowledged, but not your child’s, because your child’s achievements aren’t typical for his age.

      I can’t remember where this was suggested, but create a family report card and family rewards. Include things like being kind to others, making progress with goals, and all the things schools don’t recognize enough. Show your son (and yourself through the process) that there are many more things that matter, and many things he does well and is good at.

      Some kids just aren’t good with school. It took me a long time, but I’ve come to accept that my son is one of those kids. I know he’ll do great things later, just not public education.

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

    • #52317

      One of the things I have always wanted most is for my son to be happy and he is. He dropped out of college but hopes to go back at some point. During his school years we focused on his interstate and talents. He didn’t care for school much but was always interested in a science fair where he would put together some electrical device and win 1st place. He joined a children’s choir and stayed with it until high school. He was always selected for all district and all state choir. He was a boy soprano and performed many solos. His violin teacher told me he was the most talented student she had ever encountered in 40 years of teaching. He was tested and placed in talented art classes from 5th grade on. He loved wood shop and loved making things. He was the 1st student to take 3 years of wood shop in high school. Since he was so talented with computers and could understand complex software he was chosen to be on the school newspaper staff to do the computerized layout for the paper that was sent to the printer. I have a painting on my wall of Van Goh ‘ Starry Night painted by my son. He can fix anything electronic. cars, computers, Cell phones, etc. The stuff he wasn’t good at we didn’t worry about and my son is happy and has tons of friends.

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