Need support: sad 8 year old daughter

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    • #104927
      Amy HJ

      We’re working on diagnosis for our daughter right now, but I will eat my hat if she doesn’t have ADHD. The more I read the more certain I am. In the meantime, though, my heart is breaking for her. She’s acting out at home, alienating her brother and both of us, her parents, with her frustration-related tantrums, and she dreads school every day because she’s so miserable socially. I think she alienates her friends because she’s socially immature and doesn’t know how to do the give and take of friendship. And the girl drama has begun in her class. It’s so painful to watch. I’ve reached out to her teacher, have planned play dates for her, try to be as loving and consistent as possible, but it’s so hard. And when she’s acting out at home, which I know is a reflection of her misery at school (where she holds it together–everyone there thinks she’s totally FINE and we’re exaggerating about what’s going on with her), it’s hard not to feel hurt and angry in return because she can be really awful. I’m worried that her brother is going to be affected by all of this as well. Would love any advice about how to support her or even just (and maybe especially) words of encouragement for us.

    • #104969
      Penny Williams

      It would take several books to explain how to fully support her, but I can tell you how to get started.

      #1 – Work on your parent mindset. You, the parent, have to change, not the child. She is working with a different brain, a brain that traditional “crime and punishment” parenting doesn’t work for. Yes, of course she needs to build skills and coping strategies and self-regulation, and we will get to that. BUT, the most important and foundational piece is to get your mind right for parenting this child.

      #2 – Work to understand the ADHD brain. Google things like “amygdala hijack” and “rumble rage cycle.” Use tools like 1-2-3 Magic and The Incredible 5-Point Scale. This really helps with the understanding too:

      #3 – Practice mindful parenting and work on staying calm and patient. When your daughter is having outbursts, she’s having a hard time, not giving you a hard time. Her emotions have likely escalated outside of her physical control (Amygdala Hijack). She’s on fire and mirroring the intensity by yelling, judging, or snapping back is just adding fuel to the fire. It will ONLY make things worse.

      If you haven’t, read Ross Greene’s “The Explosive Child” or “Raising Human Beings” right way.

      Time for Plan B? 10 Tips for Dealing with an Explosive Child

      (for all kids, not just explosive kids)

      ADDconnect Moderator, Author on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #104970
      Penny Williams

      Oh, and create opportunities for success for her, no matter how small. She really needs some wins right now. 😉

      ADDconnect Moderator, Author on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #113174

      Sounds like you are in the same boat as me. Reading about your struggle exactly mirrors my own. my 8 year old girl has been struggling ever since she started school. She has no behavioural problems at school and her hyperactivity is low level so she doesn’t stand out, but she was internalising her struggle and exploding at home. She does have major struggles with the social things at school and has few friends, my heart breaks for her every day.
      Of course you can read up on all the sensible advice you can get from books/experts etc but my advice is from my heart and these things have helped me deal with my unique child.
      Don’t give up on her. She needs you as her advocate and someone she can rely on. It’s damn hard, every day. But don’t give up. Schools can fail to recognise adhd in girls. My daughter is combined type but she still got missed as girls are amazing at hiding their problems.
      After three years of struggle for my daughter we now have a diagnosis and plan in place at school and things are looking up. Since her clear diagnosis (she actually has quite severe combined type adhd) school have totally changed their tune, but it was at the cost of her mental health as she now also has a diagnosed anxiety disorder and is high risk for a second, alongside adhd. Struggling along for so long without help has wiped her self esteem and confidence to almost zero. In my view partly caused by schools lack of empathy and awareness for how adhd can present in girls. So just don’t give up. Keep on and on and on at them until they listen. Educate them, especially about girls and adhd) if needs be, take it higher or even consider switching schools.

      These are the main coping thoughts I try and keep in my head when she’s being difficult
      1. Remember it isn’t personal. She can’t control her outbursts and I know my daughter explodes and then feels awfully sorry afterwards, but doesn’t know how to express this. I give her a big hug when it’s calmed down, sometimes we talk about it, but mostly we don’t, but the thing is she knows I’m there for her.
      2. I love her, no matter what, even when her behaviour is unloveable. I keep a picture of her as a babe on my fridge door. I look at it often and it reminds me of the unconditional love I have for her. She didn’t ask for this condition and I can’t give up on her.
      3. She is sad and confused and she needs me to be consistently there for her. Sometimes I fail and I get mad, I’m not perfect either. But I keep trying.
      4. I’m human. I have emotions and feelings too and it’s ok for me to have a bad day, bringing up an adhd kid is REALLY hard work. Just pick yourself up and carry on the next day.
      Also, when in the midst of it all it can be tempting to become a bit obsessive about it. Everything becomes about adhd. Don’t let it. Have a break, take time off from reading stuff, researching, talking about it with friends/family otherwise you drive yourself mad!

      If your daughter does have adhd (you sound pretty convinced and if you’re that convinced it’s very likely you’re right) then you’re doing an amazing job every day. I never imagined parenting could get this hard. Be kind to yourself, remind yourself what you’re fighting for and look ahead to that time when you can say, whatever the outcome, that you absolutely did your best for her.
      And don’t forget to look for the little things about her that make you laugh, it’s hard to overlook them when life is so tough. Tell her something she’s done well every day. Just so she knows. 🙂

    • #113208

      I found that taking my daughter for a ride in the car, just the two of us, did wonders for her opening up and talking to me about things she wouldn’t normally have talked about at home.
      Just don’t push her to all of a sudden start talking. My daughter and I played silly games like making words out of the letters in license plates we saw, or picking a letter and coming up with words that begin with that letter. Eventually, I would bring up something that happened to me in my childhood and ask if she ever had something like that happen to her.
      Also, while I understand that the pressures of being a parent can be tiring and distracting (I was a single parent for 16 years) I do think it’s important to know and understand your daughter, and be cognizant of when she’s nearing the point of exploding. Pay attention to what is leading her in that direction, what behaviors she’s exhibiting beforehand and see if you can remove any of those triggers from her environment.
      Before you can help her, you have to understand what it is that’s influencing her or causing her to react. And in order to stop the explosive outbursts, she needs a safe outlet for those pent up emotions.

    • #178171

      I am new to all this but this post describe my 9 year old daughter to a T and for several years now we have been talking on and off about getting a diagnosis. Like you my instincts are so strong that my daughter is struggling with ADHD. My question is how did you go about trying to get a diagnosis? Like you, my daughter seemingly doesn’t show any ‘typical’ ADHD traits at school although does have friendship issues and the school have noticed her anxiety. I guess I just don’t really know how to start with the process? Any advice would be gratefully received

    • #178174
      Amy HJ

      Update 1 1/2 years later: it took two assessments–the first one came out inconclusive, and the second, with another therapist, came out ADHD-inattentive. That was just a few months ago. The difference may have been the new therapist, but I think it was also that my daughter finally started struggling more in school, which I’ve read sometimes happens around age 9 / 4th grade. They needed to see symptoms in multiple environments. We also asked my parents, who spend a lot of time with her, to fill out the assessments. Maybe that helped too.

      We tried her out on Ritalin, and she instantly had more focus and fewer meltdowns. I wouldn’t say it’s a “game changer” like the way I’ve heard other parents talk about it, but it definitely helps.

      Another thing that’s helped me tremendously is joining a “parents of girls with ADHD” group on Facebook. It’s a relief to hear from people with girls like mine–there are so many commonalities, sometimes really funny ones, like their insanely messy rooms or the way all the scissors in the house go missing, no matter how many you have, but there’s also a lot of support about specific challenges with girls with ADHD. There are a lot of people on there who haven’t got diagnoses yet, and I now have a real sense that there’s a blind spot among practitioners about how ADHD looks in girls.

      Oh, also, I was talking about her social skills in the original post. Things have improved there! She’s still high drama and has some trouble maintaining friendships unless the other kid is freakishly passive, and she gets worried and paranoid about anything she perceives as negative, but she’s made a ton of friends and progress. Of course the pandemic could be putting a real crimp in that, but it could also protect her from some of the more intense 5th grade social horrors–we’ll see.

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