Other parent in denial

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    • #88693
      Amanda Bradley

      Any tips or articles anyone can share would be appreciated.

      I recently found out my ex-husband has been telling our 10 year old son that he doesn’t think our son has ADHD. His dad is also not giving our son his ADHD medicine while at his house.
      This came as a shock to me. I knew his dad was reluctant to put our child on medication initially, but we reached that decision 5 years ago when our son was diagnosed towards the end of Kindergarten. I had no idea he’d been feeding mis-information to our child.
      I’m worried about how it’s going to affect our son psychologically to have his dad telling him he doesn’t have something that doctors, counselors, and his mom are telling him he does. I’m worried physically about the effects of going on and off medication haphazardly.
      I suspect his dad is reacting out of a bad experience he had as a child with possibly undiagnosed ADHD and how his mom treated him and put him on medication. Any helpful hints in how to help another parent accept that their child has ADHD and/or thoughts on how giving your child mixed facts can be harmful to their development?

    • #88792

      It sounds like this runs deeper than ADHD denial. For this to happen in the first place means that mutual respect and active communication are lacking between you and your ex. This means you don’t have a unified plan of parenting, and of course that means that you two can stray far from each other in your parenting decisions.

      As a child of divorced parents, let me say there’s no benefit to raging a battle against your ex or trying to control what he does when he has the kid(s). It only hurts the kids. Try and find a way of addressing this that doesn’t feel like an attack or an order, because once defensiveness sets in, winning the battle is all you two will be able to focus on. Assuming your ex doesn’t have abusive tendencies, or the strong need to control others, a good therapist might be able to help facilitate a productive conversation. However, this won’t work with anyone that has narcissistic tendencies or strong ideological leanings.

      If it isn’t possible to create mutual respect and effective communication in raising your child, you might have to just let it be and explain as best you can to your child that he must adjust to different rules between parents. In that situation, you can also share the scientific information with your child. Let him know all about his condition, why medication helps, and the risks of not being on meds. We tend to think kids won’t understand, but we’re so often wrong.

      Your son may not show appreciation for it, but he’ll be paying closer attention to the difference between being on the meds and being off if you talk about it in a non-confrontational way enough. He may very well gain an appreciation for its benefits.

    • #88798

      I’m so glad I saw this because I myself for a long time was in denial I had anything wrong prior to medication, and then it was like putting on glasses for the first time.

      Not only is your son’s father putting him in more danger by keeping him on, then ff (when with him), his medication. This is complicated for many reasons but in short if he isn’t taking it daily, not necessarily including the weekends, it could make his symptoms worse instead of better.

      I’m sure I’m telling Noah about the flood now, so please forgive me, but you’re husband’s tactics are damaging for you, for your son, for the relationship between both of you and your son, and even if the father’s actions are strictly out of concern, his ignorance for data and easily researchable questions via wifi/4g points toward lazy, or at worst manipulative or borderline narcissistic. If your son is only at Dad’s on the weekends, then maybe this is an option, but be aware that being on meds 24/7 can create resistance and more will be needed to obtain the same efficacy (this sometimes happens slowly so keep an eye, since he young up the dose as slowly as possible and only when needed). My psychiatrist said take time off on weekends but I’m now in medical school so take as needed (see, I turned out fine, mostly lol jk).

      The worst outcome from this situation isn’t just related to your son’s ADHD medication and whether he is taking it or not, but that his father slowly seems to be undermining your authority, by going against what you as his mother knows is best. I know for a fact that because you were not only willing to put your son on adhd medication, but notice something wasn’t particularly working at school or elsewhere, and wanted to seek out on your own volition an answer to create an experience for him that is as fun and normal, not to mention nurturing,as possible,one in which he can grow up to thrive. His dad’s opposition to your actions not only are unwarranted but as he grows into teenage years he might eve be more at risk for thrill seeking behaviors (more so than teenagers in general, I mean).

      Luckily both ADHD and intelligence are highly heritable, and being as you get your ability to be intelligent from your mother’s side in largely higher proportion, he sounds like a great kid who’s dad just needs to be force fed the science lol. It’s also a man thing to be against taking pills in general, but in this case especially it’s not advised as per brain chemistry reasons stated just above.

      You sound like an amazing mum–the kind of support one needs when being diagnosed with ADHD is huge, and it really does make or break your goals and self-concept for the rest of your adult life (getting on top of that now is key).

      Random thought that might work re:dad, if it is a power thing, maybe give him power over something else related to son like nights out at a movie or sports games together. He will think he has more power or that hes held in esteem which will only make him better in the future. Good luck!

      • #88814

        I don’t disagree with the points you’re making, but I do not think your solutions are productive ideas. You seem to be encouraging aggressive confrontation and/or manipulation, which are not only ineffective but can cause undue psychological stress for the child. Remember that between these two adults is that child who loves and looks up to both. How they manage to resolve their differences will not only have a positive or negative effect on him, it’ll also be how he learns to settle differences himself in life. Divorced parents at war with each other can be worse in the long run than the effects of interrupted medication.

    • #88944
      Penny Williams

      Ideally, the two of you sit down and write up a parenting plan that will be followed by both parents, in both homes. When the two parents feel completely different about what is best for the child, this is very difficult. I recently learned that there are parent mediators and co-parenting therapists that can help with this process, rather than entering the legal system. It does sound like you will likely need a neutral 3rd party to help you come to an agreement.

      When Parents Disagree About ADHD Medications

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

    • #89138

      I suggest that mom does not discuss disagreement between parents on use of meds with the child. Instead, in curious, unemotional way, ask the child how he feels using the ADHD meds, how he feels not using meds. What is the difference? Don’t say “good” or “better” or “worse.” Ask for a description of how he feels and see what words he uses. Repeat those words back to him: Ask, “How do you like feeling….(use his words)? Give him the opportunity to show his preference. If he brings up “But Dad says,…” don’t react to “Dad” but say, “How do YOU feel?” Leave Dad out of it. Let him know you are open to conversation about medication and you accept his feelings about it. You may continue to give him meds, saying the doctors say this is good for you, but you have shown that it’s about his well-being not about a power struggle with Dad. You can repeat this conversation in a few weeks. It’s a start.

    • #89141

      If your son is only there on weekends I would let it be. But if it is also affecting school, which may become more problematic as he gets older, then I would start to take action.

      If you can get an unbiased third party like family doctor or social worker to speak to him about his concerns and try to see if there is some common ground I would start there. If your ex can hear someone other than you about this it may help you get to a place where you can agree on what to do for your son.

      However, my personal experience was that in my case this was not effective. If that happens I would weigh the distress your son may experience being unmedicated at school versus the distress you will experience if you end up trying to gain control through court. FYI going through family court is time-consuming and exhausting, and does create conflict. However in my case gaining control was 100% necessary and has changed my son’s life. He went from being suspended multiple times to winning the principal’s award in grade 6. If your child can manage ok without meds I would not advise going through this. But if his school experience is seriously effected and your ex will not offer alternative solutions such as being willing to homeschool or provide therapy, you may eventually have to consider this. If he doesn’t believe your son even has ADHD you may end up having to get a court order than he give your son the medication or grant you the ability to give it to him regardless of his wishes. The reality is that many doctors will NOT PRESCRIBE OR TREAT if both parents are not on board and he could potentially block you from getting the medication. I would start documenting communications to have something to prove he is resisting should it come down to court. If you can avoid it, much better for everyone. But I do not agree with the notion it should be avoided forever. I wish I had taken action sooner to be honest.

    • #89156
      Crystal Quinones

      I first of all want to tell you that you are not alone. I am dealing with this same situation with my Sons father and have been for the past 4 years the worse part is my son doesn’t like taking his meds so he wont take them on his own it is a constant struggle. I have even brought this up during court and its just pointless.. I spoke with his doctor and although it is helpful for him to be consistent with his meds she said it was ok for him not to take his meds at his fathers house. I dont know what your schedule is for custody its a little easier for me because my son doesn’t go with his dad on weekdays. But maybe you can talk to the nurse at school and arrange something to where the days he is with his father, they could issue his medication when he gets to school as part of his IEP.

    • #89172

      I went through the same thing with my daughter’s father. Even after countless diagnoses from multiple different areas, including my daughter herself, he was still in denial. We still do go through it, but she’s old enough (14) now to know when she needs her meds and when she doesn’t, so she can self-advocate and take them herself. However, when she was younger, I had her take them at school, that way there wasn’t an issue if he didn’t want to give them to her or not, she just took them first thing in the morning at school. That was the best scenario for us and might work for you.

    • #89173

      For over six years, my ex and I have been arguing this very thing. I tried everything before I ever agreed to putting my son on meds and when nothing worked, I consulted my sons therapist and his doctor about meds. It was a night and day difference in school, but the ex always said I was drugging him because the teachers and I didn’t want to deal with the fact that he’s just being a boy. I agonized over the meds route, but I know it’s helping him. In an IEP meeting dad says he doesn’t have ADHD and the teachers should physically be forcing him to sit still and pay attention. Based on what medical facts, I don’t know. I received a text from dad with a video link to a pastor talking about how ADHD isn’t real and how it’s a made up problem because parents refuse to discipline. And finally this past visitation I got an angry text from dad saying I’m once again drugging our son and he won’t ever be trusted to hold a job, shoot a gun, or drive a car because he’s a zombie. Dad also said he refuses to give him the “drugs”. The 14 year old son is on 25 mg of strattera 2x a day. And he never acts “zombie” like when in school or home. He has realized the meds help so he took them to his grandparents so his dad couldn’t throw them away and he takes them on his own now. Dad likes control and I’ve had the discussion, argument, and knock down drag out so I understand your situation. I have no advice, just support. Continue to do what you know is best for your child. Best of luck.

    • #89186

      First thing: Don’t panic. Parents try to convince their kids of all kind of bulls**t but luckily most of it slides right off them.
      Explain to your son that sometimes people who love us aren’t always able to find the words to express their feelings and it makes them act in strange ways.
      Your ex isn’t doing this out of any authentic concern for your son. He’s obviously neck deep in grief, shame, guilt, denial, frustration, and regret over the divorce and it has short-circuited his logic. He can’t listen to reason because he’s just a big ball of angry sadness.
      Something about the whole topic of ADHD has has triggered this fear reaction and made him fixate on the ADHD. Was it the last thing you guys dealt with before the divorce?

      • This reply was modified 3 years, 3 months ago by penguindrooster. Reason: grammar
      • This reply was modified 3 years, 2 months ago by Penny Williams.
    • #89187

      Was this type of topic considered in the divorce? As in: If the child needs any kind of medical treatment (from anything as simple as glasses to potential surgery for a broken leg and needing a wheelchair), who has the authority? And what should happen in a disagreement? You said you didn’t want to get lawyers involved, but this has long-term (as well as just managing the ADHD) health implications for your child.

    • #89196

      Main thing: Don’t panic. Parents try to convince their children of all kinds of baloney but most kids are too smart to buy into it especially if one of the parents stays calm.

      Also, don’t try to reason with your husband. The stress of the divorce has triggered an underlying mental condition; you could be the most persuasive speaker on the planet and he’d still ignore you because he’s not thinking clearly.

      While you sound like you’ve started to heal, he’s still stuck in a painful loop of anger, remorse, embarrassment, shame, humiliation, and all the other emotions that come with the breaking up of a family.

      For whatever reason, he has fixated on meds and ADHD as the locus of his uncomfortable feelings. He could have seized on anything related to family life: pets, mealtimes, chores, sports, church, but for whatever reason his brain grabbed onto this topic.

      Keep reminding yourself it’s not about you or your authority; it’s not really about your son either. It’s a private war between him and his demons.

      See what strategies you can come up with to work around his problems while maintaining cordial relations until he comes to his senses.

      • This reply was modified 3 years, 3 months ago by penguindrooster. Reason: Paragraphs
      • This reply was modified 3 years, 3 months ago by penguindrooster.
    • #89197

      Hi! I can respond to Bert on this- in my state, parents hold decision making in four domains: religious, medical, educational, and extracurricular. These are typically shared, unless you can prove why they shouldn’t be… not an easy feat, unless you have in writing that he refuses.

      In my case, my ex also refused to medicate my son (mood stabilizer, later ritalin…) and blamed his behavior on his sister. Luckily, I had a guardian ad litem appointed to the case, as the divorce wasn’t final, and pushed HARD for final decision making in both medical and educational areas. She agreed.

      You got solid advice above- I’ll add to communicate with the ex in writing so you have some evidence should you ever want to push for legal decision making rights, here (and the court might side with you, as they’d prefer people comply with a doctor’s orders.. but the courts can also be a PIA and aren’t awesome… it took a pattern of unfollowed judge’s orders and multiple incidents before they seriously considered that he might not be making decisions in my child’s best interest.

      To summarize the advice you received I’d thumbs up (there’s a lot!)
      Ask your son how he feels on the meds- but only rely on his answer if he isn’t caving to stigma…
      Have the IEP require missed doses be given at school, or have the nurse at school give the meds
      Teach your son to advocate for himself and also to take his own medication

      I can’t imagine confronting your ex, even with facts and figures, will do much good- and in some cases might only make things worse, so I’d handle things knowing any reaction makes him feel in control.

      I’m sorry you’re going through this. It sucks, and it’s not co-parenting, and it’s really, really hard. Hang in there.

    • #89210

      It’s very simple…report him to child protective services. I think he will see things vastly different once they have a chat with him.

    • #89223

      This is unfortunately a very common problem. I have had this same issue for years with my son’s father. He is someone who is in denial of being ADHD himself in addition to other issues. Because my son lives with me and I am the primary parent, the one that has to go to the school when called about his behavior, etc. there is no compromise in my case. He either gives him his meds when my son is with him, which is rare as it is or, he simply doesn’t go. I spoke to a lawyer about this one time and it was mentioned that withholding medication from a child is a form of child neglect. I can’t or won’t let anyone jeopardize my son’s opportunity at being a successful young person who will one day grow into a man. I surely woulnd’t want him to walk the path his father has chosen and i will do whatever necessary to make sure this doesn’t happen.

    • #89289

      Hi there.
      I am in almost exactly same boat.
      My son is 10 and his dad denies he has ADHD and says its just my bad parenting.
      Despite multiple medication free trials that have shown a clear difference when my son is on / off medication.
      My son only has his medication (Ritalin short release) for schooling. ie. not in the weekends or school holidays. I give it to my son in the morning before school starts and again at lunch time because his dad refuses to allow the school to and will not give it to him on his days.
      My son feels very conflicted as he’s very loyal to both parents.
      I would love to talk more about this as it’s (sadly) reassuring that there are other parents dealing with these types of issues.
      If anyone wishes to chat further: tanya.chris@xtra.co.nz
      cheers Tanya

    • #89291

      In addition to above:
      Sometimes no matter how obvious a solution may seem, some people will simply refuse to see (as is the case in my situation, and maybe yours).
      The best thing you can do (in my opinion) is to make sure you don’t run down your child’s dad (no matter how much they deserve it) but that you talk with your child about how they feel when they are on and off medication, provide your child with ‘child friendly’ facts regarding ADHD as it comes up so that they will become their own best advocate for what they need to be successful at school.
      The thing i always tell my child is that i love him just the way he is. He’s not a bad / naughty kid and that some things he will find harder than other kids. Almost like a daily mantra.
      With the number of kids who seem to be going through or have gone thru similar conflict (as indicated above) i wonder if there’s any value in the kids having some contact with each other?

    • #89915

      I’m worried about how it’s going to affect our son psychologically to have his dad telling him he doesn’t have something that doctors, counselors, and his mom are telling him he does. I’m worried physically about the effects of going on and off medication haphazardly. I agree with that.

    • #89916

      This came as a shock to me. I knew his dad was reluctant to put our child on medication initially, but we reached that decision 5 years ago when our son was diagnosed towards the end of Kindergarten. I had no idea he’d been feeding mis-information to our child.

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