“I Need Your Help, Mom”
I’ve been waiting six years to hear these words from my son, and I couldn’t be happier.
There’s a lot the doctors don’t tell us when they diagnose our children with ADHD. What is the biggest omission? For me, the most grievous omission is the fact that it takes a long time, and a lot of diligence and tears, to learn how to effectively parent a child with ADHD.
There’s a steep learning curve to this special parenthood, people. The first thing you can do for your family is to acknowledge and accept that getting a handle on managing ADHD effectively takes time. About two years after my son, Ricochet, was diagnosed with ADHD, at the age of six, I felt like I was beginning to understand my kid and his special needs.
That revelation brought little relief, though. My kid struggled, and being his momma remained challenging. At eight years old, he lacked self-awareness and the ability to regulate his emotions.
Fast-forward a few years, to the sixth anniversary of his ADHD diagnosis. Ricochet is now a preteen in middle school. He is still two to three years behind his peers in maturity and social and executive functioning skills. However, he is beginning to take stock of his struggles and ask for my help to develop coping strategies.
I am over the moon. I haven’t stopped smiling since he asked me for a private talk last night, sat me down in his room, closed the door, and said, “I’m getting aggravated in school this week, and I need your help. Can you help me figure out a strategy?”
I’m still beaming, as I write this. This is an incremental goal we’ve been working hard to achieve for six exhausting years. Ricochet is recognizing troublesome behaviors, sensory overwhelm, and emotional dysregulation, and looking for ways to manage these weaknesses. Yippee!
Ricochet got cozy on his bed, and I lay down next to him to make him more comfortable. “I am frustrated by all the other kids talking too much and being off task when I’m trying to work,” he said. “It makes my thoughts bounce all over the place and I can’t focus.
“When I’m too overwhelmed, I lay my head on my desk and try to calm myself and center,” he added, drawing an imaginary line with his finger down the center of his forehead. “But it’s still loud, and they’re talking about what they’re doing after school, so I’m aggravated and not able to calm down. Why does this happen to me?”
I made sure to have a concerned expression as I answered. “Because you have ADHD, Buddy. You are super-sensitive to sound and your brain is easily distracted. I know that being bombarded by noise and distractions is frustrating. What do you think could help?”
“Well, I thought about earplugs,” he said, with maturity, “but that will only muffle the noise. Muffled noise is more distracting for me because my mind works harder to focus on what I am hearing.”
“Yep! I totally get that, dude. The same exact thing happens to me!” I said. “Would a quiet place to do your work help when you get overwhelmed?”
Ricochet answered quickly, “It is noisy everywhere in my school! I don’t know where I can get a quiet place.”
“I bet your special-ed teacher will have some ideas to help you with this, Buddy. Talk to her about it when you get into school tomorrow, OK?” I was out of ideas already, truth be told, and his resource teacher is his confidante for situations like this.
“OK,” he said. His body softened more as we talked, and I could tell that just acknowledging his struggle and validating his feelings was calming his anxiety. He needed hope that this could get better, and that’s what I offered him. I told him how proud I was that he talked about his feelings and asked for help to problem-solve and look for solutions.
Another hurdle cleared! Now bring on tomorrow.