My best friends’ grandson was just diagnosed with ADHD. She was befuddled and worried about what it meant for him. She and I had many conversations about the challenges that came with helping to raise this adorable boy who she loves with all her heart, and I love too, as an adopted great-aunt! One thing she wasn’t sure about was how to address it with other people. So often, people think that kids with ADHD are “bad”, when they absolutely are not. What they are is different. These days when everyone is totally stressed out and being on home lock-down, parenting a kid with ADHD is while being super stresses out seems even more daunting!
I reached out to Peter Shankman, the man behind the podcast Faster Than Normal. His podcast embraces the concept that having ADD or ADHD is a gift, not a curse. This is what I wanted my friend to know. I asked him what parents of kids with ADHD should know- and here is what he said:
You need to know that your child are gifted, not broken. Parents freak out when their children get diagnosed - "OMG, there's something wrong with my child!" But in fact, having a faster brain is truly a gift, and will benefit them for the rest of their lives - As long as they know how to use that faster brain.
If you're used to driving a Honda Accord, then all of a sudden someone gives you a Ferrari, and you drive it like you drove the Honda, flooring it to get on the highway, you're going to be going 160 miles an hour in 2.7 seconds and probably crash into the car in front of you. You need to learn how to drive your faster brain.
Hyperfocus is a great gift of ADHD - But it needs to be set up correctly. For me, the best way to get into "hyperfocus mode" is to overload the Dopamine in my brain. How do I do that? I use the tools at my disposal that give me all the dopamine I need - Exercise, for instance. If I'm about to take a long flight somewhere, I know that I'll have a ton of time to work. So to get ready for that level of focus, I'll work out right before I leave for the airport. A hard bike ride or run will flood my brain with the chemicals I need to keep me focused for hours on end. For kids, this might be running around and playing with their friends before heading inside to do homework or study.
Direct The Hyperfocus – Declutter! To direct that hyperfocus, it's imperative for me that my space be clean and free of clutter, and choice is eliminated as much as possible. Studying one book? That's the book I have in front of me. Phone, computer, everything else is put away and out of sight. When you have ADHD, out of sight really does mean out of mind.
Listen To The Story. Listening to your ADHD child can sometimes seem like a game of "Telephone." You start on one topic, and wind up 14 topics away in five minutes. That's ok. Go with it. If your child occasionally gets too far off topic, you can remind them of the question you were asking, but let them tell you stories. ADHD'ers are naturally born storytellers, and we're usually really good at it. Encourage that. Good storytellers generally wind up with higher paying jobs and happier lives, as well.
Stick With The Routine.The daily routine is easy to manage once you simplify it. I have two sides to my closet. The left side is labeled “office/travel” and has t-shirts and jeans. The right side is labeled “speaking/TV” and has button-down shirts, blazers, and jeans. That’s it. My suits, sweaters, vests, all sit in another closet in another room. I look at my calendar and either pick from the left or the right and I’m done with thinking about what to wear. The lack of decision prevents me from winding up sitting in my living room an hour later, still undressed, looking up an ex-girlfriend because I found a sweater she’d given me. The more you can simplify/remove from your day, the easier it is to manage.
Love Them.Talk to your kids. As my parents told me in when I asked them how they managed to survive parenting me, they simply said "we never stopped loving you."
We have always loved her little guy. He has at time been a challenge, but he’s always been a blessing. Having a diagnosis doesn’t change a thing except that we have more knowledge on how to embrace his different, and help him be the very best that he can be.