- I’m a mom of two kids, 10 and 12, both of whom have been diagnosed with ADHD.
- It wasn’t until the pandemic that I noticed how different they were from their classmates.
- I learned that my parenting needed to change to align with their needs.
Before I learned that my children, ages 10 and 12, have ADHD, I struggled to make them behave at home and in public, which was a source of constant embarrassment.
I found myself screaming, bribing, and pleading with them to sit still, be quiet, and behave, which never seemed to work. After COVID-19 hit, I learned I need to adjust my approach to get through to their differently wired brains.
When the pandemic forced us into remote school and I could compare them with other students on the screen, I realized my children’s behavior was not like the other kids’ behavior.
My daughter struggled to pay attention for longer than a few minutes, while her classmates seemed engaged and focused. My son could focus longer, but he often interrupted because he couldn’t control his impulse to speak.
I spoke with their teachers and learned that both were often distracted and impulsive, more than other students.
After an extensive evaluation that included questionnaires for the family and the school, interviews with the clinician, and psychological tests for the children, I learned they both have varying degrees of ADHD.
My parenting needed to change
The National Survey of Children’s Health suggests that attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, affects about 10% of school-aged children in the US. This disorder can cause short attention span, hyperactive behavior, impulsivity, disorganization, mood swings, and inability to control anger among other symptoms.
More than acting silly or restless, my kids struggle to manage their emotions, especially my daughter. When she’d get in a fight with her brother, she’d punch or, worse, bite hard enough to draw blood. I thought she’d get better with maturity, but not much had changed at 10 years old.
I learned that problems with behavior, anger, irritability, and emotional dysregulation are hallmark traits of ADHD.
But there are strategies parents and caregivers can use to help kids learn coping skills and prevent disruption. As I continued to read up on parenting neurodivergent children, I learned I needed to adapt my approach to get through to them.
Our family decided that when my daughter cries and lashes out at her brother or us, she gets an immediate time-out in her room — or in a corner if we’re not home — with no technology.
When my son acts out, he immediately loses his phone privileges for however long we decide is appropriate. It’s hard to embarrass them in front of friends or in public, but it’s made a world of difference.
I also learned it’s helpful to reward them for positive behavior. If we get to the end of the week without tantrums, whining, or major fits, I’ll let them pick a small monetary reward, like robux — virtual money in their favorite game, “Roblox” — or ice cream out together.
I am more confident with help from experts
Medication can help children with ADHD, as it has mine. My son’s outbursts in class have stopped, and my daughter can focus through a full day of school. We’re working on the emotion piece with a counselor.
Behavior problems take a toll on us parents, but experts skilled in coaching children, families, and adults with ADHD and support groups have helped us feel less alone.
I can’t promise that my kids won’t act silly at inappropriate times, and it’s still challenging being their mom, but I feel far more confident knowing these strategies.