What My Child’s ADHD Taught Me

When I found out my son had , I learned as much about the condition as possible. I read books and articles and asked endless questions of the professionals who were suddenly part of our lives—the neurologist, therapist, teacher, case manager and tutor. I got a great deal of helpful information and advice.

But over the years, the most valuable knowledge has come from my son, and from helping him get a handle on his ADHD. Here’s some of what I’ve learned—and wish I’d known sooner.

My worrying and nagging doesn’t help.

No matter how hard I try, I’ve never totally been able to stop doing either one. I do worry about my son and what his future holds. But fretting does nothing to impact that future; it just keeps me from appreciating the progress happening now.

As for nagging, I’ve never seen a single positive change happen because of it. It just makes everyone stressed out, which makes change even harder.

His greatest strengths are the most important ones.

My son is kind, caring, funny and creative. He also has great empathy and perseverance. At his afterschool and weekend jobs, he’s proven himself to be reliable and hardworking. That’s not always the case at school. But I have to remind myself that he won’t be living his whole life at school.

The best solutions often come from him.

My son has executive functioning issues on top of his ADHD. When he was young, I didn’t understand why he couldn’t get dressed by himself. Even when I pulled the clothes out for him, he just sat there until I came over to help. One night I went in to say goodnight to my son, and found that he had laid out his clothes on the floor in the shape of a person: T-shirt, shorts (underpants on top), socks and sneakers.

It was the first time I understood he has his own way of making things make sense. And ultimately, that’s what will get him through.

He needs my feedback, even if it’s not positive.

It’s not pleasant having to tell your child that he’s talking too much or annoying people by fidgeting. But I’d rather be the one telling him than leaving it to other people to comment or react.

It took me a while to realize that my son doesn’t always recognize what he’s doing until you say it directly. Once he hears it, he can catch himself and stop. The hard part for me is doing it calmly, and not critically.

You can be aggravated and frustrated—and still love someone to death.

There have been times when I’ve wanted to throttle my son. I’m sure he’s felt the same way about me. But no matter how upset we may get, it doesn’t make a dent in how much we love each other. I will always feel a strong and special bond with my son. And nothing can take that way.

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About the author

About the author

Gail Belsky is executive editor at Understood. She has written and edited for major media outlets, specializing in parenting, health, and career content.