Congratulations! Your child/spouse/student/sibling/parent/dog has just been diagnosed with ADHD. You are about to embark on an incredible adventure. Actually, you’ve probably been on the adventure for a while, now it just makes more sense. But what do you do now? What will be expected of you, the non ADHD person, in dealing with your loved one? I have thoughts on this. I myself have ADHD and so do my two kids, so I’ve seen this from multiple angles. Here are a few helpful things to remember.
- It’s not going to go away. Some people seem to think that kids will just “grow out of it.” And while its true hyperactivity will decrease over time, the ADHD person will be dealing with some form of it the rest of their lives. This will manifest in different ways. For some people it’s disorganization, for others it’s chronic lateness, For most people its an inability to focus on something for any length of time. It changes form, but it’s always with us. This is not necessarily a big deal.
- It’s not your fault. No one can cause anyone else to develop ADHD. It’s genetic. You’re born with it, just like being left-handed of having blue eyes. It’s true that it can be exacerbated by certain circumstances,, but that’s something that can be dealt with.
- We need your help to keep track of things. Keys? Maybe they’re still in my pocket? Homework? It was in my backpack ten minutes ago. Cell pone? I called it but i must have forgotten to take it off silent when I got out of the movie. Remote control? I think I set it down … somewhere. The most terrifying thing I say on a daily basis is “I just had that a few minutes ago.” So you will need to watch what we’re doing and help us develop strategies so we don’t lose everything. I have to follow my son around and put his things away constantly so they don’t get lost. My wife does the same thing with my daughter. And it seems like no matter how hard I try and put them in the same place every time, I have to budget ten minutes before I leave the house to look for my keys. It’s just going to happen.
- Sometimes, we’re TOO focused. Every ADHD person will have things they find particularly engaging, and will hyper-focus on those things. Because paying close attention is so rare, whenever we find we do have the capacity, we find it hard to stop and get severely grumpy when we’re interrupted and have a hard time turning our attention to anything else. This can be really frustrating when your kid is involved in an art project, but it’s time to go to soccer practice. For me, I hyper-focus on reading an writing. But even though we can be hyper-focused …
- No matter how engaging the activity, we will occasionally lose track of what we are doing. At least one point in the middle of every tv show we watch, I will have to turn to my wife and say something along the lines of “what is going on again?” Or “who is this guy and why is he shooting the other guy?” My son will look up from his video game, look around for his phone, and suddenly be cut down by those covenant bastards, at which point he’ll curse and throw his controller. And yes, this means that, if it’s your spouse we’re talking about, there will even be times they lose track of what they are doing during sex (not even kidding).
- We crave structure and organization, but at least at first, are unable to create and maintain it for ourselves. This can be one of the most frustrating things to deal with. We have a system, why can’t we follow it? The truth is that every ADHD person needs a different approach, and will need someone to come along and help them develop it and keep it going. Eventually, the training wheels will come off, but we still need frequent check-ins to make sure we’re not getting overwhelmed.
- Medication does a lot, but it’s not a cure-all. I am so thankful for my medication that I can’t even express it. Getting on adderal opened up my brain power in ways I’d never known before, enabling me to actually accomplish things. That said, I still struggle with motivation and organization and occasionally when doing something boring like cleaning the house, will end up standing in the middle of the living room, lost in constantly shifting thoughts. I find listening to audio-books and podcasts helps.
- We’re not closers. We have a tendency to start projects, get in the middle of them, then depart for greener, more interesting pastures. My son abandons lego projects, My daughter gets bored with games. I don’t know how many novels I’ve started and not finished. My wife looks at all of us and just thinks WILL ONE OF YOU JUST FINISH SOMETHING? So we need help sticking with things.
- We have a tendency to over-commit. Sure, I’ll help you with the food drive, and help you organize the 5K, and get that review to you by Wednesday, and read the book you wrote, and get the house cleaned up so we can have people over … and … and… usually this is because we don’t remember what it is we’ve already committed to, and everything sounds interesting. So help us keep track of who we’ve promised what, and remind us to use strategies to manage it all.
- We’re usually pretty creative at problem solving, sometimes TOO creative. Because we’re thinking many different thoughts at once, we’re somethings good at making connections neuro-typicals miss. This also manifest as using improper tools to get things done, just because that’s what we had available, like the time my daughter and I were trimming Christmas tress branches with a steak knife. It can be frustrating to watch, but it’s actually a good thing.
So those are a few thoughts about dealing with your loved one with ADHD. The best advice … keep a sense of humor about everything. And realize you probably wouldn’t want them to be normal anyway … at least most of the time.