Love: The foundation of your child’s ADHD treatment
Underpinning every treatment plan, behavioural therapy session, list, schedule, reminder, consequence or incentive is your love for your child. This may seem like a no-brainer, but what can we do to make our ADHD-diagnosed child actually feel loved so that they can grow into happy, successful human beings?
This is not ignoring the fact that parenting an ADHD-diagnosed child can be challenging and overwhelming and often, parents are dealing with a stressful family situation. As one mother of a son with ADHD said: “The best advice we got was that if we ever needed help, we should ask for it, because there was always something we could figure out together that could help. The worst thing would be to allow ourselves to become so frustrated with our son’s behaviour that we would stop loving him.”
“As you wade through treatments and therapies, never lose sight of what’s important. As you face challenges, and celebrate successes, keep the focus on love,” says US-based child psychiatrist Edward Hallowell in his book, Superparenting for ADD: An Innovative Approach to Raising Your
Distracted Child. He espouses the importance of love in recognising your child’s special gifts and building up his confidence and self-esteem. “As a parent, how you approach your child’s ADHD will set the tone for how your child manages their ADHD. When you show them compassion and understanding, you teach them to love themselves and see their strengths.”
Here is how to build your child’s confidence and the parent-child relationship:
Be the unshakable base of support that will set the tone for all interactions to come. Start their days with smiles and when they come home and reach out to you, look at the child who needs to be known and loved as he is. Hallowell emphasizes that loving acceptance is the most important thing ADHD-diagnosed teens need in dealing with symptoms. Also, acknowledge the difficulties your child faces and express your love and support to get through the rough times.
Your child could be dealing with a steady stream of negative feedback which negatively affects their self-esteem. Positive interactions can help fortify them against this, e.g. play games, exercise, or do an activity together.
Validating your child’s feelings acknowledges that their emotions are understandable within their viewpoint (through the lens of ADHD) and within the situation. Validating feelings is not about condoning bad behaviour, rather it conveys deep empathy towards your child. This can be taken further by giving them a voice in their treatment decisions, especially as they get older.
Identify your child’s talents, strengths, interests and dreams. Encourage the pursuit of whatever interests him and teach him to see and believe in what he can do. Be careful of not using these activities as a reward for good behaviour or withholding them as a form of punishment. And if you can’t identify your child’s interests immediately, Hallowell encourages parents to trust the process that love initiates, “Keeping loving and trusting that one day your child’s gifts will appear,” he says.
Avoid the tendency to focus on what your child can’t do. Pay attention to your child’s successes no matter how small. Let them know that you noticed what they did. If there’s an area that your child excels, praise her for it, but at the right time, with the right words. Too much praise and your child will come to expect it. If you withhold praise, your child may lose hope and stop trying.
Reframe ADHD challenges with positive traits.
By reframing ADHD’s negative symptoms with positive traits, Hallowell says that parents can avoid feelings of shame and fear.
Adapted from Superparenting for ADD: An Innovative Approach to Raising Your Distracted Child
Hallowell’s repeated advice to parents: “Hang in there. Keep loving him. Keep showing up. Keep trying. Keep setting limits, offering new ideas, making deals, wrestling with one catastrophe after another. Just don’t give up. Don’t write him off. One day all your love and all your efforts—and his—will pay off.”