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Support for Parents of Children with ADHD

written by: Genevieve Van Wyden • edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • updated: 2/23/2011

Find support for parents of children with ADHD. As you learn what ADHD is, be proactive and ask the doctor about parental support systems. They are out there and finding this kind of support can make a huge difference.

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    Overview

    The parents with a child diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) find themselves floundering in a strange new sea with no lifeboat to pick them up –– or so they feel. When the psychiatrist or psychologist delivers the diagnosis, “Your child has ADHD, . . ." they hear the acronym, but the rest of the doctor’s message fades in a miasma of confusion and fear. Along with these feelings, the parents are looking back at everything they have ever done, wondering, “What did I do wrong?"

    These parents need to know they can fall back on support for parents of children with ADHD.

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    Effects of ADHD On the Parents

    Parents can get support after a diagnosis of ADHD. Photo by Arvind Balaraman Parents of a child who is always on the go, acts impulsively, and who is easily distracted may be able to soothe their early fears by thinking, “He’s only two years old. Toddlers are normally like this." When the child is seven and regularly causing disruption in the classroom and not doing well academically, the fears may return. At this point, the parents may decide they need to get a professional opinion, if only to quell the quiet little voices in the backs of their heads.

    Once the parent and teacher questionnaires have been given to the psychologist/psychiatrist and the evaluation completed, the parents are regularly pushing down feelings of fear, attempting to rationalize their child’s symptoms and behaviors. When they get the official diagnosis, the doctor should also provide information about support for parents of children with ADHD. Why?

    Parents of a child diagnosed with ADHD blame themselves for their child’s condition. They feel frustrated, both at themselves –– and at the child. Anger, whether it has been expressed or not, has also developed. They are asking themselves why “their" child has this condition. They are also wondering if they did something during the pregnancy or child’s early years that “caused" the ADHD.

    The parents may also be blaming each other: “If you hadn’t smoked or continued drinking alcohol, maybe our child wouldn’t have ADHD." “Well, if you had only helped me in getting the baby’s room ready, maybe things would be different."

    If there are other children in the family, they may be struggling with anger and resentment as well. The parents should be aware of this and learn how to help their children face their feelings and express them in a safe, healthy way, states the National Institutes of Mental Health. [1]

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    Support for parents of children with ADHD is available, in the form of education, training and therapy. The sources are out there.
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    Parenting Education

    Parents who take their undiagnosed child for an evaluation and possible diagnosis of ADHD literally come home with another child after confirmation of the condition. They now have a solid explanation for why their child acts out, both at home and in the classroom. They see behind the inability to sit still in church or at Grandma’s dinner table during Christmas dinner. Just because they understand there is a real explanation behind the behaviors, this does not mean they magically understand “how" to parent this “new" child.

    The child’s psychologist or psychiatrist can provide the parents with names and contact information of mental health specialists who specialize in training parents about ADHD and how to interact with, discipline, and parent the child.

    As the therapist works with the child and parents, they teach them how to use consequences and rewards to help the child change undesired and desired behaviors. The parents learn how to provide immediate feedback, which is so valuable for the child. The parents also learn other behavior-shaping strategies. [1]

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    Addressing Negative Self Beliefs

    Once the family receives a definite diagnosis of ADHD, the parents are able to start working on their fears and feelings of blame (both toward themselves, as well as toward each other). They may fear they did something to “make their child sick," when they may not have done anything wrong. [1]

    The same mental health therapist who is teaching the parents and child how to live with the diagnosis helps the parents face their fears and self-blame. They talk with them, addressing what the probable causes of this condition are. They teach the parents to stop blaming themselves and allow them to grieve the loss of the “ideal" child they never had and love the child they do have.

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    CHADD

    Mental health professionals provide support for parents of children with ADHD. Once the parents have addressed their initial grief about their child’s diagnosis, they can look outward and and see other parents living in the same situation, advises the University of Michigan health system. [2]

    One such support that brings parents and families together is Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. CHADD is a national support group for families living with ADHD. Regardless of where the family lives, they can find a support group in or near their community. [3]

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    References and Photo Credit

    [1] Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). National Institutes of Mental Health, retrieved at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder/complete-index.shtml

    [2] ADHD: What Parents Need to Know. University of Michigan Health System, retrieved at http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/adhd.htm

    [3] Home Page. Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, retrieved at http://chadd.org/

    http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/agree-terms.php?phid=23045&photogname=Arvind%20Balaraman&photogid=1058&refurl=http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/Family_g212-Father_And_Son_p22903.html

    Parents can get support to deal with a diagnosis of ADHD

    Image credit: Arvind Balaraman, Free Digital Photos