Do You Really Understand How Your Child Experiences ADHD?

bored childWhen parenting children with attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), many individuals focus on the visible symptoms. These usually relate to children not paying attention and having trouble sitting still. While these are obviously key symptoms in ADHD, understanding in more depth what it is like for children with ADHD is important for effective parenting.

Since children experience ADHD symptoms differently, I encourage you to ask your child what it is like for him or her. Here are some insights—generalizations only­—into how many children experience various aspects of ADHD:

  • Listening skills: Many children with ADHD have significant difficulty listening to instructions or requests and following through on them. Such individuals likely hear the instruction/request to at least some degree, but don’t fully process it in a way that allows them to take action immediately. For many children, once they forget the instruction/request in the moment, it’s almost as if it never happened. Alternatively, some children remember the instruction/request but have trouble starting the task and are prone to procrastination. 
  • Thought processes: Many children with ADHD have thoughts in their head that are jumbled, almost like a snow globe that is shaken. They have a bunch of things on their mind or things that they want to communicate, but the mental disorganization makes them difficult to pull out and express.
  • Hyperactivity: Many children who have difficulty sitting still or controlling their impulses feel helpless because they may try to regulate their actions but prove unsuccessful. They may feel strong urges to act on impulses and lack the willpower to stop themselves. Many children take action before even thinking about whether they should take that action. As a result, children often become very frustrated in their inability to sit still and regulate their impulses appropriately. Getting into trouble at school or at home for their actions can make them feel worse, and has the potential over time to lead to feelings of sadness associated with depression. In addition, children may develop anxiety about their inability to regulate their actions.
  • Motivation: Many parents of children with ADHD perceive their children as lazy. Even children with ADHD sometimes view themselves as lazy. While individuals with ADHD may appear lazy, in fact it may be that such individuals lack adequate stimulation to carry out tasks that they are not interested in. Some children with ADHD can sit for hours playing video games, especially fast-paced action games. Some children can sit and read for hours and hyperfocus. However, these same children often have trouble focusing in school and can’t devote the same focus to tasks that are not so interesting. This difficulty frustrates both children and parents.

Living with ADHD is often not easy for children and parents alike. However, gaining a clearer understanding of how your child experiences ADHD symptoms, getting him or her proper support (behavior therapy, medication if appropriate, extra support in school), and providing strong structure/parenting skills at home can make a huge difference in helping a child to cope effectively with symptoms. With proper support, which is greatly helped by early behavioral intervention, children with ADHD can learn to cope effectively with symptoms, minimize later mental health issues such as depression or anxiety related to ADHD, and achieve their full potential. Finally, the large number of doctors, attorneys, mental health professionals, business owners, and individuals in other fields with ADHD suggests that with proper support, individuals don’t have to let symptoms impede them from achieving their long-term goals.

© Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Carey Heller, PsyD, ADHD: Inattention, Impulsivity, and Hyperactivity Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Trevor

    July 2nd, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    There is only one true way to know how your child experiences ADHD and that is to have experienced it for yourself. If you haven’t then you can have no real idea of how they process things and how overwhelming the world can be when it feels like there is always this stimuli to take you away from what you are supposed to be focusing on.

  • Buck

    July 3rd, 2014 at 11:53 AM

    When we finally pinned it down that these were the kinds of things that my son was experiencing in school I have really tried to take a breather and listen to the things that he tells me. He is old enough now that he understands what his distractions are and the things that he needs to do to create a space mure conducive to positive behavior than regular classroom settings do. While he wasn’t comfortable talkign to teachers about thsi kind of thing that is when I can step in and be the advocate for him that he is too afraid to be for himself. At other times though I try to follow his lead so that he is still in control and so that he recognizes that there are small things that he can do on his own to make things much more manageable for him.

  • kerrigan

    July 4th, 2014 at 6:43 AM

    There are things that can be done to avoid the pitfalls of having ADHD. Some of that will involve taking medication but there are other things like diet modification and exercise that can make a huge difference too.
    For most of us it is about trying a whole lot of different things and figuring out what is going to work best for us. What works for one may not work for the rest, but you might have to try a few things to get that just right combination.

  • AnneMarie

    July 8th, 2014 at 4:27 PM

    There is so much misunderstanding about this that I think that sometimes the doctors are just as baffled by it as parents and kids are.
    I think that there are many times when we are simply reaching for those things that we think could or should help with no real basis for it other than it may have worked for someone else.
    It is key to our understanding of this to see that one size does not fit all and it does not manifest itself the same in everyone. We all are unique and with that has to come a unique approach to ADHD.

  • Carey Heller, Psy.D.

    July 10th, 2014 at 11:44 AM

    Thank you very much for reading this article and sharing your thoughts!

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