Should you tell your child they have ADHD?

To tell or not to tell?

When my son was first diagnosed with ‘Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,’ I often wondered if I should just be honest with him about his neurological condition. I racked my brains daily for an answer to this question, and asked myself often:

 ‘what is it exactly that I am hoping to achieve by telling my son the truth?’

The answer to this question was always the same. In the very early days I believed that by being honest with my son, it would give him the answers that he was already looking for subconsciously. Deep down, my son knew that there was something wrong.

Children are not silly. They know when something is up. If I have the information which can clarify for my son why he does what he does, than why wouldn’t I tell them?

My son was genuinely relieved to know why he can’t sit still, why he is overly reactive, why he is impulsive, and why he is unable to control his hyperactivity. For him, it was like a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders.

The reason why I told my son about his ADHD

Before I told my son that he had ADHD, he had already been experiencing feelings of inadequacy and low-self esteem for two years or more. He was angry at himself for behaving the way he did, for not being able to manage his own behaviour, and he often described himself as a bad person. For a mother, this was absolutely alarming to hear him say these things about himself.

My son was very articulate in the way he was able to describe how terribly inadequate he honestly felt; especially when he observed the behavioural control that his siblings, and peers were able to exhibit, without needing to go to lot of effort. This internal dislike of himself was affecting his confidence, his self esteem – and it was taking away from his happiness.

I wasn’t prepared to sit back and watch my son sit in these feelings daily, when I knew that I could sit down and explain in child – like terminology exactly what was going on for him in regard to his self-esteem, hyperactivity, and impulse control.

The big turn around:

  • My son immediately began to feel better about himself, and his own abilities.
  • We now work on the behaviours together, and we talk regularly about behaviour, consequences, and thinking before one makes a choice.
  • I frequently take the opportunity to spend time talking to my son about how all children misbehave, and how imperative it is that he doesn’t single himself out, because he really isn’t any different to any other child.
  • I don’t hear negative self-talk as much, and he really is quite confident now.
  • He knows he has a lot of support in relation to ADHD.
  • My child’s mood has improved by 75%.

Things to consider before telling your child they have ADHD?

  • A large percentage of people have negative and conflicting views about ADHD, including the view that ADHD children are just naughty children – and the disorder doesn’t exist.
  • Telling a child this information can go one of two ways:
  1. It can either clarify what they already knew, and relieve their internal discontent with themselves.
  2.  or, an ADHD diagnosis could actually make the child feel more inadequate than they felt before.
  •  The ADHD child is going to require a lot of emotional support and reassurance from their parents’ while they get used to the idea that they have a neurological condition.

Pros to telling your child about their ADHD diagnosis

  • The child knows what they are dealing with, and can work with their parents’ in regard to addressing the symptoms.
  • When a child has the knowledge about their disorder, they are able to reflect on it, understand it, and eventually come to accept it. Knowing what problem one has, is absolutely critical to rectifying it.
  • The child’s self-esteem will most likely improve because they will now officially know why they behave why they do. This is when they will most likely come to the realisation that there isn’t really anything they could have done to have stopped the development of the disorder in the first place.
  • The child can now work on strategies to improve their behaviour with the support of a close knit family unit, and programmes such as ‘cognitive behavioural therapy.’

Cons to telling your child about their ADHD diagnosis

Your child may:

  • feel deeply inadequate because they have ADHD.
  • feel embarrassed by their neurological condition, and view themselves as an embarrassment.
  • go through a grieving process in regard to being diagnosed with ADHD in the first place.
  • find the diagnosis hard to swallow, which may lead to regular upset from the child because they feel ashamed.
  • find it difficult to accept that ADHD will most likely impact their life well into adult – hood.
  • find it difficult to view themselves outside of the ADHD diagnosis, as a valuable, intelligent person with a lot to give.
  • see ADHD in very black and white terms, rather than look at the positive aspects related to having ADHD that makes the child beautifully unique.

How did I tell my child he has ADHD

I:

  • told him he has symptoms of ADHD, and I explained each of the symptoms, one by one.
  • explained that a lot of people with ADHD just so happen to excel at a particular skill, whether that be a sport, an academic activity, or something of a more industrial nature.
  • pointed out all the famous superstars with ADHD.
  • explained to him that these symptoms do not mean he is somewhat inadequate. Instead, these symptoms mean that he just needs to work a little bit harder on his behaviour; more so than other children.
  • explained to him that everybody has something – and I mean absolutely everybody.
  • told him about my quirky, hyperactive  characteristics as a child.
  • have explained to him that what we have in front us are symptoms, and characteristics that most children exhibit to some degree.
  • told him that I love his quirky caring nature, and I couldn’t have hoped for a more loving, fun, exuberant child.

 

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