The days, weeks and months after an ADHD diagnosis are often filled by confusion, overwhelming stress, and information overload.
Who do you believe? What books, articles, and blogs do you read? Which behaviors do you even pay attention to? What matters, and what can you ignore for now?
HOW DO YOU GET CONTROL – of your child, yourself and all of your emotions (that are likely pretty escalating and on edge these days)??!
It’s enough to make you throw your hands up in the air and walk away. But you can’t. Because this is your kid… his/her life… and it’s your job. ♥
Below are the top four things you need to get started after a diagnosis.
- Find a Trusted Source to Help Educate You
I know that sounds pretty simple and obvious, but there are a couple of important things here:
First, you need just the right amount of information – not too much, and not too little. There are so many books, groups, and blogs. I remember the stack of books that I quickly ordered from Amazon after our diagnosis. Over time the stack was half-read, dusty, and ultimately served as expensive (and oversized) coasters on my bedside table. Their presence made me feel guilty and that certainly wasn’t helpful.
Here are the things you absolutely need to understand.
- How does ADHD impact the development of your child’s brain?
- How does ADHD impact executive function?
- What is your child’s assumed executive age?
My favorite source of information about ADHD is the acclaimed Dr. Russel Barkley. His book for parents is called “Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete Authoritative Guide for Parents,” and it’s the first book I recommend parents pick up.
Why do I like Dr. Barkley? Because he’s one of the aforementioned ADHD researchers in the world. He tells parents about ADHD from a scientific, matter-of-fact point of view. There isn’t a lot of fluff in Dr. Barkley’s writing, and the bottom line is that I trust his conclusions.
Is there value in reading about the (many!) positive aspects of ADHD? Absolutely!!!
But I want you to read them in the context of the scientific information about ADHD. Every ADHD diagnosis criteria is different.
It’s really easy to get drawn into titles like “The Top 10 Reasons ADHD is a Gift.” But don’t fool yourself – ADHD is best used as a strength only after you actually understand what you’re working with.
Looking for other titles that land on my favorites page? Click here to take a look at my collection.
- Begin Tracking Your Child’s Progress
When you’re working with ADHD and its complexities, it’s hard to know how things are going. Sometimes you wonder whether all the things you’re doing to help your child are having any impact at all. Other times it seems that things get way worse before they get better and it’s hard to know whether to stay the course in treatment or make a change.
Often parents are clouded by the most recent spate of trouble (a phenomenon called “recency”), and they’ll have a difficult time accurately telling the doctor about how things are progressing.
Really, the only way to address this struggle is to begin tracking your child’s progress – their behavior, interventions you’re trying, and all the related “stuff.”
But tracking feels like just “another thing” that you’re going to fail at. Who has time for that? What should you even track? How do you track it?
Luckily, there is a new (and free) online tool by Esteem that guides you through each of the steps.
Simply go to chooseesteem.com, sign up, set up a profile for your child with ADHD and the system walks you through the process of better understanding your child’s unique symptom profile and deciding where to start working with your child. The ADHD diagnosis in children can vary from child to child.
Even better, the assessments Esteem uses to help you track and monitor are the same tests your child’s doctor uses.
Over time, Esteem prompts you to repeat assessments over time to monitor your child’s progress. They then put all of that information into an easy-to-access pediatrician report that you can print off and use with your child’s doctors.
Whether you use Esteem, or a pen-and-paper approach doesn’t matter. The point is to try to make sense of the chaos in order to see your child’s progress or regression over time.
Don’t let yourself get lost in the inevitable chaos of your child’s ADHD journey.
- Talk with your child about his or her ADHD Diagnosis.
Kids with ADHD are put in as much as a bind as you are when the diagnosis hits. While you may not be able to communicate everything (age and circumstances are rarely ideal), it’s critical that your child knows that ADHD doesn’t define who he or she is.
Many successful people have been diagnosed with ADHD, and while it certainly presents a challenge, your child needs to be reassured that it’s a challenge you can and will tackle together.
Social situations may be more difficult when a child is working with ADHD. Learning, memory and the perception of time can be affected, too. That’s why it’s important for your child to learn self-advocacy as early as possible so their needs are met by their teachers, other family members, and friends.
Even amid the stress and chaos, one of the most important things you can do is reassure your child that they are not alone. It sounds simple, but between the tantrums and difficulties of everyday life, finding the time to reaffirm this can make all the difference in maintaining a healthy relationship with them.
In the end, it’s important not to put too much focus on all the negative aspects of a diagnosis of ADHD in children. It’s easy to lose yourself to doubt and the overwhelming challenges that come when you first get the news. Remember that there’s support out there for you, too, and that you are not alone in your efforts to raise a happy and healthy kid with ADHD.
- Begin a Personal Mindfulness Practice
Most of the parents who I work with have a level of personal anxiety and reactivity that they are dealing with.
Sometimes moms tell me they’ve struggled with anxiety for their entire lives. Other times they feel like their child’s ADHD symptoms and other life stressors have brought it on.
Either way, parents are experiencing a level of anxiety that is not helping. In fact, it’s probably feeding some of your most troublesome cycles at home.
The most beneficial thing you can do for your own anxieties, happiness, and parenting skills is to develop a mindfulness practice.
Yeah, I know that sound a little woo-woo. But it’s true. Let me explain a little.
“Mindfulness is a pause – the space between stimulus and response. That’s where choice lies.” Tara Branch
Mindfulness is the space that you can create between your child throwing a temper tantrum over nothing, saying something incredibly disrespectful, or hurting his sibling… and your chosen parenting response.
Mindfulness allows you to take a breath between how you want to react to your child (yelling, sending them to their room, saying something you regret), and how you actually choose to respond.
It’s in this space that you can move from gut instincts and triggered reactions to more thoughtful – more effective – approaches.
Raising kids with ADHD is hard work, and off-the-cuff parenting tactics often don’t work.
Parenting kids with ADHD requires you to be better than average, whether you feel up to it or not. Mindfulness is the key to rising to the occasion.