Yesterday was a rough day. We have been dealing with a diagnosis of ADHD for our oldest son for a few months now. He also has some sensory processing issues, especially with touch and hearing. And while I wholeheartedly agree with the diagnoses, sometimes I just don't feel up to the challenge of having a challenging kid. Yesterday was one of those days.
This morning I heard an interview about labeling children on the Today show. To see the interview, click HERE Needless to say, it grabbed my attention. While this interview discussed ADHD, among other diagnoses, the family presented in this interview has three kids, yes, THREE sons with ADHD. Yikes.
Anyway, the mom in the interview is very open about sharing her families struggles with ADHD. I have yet to be that open, mainly because I want to protect my son. It's my job. But, on the other hand, as others have told me that I have an audience (albeit small) that would benefit from sharing our family struggles with this disorder.
But I don't wanna. LOL. (that's my best 3 year old impersonation). I know it will be very healing and cathartic (and hopefully, sometimes, funny) it also opens my boy up for attention and judgement. It opens my husband and I open for attention and judgement. And I think we get enough of that anyway, why would I want to add to it?
But, I know in writing about our struggles it might help someone else, or that other person may feel less alone by reading our story.
I think we are pretty fortunate in that we have a diagnosis. That in and of itself helps. Because not having a diagnosis makes a parent feel like a failure a lot of the time. We asked, "what are we doing wrong?" Carter can be challenging behaviorally. I don't mind it so much, except when we are in public. Because, honestly, I feel it reflects negatively on me as a parent. Why?
Hello! I am a psychotherapist that specializes in, guess what? Children, adolescents and families. I cannot tell you how many kids I have dealt with that has had this diagnosis. It is really, really different being on the other side of it.
I mean, I teach parents how to be good parents or to increase their parenting skills. Imagine how discouraging it is when you are trying to teach your child and your child does not cooperate? Especially before a diagnosis. I felt like a failure, a lot. I felt confused. I felt discouraged. I felt like something wasn't right but I didn't know what it was.
Carter was in childcare part time since he was six months old. It wasn't until he was two that we first heard a teacher (very unprofessionally) use the term ADHD for him. I was extremely angry and handled the situation by talking with the Director of the program. Thankfully, it was the day before the end of the school year. He went that final day and we did not return in the fall.
The next year was equally challenging for Carter. He was in a more structured environment and honestly, I loved his teachers, but I think they expected too much out of three year olds. Even though they were awesome, Carter didn't get as many chances of positive reinforcement as I would have liked, and that includes from me as well as the teachers. I was told Carter had a very difficult time sitting still. I cried. I went to the pediatrician. The ped said he was too young to do anything about diagnosing him at that time.
During Pre-K Carter did great. He was at the same school. Each day I picked him up I held my breath. I kept asking his teacher how he was doing? How was his behavior? I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. It never did. His teacher said he acted like a typical four year old. She had a hard time getting him to write, which for a boy is not unusual. And she said that if he didn't want to do something, he didn't do it (sounded familiar). My husband and I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, maybe Carter was growing into becoming more mature and being able to control himself. He was by no doubt active and always had been, but it seemed that maybe those nagging feelings in the back of my mind about ADHD could be put to rest.
But during the second 9 weeks of Kindergarten he started having issues. Never anything behavioral, more affecting his academics. By the Spring of his Kindergarten year Carter had been diagnosed and was on meds. It made a dramatic difference in his ability to complete work and staying on task. We knew as painful as it was, we had made the right decision. We could see a huge difference ourselves, in how Carter behaved and how much more positive we could be with him.
Being on medication, however, does bring side effects. Yucky side effects. I don't like them. I don't like how it changes my kid's personality. We have lots more meltdowns now. He's moody. He has what appears to be anxiety, but who knows for sure. We have him in counseling twice a month because, as a therapist, I know kids with ADHD are more prone to depression and anxiety (and other lovely disorders that I'm not going to mention, like ODD). With counseling, he is able to learn about how to control his outbursts, anxiety, and how to self-sooth and calm himself. I was able to teach him some things, but it really is better coming from someone besides your mom.
My history is working with kids who are at-risk. Below poverty level, lack of parental supervision, lack of resources, etc. So, I know Carter is not exposed to those risks as those kids are. At-risk kids tend to have more of the severe disorders I mentioned above. I keep telling myself Carter has A LOT going for him. And he does.
Socially, he has always been able to make and keep friends. It seems like everybody knows who Carter is at his school. They are always coming up to him and saying, "Hi, Carter". I'm not going to say he is popular, but, with a kid who has ADHD I would say he is doing pretty well in the social department. That is HUGE!!!! I hope it continues to be positive.
Carter is funny, smart, creative, loving and very, very caring. He has a lot more attributes but these stand out the most.
Of course, Greg and I do all that we can to help Carter and figure him out and I spend alot of times on my knees praying that Carter is able to be all that he can be. That God would use him and this diagnosis for His glory.
You know, I would like to say that since I am a therapist that I am the PERFECT mom to have a kid with ADHD. Well, I am the perfect mom for Carter, but I am very imperfect. I lose my temper. Sometimes I raise my voice. I get overwhelmed. Frustrated. Exhausted. Sometimes I am not very loving, patient or kind to Carter, especially when he is very hyper. I hate it when I lose it in public. Lately, that seems to be happening while I am trying to check in both boys at church. LOL. Talk about humbling. I had to go the the Chidlren's minister a few weeks ago and apologize one Wednesday night because I was so frustrated with my boys that I took it out on the check-in people at church. I'm pretty open about my shortcomings. I am thankful for grace and hoping that I am also making improvements along the way.
Anyway, here we are. I hope to write more openly about this now. And I hope to protect Carter. I want to do both. I need to do both.
If you are a parent dealing with a difficult, challenging kid and don't know what to do and feel like you are at the end your rope, go talk to a therapist and see if an evaluation is necessary. Believe me, they are not going to diagnose your kids unless they need to be diagnosed. They are trained . They are professional. You have options. You have choices. We went the medication route. You don't have to. But sometimes having answers and interventions can make a huge difference. I can tell you having a diagnosis helps me to feel like not so much of a failure. And to know that while Carter is challenging, we have interventions. We just have to work harder. And that's okay because he is worth it.
More to come....thanks for listening.