Lately, my 7-year-old has been asking me about ADHD. I’m glad, of course. It means she’s interested in my work and what I spend my free time writing about. It’s quite an honor actually, that my daughter would want to know more about something that is so important to me.
No one has suggested that either of my kids have ADHD. That doesn’t mean I don’t see traits in them. But those traits do not seem to be impairing them in a major way… so far. I count that as a blessing, and in turn, parent them to the best of my ability, aspiring to be someone who teaches them how to get the best out of themselves.
But if my kids were to be diagnosed, there are a few things I would want them to know about life with ADHD. I am certain that knowing these things could change their lives forever, and maybe yours too.
1. You are Not Your Diagnosis
Having ADHD means your brain is wired a bit different. Being diagnosed with ADHD is only an explanation of that wiring. It doesn’t explain who you are. You are so much more than a diagnosis. Let ADD be a part of you, but don’t ever think it is who you are.
2. It’s good to Be Different, but Normal to Want to Be the Same
Nobody wants to be different, least of all kids. When you’re young, fitting in can feel like the most important thing in the world. It’s not. You may not fully realize this until you are much, much older. One day, you will realize that being different can also be an advantage in life. It’s never too early to start celebrating your uniqueness. Learn to feel good about living in your own skin. This step alone will make all the difference.
3. Sometimes You Must Harness Your Energy, But You Should Never Squash It.
Yes, sometimes you do have to sit still and hold back your impulses. This is a good skill to learn, as hard as it may be. But that doesn’t mean you should hold back on your passion, energy or enthusiasm. Sit still when you have to, but don’t let anyone put out that spark of yours.
4. It’s Okay to Be Misunderstood
It sucks to feel as if no one gets you. But I get you, and your father gets you. And all the people in our family and our close friends who love you – they all get you. We love you for who you are – strengths and flaws, just the same. People might not always follow your train of thought, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have valid thoughts and interesting ideas. It just means that not everybody thinks the same way.
5. Being Normal Is Not the Same as Being Right
Being tidy, punctual, organized and stoic are nice characteristics to have. Spontaneity, courageousness, creativity and passion are also great characteristics to possess. There is no one right way to be. Some people have an easier time with certain things than you do, but that does not make them right. Be who you are and own it. It’s your life and no one can tell you how you should live it.
6. ADHD Isn’t All Bad
ADHD can make some things more difficult, but it’s not all bad. There are some real strengths to having your brain-wiring, strengths like creativity, enthusiasm and passion. One day, you will have more control over your life – how you spend your time and what you do. If you focus on doing the things that you are strong at and the things that you love to do, ADHD may become your biggest asset.
7. Push Yourself, Just A Little Bit Harder And A Little Bit Farther, Than You Think You Can Go
ADD will make you want to give up the moment things get uncomfortable. Just like you, there are many things in my life that I gave up on as soon as they started to feel too hard. Go a little bit further than you think you can go. You will surprise yourself. You are not a prisoner of your ADHD-brain. You are in charge of it, and can train it to work better for you. It’s like weight-lifting. You will only build brain-muscle by making your mind work harder than it wants to.
8. You Are Completely Okay As You Are
I love you no matter what. If your hair remains messy or you eat with your hands, if you forget your homework or leave finger prints on my clothes, if you don’t listen or lose my phone – I love you. We all make mistakes. You are good enough because you are you, not because of what you do.
9. I Try Harder than You’ll Ever Know
I want to be a better mom than I am. Sometimes, I make a big deal out of things because I am trying to prevent you from having the same struggles I’ve had in life. When I tell you off for doing things, it’s not usually because I am mad at you. It’s because I am mad at me, for not doing a better job of teaching you. This is something every parent does, ADHD or not. Know that when I don’t do a great job of being your parent, it’s only because I am human. Every day I try harder to do better than I did the day before.
Something else you need to know: I see how hard you are trying too.
10. Almost Nothing Is Quite as Important As You Think It Is
Everything in life passes. The good times are short, but so are the bad times. Enjoy the ups with the downs. Life is meant to be lived. Don’t spend your time trying not to feel something. Spend your life embracing whatever you feel in the moment, good or bad. Your feelings are what let you know you are truly alive.
I don’t care if you get good grades or ever have a good job. I don’t care if you win at a sport or never even attempt one. I don’t care if you get married, stay single or run away with the circus! Just enjoy your life and whatever it throws at you. The point of life is not the pursuit of happiness. The point of life is to simply live it.
These are the 10-most-important things I would want my kids to know about life with ADHD? What do you want your kids to know?