It has been well established for a number of years that children and adolescents experience significant peer rejection and behavioral problems often associated withADHD. Children tend to externalize behavioral problems, that is they act out in school,at church, or in public. They also internalize behavior i. e. have feelings of anxiety,depression, and worry. They may have a concern about never being successful or believe they aren’t as smart as other kids because they struggle in school. Girls in particular have higher rates of eating pathology associated with ADHD. They may experience problems as a result of poor academic performance in a school setting not designed and where teachers aren’t adequately trained to deal with several ADHD students in their classroom.There are several important ways parents can work to improve these self esteem issues with their children.
It’s important to talk with your children about the disorder. They need to know that theyare not “stupid, crazy or lazy.” Do your best to normalize the condition and explain to them that their behavior is impacted by a brain that is not working as well as it needs to and that their condition is exactly the same as any other illness. People don’t usually feel bad when they get a cold or the flu and ADHD is exactly the same. Let them know that other children have illnesses too but that most of those don’t get noticed or talked about.Teach them to use the statement “It’s not me, it’s just my brain.”
Know the difference between “I can’t” and “I won’” in the behavior of your child. Thisis perhaps the most difficult thing for a parent to be able to identify. There are times when your child “can’t” perform the task he is being asked to perform because his brain isn’t working correctly. There are other times when his attitude is “I won’t” and that does need correction. Both situations need intervention by an adult.
Take advantage of their strengths. Are they creative? Energetic? Fun? Life of the party? Value that with them and let them know they have value. Identify their strengthsand weaknesses and communicate that everyone has strengths and weaknesses.
Teach them the skills they need to get along better with others. Research indicates that following the rules of the games that are played, not complaining or whining, and doing things for other kids can make a huge difference in how they are accepted. Emphasize and teach those attitudes and skills.
Don’t make them and their problems the center of your life. In many families where one child has ADHD the other siblings feel ignored, left out and insignificant. That leads to resentments and anger in those families. Do what you can do and don’t worry aboutwhat you can’t do.
Help them make and keep friends. Adults can plan and structure activities so that these children can develop positive relationships that can extend to school and other socialsituations. Be the engineer of your child’s life.
Never let them doubt that they are loved in spite of the often frustrating behavior and attitudes that they will display.