Having a Teenager With ADHD Is “Interesting”

 

When you have a kids the first thing you are warned about are the newborn weeks. Sleepless nights, stressful days, and difficulty starting breastfeeding are some of the nightmare scenarios fellow parents warn you about. I found the newborns weeks to be fine. My babies were good sleepers and were generally easy to nurse. The second period they warn you about are the teen years. As of late 2016 my oldest child started her journey into the teen years and well we have had a rough start.

What new challenges am I facing that I wasn’t before? Well, to be honest, not much changed initially. My daughter has always been resistant to taking her medicine and she has always done things her way. The biggest issue is her growing independence is in conflict with her need for additional support. She recognizes being thirteen comes with additional responsibilities and she consciously wants to attack them, but that damn executive functioning deficit is kicking her butt. Add on the fact her natural personality is to be a strong, independent, “over” confident human being, and you have a recipe for academic disaster.

How am I attacking this? Well, ummm, you see…. I can only put out one fire at a time. I am demanding accountability while trying to provided “unwanted” support. Helping her is like trying to treat an injured animal. She knows she is struggling, but she thinks she will be locked in a cage if I or her teachers realize she needs help, and telling her otherwise falls on deaf ears. All of these additional concerns are accompanied by the general teenage mindset that being different is bad.

This is very different from when I started this ADHD journey. At the beginning I had no clue how to deal with ADHD at all. I did not know how to help my kids cope and I had a steep learning curve and a lot of help getting there. I still have help, but how do you support someone who does not let you know they need support, or when you give support they shut down?

This Blog is not full of solutions as I have just really started addressing the problem. We will come to a solution that will work for her, but if you are finding that all the support systems that were in place in 5th grade seem to be useless moving forward, you are not alone.

 

 

Black ADHD Mom

 

Why Isn’t Anything Working?

I want to share a story with you. My son’s 4th grade year was hell on wheels. It was so bad the sound of the phone ringing made my heart race and if I saw the number of the school pop up my heart sank. I would answer the phone and instead of hello I wanted to say “what’s wrong”. My son lived under the table and remained in a state of I hate the world mode. We were on the brink of my son getting put out of this school. It took a lot of commitment on my part to keep him in school and to get him on the right track. We worked hard and by the end of the year he was doing better. Then we hit 5th grade and it was like I had a different child. I kept waiting for the phone to ring with a problem and it didn’t. No, the year has not been perfect. We have had some stumbles, but nothing like previous years. In early February I received a call from the guidance counselor. She tells me my son walked to the back of the class while working on a lesson and the teacher called her to get him. The guidance counselor pulled him from class to the library. She said she was allowing him to sit for a minute and she would try to talk to him, but she just wanted me to know what was going on. The counselor called again maybe 10 minutes later and indicated my son was working on his work with no problem. The counselor said she talked to my son and asked what was wrong. He indicated he became overwhelmed and needed to take a break from the work, but was ready to start working again. This is a huge success for him. He used the coping skills he was taught. We have spent the last 5 years teaching him if he gets overwhelmed he must go to the designated place in the class to calm down; he needs to let the teacher or another responsible adult know the problem if asked, and recover as fast as possible so he can get back on track with his day. He did all of this and was able to return to his class within a reasonable time with the designated assignment completed.

All of the work, setbacks, bad days, temper tantrums, feelings of helplessness, advocating, and even blood sweat and tears culminated into this one incident which showed me I am on the right track. I know we will still have bad days, but now we have far more good than bad. We have far more success stories than disappointments.

I guess the million dollar question is “What got us to this point?” I don’t think it is one thing. I think every kid requires a different formula. This kid’s formula seems to be prayer+ supportive parents + therapy+ the right meds+ supportive school + maturity + time = progress. My daughter’s is different from her brother’s. I will talk about her progress next time.

It is so easy to get discouraged. In the beginning the bad days far outweigh the good. Many days you are doing a lot of running. Whether it is back and forth to school, different therapists, or doctors you are constantly running. With all this running your mindset in the beginning is this will help, but month one and two go by and there is little improvement. Then year one and two go by and you see new problems crop up to address. It feels like you are playing a constant game of whack-a-mole. It is not fun. It is exhausting and many days discouraging. One day you look up and everything has slowed down. You are no longer running 5 days a week to various therapist, schools, and doctors but only one or two. The calls from the school are rare if at all and your evenings, are far less eventful. Then it occurs to you all the running and hard work are working. I want to point out I said “are working” not “have worked”. It is important to remember this is not a once it is better you can stop interventions situation. It is not only your responsibility to get your child on the right track, but to help keep him or her there. Eventually, you hope to get them to a point where any assistance they receive is minimal and they are able to lead generally normal healthy lives. Think about driving a car on the highway. Once you merge into the lane you wish to stay in you don’t straighten the wheel and let go. The whole time you are driving you make minor corrections to keep the car in its lane. The same is true when dealing with learning differences and disabilities you have to help your child stay in their lane. There may come a time when more drastic changes need to be made, but if you have a good team helping you those are not so scary to deal with. This is a process of assessing and re-assessing. We all have our days where we feel like we cannot handle one more setback. If you are in the midst of this process with me, know the work we are putting in for our kids is not in vain. We are giving them the tools to be successful adults.

 

Black ADHD Mom

 

PS: I want to add I realize that my kids are overall healthy kids. They are of normal intelligence. They are verbal, and capable of tending to their day to day needs on an age appropriate level. Not all parents are able to say that. That being said, every child will have successes. Celebrate them. Each child makes progress in their own way.