It can be a touchy subject. You are very aware that your child has been diagnosed with ADHD. Your child might have a clue that something about him or her isn’t exactly the same as all the other kids, but hasn’t yet picked up on what, exactly, is the reason why. Or, even worse, it’s possible that your child is blissfully unaware that he or she as any special needs at all. How do you tell your child that he or she has ADHD?
Before you even begin to consider how to have what could be a difficult conversation with your child, take a moment to educate yourself about what ADHD is, (and what it is not). Your child is likely to have a lot of questions about what ADHD is, and may express concern that this diagnosis means that he or she is “dumb”, or somehow damaged.
If your child is old enough to be able to browse the internet for information that he or she is interested in, it’s possible that your child will find a lot of incorrect ideas about ADHD. There are people who believe that ADHD doesn’t really exist, or that it means that the child is spoiled. So, before you have the conversation, make sure that you are ready to correctly answer your child’s questions.
It is going to be helpful if you explain ADHD in terms that your child will understand, and relate to. A high schooler might be ready to hear a list of symptoms, and might be able to immediately connect his or her own behaviors with those symptoms. Younger children might need more concrete examples. “People who have ADHD tend to forget things sometimes. Like, you forgot to turn in your homework yesterday, even though you finished it”. Phrasing it this way might help your child to get a “real world” understanding of how he or she is affected by ADHD.
It can be helpful to point out some of the good points about ADHD. People who have ADHD tend to be more creative than people who don’t have it. Your child might have a talent for drawing, playing a musical instrument, or telling imaginative stories. Make sure you emphasize that people who have ADHD do, in fact, grow up to have successful lives. You may want to do some research and find out if any of your child’s favorite celebrities have ADHD, or you could mention people that you know, personally, who have ADHD and are doing just fine.
Be selective about when you choose to have this conversation with your child. Don’t start this conversation when you are frustrated because your child still hasn’t finished his or her homework. Don’t start talking about ADHD in front of your child’s friends, peers, or in a public place where people can overhear what is being said. Wait until both you, and your child, are in a good mood, and in a place where you can talk privately with one another. Another option is to wait until your child brings up the subject with you. This is one way to tell that your child is ready for what could be an emotional or sensitive conversation about his or her ADHD.
Image by Sean McMahon on Flickr