Parenting an ADHD child

Parenting a child with AD/HD is an extremely challenging job. As much as I love him and wouldn't change him for the world, looking after Joe is the equivalent of looking after all of the other six put together. When I say I wouldn't change Joe then I mean every word. What I would change however, are some of his behaviours.

As a parent, words like 'unconditional love' and 'self-sacrifice' are instilled into our very being. Sometimes, in the face of bruised shins, hurtful words and damaged belongings, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that this is still our beloved child that is inflicting such pain on the family, and all we focus on is the undesirable behaviours. Unfortunately so too do others!

When I listen to Luke drone on for hours on end about his current 'specialist subject' or I watch Ben spin around in circles, flicking his fingers in front of his eyes, I smile to myself on good days and other days I am crushed with feelings of despair as I worry how they will ever manage in the big wide world. One thing I do not do however, is blame myself. Even if it is not evident to those without knowledge, or in other settings when the children are running effective 'emulators', those of us who know my children can see autism quite clearly and I cannot see any way in which poor parenting skills could make children behave in such bizarre ways. Joe however, is another kettle of fish!

Several times I have to take a long hard look at any one of the other children and remind myself that I brought them all up in the same way. Any mistakes I made with Joe, I will also have made with any one of the others, yet the behaviours that Joe exhibits all too often make me feel such a failure. As he steals and lies and destroys things, I cannot help but look at myself and wonder where I went wrong. Some days it seems as if AD/HD really is a 'disorder' with a capital D! Day in, day out, I get up with a firm resolve to be more positive, to try harder to get through to him, to show more of my love for him.. .invariably it all seems to make so little impact.

If we as parents often feel that we are failures, then how much more is that exacerbated by the fact that all too often 'professionals' too focus on parenting skills and family life? If a child is a member of a large family or has a single parent or is of an ethnic minority or maybe has disabled family members, then archaically such scenarios, despite much research to the contrary, are often seen as being causal in the behaviours of an ADD or AD/HD child. Obviously not every area is the same and there are some excellent and knowledgeable professionals, but sadly these scenarios are far too common. Such 'parent blaming' often makes a parent reluctant to seek professional help until things reach crisis level and so the situation is aggravated and the child misses out on early intervention.

Prior to receiving a diagnosis, many parents experience a mounting sense of despair and despondency. Why are our children behaving in this way? Why can't we teach them right and wrong? Is it their home life (which is often in tatters as a result ofthese difficulties) that is making them behave in this way or is there really something wrong? One thing that is common with all parents of children with AD/HD is a sense of guilt.

In my case, I had battled for years with the spectre ofMunchausen By Proxy (MSBP) hovering silently above my head. Like a shroud, it cast a dark shadow over me and I lived in fear (and always will) that one day some 'professional' would actively blame me for Joe's horrendous bowel problems and behaviour rather than merely muttering, whispering and pointing the finger behind my back. As Joe's bowel problems were fortunately ameliorated by a GF/CF diet when he was very little, I was one of the lucky ones and was given a reprieve. I will always be indebted to Joe's lovely consultant and those few people who believed in me when things were so tough. Nevertheless, I will always be aware of what might have been, and how personal differences with a few nurses resulted in suspicion being cast far and wide.

However, even without the terrible bowel problems that Joe experienced, parents of children with AD/HD often attempt to gloss over their child's problems, whilst secretly beating themselves up for far longer than with any other disability. For any parent in this position, if you remember nothing else from this book then remember. You are

NOT to blame! As parents we get things wrong from time to time but that does not result in AD/HD - a very real disorder.

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