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Cultivating Patience for Your Child With ADHD

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As a parent, you juggle many responsibilities daily, like work, household chores, perhaps other children, and your personal needs. The distinctive dynamics of parenting a child with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the boundless energy, the frequent daydreaming, the impulsive decisions, and the emotional highs and lows can test even the saintliest of parents. And while it might not always feel like it, it’s OK to seek a moment of respite and reach out for understanding and guidance.

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Experiencing Impatience With a Child Who Has ADHD

You’ve reminded your child five times to wear their shoes, and yet, they’re still hopping around the living room, distracted by a toy or a thought, shoeless. Breakfast? A challenge. They’re either not hungry, or they want three different meals. And once they finally settle, they’re up and about before finishing. By the time you’re out the door, you’ve repeated instructions more times than you can count, faced perhaps a mini-meltdown or two, and you’re already exhausted. And the day has just started.

The impatience bubbles up not necessarily from the acts themselves but from the repetition, the unpredictability, and the frequent detours from planned routines. As parents, it’s only human to crave a sense of order, predictability, and moments of calm. The contrasts in dealing with an ADHD child can sometimes feel like a constant storm in those desires.

However, behind this impatience often lies a deeper layer of emotions:

  • Guilt for feeling this way.
  • Fear for your child’s future.
  • Concern about how others might perceive their behaviors — and your parenting.

It’s a layered experience, with impatience being just the tip of the iceberg in the vast ocean of emotions and challenges that come with parenting a child with ADHD.

You’re not just managing behaviors; you’re nurturing a young mind that perceives the world differently.

The ADHD Child’s Perspective

To children with ADHD, the world may feel like a kaleidoscope, where every glimmer, sound, and idea has an irresistible allure. It’s not that they want to forget to put on their shoes or neglect their breakfast; their mind is an ever-whirling carousel of thoughts and stimuli. While to outsiders, it might seem like they’re being defiant or careless, the reality is they’re grappling with an ADHD brain that operates differently.

In school, while they try to concentrate, their mind might flutter to the sound of a classmate’s pencil tapping or a bird chirping outside. When they’re tagged as “the disruptive one” or “the daydreamer,” it’s a label that they carry, even if they can’t articulate it. They might wonder, “Why is it so hard for me to focus when others can?” or “Why do I get into trouble so much?”

Emotionally, kids with ADHD often feel highs and lows intensely. A minor disappointment can spiral into feelings of devastation, while a small achievement can feel like conquering a mountain. This rollercoaster can be exhausting for them, and sometimes, they wish they could find the brakes.

Critically, while their actions sometimes meet with frustration or impatience from adults, they deeply crave validation, understanding, and love. Every reminder, every raised voice, or sigh of exasperation from a parent might internally translate to “I’m not good enough” or “Why can’t I get this right?” The weight of these feelings, combined with their inner turbulence, can be overwhelming.

In the grand scheme of things, these children aren’t “misbehaving” deliberately. They’re navigating a world with an ADHD mind that, while challenging, also brings creativity, passion, and a unique perspective.

Strategies for Building Patience for Your Child With ADHD

Every parent loses patience with their child. It only means you are human. Here are some coping strategies for ADHD parenting to help you build and maintain that patience.

  1. Educate yourself: Understanding ADHD – its challenges, symptoms, and nuances – can make it easier to empathize with your child. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to handle situations with patience.
  2. Self-care is crucial: You can only give what you have. Ensure you’re setting aside time to relax, rejuvenate, and do things you love. This can make a difference in patience and resilience thresholds.
  3. Practice mindfulness: Deep breathing, meditation, or even a few minutes of quiet reflection can help ground you in moments of stress. Mindfulness practices can help you react less impulsively and more thoughtfully.
  4. Set realistic expectations: ADHD comes with its unique set of challenges. Adjusting your expectations and celebrating small wins can make you feel more patient and less overwhelmed by challenges.
  5. Stay connected: Build a support system of friends, family, or other parents who understand what it’s like to raise a child with ADHD. Sharing your experiences can be incredibly cathartic.
  6. Seek professional support: Consider counseling or joining a support group. These can offer additional coping strategies and provide a safe space to express your feelings and frustrations.
  7. Routine and structure: A predictable environment can reassure you and your child. Knowing what to expect can minimize potential areas of conflict and reduce feelings of impatience.
  8. Positive reinforcement: Focus on your child’s strengths and positive behaviors rather than just the challenges. This can shift your perspective and increase feelings of patience.
  9. Time-outs aren’t just for kids: If you feel your patience thinning, it’s OK to step away, take a breather, and return when you’re calmer. It’s better to take a moment for yourself than to react in a way you might regret.
  10. Stay solution-focused: Instead of getting bogged down by challenges, continuously look for solutions. Involve your child in this process when appropriate, making them a part of the solution rather than focusing on the problem.

Each day presents a new challenge but also an opportunity.

Seeking Professional Guidance

Recognizing when you need external assistance and understanding the available options is a sign of strength and proactive parenting. Here’s a guide if you are considering professional support:

  1. Recognizing overwhelm: Acknowledge when you’re constantly frustrated, or tensions frequently rise, which could indicate the need for professional support.
  2. Consult a pediatrician: They can assess your child’s behavior and direct you to specialists.
  3. Child specialists: Psychologists or psychiatrists can offer evaluations, therapy, and counseling for ADHD.
  4. Family therapy: Address familial tensions, enhance communication, and develop coping strategies.
  5. Behavioral therapies: Structured programs that encourage desired behaviors in ADHD children.
  6. Parent training: Equip parents with techniques to manage their child’s behavior, emphasizing positive reinforcement and structure.
  7. Support groups: Connect with other parents for shared experiences and mutual support, in-person or online.
  8. Medication: Stay informed if prescribed, discuss side effects, and monitor your child’s reactions.
  9. Educational support: Collaborate with schools for special services or classroom adjustments benefiting ADHD children.
  10. Self-care: Focus on your mental well-being, considering personal counseling or therapy.

Seeking professional support isn’t an admission of defeat. It’s about providing the best possible environment for your child and ensuring your emotional well-being.

Supporting the Parent-Child Relationship

There are also things you can do as a parent to help your child navigate some of the symptoms while strengthening your bond.

  • Open communication: Create safe discussion spaces, allowing the child to express feelings without judgment.
  • Consistent routines: Structure helps ADHD children thrive. Set regular meal, homework, and bedtime schedules.
  • Positive reinforcement: Celebrate achievements, no matter how small, to boost self-esteem and motivation.
  • Joint activities: Engage in activities both enjoy, fostering bonding and mutual understanding.
  • Educate yourself: Understand ADHD symptoms and triggers to navigate challenges better.
  • Seek support: Join parent support groups to learn strategies and gain insights from shared experiences.
  • Practice empathy: Step into their shoes; understand their challenges and frustrations.
  • Set boundaries: While it’s essential to be empathetic, it’s also crucial to set clear and consistent limits.
  • Manage expectations: Celebrate the journey and progress, not just results.
  • Prioritize self-care: As you care for your child, remember your well-being. A refreshed parent can engage better.

Parenting a child with ADHD can sometimes feel isolating, but remember, you’re not alone.

The community on The Mighty is invaluable, with ADHD and parenting support groups that offer a treasure trove of real-life stories, tips, and encouragement. It’s a space where understanding meets camaraderie, making your journey a shared one. Don’t hesitate to reach out and harness the collective wisdom and strength of fellow parents who truly understand.

Getty image by mixetto

Originally published: November 1, 2023
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