Well, maybe “abandonment“ is too strong a word. Maybe “disengagement” is better, or “detachment“. What I’m trying to say is, have you stopped being involved in your ADD kid’s school life?
It’s OK to admit it. I’ve been guilty of it myself. We (as parents of ADD/ADHD kids) have probably all have done it at one point or another (unless you happen to know a saint with an ADD kid). Raising a child with Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can be exhausting, disheartening, and discouraging, particularly when it comes to school and grades.
As your child gets older, you naturally want them to learn to do more things for themselves. It’s an important part of the parenting process, teaching kids to stand on their own. And certainly, by the time your child is in 4th or 5th grade, they should be taking some responsibility for themselves – remembering their assignments, handing them in on time, keeping track of their things. And maybe, in order for them to learn these things, you need to pull back a little – stop doing so much for them. I’ve had more than one teacher tell me that very thing.
So you tell yourself you’re doing this for their own good, and if they forget a thing or two, they will learn from the consequences. Maybe secretly, deep down inside, it’s a bit of a relief, giving up the responsibility of having to keep track of assignments and homework, and being able to sidestep the resulting guilt when things are lost or forgotten. Or maybe, this is the way you’ve parented your other children, and it doesn’t occur to you that your ADD child should be treated any differently.
Maybe I’m an unusual kind of parent, and maybe you’ll disagree with my thinking, but I think you are doing your ADD kid a disservice by leaving them to their own devices. Yes, all kids do need to stand on their own, and do things for themselves, but if you’ve got a child with ADD or ADHD, you’re going to have to ease them into this process slowly.
Keep in mind, first, that remembering things and keeping track of them are not your ADD child’s strong points. Suddenly expecting them to do such things just because they are in a certain grade (or because someone tells you to) is unreasonable. Second, realize that kids with ADD/ADHD can be as much as 2-5 years behind their peers developmentally. That means that your 11 year old 6th grader may have the emotional maturity of a child somewhere between the ages of 6 & 9! At best, that puts your child into the emotional equivalent of a 4th grader, and at worst, a 1st grader.
Let’s jump ahead a little; let’s say you have a 16 year old junior in high school. Certainly no hand holding needed here, right? Well, let’s apply the formula: 2-5 years behind puts your 16 year old at 11-14 years old. At best, a freshman in high school. Keep in mind I use the word “formula” loosely; there is no hard and fast rule that applies here, and nothing that says it is consistent throughout. Your 16 year old child may act their age at some times and act considerably younger at others.
So, what is a parent to do? As I’ve said, my advice may differ from that you receive elsewhere. I do have the advantage of having “been there, and done that”, for what it’s worth. My advice is to remain involved, engaged, with your child’s learning process, for as long as they will let you. Help them master the skills of using a planner, planning ahead, and blocking time for work to be done. Be prepared to step back at times, and to take the lead when necessary. Above all. hang in there.
Try to keep the relationship between the two of you as friendly (and tension free) as possible. I know that’s easier said than done (another instance where I’ve “been there, and done that”). If you find that it’s too difficult, you may want to consider hiring a coach.
In addition to the specialized training they’ve received, coaches have the advantage of being an impartial third party, with no history with your child (no loving attachment), and no power to punish or control. I myself have hired a coach for my own children, to intercede when I could not, despite my own training as an ADD Coach.
I wish I had a better solution for you, but really, there never is one, when it comes to ADD. The “solution” is as changeable and unpredictable as ADD itself. Ultimately, the best solution I can offer is this: be open, be flexible, be prepared for the unexpected. In other words, go with the flow, wherever that takes you. In the long term, it will mean more that you were in your child’s corner than anything else.
One last thing, while we’re on the subject of teaching kids to stand on their own: one of the absolute most important things that you can teach your child is how to stand up for their rights, particularly when it comes to ADD & ADHD. More on that next time.