Shame-Free ADHD Parenting
A few weeks ago, I wrote about conquering ADHD parenting frustration. Today I want to share techniques for shame-free ADHD parenting.
Do you ever feel guilty or ashamed because you “gave” your child ADHD? Do you ever feel angry because your partner or spouse is the “carrier”? These negative thoughts are a waste of your good energy, your good heart, and your very valuable time. Parents, you are not the cause of the bad behavior, the apathy, the confusion, the tears. You are the solution, and it’s time for you to enjoy Shame-Free ADHD Parenting!
My own parents
When I was diagnosed, my parents didn’t handle it well. They were both psychologists and my mother had actually worked with kids labeled “Hyperactive,” so she considered herself an expert. She told me that she had wondered about me, but she had concluded that I didn’t have Hyperactivity. She would not entertain the possibility that she was wrong.
Today I understand that my diagnosis must have been a kick in the gut. She had two choices: she could believe she was right or she could admit she was wrong and have a child with ADHD that hadn’t been treated. As a parent, which would you choose? I would have been mortified to think that I had missed what was right under my nose.
(Today, research shows that girls often slip under the radar because we tend to be diagnosed with Inattentive ADD/ADHD. That wasn’t me. My nickname as a child was “Mountain Goat,” because I would climb anything that could be climbed! And a few things that couldn’t…)
Step 1 for eliminating ADHD parenting shame
Don’t accept the language of fear and defeat. There are too many people who consider ADHD a disability and a problem, including experts in the field of ADHD. I’ve argued with quite of few of these experts who ALWAYS point out the unemployment rates, the drop-outs, the fact that anxiety and depression often co-occur with ADHD, and how ADHD creates shame in people and feelings of failure. They will say, “There are gifts to having ADHD but ADHD is not a gift in itself. Every time I hear this, my first thought is: “Dang, your life must not be very fun at all!”
This is a shame-based approach and I refuse to listen to it. I do not accept that ADHD is anything but wonderful. Yes, I see adults suffering, but what I know is that if you’re suffering with ADHD, two other things are going on:
- you didn’t get good coaching as a child, teen or young adult
- you have other conditions along with ADHD
This is why I coach: to raise a generation of kids and teens that own their ADHD and their awesomeness! Hanging around with people who berate your parenting or who are also miserable, just reinforces the confusion, frustration, loneliness, and shame.
The singer, TobyMac, has a song called “Speak Life.”
His lyrics are about empowerment:
So speak Life, speak Life.
To the deadest darkest night.
Speak life, speak Life.
When the sun won’t shine and you don’t know why.
Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted;
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope,
You speak love, you speak Life.
Step 2 for eliminating ADHD parenting shame
Stop hiding. When we say things like, “You don’t understand” or “We’ve tried everything and nothing works,” or “We don’t have the time,” we are hiding. We are letting shame rule us. We don’t want to reveal our lives and have someone confirm that we’re as hopeless as we think we are. (That would be horrible). We don’t want our parents to know that we’re having trouble being an adult. We don’t want our siblings to know that we don’t have it together like we think they do. We don’t want our friends to know that we forgot about an important assignment or that we’re having a bad day, or that we feel stupid. We say, “It’s hard, but we’ll get through it,” or, “I’m fine,” or “It’s just a phase,” when, really, we’re ready to just fall apart. When you hide and conceal the truth, it’s because of shame and it’s unnecessary.
I’m not saying that you need to stand in the middle of your parents’ living room on Thanksgiving and tell everyone, “We’re a mess!” You have the right to conceal information from people who will use it to hurt you or embarrass you, but SOMEONE needs to know the truth of what’s going on. Find people that you can confide in. Getting the words out of your brain and sharing your fears and shame will lessen them. Actually, being vulnerable gets a lot of attention in my experience. Some of it will be negative attention, but you’ll get that from the same people you’re already getting negative attention from. The vast majority of people will respond in some positive way.
In many cities there are Meet-Up groups for parents of ADHD children and for adults with ADHD. There are Facebook groups (but make sure you find the ones where people are laughing at ADHD or inspiring others, not the ones where people just complain back and forth). Some coaches offer group coaching – it helps to hear you’re not alone, ‘coz you’re not!
Step 3 for eliminating ADHD parenting shame
Start asking for help. Now I know this is easier said than done but not only is it crucial to ask for help when raising an ADHD child or teen, but it’s an absolutely essential skill for people with ADHD.
I was taught that asking for help basically makes you no better than a cockroach. Asking for help is like being so naked that not just your skin but your whole soul is exposed and begging to be attacked. In fact, my VAST experience with asking for help has shown me that the opposite is true: not everyone will say “Yes,” but those who do will be saying “Yes” with their hearts.
Let me share how I got my start with being comfortable asking for help: I started small. At first, I didn’t ask for help but I started accepting help that was offered, even if it was something I could do myself, like putting my dishes in the dishwasher or getting up the stairs with several boxes of who-knows-what, or letting the bagger at the grocery store accompany me to my car and put my bags in the car.
Then you move to asking safe people for a small favor. You ask your best friend if he/she will go to the doctor with you, or you ask someone to email you the information that you need instead of having to remember it all yourself. You ask if you can have the window seat in the airplane.
And only then do you start asking for bigger stuff.
Several years ago, there was a story about a man who asked for a big thing every day for a year. He asked for a dozen donuts from Krispy Kreme, he asked for a car, he asked for a meal. He wasn’t needy; he was just testing out a theory. He didn’t get everything that he asked for but he grew in confidence and self-assuredness. That gave me a lot of courage to start asking for big stuff too. I regularly ask one of my friends to take me out to dinner (not someone I’m dating; she’s just one of my friends). I will ask another friend to make me her flourless pancakes. I’ve asked for financial help, I’ve asked for emotional and legal help. I’ve asked people to drive me places. I’ve asked for all sorts of things. The worst that can happen is that some people will say “No.” But some people will say “Yes.”
One caveat: think about who you’re asking for help. Ask someone who might say yes. I also ask, adding that whatever their answer, I’m okay, that’s it’s okay for them to say “no.”
I have seen countless posts on Facebook lamenting that coaching is too expensive. How do you know? Have you checked out prices? Many coaches offer a free session. Have you signed up for that? There is low-cost help as well – classes, Q&A days on Facebook, books, and more. And have you called or emailed a coach and told him/her that you’re having financial struggles but would love some coaching? Have you actually done that? Some coaches will barter or trade services. Do you have a skill or talent that they might be able to use?
Watch for pride
And lastly, have you been offered help but been to proud to accept it? That’s shame-based too. Pride is the unwillingness to accept that you’re one of the gang, fumbling around here on earth. Note, this is different than being pleased with someone’s efforts; this kind of pride is all about making sure that you look good, look strong, look nearly invincible, and it will kill you in the end.
The world is full of people who want to support you. It’s your move. Are you willing to enjoy some shame-free parenting?
Copyright 2017 Yafa Luria/Margit Crane All Rights Reserved
What troubles you about parenting an ADHD child or teen?
Let’s talk! No judgment, no salesy come-on. However you WILL receive a good deal of TLC and a slew of strategies. You can say anything. You can cry. You can swear. Your confidentiality is guaranteed, and I promise to listen and give you hope and relief. (You might even find yourself spontaneously doing a happy dance).
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