Updated: Apr 28
Saturday afternoon. All is quiet. Why? My son is outside playing. Parenting in general is an “all hands on deck” situation to begin with. If you are the parent(s) of a child with behavior problems, disabilities, or other non-status quo challenges, it takes on a whole other meaning and with it, different hurdles to jump through.
As the parents of these children, you meet with a lot of specialists, read a lot of books, have a lot of plans, schedules, trackers, medicines, routines, and it’s just a lot. Add to that the everyday routine of running a household, working a job, raising other children, managing sports, social and family events that everyone else has and some days, you want to throw in the towel!
I know this personally as the parent of a child with ADHD. Both a superpower and a disadvantage, ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders in children. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, based on parent-report data from National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH), the prevalence of U.S. children aged 4-17 ever diagnosed with ADHD by a health care provider increased by 42% between 2003 (7.8%) and 2011 (11.0%).
We love our children and when faced with diagnoses like these and others, we spring into action. The steps come together. We learn all we can, make the appointments, listen to all the provider direction we can get, take notes and plow through. And then, the other stages kick in. We grieve the lost of the child we should have had (selfish, but true). Get angry, place blame, and try to manage the overwhelming task ahead of us; to raise this challenging child in a world that is not always accepting of their unique superpower while holding everything else together.
As we sit through the endless assessments, appointments, videos, and trainings, our own self identify may start to blur. When you are in the thick of some of the more disruptive periods, there is no time for you. When there is a brief respite, there’s no energy for you. While the professionals treating our child will provide you with all the information you need navigate your child’s condition, very rarely will they ask, “how are you doing?” Most of the time, you’re not doing well.
I found that I felt increasingly alone. How much can you talk about it to your spouse? Your family? They know what you’re going through. They are often in the thick of it with you. Some of your fiends will be willing to listen but for how long? Many of them care, and mean well, but don’t have the experience and feel powerless to help you. You may start to feel like it’s too much and withdraw. I did. Once, I was asked, “When do you enjoy your child most?” I could only think of, “When he’s sleeping or at school.” Not good.
Dealing with my son’s condition and everything it brought with it just added another layer of complexity to my own struggles. I was lucky that I was working with a coach who saw my lack of self-care, as well as how my approach and response to my son, was negatively impacting my overall health. We pivoted to shine a brighter light on those specific issues. It was hard work, but with my coach’s direction, I was able to make small, beneficial changes over time.
She helped me with relaxation and meditation techniques to help manage my stress levels. She provided feedback on communication skills with my son and husband that aided in more productive interactions and outcomes. When I was able to reconnect to myself again, I researched and adopted parenting techniques that worked for me; yes, me. They had an impact on my son as well, but they were more for me as I learned that my response to him was often the issue, not his behavior. I was feeling better and looking better. I was able to enjoy my son again. All because, someone asked me, “how are you doing?”
Health and wellness are not all about weight loss, they are about addressing "dis-ease" in our lives. Once we have addressed the areas that need support, we can blossom and grow in so many ways. Supporting parents dealing with a difficult child is one of the things I enjoy the most because I have walked that road. I want to know how you are doing.
As much as we need the village of physicians, friends, and family, we need that shoulder too.
Are you a parent dealing with a challenging child and in need of support to reclaim your self-identity? Know someone that needs to hear this message?
There’s a shoulder here for you. Let’s talk.
Take care and be well,