Over the years, countless parents, especially mothers, have reached out to me with questions regarding my son's autism. Through these conversations, I've started to speak up about my daughter Ryan's Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Through my involvement in the keep momming campaign, I've also started to receive questions about this wholly different but equally misunderstood condition. It's heartbreaking to hear that moms are often at a loss for how to manage their daughters' symptoms. So, when sharing what I've learned about girls and ADHD with people, I make it personal. I talk about Ryan. Through our appearances, books, articles and blog posts, Rodney and I have used our visibility to help parents better understand the challenges their kids face, both today and in the years to come.
Our daughter Ryan is the complete package -- smart, beautiful, loving and kind. It was hard for me to accept that Ryan was challenged in a way that wasn't immediately clear to her dad and me. Her ADHD diagnosis had been a real surprise to our family. We didn't immediately recognize her inattentive symptoms because, as far as we knew, ADHD symptoms were hyperactivity, restlessness and impulsivity.
We learned that girls are more likely than boys to report having mostly inattentive ADHD symptoms. These can include making careless mistakes, being disorganized, daydreaming and avoiding tasks that require sustained mental effort. Since inattentive symptoms can be less noticeable than hyperactive-impulsive symptoms, such as always running around and interrupting people, it is important that moms know what to look for in relation to each of the core symptoms of ADHD -- inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. Parents should talk to the doctor if they are concerned their daughter may have ADHD.
In moments of frustration, I can recall myself asking Ryan, "Why can't you just pay attention?" or "Why aren't you doing well in school?" I hadn't been given any help in how to distinguish typical tween girl behavior from something a little more serious.
To help other mothers and daughters develop deeper relationships and navigate through the challenges Ryan and I faced along this ADHD journey, I want to take the opportunity to share a few tips that have worked for us:
1. Talk to your daughter.
Talk openly about what she is feeling. Take the time to ask questions such as, "How are you today?" or "How are you feeling?" and really mean it when you ask. Too often we get caught up in the business of life and don't take the time to really check in with our children. You want your daughter to be comfortable telling you anything, so it's important to take that time to talk -- and really listen to what she's telling you!
2. Don't push your expectations onto your daughter.
As moms, we see ourselves in our daughters and often want them to be a certain way. We get more frustrated, I think, with our girls if they're not acting the way we imagined they would in our minds. We have to push ourselves out of that mindset. Try to stop, listen, look at life through her eyes and understand it as she sees it. Remember, you were once her age. Take some time to reconnect with that feeling.
3. Know that you are not alone.
There are resources out there to help support you and your daughter along the ADHD journey. Organizations such as CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) provide resources such as newsletters and online support groups to help individuals with ADHD and their families.
4. Get help and talk to your family's doctor.
As mothers, our intuition is rarely wrong. If you feel something may be up and you are noticing symptoms that may be ADHD (hyperactivity, impulsivity or inattention), speak to your daughter's doctor about your concerns. You need to find out if she actually has the disorder. If your daughter does have ADHD, an early diagnosis will enable you to work as a team and come up with a game plan that works for your family.
This may be the most important tip of all. A diagnosis of ADHD should not change the dynamic of the mother-daughter relationship. Laugh, smile and joke with your daughter. While a diagnosis may involve modifying the way you and your family do certain things, always remember that there is nothing more important than a healthy, happy relationship between you and your daughter.
Nobody said being a parent would be easy -- they just said it would be worth it.
Want to learn more about ADHD? Take a moment to visit keepmomming.com for tips, articles and more information.