Until recently, we had not told our children that they have ADHD. Our pediatrician told us that we could simply give them their medicine and tell them it was to help them focus on their work at school and stay calm. I was never comfortable with this, probably because if it were me, I would want to know. However, they are young (eight now), and so I waited until they were a little older to tell them.
My husband and I talked together before talking to the kids. We used some work sheets from the Let’s Get Fit to Focus web site, which is a site that helps families work through ADHD issues on a week-by-week basis. The week one worksheets had my husband and I make a list of positive traits in our kids. That was a good way to get us in a positive frame of mind. Then we sat down with the kids and talked about ADHD and how it can be difficult but can also be positive. We told them some things that we loved about them. We showed them a page we’d printed from the week one worksheets with pictures of famous people such as Walt Disney and John Lennon who likely had or have ADHD. (It would have been nice to have pictures of more contemporary people with whom my kids were more familiar, but I didn’t do the research on that one.) We also had the kids draw a picture of what ADHD looked like.
Luke drew a picture of himself at school thinking about being with his friends and not listening to the teacher. He thought it was funny. Izzy drew a picture of herself on a rollercoaster because that showed that she “liked to do exciting things.”
The whole thing went surprisingly well. I think focusing on the positives or gifts of ADHD made the whole thing palatable. We also told them that Dad has ADHD and that also made it cool.
Since then we are getting some pretty interesting comments. Izzy told me that one of her favorite book characters, Babymouse, probably has ADHD. When I asked why, Izzy said, “Because she likes to do all kinds of crazy things and she gets in trouble and she is very creative.” Luke says he is pretty sure Fregley from Diary of a Wimpy Kid has ADHD “cause he gets hyper when he eats sugar. And maybe you don’t know this Mom, but I get really hyper when I eat sugar.” Luke seems to be enjoying being extra hyper. He has been bouncing off the walls and telling me that he can’t help it because he has ADHD. I tell him that ADHD is not an excuse to act like a wild man, but that it means he might have to work harder to stay calm sometimes, which I’m sure sounded like “Blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah,” to him. But at least for now, they have a positive outlook on ADHD.