I used to dread Thanksgiving and the Holidays. Not for reasons you might think, though. I dreaded them for my son. All the hidden and unspoken expectations of socializing and conversing with so many family members. Family we hadn’t seen in months; people my son was unspokenly “expected” to just have a conversation about everything that was happening in his life and make up for the past many months of family not seeing him.
I used to get so frustrated when people arrived and he was nowhere to be seen. How quickly he bolted when he knew he wouldn’t be able to meet expectations. All my family wanted to do was see him and talk to him. What took me years to understand was that expectation and that knowing of someone who craved his attention was a direct “shut down” of body, mind, and spirit for my son. Where do you think I found him when everyone arrived and the house was buzzing with activity? In his room, alone, with the door closed. Why was he doing this? Simply put, he was self regulating.
Expectations. What I’ve come to learn and understand is expectations are not fair when we don’t understand what those situations mean for our children and teens who have ADHD.
For the neurotypical person (such as myself), it is comfortable and quite normal to engage in conversation with people who I haven’t seen in awhile. For the ADHD child, it may be crippling knowing they have to engage. The environment of noises, people, smells, etc. may be triggering many sensory overloads and that alone may make them shut down and want to escape. A face-to-face conversation is virtually impossible. There’s too much to focus on: eye contact, remembering what the question was, trying to pull out of memory what he has been doing, not knowing how to answer the question, “ Hey bud, what have you been up to since we’ve last seen you?” That’s a daunting question to an ADHD’er! My son could go on for hours about the things that are interesting to him, but there’s so much in his brain and thoughts, he doesn’t know where to begin. And, quite honestly, no one would probably be able to keep up with him or have the time to expand on that one thing dominating his thoughts.
Want to engage with him?
Hang with him in his quiet “place”, sit down beside him, look at what he’s doing, ask questions about what you see. Do what he is doing! Be it organizing football cards, throwing a football, shooting hoops, playing with Legos, or even, yes, even play the video game he’s playing – engage by DOING!! It’s amazing what you will uncover when you engage by doing with your ADHD’er!
I’ve shared with many people how some of our biggest challenges can be our biggest blessings.
After my son’s diagnosis, I wasn’t sure where I would “go” with it, other than to research and support him as best I could. Little did I know, he would be the one who would show me the way to become an ADHD Life Coach. He would be the one who would give me the greatest blessing of helping others who have ADHD. I have never been more committed and focused in my life’s purpose.
Thank you, dear son, for who you are and your gift of ADHD to me.