Parenting a Kid with ADHD: Medication or Parent Support Group?

Posted June 1, 2015 by

Yesterday, I decided that I am going to start my own support group for parents who think they are not doing a good job. I used to think that being in a successful adult relationship was the hardest thing in the world, but I have changed my mind. Being a good parent to a challenging child is the hardest job I will ever have—and I am not using the term “challenging” loosely.

Recently, I received professional confirmation of something I have intuitively known for most of my daughter’s life: she has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) with Oppositionality, meaning she likes to argue—about everything. As a parent, I have been reluctant to write about this because I want to protect my daughter. I am realizing, though, that I really need a support group because frankly, being a single mom to a challenging child on a daily basis is mentally and emotionally exhausting. I imagine if you are the parent—single or not—of a challenging child, you probably feel this way, too.

Even if you are a mom or dad with an “average” challenging child (meaning one who has not been diagnosed with any type of disorder), my guess is that you know a child who: has trouble focusing; argues that it isn’t really raining; rolls her eyes when reprimanded for doing something she shouldn’t; or generally asks “why?” all the time, no matter what her parent tells her. For all of you who can relate, I feel your pain; and that’s why I have now decided to write about my own child. If you comment on this article, then essentially, I am creating my own support group and that will help me, too.

My Dilemma
Assuming you want to be part of my support group, here is my problem: when a doctor or psychologist says, “Your kid has ADHD,” usually the next thing out of his or her mouth is, “We can fix that with medication.” I have heard this recommendation several times and I can’t help thinking, “For my kid or for me?” I never actually say those words out loud. Some days, though, it seems to come to that—which one of us is going to be medicated so we can both deal with this more effectively and incur minimal damage? I realize my kid will probably end up in therapy, and I am not worried about that. In fact, I believe everyone needs therapy at some point in life. At least once.

Unwarranted Blame and Guilt Gets Me Every Time
The professional who diagnoses your child focuses on helping your child. That’s a good thing, but what about focusing on how to help you manage your child? What about telling you, the mom or dad, that you really are a good parent and it’s not your fault your kid has improperly functioning neurotransmitters or extremely low levels of dopamine in his system (both common factors in kids with ADD/ADHD)?

The problem is, I don’t think of these neurological factors when my daughter is arguing with me or bouncing off the walls at Target, begging me for a new lunchbox and on the verge of a temper tantrum that would be perfectly normal if she were two-years-old, but she is eight. When things like this happen, I never think, “Oh, it’s her ADHD.” My internal voice says instead, “What am I doing wrong here? Why is it that she doesn’t understand? Why doesn’t she want to be a well-behaved child? How did I become such a bad parent?”

Since my daughter was two, well-meaning friends and family members have advised, “She’s only two. She will grow out of it. It’s just a phase.” Then, when she was four, the same well-intended advisors would say, “You’ve got to get this behavior under control or things are gonna be really difficult when she is a teenager.”

Yes, I am quite aware of this. People are still telling me this because now my daughter is eight and even closer to becoming a teenager with out-of-control hormones and peer pressure and a zillion other factors that will potentially make both our lives even more challenging and difficult. I know this. I get it. I am doing everything I can to help my kid—except medicating her.

The Pressure to Medicate
What if you are the parent of an ADD/ADHD kid and you don’t believe in medicating him? What if you are changing your child’s diet based on food sensitivity tests; teaching your kid how to meditate and other effective anger/self-control management techniques, and you just don’t think giving him chemical substances with long term side effects makes sense? How do you help your child holistically, essentially going against mainstream society?

I recently read that parenting a child with ADD/ADHD is like “parenting times five.” That would explain why I am continually amazed and impressed by any parent who can manage multiple kids at the same time when I seem to be at capacity with just one. So, I will continue to research holistic options and treatment for children like mine and yours. Maybe we can figure this out together. At the very least, we will hopefully come to realize that we are not alone in our struggles.

About

Writer, graphic designer, and mother to one little girl and one very large dog, Karla is a native New Yorker who traded in her downhill skis for flip-flops when she was transplanted to the South in 2003. She has a master's degree in Communication and Rhetorical Studies from Syracuse University, with a certificate in Conflict Management and a focus on Interpersonal Relationships. In the past, Karla worked as a family mediator for New York State. She loves to help her family and friends improve their interpersonal relationships and attempts to apply that expertise to her own life, every day. Whenever you need to add some humor to your day, you can visit her website at: www.myhighmaintenancelife.com

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  1. Jaime Report

    Hi there,
    This is a response to an old article that you’d written about your now, 10 year old daughter. I have a son that is completely bouncing off the walls and argues all the time- even about The tiniest thing. I took him to a professional and they said what I already knew. ADHD. Then prescribed him medication. His teacher was having so many issues with him and he’s very smart but he literally would just decide he wasn’t going to do anything in class that day. I know I spoiled him. That didn’t help. Anyway, I was always against meds. Until my family suggested just “trying it”. When I gave him his first does he became sleepy after about 10 minutes. Not uncontrollably sleepy. And then he did something I have never seen him do. He when into his room, put on a movie a watched it. I must’ve checked on him 16 times. As I was leaving his room he said, ” thanks mom. I feel so much better”.
    His life would be more miserable any other way. Mostly because of the way I would react to him. What kind of life is bouncing off of the walls and getting yelled at all of the time? It’s horrible. I weighed it out and went with the Aderol. His teacher couldn’t believe how well he started doing in class (which is the only time he gets it) so he takes weekends off and I’m reminded of what he’s dealing with. Sometimes I just stare at him when he’s being totally out of control.
    Can I as you, at 10 how is your little girl? Thank you for writing this. Thank you so much 🙂

    Reply
  2. CherriJ Report

    Trying to find answers. My son was diagnosed when he was 12. He had been struggling in school since grade 2 and the school was not helping so my husband and I took him to have him diagnosed. He has always been a very well behaved child. We have a older daughter who has mothered him from birth and has received entry moved out to attend school. His attitude has taken a 180 turn. Always argumentative and once is mind was made there was no changing it. But now it’s different. He doesn’t want to do anything but stay in his room on his computer. He’s up all night and so can’t get up for school in the mornings. When I ask him why he just says he’s not a morning person and you can’t fix that. When we talk to him and tell him that this is not acceptable he just shuts down. I think know I would get more from talking to the wall. This is all very new to me. Psychologist gave the diagnosis and the pediatrician has found medication that helps him function but I don’t know where to go from here. What next? How do we deal with this now?

    Reply
  3. Nmarquez Report

    Read your article tonight….I am a grandparent raising my grandson with ADHD…it’s heart breaking and sad to see what we all have to go through. I want to begin a support group and iam researching information

    Reply
  4. Editor at large Report

    Ditto. I went online today in despair. Just wishing I had someone with whom I could commiserate as its so isolating being mom of a kid with ADHD. I love him to death but some days I wish he were just a regular “bro” and I’m even jealous of their parents! So sick of feeling judged and embarrassed.

    Reply
    • karla Report

      Editor at large Thanks for reading. I certainly empathize with your feelings. Parenting is not an easy task, and the ADHD aspect adds another layer that other parents never even realize we deal with EVERY DAY.

      Reply
  5. MassielGarcia Report

    I love this is great to feel I’m not alone I feel so much pressure from Doctor and teacher to put my son on medication and I don’t want to put things on my child that I wouldn’t even take As well I found a natural herb that can help I just Oder it so will update how it works.

    Reply
    • karla Report

      MassielGarcia Thank  you so much for reading! All the readers of this blog, parents, and coaches have been supporting each other through comments and discussions. I wish you and your son the best and hope the herb helps. I’d love to hear about that, as well.

      Reply

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