Q: “My 9-year-old was recently diagnosed with ADHD. I’m struggling with how to tell her about her diagnosis. I don’t want her to feel shame or believe something’s ‘wrong’ with her.
I also don’t want her to use her diagnosis as an excuse. Any advice on how to approach this with her?” — JMomHi JMom,This question truly resonated with me as my son was diagnosed with ADHD around the same age, and my husband and I struggled with how to explain it to him. I commend you for recognizing the importance of openness and transparency with your daughter.
Some parents don’t feel the need to tell their children directly about their ADHD diagnosis or only discuss it when something related to their child’s ADHD behavior arises.ADHD will be with your daughter throughout her life. The earlier she becomes aware of it, the easier it will be for her to understand it as she grows and matures.My first piece of advice is to make sure you are prepared to answer your daughter’s questions. Do you fully understand your daughter’s diagnosis, including her ADHD sub-type and manifestations? Can you explain it calmly and neutrally? Please keep in mind that your voice when first discussing ADHD with her will surely become her own voice.Knowledge is power, so tell her everything.
Giving your daughter the specific language to explain how her brain operates will allow her to feel safe and empowered. Since your daughter is so young, find ways to explain ADHD in easy-to-understand terms. Visual imagery is my favorite.
Dr. Ned Hallowell explains ADHD using the analogy of the brain working like a turbo-charged car but with the brakes of a bicycle. Explaining ADHD using visual imagery will allow your daughter to attach any verbal explanation she is given to a
fear of failure, procrastination, repeat — is true for so many people, especially those with ADHD. The perfectionist part of you wants to avoid experiencing shame, blame, and embarrassment. You’ll do everything you can – even procrastinate – to make sure you don’t experience those feelings, even if it only makes things worse down the line.But here’s the thing (and I’ll say it no matter how corny it sounds): When you make choices that hold you back in any way, what you’re really doing is depriving the world of the uniqueness that is you.
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