Who should know about your condition? How far beyond immediate family and close friends should knowledge of your condition be spread?
As with many things ADHD, the answer is “it depends.”
The golden rule is immediate family only, with exceptions. I will set out guidelines to those exceptions. No two families are the same, and that applies especially to ADDers of all ages.
Let me start with a nuclear family - Mum, Dad, son, and daughter. One of the parents will have ADHD if a child has it. I will use just 2 categories, “Must Know,” and “Optional.” to give you enough flexibility to implement according to your personal circumstances.
As far as the parents go, they must know. When you realise that your dating partner is a prospective spouse, and you start discussing your lives together, that is the time to inform the person.
This is important as it is highly likely that your offspring will have the condition. Note that I didn’t say “confess! I said discuss.” Having ADHD is not a crime or something shameful that needs to be confessed to. It is also not something to be boasted about.
If it’s your pre-tween child - between 4 and 9, an older child - above the age of 8 or 9 - should know, - it’s important that they know how to deal with ADHD. This in no way means that the older child is responsible in any way for the younger child, they simply need to know how to react appropriately.
The only other person that “Must Know” is the child’s teacher.
The “tweens” are nearly always more difficult than other age groups, not surprising, a lot of change is taking place in their bodies, both physical and hormonal.
These children are either at the end of primary school, or in a middle school. Teachers in this instance become an “Optional.” The reason for this is that child will at this stage be responsible for their medication, and will need to be taking a lot more responsibility for their behaviour.
This “time of the tweens” is really difficult and needs to be handled with care. In fact, parents need to be preparing for this time from when the first diagnosis is made. In the case where the parents know before the children are born, your prepration starts at birth.
If your tween is really struggling with ADHD and the hormonal changes, and especially if they have low self-esteem, there is one thing you can consider doing. Ask the principal if you can have a short meeting with the child’s teachers. I have done this many times with excellent results.
In this time you explain the issues your child is struggling with, what you are doing about it. Start and end off with a commitment to work with them behind the scenes, unless it becomes necessary for further action. Emphasise that you are not looking to excuse your child’s behaviour, but want their help to help the child. Your child doesn’t need to know about this intervention.
When I do this I ALWAYS start off by saying that no ADHD child gets up in the morning and plots how to make anyone’s life a misery. We might do that, but we never set out to do it. Once teachers understand that impulsivity is a massive part of ADHD, and that not paying attention is an involuntary act, it helps the teachers to not disrupt the entire class while getting the ADHD kid back on track.
When your child gets to their teens and high school, they will have multiple teachers, and those teachers have different expectations - monitoring behaviour and attention is not part of their job!
A different method can be employed to deal with ADHD for this age group. In this case I coach the child to go individual teachers and explain what might happen, like inattention, or impulsive outbursts, or comments. This intervention is “Optional.”
The teenager should ask to be seated in the front row, or the second row in the middle of the class. They can also ask to use headphones without music - just the headphones in the ears when doing written work in the class. This blocks out a lot of distracting noise and enables better focus and concentration.
This act usually impresses teachers no end, and makes them aware of the child. But that the child is willing to overcome the ADHD difficulties makes things so much easier for everyone, teacher, class mates, and the ADDer. Of course, you as the parent will also be able to sleep easier. This must be the child's decision; don't force them to this!
There are so many good things that come out of an action like this, things that will have life-long effects on the teenager. Most importantly, it boosts their self esteem, and once good self esteem is experienced, that feeling is something to aim at when things go wrong - which they will.
Those wrong things become growth points, not forces of failure that set the teenage back.
When the child goes to university, learns a trade, or starts work, there is no longer any need for anyone else to know about the ADHD.
Along the way, best friends are likely to be told, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Not all friends, only best friends. They can often assist in getting the ADDer back on track, or not over-reacting to events.
So we have clarified the entire child cycle into young adulthood. So far the only people who have access to the knowledge of ADHD present in our nuclear family.
So what about extended family? Sorry, but again it depends. Grandparents are the first category. If the grandparents are playing their “usual loving role" then it may be acceptable.
If either of the grandparents are domineering or are inclined to discipline their grandchildren, then involving them may assist, but they need to be trained. That suggestion doesn’t always go down well.
The same applies to the siblings of the parents. These two groups are mostly well meaning in their speech and actions, but they can cause major ruction in families, to the point of splitting them apart permanently.
In our western society we generally get to choose our friends, but we can’t choose our family members. Our friends are usually more supportive that our family, so they play a different role.
Close friends can and should be wonderfully supportive. ADHD in a family is never easy, and friends can - simply by being available - prevent ADHD episodes exploding into damaging and major events.
Know The Jargon - ADHD Acronyms
ADDer - a person who has ADHD or ADD
ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder
ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder
SCT - Sluggish Cognitive Tempo - a new name for ADD
ODD - Oppositional Defiance Disorder
CD - Conduct Disorder
OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Bi-polar - Bi-polar Disorder, used to be Manic-Depression
SPD - Sensory Processing Disorder
PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder
ACT - Action Consequence Trigger - monitoring forms devised and supplied by Living ADDventure®