Your First Four Steps Following the Diagnosis
When your child is initially diagnosed with ADHD, you likely feel both relief and dread. While you finally have a name to identify your child’s behavior, you are now dealing with new fears, stereotypes, and judgments.
Is your kid going to struggle for the rest of their life? Is grandma going to laugh at the diagnosis that she is convinced is a made-up disorder? Are you going to continue being at your wit’s end forever, feeling more like a homework drill sergeant than mom?
These are all very understandable concerns. ADHD can be a scary diagnosis.
Here’s the good news: it doesn’t have to stay that way.
In this blog, I will dive into your next steps after finding out your child has ADHD. But first, let’s start with a word of caution.
ADHD medication will not “fix” your child
Often, parents’ first consideration when they find out their child has ADHD is medication options. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad move, but it’s important to know what ADHD medication is and isn’t.
In my experience, ADHD medication is a lot like taking Tylenol or Ibuprofen when you have a headache. The thing with Tylenol or Ibuprofen is that they don’t HEAL anything. They simply mask the pain. The medicine plays tricks on your brain, so you don’t feel the pain (that is until the medication wears off).
To actually heal your headache issue, you have first to understand its root cause and what sparked it in the first place. Then you can deal directly with that issue by changing your diet, working out to relieve stress, drinking more water, or maybe buying blue-light-blocking glasses.
In my experience, the same concept is true for ADHD medication. Medicine may help – but it won’t fix the problem.
Please hear me: I’m not a doctor. I’m not advising you not to give your child ADHD medication. I’m actually going to dive more into medication considerations later in this blog. But first, it’s essential to understand that while it can do a lot of good for some kids, medicine will not take away your child’s ADHD.
Medication won’t teach your child time management, organizational skills, or prioritizing and remembering tasks. It can help focus your child’s brain so they can better learn essential life skills.
In my experience, life gets a lot “easier” for a while after medication. It’s easy to think you found the “cure”. But inevitably, school or life gets more challenging. When this happens, your kiddo is going to get overwhelmed again. And the same behaviors will resurface.
Medication can contain behavioral symptoms for a season. Still, without getting to the root of the issues and their lack of fundamental life skills, significant life changes and increased responsibilities will overwhelm them again.
Medication is a helpful tool in the toolbox to help your child survive with their ADHD. But let’s be honest – we want them to thrive. And they can.
Here are the first four steps to take when you receive an ADHD diagnosis for your child.
Step 1: Help your Child (And their Support System) Understand ADHD
After diagnosis, the most crucial thing you can do is equip your child with a deep understanding of what ADHD is and how it uniquely affects them. Then, equip your child’s support system.
ADHD affects each person differently, so understanding and verbalizing their unique ADHD make-up is crucial. Kids with ADHD need to understand how their brain functions. They may be getting good grades but staying up too late doing homework because they keep getting distracted. Or they get frustrated with their forgetfulness or can’t seem to keep anything organized.
When kids begin to understand their specific symptoms and realize it is nothing to be ashamed of, they can begin to verbalize what they struggle with and receive the help they need.
My blog, Signs your Child Actually has ADHD, breaks down the different types of ADHD and can serve as a great tool for explaining ADHD to your child.
In addition to helping your child understand ADHD, you, your family, and your teachers need an understanding as well. Make sure you communicate the diagnosis with those closest to your child to help build a plan for their success. At school, it’s time to request an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan. There are resources at school available to help your child, and I recommend taking advantage of them.
On the other hand, I do not mean telling everyone – your child’s diagnosis is your child’s business and their story to share. But it does mean making sure their unique brain processes are considered at school, at grandma’s, and places where instruction is given.
When your child’s support system understands ADHD, they can help. For example, if your kiddo is getting distracted by classmates, maybe the teacher can move their chair closer to the front of the room. If they have a hard time remembering what they need to bring home at the end of the day, maybe they can make a list with their teacher to check each thing off as they put it in their backpack.
Step 2: Find a Doctor or Psychiatrist you Trust
Again, while medication won’t fix the problem, it can certainly help your child get on track. If you are going to go the medication route, it’s essential not to trust your child to anyone. If a medical professional does not understand ADHD, they are not the right fit.
Many doctors these days will throw medication at the problem, but you want one that is willing to investigate the best medication for your child’s biological make-up checks in regularly to ensure it’s helping and not hurting.
If you are familiar with any ADHD medication name, it’s likely Adderall. Adderall is often given to ADHD children and can certainly be a good tool for some. For others, you might as well name it “Madderall”, as poorly prescribed Adderall can create or exacerbate anxiety, irritability, and even rage.
While Adderall may be a good tool for your child, you want a medical professional willing to explore all the options. What works for one season might not work for the next. You may also have the goal to get your child functioning off of medication. You want a doctor that knows this and has the same goals.
Don’t rush this decision. Do research, ask questions, and find someone that takes time with your child. A psychiatrist can often be a better choice than a primary care doctor for ADHD medication, as they often have a more in-depth understanding of the disorder.
Reminder: I am not a doctor or medical professional – this is my opinion from my experience!
Step 3: Find a Support System for YOURSELF
I get it – your child is the most important thing in your world. I’m a mom, too, and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my babies. But let’s remember something – you have to take care of yourself to take care of your kiddo.
ADHD is overwhelming for you, too – not just your kid. Simple homework assignments can feel like WWIII. Bedtime hyperactivity is enough to make you pull your hair out. The calls from the teachers can feel embarrassing and crushing.
First things first, you’re a great mom.
No, REALLY – you’re a great mom.
Not every mom does the work to investigate whether or not they have a disorder like ADHD. Not every mom reads blogs on helping their child overcome their struggles. You. Are. A. Good. Mom.
It’s like the flight attendant says, put your mask on before putting the mask on your child. Make sure you are taking care of yourself. Make a plan for a regular night out, get a massage, go on a walk. Most importantly, find other moms going through the same thing. The life of an ADHD mom can feel isolating, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. In fact, I’ve created a Facebook Group just for you, where you can connect with other moms going through similar experiences and get encouragement on helping your kiddo.
I also host a free webinar a couple of times a month to share tools and resources with you! To sign up for the Mom, Me & My ADHD webinar, click here.
Step 4. Equip your Child with ADHD Coaching & Tutoring
I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 11, but I didn’t hear the definition of ADHD until I was 18, and I didn’t learn how to manage it until I was nearly 20. This shouldn’t happen. I could’ve saved myself, my parents, and my teachers from so much frustration if I was better equipped with understanding my new diagnosis. I could’ve worked with my parents to pinpoint how ADHD uniquely affected me. I could’ve learned to be my advocate in school and life.
So if you just got a diagnosis for your kiddo, remember you are lucky. Now, you can make a plan.
It wasn’t until I was in college that I learned to manage my ADHD successfully. I leaned into the positive side of my ADHD and became hyper-focused on finding a support system that worked. I talked with experts, researched, and went through a trial and error process to create a plan that helped me cut through the noise and find success. Once I had a better understanding of myself, I was able to find the tools I needed to be more organized, stay on schedule, become independent, and even open my own business.
I love helping others begin to thrive with ADHD too. A big part of this is closing the gap between diagnosis, medication, ways to help with homework, and ways to help their child learn to advocate for themselves. I want you to dive into your child’s diagnosis WITH your child.
That’s precisely why I started Focus Forward – so that every child can have the support and tools they need to gain confidence and independence. At Focus Forward, we offer academic support and life coaching for kids in middle school, high school, and college. We know kids this age improve and learn much easier with outside help and encouragement.
And our coaching doesn’t end at high school graduation. Entering college with ADHD provides its own set of unique struggles. So we offer college coaching as well. We are genuinely here for you and your child each step of the way.
If your child was diagnosed with ADHD and you’re unsure where to begin, please reach out. Consultations are entirely free, and we want to walk this journey alongside you. I know it can seem scary, but when you know you’re not alone, you can conquer anything. Yes, even with ADHD.
You got this, mama.