Parenting a Child With ADHD is the Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done

There are many difficulties I have faced as a mother, but I have to say: Parenting a child with ADHD is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

From the time my son could walk, he was always on the move. Even sitting at the table for dinner was hard for him. He never wanted to sit and color, much less do any kind of preschool work.

Comforting a Child With ADHD

Parenting a Child With ADHD

I always just thought that was his personality. He was curious, inquisitive, bright, and that energy spilled out of him in the form of motion. I never even considered there could be something wrong.

And then he started kindergarten.

From the first day, my beautiful, bright boy, who loved to learn about new things and couldn’t wait to make friends, was constantly in trouble. He wouldn’t finish his work. “It’s too hard,” he would say. “It’s too boring. I don’t like school. I just want to play.”

We talked about our expectations for school, how we expected the very best from him because we knew what he was capable of. We tried punishments for poor behavior in school. We tried rewards for good behavior. 

Nothing worked.

Mother of a Child With ADHD

The day I decided to pursue neuropsychological testing will forever be burned into my mind.

My son had a really bad day at school. He started crying as soon as he climbed into the car. “I’m the bad kid, Mommy,” he said. “I don’t want to be a bad kid. My brain is too busy. It just won’t stop. It tells me to do bad things.”

I remember thinking about stories I’d heard of kids with ADHD and the negative connotations associated with the condition. How parents who medicate their kids are just looking for an easy way out or an excuse for their child’s bad behavior. 

That couldn’t be my child, could it?

Turns out that it was.

We opted to go through a private practice for the neuropsychological assessment because we wanted to screen for any other type of learning disabilities or giftedness. After thousands of dollars and dozens of hours, we came back with the results I had suspected all along. It was ADHD.

Should I Medicate My Child With ADHD?

The psychologist said our son was a strong candidate for medication, and so we found a pediatrician specializing in ADHD and began exploring treatment options. 

I will never forget the response when some family members found out the diagnosis and our treatment plan. “Why are you drugging your kid?” they asked. 

It was a question I struggled with constantly. Was I making the right choice? Would the medication harm him? Would he be the same kid? 

Should I Medicate My Child with ADHD?

In the end, a heart-felt plea from a stranger on the Internet in a forum for parents of children with learning disabilities let me know that this was the right decision for my family. 

“As an adult living with ADD/ADHD who is also gifted, I want to share,” she wrote. “It makes my heart hurt when I see loving, engaged parents using all of their best intentions to avoid medication, when I know first hand the hell and torture that ADD is.”

“I do not do so lightly when I say to you that withholding medication and treatment from a child who has ADD/ADHD is no different than withholding insulin from a diabetic or taking a wheelchair away from someone who cannot walk. No matter how good the intentions, no matter how loving the decision, it is damaging and the long term effects on a child are beyond detrimental.”

She goes on to give examples of friends she has with the same conditions who have turned to drug and alcohol abuse, and even suicide, to cope.

I do not ever want that to be my son. So we decided to give medication a try. We started on a low dose to test and see how he responded.

Just The Beginning

The difference in my son after his first dose of ADHD medication was staggering. He could control his body. He could articulate his thoughts. In fact, he spend a three-hour road trip asking us nonstop questions — everything from “Why is the sky blue?” to “Why do our bodies have blood?” He said that he could actually hear his own thoughts. His brain wasn’t spinning anymore. 

It felt good, and he finished the school year with no behavior issues. In fact, he earned a class award given to only one student who shows outstanding behavior during the year. It was something I had never dreamed possible at the beginning of the year.

Mom Worried About ADHD Child

Fast forward a year, and I can tell you that our ADHD journey is just beginning. It’s a new school year, with new teachers, and new challenges. Adjusting medication dosages, trying new medications, and worrying constantly — Are we doing the right thing? 

We’ve spent hundreds of dollars on gadgets and gizmos to try to make this burden a little easier — an Octopus smart watch for haptic reminders, weighted blanket to help with sleep, compression shirt to help with sensory issues, chewing necklaces to help with fidgeting, and on and on and on. 

We’ve spent thousands of dollars on medication and doctors visits that are barely covered by insurance. 

There is self-doubt, there is judgement from the outside world, there is exhaustion from sleepless nights, and there is frustration from parenting a child who seems to never listen to anything you say. 

And through it all, I remind myself — he is worth it. His happiness is worth it. His health is worth it. 

I have a good kid. And he is worth it. 

 

20 Comments

  1. T. Lawson says:

    Thank you for this. It brought me to tears. Everything I have said, done, or felt is in this article. I have quit working three times to be more present for my ADHD son. People who don’t have to deal with it rarely understand and it so frustrating. They don’t understand what it’s like to have to be on the receiving end of their comments, criticism, and eye rolls. My son is a good boy and he tries so hard to please us even when it’s hard. Thank you for making me not feel alone in my struggle.

  2. This article could’ve been written by me. So spot on!! It almost brought a tear to my eye. I still have doubts and guilt but I know that medicating my son was best for him in order for him to be successful. It’s still a struggle everyday and we can’t imagine what life would be like if he wasn’t on medication. Frankly, we don’t want to find out! There is no one in this world other than my husband who will ever understand what we go through as parents on a daily basis trying to manage my son. That’s why we don’t say too much about it to others. To all the parents out there struggling, always follow your intuition. You know your child best. Much love to you all!

  3. Linda Adkins says:

    Yes yes yes. We went through the same things..negative people don’t understand. I always say “one day their eyes will be opened by someone close to them.” Thank you for this article. I am going to share this, so others can understand better. I hate to here people say “they just need a butt spanking”. Thank you, again.

  4. Hello good day, everytime I read an article I feel like it my baby boy we are talking about, I am really trying to find the best fit for him with schools and other activities. Can anyone help me.

  5. Katie Fairhurst says:

    This brought me to tears.. I am currently waiting to be put on the pathway for my son. I blame myself constantly because we are not getting anywhere with the nhs because of the area we live in. I will keep on fighting to get him the treatment but article like this this give me the courage to get up and carry on trying for him. Thank you so much xx

  6. I know the struggle! We too decided that meds were what was needed. Our daughter was not having a successful experience in school, meds helped a great deal. Along with that was therapy. She is now 13 and beginning middle school. The hardest part has been watching her struggle with peer relationships. It has gotten better, but there are still struggles.

  7. I’m still on this journey now at 14 and she can’t take any ADHD meds, she had a reaction to any and all of them and guess into deep depression. Between puberty compounded with OCD & anxiety disorder i have dealt and continue to deal with the hardships both my daughter and i face. I will never give up on her. While in a trial for one of the first ADHD meds we discovered she had a photographic memory and it’s gifted but after the reactions to all the needs started we unfortunately went somewhat backwards. Thank you for the article, my family and friends are old school or just not educted on her v behavior and just insist she is spoiled and I’m choosing as a parent not to make her responsible with her behavior and actions when it’s exactly opposite. It just requires a different method everyday. It’s also harder because get sister is 18 months older and is at the top of her high school class and has no issues. She just to go to med school and she is well on her way, she’s being recruited in the 10th grade for college classes and colleges are already reaching out to her with scholarship opportunities. I try to explain to both then and the world they are 2 totally different children with totally different needs. Being a single parent everyone judges me as choosing I’ve over the other. I’m both my children’s biggest cheerleader no matter how their day is, what grade they get, and what they enjoy and dreams they have. I just wish people were more educated on unseen illnesses, i don’t talk to anyone about it at all because i don’t want to be judged when i feel like as a single parent I’m found the best i know how it can do. I love them equally and they both will always be my hero’s in navigating this crazy world and handling the best they each can.

  8. im a great grandmother who raises two girls with adhd. i have fought the battle with whether to do medication or not. i have also spent many dollars on therepy, weighted blankets, etc. i will say that their happiness and well being sent me to meds. after many trails n errors we found one that has helped them both. happy girls happy gigi. thank you this article helped me so much.

  9. II believe so many parents with ADHD children get judged. We have to do what is right for our kids. My son could not read. He was reading a kindergarten level in fourth grade. After countless visits to many doctors I finally found a doctor who diagnosed him with ADHD. He said some kids are able to control their behavior ( he was not a problem in school) when they have to but at home he let it all out. He recommend meds and within 3 months my son caught up reading. I hate to think where my son may be if I didn’t give him meds. Fast forward 11 years and my son is a junior in a great college and considering law school after graduating. The years in between have not been easy. At some point he took himself off of meds….struggled sitting still always in school and very social… but as he matured I let him decide when to take and If he could do school work without meds. He knew himself best. Good luck on your journey!

  10. Thank you for this article. My son is 4 years old and from age 2-4 has been kicked out of five daycares. I feel
    this is talking to me and exactly like how I feel and what people say and look at me.
    Thank you so much

  11. Thank you !

  12. Karen King says:

    Thankful for these stories and I need all the education on ADHD for my grandson and my family. To be able to help this sweet,bright boy! Thank you for sharing!

  13. Kristen Yard says:

    You are so welcome! 🙂

  14. Crysta Hernandez says:

    I know exactly how that feels. My son is 14 and has struggled through 3k to freshman year with school. His anxiety and ADD/ADHD has gotten the best of him. We decided to medicate him in 5th grade so he could under stand medication. His physiologist and therapist thought he would be good at self medicating himself since he knew when he needed it the most. So from preschool to fifth grade is a was difficult to keep him on track. He told his preschool teacher he knows how to count to ten and proceeded to do it for her and after that the he would never did it again for her… he would always ask “why do I have to keep repeating it if i know it?” He always wanted to play and be challenged at something. When He got to fifth grade it got harder for him to focus cause this is when they started to take notes in class and that’s why we proceeded to see doctors. As the four years went on with medication after medication and seeing a therapist along with the physiologist. we would get him on track and bam the medicine stopped working and side effects kicked in and then Puberty hit!
    His physiologist told us we ran out of medication for him and which one would we want to go with in the past… NONE! The side effects were horrible he was angry all the time and never happy- I just wanted my baby boy to be who he is and happy. So I did research after research. After weeks/months of research I decided to try CBD gummies and water soluble at night to help sleep. My son has been on the CBD for a month now and made a tremendous Improvement. At first he didn’t care about his grades while trying medication after medication, then after CBD got into his system after 2 weeks he was all of sudden concerned about his high school grades and he is so happy. When your child tells your he can’t think or stop shaking is the most scariest thing ever along with the doctors telling you there is no more medication that is effective for them. As a parent we try to do everything we can for our kids. Watching them struggle is the hardest part. Honestly I wish we would of started the CBD earlier but it is what it is. I talk to everyone about my son and his accomplishments he has crossed or is crossing along with the struggles he has or is having. He actually found something that challenges him (weightlifting).
    Great story above and thank you to everyone who commented cause it’s hard to be a parent to a child who has ADD/ADHD w/anxiety… knowing others have gone or is going through it and we are not alone Is a good feeling. Thank you again.

  15. As a mother of 3 kids with ADHD/ADD this is an excelent article. I did medicate my kids after speaking with and adult I lnew as a kid with ADHD she gave me this exact answer about not medicating for ADHD. My children are in their late 20s now. What I also told my children that ADHD is an illness not an excuse for poor behavior. That they needed to recognize what is acceptable behavior, and work towards that. In the real wold of adulthood no one wants to hear that an assignment wasnt completed because you are ADHD, you are late for work because you are ADHD. This is an extremely important lesson that parents tend to forget. When looking at your kindergartener not being able to focus. You need to prepare them for adulthood. My adult children with ADHD and all the other alphabet soup diagnosis that follows are very successful. Two are business owners and one works fulltime and now has 2 children of their own. Through behavior modifications none of them are on medications although that didn’t come till their 20s. Are there days when they are a little too busy yes, but they are few and far between. My one son who’s business is doing well my friends and family members who know him at his busiest cant believe how well he is doing. Once your child finds his or her niche they can become a sucess story. Don’t limit your child potential because of stereo type ideas of ADHD. Be flexible everyone learns differently. Looking back it was a hard road to travel but worth the time and dedication. Best of luck to you and your families.

  16. Robin Schemke says:

    I have an eleven year old son. He is adhd. He is on medicine that he takes in the to help him at school and he’s on medicine at night to make him sleep. His attitude and disrespect to me has gotten truly out of control. I’m truly at my wits end. I know he loves and doesn’t want to act like that because when his fits are over he starts crying and telling me he loves and I’m sorry for treating me that way. He says the meanest and hurtful things. I am open to any suggestion please. From a very loving mother who just wants the best for her son and will do anything to help him.

  17. I’m so glad I’ve stopped to read this. My son has just started kindergarten this year and we have struggled so much with behavioral issues this year. I feel like you took the words right out of my mouth if I was explaining my son. Unfortunately his Doctor states that they don’t assess children for ADHD until they are 6 years of age, so I feel like I’m at a loss and he’s wasting this very important beginning of just starting school and learning. As of now we are just trying to push through and just wait until June which unfortunately is the end of kindergarten for him. I’m just hoping we can have everything figured out and a plan for success over the summer. I’m prying and hoping 1st grade will be better and he can show his tue self, because he truly is a sweetheart and so so smart when he can actually focus. I’m just wanting the best for him.

  18. Misty smjth says:

    As an adult with adhd whose parents chose not to medicate, allow me to chime in! Help your babies! Judgements come in many forms, but the most dangerous of those is the judgements your child will make about themselves! It took me 37 years to find my place in this world, all because I was born with a taboo disease and everyone thought I needed “a good whooping and some disipline”.

  19. Angela Taylor says:

    I didn’t realise there was anything wrong with my child until he started grade 3. So he was 8 years old when his behaviour just changed erratically. I went through breast cancer when he was 4 so at first I thought, he was realising what could’ve happened to me coz it started with separation anxiety when I would take him to school. He would throw himself on the floor screaming and crying and wouldn’t care who seen him. I used to have to get the principal to hold him so I could leave.Then they had to lock him in a room til I left and he settled down. We got him into a physcologist . We also got him into a psychiatrist.. He was diagnosed with ADHD, seperation anxiety and depression. It took awhile to get him into the pediatrician but she was excellent and after some time of trialling different meds, they finally got it right. He also went to see a professor at the childrens hospital. Thats where we really understood what our child was going through and he understood what he was going through. The doc working for the professor said, she remembered me saying “Why did I have a normal child and then I didn’t” She said the ADHD was always there but it wasn’t til he was learning so much, that it got too much for his brain to process. I think about what he and all our family went through those few years ago, life was so angry, hectic and sad. My son has just started high school and seems to be going well. I think about those parents that don’t medicate their children and how sad and cruel it is for their child.

  20. Hi,

    I wanted to say thank you for writing this! Since my youngest was able to walk we noticed he was different also. I thought the same (he has spontaneous energy but made the world so wonderful to look at everyday). He was also premature at 32 weeks so we thought maybe this is part of a premie child. We’ve gone through 4 daycares since age 3 because he would topple bookshelves, get aggressive with teachers when frustrated…this last daycare said no more. We had a mental evaluation at the daycare and they said “he is unfit for early learning environment” and left it there. Desperate, with everything we’ve been through these past years since his birth, I found a therapist to help. after our third visit she is highly suspect of ADHD and recommends when he is 5 (August 2020) we get his tested for Kindergarten. I cried when I read all the check lists because everything was my kid. I got scared about thinking what do we do if they recommend meds? But this post makes me feel that if it comes to it, I am not a.bad mom for trying. For I’ve tried everything else and I feel alone because no one I have contact with has this experience in their life. I happened to cross this blog since it was reposted on FB. And like I said, I want to say thank you for your experience and sharing it.

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