Telling your child about diagnosis - ADHD Parents Toge...

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Telling your child about diagnosis

My son is just about 10 years old, and we are feeling like it's getting to be time to tell him that he has been diagnosed with ADHD (happened 2 + years ago now). He seems to have awareness that some things are an ongoing struggle for him, and we want to be able to talk openly with specialists and doctors in front of him as well. Allow him to begin to understand and express and ask his own quesitons. Realize it will be a process, but to open the door. What has been the experience of other parents and how/when did they do this? I feel if he knows a bit more directly, we can speak to him in a more rational way about why he needs to go to certain therapies and do things a different way, etc. I feel it will take his awareness to the next level and allow us to openly communicate with him in a more productive way to allow his comprehension and to open his eyes so he can tell us more and get even more out of therapy. What are your thoughts and experiences?

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Absolutely share as much as you can with regarding his "disability"...The more his little mind can learn about his behaviours, learning processes and fears the better off you all will be in the long run. Teach him to not be ashamed of his struggles in learning and that together you can all advocate for positive outcomes. Techniques to handle his frustrations, shame or guilt. Read Dr. Ross Greens writings (were very helpful with us) help him understand how his brain works (kinda cool science stuff), take the stigma away from ADHD. Our son was late diagnosed, the knowledge is the power, the sooner the better IMHO. Keep asking and keep searching ..Best wishes R

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Really appreciate that reply. I’m actually nervous to tell him because I want it to be positive and not say something that he might interpret. Going to keep it short and simple but follow it up. Thanks!

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Ahh I understand the nervous part of it. Remember the less stigma it creates, the more acceptance / openness and positive space it can create. Wishing you well :)

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My son is only 7, diagnosed at age 6. We haven't used official diagnostic labels like "ADHD" with him yet, but we have definitely talked about symptoms (he has even brought them up) and how somethings are harder for him that other kids, and ways we are trying to help him with that. I also point out his strengths and how everyone is different and has different strengths and weaknesses, so he doesn't feel like he's a lesser person.

At some point we will tell him officially about ADHD - 10 might even be a good age, I'll just have to judge by his maturity. For right now, I just don't want him to label himself (or use it as an excuse! lol)

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Yes, we've talked about symptoms and that his brain is a bit different and needs some different strategies and techniques. Which we believed was all age appropriate, and his therapist felt the same way at that time. But, as things evolve and as he develops and matures, it feels like we are keeping information from him that could be useful to him understanding himself better. I've seen him confused by the fact that he repeats certain behaviors and has a consistently hard time with certain things. For example, verbal instructions are very challenging for him. I totally agree with everything you wrote! I feel entirely in the same boat. It just feels like a good point in his maturity and development to have a more open discussion with him and break down that wall of "secrecy." It's not really secrecy, it's just that we were waiting until he could process it in a more direct way. It's all good and we've gotten here for a reason and it's just part of his journey.

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Hi,

My daughter was officially diagnosed a few months ago and I've been very honest about her ADHD and anxiety. She talks openly about having it with no shame, and knows that some things are challenges because "her brain needs glasses" and yet she has special gifts because of it too. I highly recommend the book, "my brain needs glasses" too. So far she has shown no shame and there have been no negative repercussions about being this open with her.

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Almost forgot, she's 7 years old.

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Not sure why this wasn’t explained to him at diagnosis? Often doctors have a very good way of explaining it in age-appropriate ways. There are some nice books out there for kids. The one common analogy that I’ve heard is explaining that “your brain is like a racecar/Ferrari while others are driving a slow and steady Chevy”. You can do emphasize the need for high-octane fuel (good food, meds, etc) to help that engine run at its best.

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Yes, I've heard and read that analogy as well and it's a good one. We discussed with his therapist when he was diagnosed and at the time, she thought we should stay age appropriate and developmentally appropriate for him and not use any kind of official language or anything like that. In the meantime, we've been so absorbed the past 2+ years with dealing with the school, his IEP, taking him to therapies that we were just letting all of that sink in and we've discussed with him that we are going to specialists that can help him with the areas that he needs a little bit more help with, and that there is nothing wrong with that at all - it's all just helping him learn and grow and get stronger in certain areas. It's not like we have said nothing at all to him and he's in the dark. He's aware, but he's not connecting all the dots and we are feeling like it's time to do that. So this would simply be taking it to the next age appropriate level because he's come a long way in the past 2 years and can process it more now and have a more clear understanding.

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We have had to go to a lot of appointments and see a lot of different doctors, therapists, and counselors so I actually started talking to my son about his ADHD when he was 4. I’ve tried to keep it on his level and started by talking about how the engine in his body runs really fast. It’s been good because we have worked up to how he has a hard time concentrating in class or staying in his seat. I was concerned he may use it as an excuse, but over the last three years that hasn’t happened.

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I like to say that the diagnosis is an explanation, not an excuse. It is hard to walk that line for parent as well as kid!

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Thanks, I'm feeling more so this is the right next step to take and it doesn't have to be a memorized monologue! It can be communicating in the same way we have in the past, it's just that it is making it a bit more age appropriate and taking the information to the next level. It's another step in this journey we are taking as parents, and the journey my son is taking in his life! This has been a HUGE learning experience for me as a person, and I've grown in ways I never thought I would. It's made me a better person and a better parent. I feel for my son and the struggles I see him having, but I know that he has plenty of strengths and we just focus on that and stay positive. Everyone has struggles in life and things they have to really work at, it's just that his are a bit more pronounced at the moment. I don't doubt that with continued support and encouragement he will find his way and figure out what works for him, step-by-step. It's great to see him find ways to deal with things that work with him, or adjust the way he does things at school with tips he has found along the way. School is a huge struggle for our kids because of the structure of school now and the expectations that are placed on kids! But, in his areas of interests and in our family life, my son is thriving with all the support he has in his therapies and specialists as well. I'm grateful that we live in an area with an abundance of professionals to draw from! Thanks for all the replies!

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We literally just went through this! My son is 9 and was diagnosed when he was 5. We chose to hold off on using the term ADHD with him until we felt he could better understand. I know everyone has their own opinion on this, but you do what is best for you and your own family. We of course talked about his symptoms and meetings at school and appointments with doctors in terms he could understand.

We recently left his appointment with the psychiatrist and he turned to me and said, “So, I have ADHD?” I told him it was good he had questions and we could sit down with his dad when we got home to discuss it if he would like. (His younger sister was with us). So that evening we sat down and talked, we asked him what questions he had. He asked me if I knew he was going to be like this when he was born, among other things. He wanted to know what the letters in ADHD stood for, but was then concerned that he had a “disorder”. It all came together for him with terms we had used in regards to difficulty with focus and being impulsive and accommodations he has in school.

My son is really in to basketball and all things NBA related. My husband and our son looked up NBA players with ADHA and it seamed to ease his mind that there were professional athletes with something like him. So not sure if there is something similar you could look up that might interest your child. We told him if he ever has any questions he can come to us. That convo was a few weeks ago and he hasn’t really mentioned it again. Hope this helps. It isn’t easy and there is no right or wrong way, only what you see is best for you and your child.

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Kids need to know why they perform differently than their peers, why they have so many different appointments, why they take medications. Telling your son about his diagnosis is important and helps them understand.

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We have always been open and honest with my 2 grandsons. Their child psychologist does his best to explain things to them too . I also bought a book sometime back written by an ADHD kid which my older grandson said he could really relate to.

They have also met other kids who are medication so they don't feel that they are different or the only ones.

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So, in a twist of fate - he actually asked me himself. We were sitting in the waiting room of a doctor's office, and there was a commercial or a little clip on the TV related to ADHD. He was quiet for a minute, and then said "I might have that." So I gave him an answer related to having a brain that is wired differently and is moving very quickly, making it hard to pay attention and focus. He took it in and that was it for that day. 2 or 3 days later, he brought something up again, so I gave him a bit more detail. I asked him if he was fine with that and if he had questions or concerns, he said no and went back to what he was doing. It was such a relief to break through that initial barrier. Hope everyone has an experience like that one!

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Excellent!!

I also found it helpful to tell my son about other trusted adults we know who also have ADHD or Tourette, and that he can always ask them questions. (It was really cute when he approached my cousin with TS/ADHD - like they had a special club.)

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That's amazing and a wonderful support! Thanks for that tip. I'm excited now that when things come up, we can have a more open conversation about it and hopefully the communication we have with him opens up more for us to support him, or for him to understand what he's going through.

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