Sunday, December 14, 2014

When ADHD Threatens to Ruin the Holidays

Not too long ago I stated that ADHD is not a moral issue--a whole post explained why, in fact. Kids who struggle with executive function problems can appear selfish, lazy, and unmotivated for anything but pleasure. All of it looks like heart issues from the outside, and caretakers can struggle with anger and resentment as they try, day after day, to teach proper behavior and responses. Other family members and/or other students at school suffer because of this one child's issues. The ground is fertile for not only resentment to grow, but genuine dislike. Grace does not abound because it's so easy to blame the child for his characteristics, and not the neurological deficit.

Around the holidays, these kids can suck the joy right out of the yuletide. As caretakers, we have to slow down and remind ourselves, they didn't choose this. They don't plan to drive us insane with their inability to delay gratification, or their insane hyperfocusing on the one present to the point of you wanting to unwrap it and throw it at them to get everyone out of their misery--on December 7. (No, I didn't do that, but I seriously thought about it.)

It helps me to read and reread about executive function and about ADHD frequently, but especially around the holidays or around someone's birthday, when my son has the most difficulty. I need to remind myself not to judge him, but to display compassion with firmness. I didn't choose to have chronic headaches, and I would be crushed if someone blamed them on me or chastised me for them incessantly. When we tell our executive-function-impaired children they're selfish, it cuts them to the core. They don't want to be selfish. They don't want to disappoint us, sabotage their sibling's birthday, or make everything about them. In fact, when we describe to them what they're doing, they're probably disgusted with themselves; their self-esteem just sinks lower than before.

We can and must help them learn to manage themselves, but first, we must learn to respect them, to uphold their dignity, to point out their strengths, to help them value their contribution to the greater good. God doesn't make mistakes, of that we can be sure.

Every day from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, it's a good idea to sit on the couch for ten minutes with this child and tell him he is loved, and recount all the ways he made you proud that day. If he didn't behave at all that day, borrow praises from other days, but be genuine. These kids are often very compassionate people with amazing abilities, but they aren't reminding themselves of these things; they're in trouble too much to remember their own good points.

It's up to us to provide a balance between love and discipline. It's an awesome responsibility, this holding of the tongue to say only what is necessary. It's up to us to remind them that their disorder is not a moral issue. They're sinners like the rest of us, but no worse off. When we mess up and say the wrong thing, we need to ask their forgiveness right away--before the hurtful words fully sink in, hopefully.

Here are some things I've read these last several weeks, to keep my heart in the right place:

Happy Holidays--Really!

Avoid Holiday Havoc: Help for ADHD Children

Surviving the Holiday Season With Children With ADHD

Executive Function: What It Is Anyway?

Helping Kids Who Struggle With Executive Function

Is it Executive Function Disorder or ADHD?

Holiday "Gift Obsession" and Managing ADHD

ADHD Holiday Help: House Rules for Children

How do you keep the holidays peaceful while raising special needs children?

1 comment: said...

We go through this with our autistic son, too! Two years ago I nearly throttled him during Christmas dinner and last year he became anxious and obsessed over his Christmas presents... Deep breaths. Compassion. Walking away rather than snapping in his face. These are my strategies. I love him dearly. But he is infuriating sometimes.

Dear sister in Christ I will pray for you all :-)