ADHD Parenting: When You Lead A Horse To Water But Still Can’t Get It To Drink

One of the biggest dilemmas for the parents of children with ADHD, is just how much to scaffold and offer their kids extra support. 

English: Example of Bamboo Scaffolding
English: Example of Bamboo Scaffolding (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For too long, I not only ‘helicoptered’ to our son, due to the extra parental guilt derived over what I saw as his inheritance of the dodgy genes, I was the fucking all singing, all dancing AugustaWestland model (Look it up!).

The sad truth is, that although it has been widely acknowledged that many ADHD children have above- average intelligence – and from the children I have met, I can believe that – their poor motor, organisational, sensory, memory and behavior skills hold them back in life and can exacerbate poor self-esteem, which leads to other issues, particularly in the classroom and when they go out into the big, wide world.

It’s an issue the old man and I fight over continually in respect to our son. How much support to give our son? How much to compensate for his special needs? Where the old man believes that because Kurt won’t ultimately be treated any differently in the real world, it is wrong for us to provide him with too much extra support, my argument is that it is due to those very needs, that Kurt will have no chance of making it into the real world without a helpful push from us.

As you know from my recent post, I am a fan of the Love and Logic parenting ethos, but obviously their approach is not aimed directly at the parents of kids with mental health issues. So although their style encourages the idea of cultivating independence from the outset, it doesn’t take into account that sometimes independence needs a ladder, or a helping hand across the bridge.

With ADHD kids, the most frustrating aspect of supporting them is when you have led your horse to water, and they still refuse to drink.

That characteristic is something that can stirs the embers of anger to such a degree, only the mother of a child with ADHD can fully appreciate. Where normal children will in general appreciate help, the ADHD child resents it; probably because it makes them feel even more inferior. As a parent, you can put yourself out there, encourage, support, praise, do every fucking thing the parenting manuals tell you, leaving your child no excuse not to succeed, and they will still refuse.

And the hard part is, you don’t really know if their attitude is derived from anxiety, fear, self-loathing, oppositional behavior or downright teenage wilfulness.

It isn’t helped by the fact that ADHD kids struggle to understand the concept of consequences and choose to live in the moment – so they can’t see the consequences to their decisions. It also doesn’t help that they struggle with empathy, so where normal children might consider the impact of hurting their parents or peers through their actions, that is not something that will affect our kids in the heat of the moment.

I lost the plot this morning for this very reason.

Did I mention that Kurt may have a job *praying*? Anyone who understands ADHD will appreciate my honesty when I say it’s very early days, but we are tentatively keeping everything crossed.

But to get the boy to sort out his tax file number – you would think I’d asked him to walk around Sydney in a Frozen costume.

So we had to put our hard hats back on to do some scaffolding. The old man booked the appointment at the Post Office and I offered to accompany Kurt. I know that sounds like a severe case of ‘helicoptering’, but we’ve learned from experience that Kurt simply would not have gone to the appointment by himself, even if that did mean not getting paid/losing the job. This is a boy who has missed important interviews, exams, performance try-outs, sign up sessions for courses and expensive medical sessions, without for one moment considering the consequences.

Once the initial excitement of him maybe landing his new job was over, we then watched his behaviour regress for a rough few days because he must have decided that having achieved something pretty major in his life deserved time to unwind and celebrate, and remind us of the sort of behaviours we had hoped this new level of responsibility would help him leave behind.

So when he refused to get out of bed yesterday morning to come with me to the post office, I felt worn down and disappointed and simply lost my shit, stormed out of the house with the old man’s accusing voice bombarding my ear drums and found solace in pounding the pavements for an hour, until the swelling in my brain subsided.

Note to self: parenting is not an exact science, our children are not our clones, nor necessarily anything like us, nor do they think like us. No-one’s the perfect parent and sometimes you can lead a horse to water but you can’t fucking make it drink.

I Know There Are Worst Things Than Parenting A Teenager With ADHD, But Sometimes It Doesn’t Feel Like It

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The story above was doing the rounds on social media last week.


I get that it was meant to be funny and to most people it would have been. I did smile at the end. Bitterly.


I read through the first part of the letter and a shiver ran through my body. That part of the letter could have come from Kurt – I’m almost expecting a letter like that any day now. What I wanted to be able to do when I reached the end of the letter was to laugh at it like everyone else, and think smugly ‘thank God, that’s not us.’ But I couldn’t.


That humorous little scenario the son depicted to his father embodied the fear we live with daily with Kurt at the moment. 


Each day our son crosses another line to challenge our moral fibre and the strength of our family unit; each day we question how best to parent him; each day I say my prayers even though I’m an atheist.


What we have come to terms with, is that these bad spells are probably not just part of a teenage ‘phase’, like we had been kidding ourselves hoping they were. This is it – this is the path with Kurt and his ADHD, and it’s probably not going to get much better.


There are days now when I almost wish my son wouldn’t come home. Isn’t that a terrible thing to admit to? Then the anger and anxiety abate and I calm down just enough to remember how much I would miss him – because his charisma and enthusiasm for life is contagious, for better or for worse, and because he is my son and I love him.


Sometimes I do question if there is indeed some truth in the link between ADHD kids and attachment disorder.


Kurt is seventeen now, and school (as we suspected it would) has become overwhelming for him. As a friend of mine described it at the weekend – my poor son is drowning. With the difficulties of ADHD (that include poor executive skills leading to poor organization, time management and impulsivity), added to pressure from school and pressure at home, I can see that my son is feeling buried and becoming defeated.


His sunny disposition has become eclipsed.


My weeks are now spent fielding calls and texts from his school about truancy and late assignments, and my evenings are spent trying to make him see sense.


The question is: how much pressure is too much pressure to put on him? Today he disappeared for a couple of hours after a bad week and an argument about homework and I assumed the worst. We have reached the point where he no longer communicates with us, preferring to bury his head in the sand or self-medicate for relief. When I read terrifying articles about teenagers on Ice or other similar drugs, it makes me paranoid.


It goes without saying that we would support him if he decided to leave school – we’ve known for a long time that school does not suit Kurt. But he still doesn’t have the maturity or the tools to handle a job, so as much as school might be anathema to him, the thought of a job terrifies him almost as much.


It’s the thought of him leaving school with no plan that terrifies me the most. I’m not concerned about him leaving without qualifications – I know lots of successful people who have left school without them – but I am concerned about where a lack of ambition and focus may lead him.


The self-medication he uses to cope with feeling over-whelmed is our biggest enemy. We were told that his ADHD drugs would reduce the risk of him self-medicating but Kurt has told me that it stops the craziness in his head, and so he has been sucked into their short-term lifeline.


Whatever we say, however many articles I leave surreptitiously on his bed for him about the dangers of drugs, everything seems to fall on deaf ears.


He is a teenager and he is a teenager with ADHD.


Meanwhile his behavior at home and his attitude towards us threatens to tear us apart. This is not like dealing with a sick child who responds to and needs love. He is oppositional, angry and defiant and the days of being able to send him to his room have long gone.


We aren’t the first parents to have a difficult teenager, but when you’re in this position and trying to make sense of it all, unable to see light at the end of the tunnel and fearful for your child’s life, it can become dangerously obsessional. Your parental instincts tell you to do whatever it takes to keep your child safe; yet this child, who was made out of love and came out of my own body, rejects us and is tearing the rest of our world apart, seemingly without a care in the world.


‘There are worse things in life,’ but on a bad day it sure doesn’t feel that way.



Do You Still Seek Your Parents Approval In Middle Age?

When you make the decision to migrate to the other side of the world like I have, your relationship with your parents inevitably changes.

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My dad and I never shared what you would describe as a conventional relationship. He was twenty years old when he had me and at the time was an aspiring young actor. Inevitably, once the stork visited, he had to make the harsh choice to give up on his dream and earn a more dependable living to support his growing family.


I lived with him through my teenage years and it was an unusual relationship. He was unconventional, and still a young, single man when I was in my late teens, nevertheless I always felt loved. He always maintained high expectations for me, gave me what he believed to be the best education and the hardest part of our relationship, from my perspective, was to attain his approval.


Some facets of your relationship with your parents never change. My father may not know this, but I still seek my dad’s approval in everything I do.


Before he arrived for a visit to The Block a few weeks ago, I scrubbed our little apartment from top to bottom. I left no potential colony of bacteria unturned and not even the most robust bed bug would have survived my cleaning frenzy. Each sofa cushion was perfectly puffed and placed, every artwork polished until the glass gleamed and every shower drain emptied. For that hour before his arrival, our apartment resembled a ‘styled’ property and the kids were ordered not to breathe, let alone move around in it.



I even ironed my dad’s sheets. I’ve never ironed a fucking sheet in my life but I ironed his sheets methodically, from corner to corner, and controversially, I took a great deal of pleasure out of doing it.


I’m a grown up, middle-aged woman now and yet I still feel like a child in his presence. I wanted to please him.


Obviously, the kids were put on high grandparent alert. We role-played their table manners, reminded them that it is indeed possible to close their mouths when they eat, retaught them their ‘pleases and thank yous’ and I reminded Kurt that we would be ‘in the library’ for the duration of Grandad‘s visit.


I discovered organization skills that I thought had long disappeared with the arrival of children and the ageing process. I booked tables at restaurants ahead of the day, picked up Dad’s favourite breakfast treats at Aldi (as well as new outdoor chair cushions) and the only thing I forgot was a bottle of his favourite Whisky.


Obviously, it was the first thing he asked for.


My father is an intelligent man and a witty public speaker and he can also be an opinionated old git at times – which is obviously where I inherited it. Like me, he takes a perverse pleasure in baiting people for a reaction. So when we broached topics that I knew we might come to blows with – like feminism, racism and how to raise Kurt – I steered him carefully away and swallowed my pride and my convictions. I didn’t want anything to spoil this rare, precious time together.


Not having grandparents in the immediate vicinity to tell me how to raise my kids, I am even more sensitive to criticism of my parenting choices. ADHD and its symptoms are difficult for the older generations to grasp. In Dad’s day, kids with learning disabilities left school early and no one questioned why they under-achieved. Still, I wanted his approval. I needed him to tell me that I’d done a good job, married the right man and that the kids were a fantastic reflection of how we had raised them.


I didn’t pretend to be the perfect daughter. One evening he walked in on a domestic the old man and I were having when he refused to wear smart trousers to the Yacht Club, (just to be difficult) and I knew it was important to Dad for us to make that effort. I erupted into full fishwife mode – five days was obviously way too long for me to hold my shit together – and just as I called him the C word, Dad walked in, then reversed quickly back into his room.


Do You Still Seek Your Parents Approval In Middle Age?
Photo found at and


Mutually opinionated, Dad and I have both mellowed with time and realized the importance of our relationship, which is now closer to that of friends than father and daughter. Many people in dad’s social group are my age and many of mine are his. We are interested and passionate about the same subjects and share an appreciation of food and wine.


He hasn’t judged my life choices for quite some time now, so why do I still need his approval?

The Rollercoaster of Emotions Linked To ADHD

The presence of ADHD exacerbates a roller coaster of emotions for both their parents and the children themselves. Especially when the pressure’s really on.

From the Library of Congress: TITLE: Thos. W. ...
From the Library of Congress: TITLE: Thos. W. Keene. Othello CALL NUMBER: POS – TH – 1884 .O7, no. 1 (C size) [P&P] REPRODUCTION NUMBER: LC-USZC6-58 (color film copy transparency) RIGHTS INFORMATION: No known restrictions on publication. MEDIUM: 1 print (poster) : lithograph, color ; 104 x 69 cm. CREATED/PUBLISHED: Cleveland, O. : W.J. Morgan & Co. Lith., [1884] CREATOR: W.J. Morgan & Co. Lith. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the same way as when you parent a child who doesn’t have the condition, you never know as the parent of an ADHD child if you’re doing the right thing. But when you’re dealing with mental health issues, the risks of screwing these kids up are even more scary.

It’s one thing to understand your child’s difficulties – such as their problems regulating emotions, their impulsivity and poor executive functioning – but it’s another thing to be able to recognize where these difficulties come into play in their day-to-day life, and how far you can push them.

No one is the perfect parent. We’re only human.

During the past three weeks of exams, Kurt has been stretched to his emotional limits. And so have I. Each time I’ve caught myself nagging him to revise and been ignored, shouted at or when he’s stormed out of the apartment to vent his anger in some other dubious activity, I’ve tried to remember that this time last year we didn’t think he would even still be at school. So we’re doing well.

I know lots of ADHD kids that have dropped out of the education system well before Kurt’s age.

And I’m not perfect… and all of us parents are guilty of striving for the best for our children. Society tells us that our kids need their HSC. The difficulty with a children with ADHD lies in knowing what our children’s ‘best’ is and accepting that it won’t necessarily be the same as ours.

Every adult that meets Kurt comments upon how bright my boy is. For some reason, there seems to be this general assumption that all ADHD kids are stupid because they are often the class clown or because their behaviour is poor in class; whereas in fact, the opposite is often true. ADHD kids often socialise better with people from different age groups and my boy has always been able to perform on demand. And it’s not all show – talk to him about any one of his passions and he’ll discuss the topic with the same intelligence as an adult three times his age.

It’s persuading these kids to do things they don’t want to do or that they find difficult, that’s the problem.

And it’s not just ‘difficult’, in the normal sense of how a kid might react to doing something they don’t want to do, like a tantrum or an argument. No, it’s hard in the sense that they will refuse outright and nothing will change their mind. Or in the sense that if they feel too overwhelmed by your demands, they won’t just shout at you or go off and sulk – they might self-harm, threaten suicide or leave home, because ADHD has co-morbidities such as depression and Bi-Polar Disorder.

Kurt is happy for the first time in his life at his current school. But unfortunately we are getting closer to the end of his school journey and it’s all starting to become a bit serious. While Kurt has found friends for the first time in his life and is ready to party, his friends know they have to knuckle down to work now, as they head towards Year 12. Which is good for Kurt. That positive peer pressure of mixing with kids who care, has had a great effect on his attitude to school.

As these exams loomed a few months ago, I heard my son mention the word ‘revision’ for the first time, which was music to my ears. He brought home his exam timetable with pride, didn’t throw a wobbly when I suggested a tutor, and dug out the English books that had been collecting dust under his bed for months. I was encouraged.

He still referred to his ‘study leave’ as ‘holidays’ and considered an hour and a half of revision a day to be child labour. He refused to read the English texts or learn any quotes, and we shared many lengthy discussions about why Shakespeare was stupid, too. Imagine a child who has never read a book before being given Othello to study, when Kurt taught himself to read from the biographies of his favourite rock stars and the lyrics of songs. So we had to make revision as appealing as possible – Mnemonics for English techniques, the film ‘Gladiator’ for his Ancient History and the old man used the analogy of his company to help make his Business Studies sound more interesting.

You have to think laterally to gain the interest of a child with ADHD, but even then you’re fighting a battle against their innate procrastination, poor concentration and distraction problems, white might mean that even that special, ‘all singing all dancing’ quote board that you laboured over to make it more simple, still doesn’t captivate their attention.

His interest in exams lasted to the end of his first exam.

‘Some people get nervous before exams, but I just get excited!’ he shouted at me manically across the breakfast table on the first morning, as I tried to cram Othello quotes into him along with his high protein Smoothie. He was hyper, like a young Jack Nicholas in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – how he managed to sit down for two hours afterwards, I will never know.

After the novelty had worn off and with five exams still to go, it was impossible to get him to focus and the arguments started over again about how LITTLE school work he was doing and how MUCH he was ‘smoking’ to keep himself calm.

In my head, all I could think was – surely you’d be calmer if you just did some fucking work!

But then he reacted and turned to self-harm again – because that’s the way he handles his emotional regulation when the pressure gets too much – and I knew I had to lay off and remember how far we’d come.

He didn’t pass his English exam and he was devastated because he thought he’d ‘done so much work.’ (He probably did need to read the texts – just saying). But he has passed the other two subjects he’s received the marks for. And he’s over the moon, and I’m over the moon, even though I fear that those pass marks have justified in Kurt’s mind that you don’t really have to do any work for exams.

Imagine what my son could achieve if he was on the same starting block as the other kids in his class and could regulate his emotions, organise himself effectively and could share the same executive functioning skills, fear of consequences and concentration levels?


5 Practical Tips To Get Your ADHD Child Through Exams

So, exams and children with ADHD don’t mix. If exams are stressful for the ‘normal’ child, imagine how appealing they are to the child with poor memory skills, low self-esteem and poor organisation skills; or the kid who can’t sit still for longer than fifteen minutes without fidgeting.

To Help Your ADHD Child Through Exams
Found on at


ADHD is categorized as a learning disability, but that doesn’t mean that kids who suffer with the condition are not intelligent.


But due to the symptoms of ADHD, formal school exams are perhaps not the most accurate way to test the learning progress of these children whose executive functioning skills are compromised by a sluggish dopamine system in the brain.


Understandably then, the thought of having to sit Year 11 exams this week is about as appealing as watching paint dry for my son Kurt. As every parent of a child with ADHD knows, homework and revision are the most diabolical torture invented for children with ADHD.


Although we have turned a major corner this year with Kurt in terms of his management of his ADHD and the coping strategies he has finally begun to utilise vis a vis his school life. This time last year we were in the midst of an annus horribilis when our then sixteen-year old boy suddenly discovered every unlawful and anti-social activity invented by teenagers throughout history and went into free-fall as he tried all of them out at the same time. I would never have believed then that Kurt would still be in school today, but not only is he still at school, he appears to be thriving – he’s rarely late in the mornings, has made some friends (albeit the dubious-looking ones) and is doing some study.


Like other children, kids with ADHD come in different packages. Some will be academically gifted, others will have average ability and others will have to cope with learning difficulties. Kurt is a bright boy and if he could write his English exam on Top Gear, The Life of Kurt Cobain or Bondi Rescue, he would ace these looming exams. Sadly, Othello doesn’t quite fulfill him in the same way and to be honest, I question why a boy who has no intention of going to university needs to know about dramatic techniques, quotes and the structure of an Elizabethan play.


That’s the modern curriculum for you.


Which brings me appropriately to the first of my top tips to help you get your ADHD child through exams:


  1. BE REALISTIC IN YOUR EXPECTATIONS.’ That doesn’t mean you need to lower your expectations for your child, but as their parents you know their limitations and how to get the best out of them without pushing, overwhelming or pressurising them into dangerous territory. Kurt and I negotiated an hour of revision a day leading up to these exams and his goal is to get a 50% pass in each subject. (I should note here that he believes that an hour a day of homework on top of his school day is a ridiculous demand and I should be reported to child welfare for abuse).

All kids are different and there will be those kids who study for four hours each night and started revising around Christmas-time and others who will do nothing at all. For Kurt, an hour is a good compromise – it’s one more hour of study than he’s ever done in his life and that’s progress.


  1. ‘PERSUADE/BRIBE THEM TO REVISE WITH YOU – AWAY FROM DISTRACTIONS.’ Children with ADHD need extra support and scaffolding with the organisation needed to revise efficiently. Sometimes I can persuade Kurt to let me help him revise, other days he rejects me completely. But even if he won’t allow me to work with him, if he’s in the same space as me at least I know that he isn’t flicking through another twenty-five open tabs on his computer at the same time, and he is more focused. His learning success depends on his mood when he approaches study, which in turn depends on how wrung-out he is after a long day at school, how much sleep he had the night before, if he is in the throes of young love and chatting up some girl on Facebook and how much he has eaten that day. I have upped his tutoring sessions to twice a week in the three weeks leading up to exam week, which means I can console myself that he is doing at least 2 hours of revision a week.


  1. ‘MAKE SURE THEY GET ENOUGH SLEEP.’ Kurt takes ADHD medication and as such, without the use of Melatonin, he would be up all night listening to music, vacuuming his room, drumming or on Social Media. He manages his own Melatonin now because he is old enough to know just how horribly pear-shaped the next day can go when he’s tired – like when he forgets his ADHD meds which then leads to poor comprehension and no filter, which in turn alienates friends and lands him in trouble in class – he then becomes despondent and aggressive by the time he comes home. It’s a vicious cycle that it has taken him 17 years for him to learn. I would recommend removing computers and electronic equipment from your child’s room at night if you can, but realistically with a seventeen year old, there has to be a level of trust involved (which I don’t have, so all I can do is pray that the Melatonin does its job). They do need to take the Melatonin a good few hours before bedtime.


  1. ‘MAKE SURE THEY EAT BREAKFAST AND TAKE SNACKS OR MONEY TO SCHOOL.’ One of the side-effects of ADHD medication is that it can suppress the appetite and sometimes Kurt will eat nothing for breakfast or lunch. I’ve tried everything to tempt him to eat, from cooked breakfasts to Up N Go’s, which I despise. At the moment we’re in a smoothie phase, which seems to work. They’re quick, easy for him to pour down his throat when he’s rushing out of the door on his way to school and I can secrete some healthiness into them even when he demands something completely revolting like a peanut butter milkshake. Importantly, they give him some energy to aid his concentration and lift his mood. Here’s one I made earlier with secreted banana and honey. (Shhhhhhh!)

5 Practical Tips To Get Your ADHD Child Through Exams


  1. ‘REWARDS.’ These kids respond to rewards, so use them – we all need a little extra help at different stages of our life. At this stage of our school journey, I see these exams as less about measuring Kurt’s academic ability, and more about Kurt’s understanding of responsibility and accountability. A game of Trivial Pursuit shows me more about his general knowledge than any English paper on Othello could. My son is a thinker, a talker and a creative but whatever he does he will need to adapt to fit into society, learn to meet deadlines and put in the extra hours to progress further in his career. The fact that he has applied himself to school and revision this year and is about to sit his exams shows me that he is learning and maturing in spite of the limitations imposed by his ADHD. We’ve come a long way.




Think Richard Branson, Robin Williams, Adam Levine, Justin Timberlake…

When Do You Let Your ADHD Teenager Spread Their Wings?

Autumn 2005 in Vienna. Berlin's Ellen Allien m...
Autumn 2005 in Vienna. Berlin’s Ellen Allien mows the floor. Rave is King! See where this picture was taken. [?] (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Kurt is going to a ‘rave’ tomorrow night.


Which obviously fills me with immense joy.


Due to social anxiety my boy rarely goes out, so I’m not really in any position to lay down the law on this one. Obviously, I’d feel better if it was a Disney movie at the local cinema, but so be it.


The hardest part about the teenage stage is having to let them go.


He must be exaggerating when he tells me about what really goes down at these under 18, no alcohol ‘raves’, the fine details of which fill me with horror. I know that teenagers like to provoke their parents, so I am trying to take the threat of pills, illegal alcohol, (blah blah blah!) with a pinch of salt; but this is my boy we’re talking about.


If I could lock him away for the night, I obviously would.


But he needs this. It’s only the second time he has chosen to go out this year with his new school friends, even though he has been invited to several events.


Small White butterfly (Pieris rapae)
Small White butterfly (Pieris rapae) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The problem with ADHD is that the executive functioning skills which help non- ADHD people make the right call on what is appropriate to tell and what not to tell are not developed, so they tell you everything.


This can be a good thing. Sometimes. I’m desperately trying to find an example of when, exactly. It probably wasn’t when he told me that I looked the oldest out of all the ‘mums’ he knew.


But sometimes too much information can backfire. I remember that when NC started going out into the Big Smoke I was always relieved when she stayed the night with friends so that she became someone else’s responsibility and I didn’t have to sit by the phone until the early hours.


I didn’t know what was going on and I could sleep soundly in denial.


A normal teenager wouldn’t dream of telling his mum about the shenanigans he plans to get up to on a night out, but Kurt has given me all the gory details of what he hopes to tick off his ‘how to kill yourself as a teenager’ To Do list, whilst ‘raving.’


He has been practicing his ‘rave’ moves, planned his outfit and no doubt found a way to secrete some alcohol into his system (for Dutch courage) before the event.


And I don’t want to ruin it for him by overloading him with my own anxieties because he’s got enough of his own and he needs to get out there and experiment and mix with his peers and make his own mistakes.


BUT he’s the male equivalent to Miley Cyrus when he’s high on life – with too much energy, no fear of consequences and absurdly impulsive – personality traits that don’t correlate with good decision-making, generally.


But worst of all, he’s still my baby and I’ve lived through his complicated development and feel as though I wear his fears around my heart. So every time I read a story about another teenager who has died from a drug overdose or jumped off a balcony, I get a sinking, sick feeling inside.


Even though deep down I know that it’s time for him to break the cocoon and spread his wings.


In answer to my own question, you have to let them spread their wings when you think they’re ready.


One Small Step For Kurt: Managing Your ADHD Rather Than Letting It Manage You

melting of age
melting of age (Photo credit: girl/afraid)

Kurt and I reached our seventeenth anniversary together yesterday.


We’ve both changed a lot since that day seventeen years ago when he propelled his way out of my body and into his life, with little warning, no pain relief and lucky to make it out of the hospital lift.


He began his life with a tumultuous bang and has tried to maintain that pace ever since.


Kurt has always hated it when the party has to end.


Yet, we didn’t really notice Kurt’s different approach to life until he went to school.


School doesn’t really fit into Kurt’s ethos, because where the world according to Kurt represents an anarchic, ideological one to the rest of us, Kurt tries to make it work for him.


Nevertheless, he remains at school – just. Only a year ago, every day he remained at school felt like a bonus. Yet he’s still there. He’s that kid, the one with the label, clinging by his finger-nails and on first-name terms with all the staff – but he’s still there. He’s even passing his grades these days, which means he must be super-intelligent (like his mother) when you consider the amount of work he doesn’t do and how well he can argue the relative value of revision and homework with me (and no doubt his teachers).


And you can only revise for an exam when you actually remember that you have an exam.


There have been many changes in my son over the last eighteen months – some good and some as painful as eyebrow threading. And there have been occasions where I have felt sucked into Kurt’s emotional vacuum and it has emotionally drained me.

Eyebrow Threading
Eyebrow Threading (Photo credit: LifeAsIPictured)


If there was ever a year to test our marriage, it has been this one. (Actually it might be next year, because I’ve just signed up for Foxtel again). We have camped in hell this year and I have no doubt that we will revisit our friend Satan at some time in the near future. Yet there has also been a discernible growth in our boy’s maturity over the past few months – I’m touching wood right now as I write this – because I think that Kurt is finally grasping the concept of accountability.


Which is a major part of growing up.


Where once he jumped straight into the pool without feeling the temperature, he now uses the traffic light strategy that he scoffed at when his therapist first gave it to him, and he pauses to think at the yellow light.


Which is a massive step in the direction of managing your ADHD rather than letting it manage you.


When he started his third new high school this year, he seemed to know that this was Last Chance Saloon, (or maybe we told him), and although at times he has still ‘fucked up’ (his words, not mine), I believe that he has really tried to make it work.


At the cost of his ideals.


English: Traffic light "Flickering Yellow...
English: Traffic light “Flickering Yellow” 한국어: 신호등 “황색점멸” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You see, he used to look at ‘fitting in’ with disdain. After all, what had society ever done for him? But he has finally grasped an understanding that fitting into society does not necessarily mean ‘giving up’ your individuality, and it can come with rewards too – like friendship and support.


There are still issues that suddenly present themselves out of the blue and may relate back to those ‘wrong’ schools that facilitated the sinking of his self-esteem to somewhere around floor level. And sometimes that distrust of society and the anxiety it exacerbates makes him lunge like a snake if he thinks he about to be attacked – it is a hyper-sensitivity borne of being bullied, isolated and misunderstood in the past.


But on his seventeenth birthday, and in spite of shouldering the normal teenage issues of pimples, difficulties understanding girls, homework and stupid rules imposed on him by stupid parents who obviously ‘don’t understand’ him, he is the happiest I have seen him in a while.