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There is a tendency to think that children diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are simply “lazy” or “unwilling to listen when spoken to.” As a parent, interpretation of these symptoms can lead to internalizing these traits as bad parenting or believing your child doesn’t care enough to be better. This can lead to fear for a child’s wellbeing as well as fear of failure as a caregiver.

How does ADHD affect emotions?  

It is essential for parents to understand that the way children with ADHD see and understand the world is very different from a neurotypical person. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder; it affects behavioral responses from intense emotions. These emotions can arise from processing the external world in a different perspective; thus, interpretation of the surrounding environment affects a child’s internal world. Emotions can feel so intense that it can lead to the belief that these feelings must be true.

What does ADHD look like? 

ADHD can present as anxiety and/or depressive symptoms.  These diagnoses can negatively impact one another while also serving as a mask to hide behind. These symptoms affect multiple areas of a child’s life, such as: school, family, friends and their overall daily functioning. 

How can we support our children with ADHD? 

As parents, creating a safe space to express feelings while educating them has been very helpful for adolescents to better understand themselves. Feelings that are typically associated with adolescent ADHD are frustration and boredom. With ADHD, it is important to recognize that the amount of distress that could be tolerated is drastically lower. Frustration tolerance can be defined as a skill, and this skill can be helpful for both parents and children to build. Building tolerance can be compared to building muscle. You first start off with a lower weight, something that is easier for you at that moment. Eventually, you will have built up enough muscle to lift 10x that initial weight. This is the goal for adolescents with ADHD: to build tolerance to unwanted emotions by gradually increasing the level of frustration tolerance. 

What can we do about it?

The adolescent brain can be defined as being “consistent and inconsistent.” Some days may be easier than others without any seemingly noticeable differences. As parents, consistency starts with the three C’s: clear, concise, and compatible. Setting strict boundaries can consider both the child and parent’s perspectives to increase the likelihood of habitual action. Creating a routine is most beneficial to your child’s emotional state, increasing predictability in their lives, thus increasing consistency and responding appropriately to their environment. These routines can begin here at Protected Roots Integrative (PRI) Treatment Center. We are here to support both you and your child in creating a life worth living by finding purpose and emotional stability by defining the values that are most important to you. 

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