When a child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it affects everybody in the family, said Dr. Mark Bertin, a developmental pediatrician in Pleasantville, N.Y. Parents need to understand the nature of A.D.H.D., he said, and appreciate that it affects “a host of self-management skills,” which play out in school but also in daily home routines.
Dr. Bertin, who is the author of “The Family A.D.H.D. Solution” (disclosure: I wrote a blurb for the book), and “Mindful Parenting for A.D.H.D.,” said research shows that parents of children with A.D.H.D. are more anxious, more stressed and less confident, and that their marriages may be strained.
It’s painful to watch your child struggle, and A.D.H.D. can present struggles all day long, from getting out of the house in the morning to getting homework done at night. “When a child has A.D.H.D., the level of independence is delayed compared to peers, and often just day-to-day life becomes more stressful at home,” Dr. Bertin said. “All the little things may be harder.”
Dr. Gabrielle Carlson said that she grew up with a brother who had attention problems, “and I was the perfect older sister.” She is a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Stony Brook University School of Medicine who became a child psychiatrist, in part, she said, because of an interest in these symptoms and in what could help.
“My brother drove my parents crazy,” she said. Their parents had both children tested, and “my goodness, it turned out my brother had the same I.Q. as I did!” So everyone was completely mystified about why one child was so successful in school and the other, well, “my mother said when his teachers saw her coming, they would cross the street.”
Dr. Carlson’s own son was a smart kid with A.D.H.D. “My son used to say, it’s not fair everybody else can get their homework done and I can’t,” she said. “You get demoralized after a while when you try hard to do something and you just can’t do it.
“The smarter the person is, in some respects, the more frustrating it is for the person,” Dr. Carlson said. She referenced the Charles M. Schulz cartoon in which Linus laments that there’s no heavier burden than a great potential.
Part of the problem is that other people, including family members, don’t realize how difficult A.D.H.D. can make a child’s life. This is not about laziness or a lack of resolve. “People don’t truly understand what A.D.H.D. is and why a kid who’s bright can’t just grit his teeth and get it done,” Dr. Carlson said.