Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Family Affair – teaching others about ADHD

After 4 years of being unable to go back to our hometown to visit family due to work, we finally made it out there. Personally I missed being around all of them.  Childhood stories were re-told and old family dynamics arose. Overall the visit was a good one, but given the ADHD in my 4-member family, it had its fair amount of hiccups.
A visit to Carlsbad Caverns - Note to self: avoid long trips looking at somewhat monotonous things with people that have limited attention spans.

One of the things that I appreciate about being away from family is that we have the freedom to workout our inner ADHD issues without fear of judgment (however unintentional it may be). Living with an ADHD person means acceptance, patience, understanding and forgiveness. These are not easy to achieve, and a sense of appropriateness can creep in and make it even more difficult to keep level headed. I saw myself feeling protective and even defensive of my husband’s and daughter’s behavior, but also felt I had to protect other relatives from them. Not an enviable position to be in. I have become accustomed to how my two ADHDers behave, and it is easier to explain them away to strangers than it is to family.

I caught myself explaining multiple times why my daughter would get overly excited before breakfast (i.e. before medication since we want her to have a good meal before the appetite suppression kicks in as a side effect), and why she would be irritable come a certain time of the afternoon (when the medication was running out). And since medication does not control all ADHD symptoms, I also found myself apologizing to relatives over random outbursts. But a child’s behavior is somewhat easier to explain than an adult’s, and more so when for years family has not associated any of this with ADHD. It is easy to feel like I am giving a brand new excuse to an old problem. Looks of “here we go again” were common to see, and I don’t blame them at all, but I don’t see ADHD as a problem but a challenge.

We have certainly needed to re-work how we interacted with relatives to avoid bigger issues. Since my husband is new to using ADHD recommended tools and guides, he has an extremely hard time regulating himself. It is even harder to do around family, as old habits are easy to fall into. He gets easily irritated over the same things that irritated him as a boy or a teenager, and although he is aware of it now we both feel it is better to limit our exposure so bigger issues don’t arise.

High pitch sounds/noises trigger the worst in both my kids (more so in my son who we still have not taken to get diagnosed), and in my husband. This sound sensitivity is not unique to ADHD, but a very common occurrence. Still, being around tons of young cousins/nieces/nephews as well as high-pitched laughs (very common of all our family get-togethers) were tests for all of us, and we passed just barely.

Family is very important to us, but not everyone is knowledgeable of ADHD issues, maybe not as receptive to us trying to provide this information, or even possibly stuck in old ways. 

We enjoyed our time with family more than words can express, and all 4 of us are learning to adapt ourselves, but we are leaving little tidbits of information about ADHD to our family as well. When people interact it is a two way street, but when it comes to ADHD most of the work comes from the ADHDers. Hopefully the world will learn more about ADHD as my kids grow up, but for now it is up to us to inform those around us.

For our next visit we will not let another 4 years pass by for sure, as the good times outweigh the challenges, and we will be better prepared for those with every passing day.

Are old habits hard to overcome when you see family?

Rossana G-A

FTC Disclaimer: I am not compensated to write this post.

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