The first issue worth addressing and working with ADD is ‘control.’ Everyone with ADD, young and old, is challenged with control issues. These issues include needing to be first in line, obsessing over certain clothing, feeling helpless or having low self-esteem. At the root of these issues is lack of feeling in control. The key to feeling in control is to obtain high self-esteem through self-confidence. The way to aid your child’s self-confidence is to hand over, in homeopathic doses, your ADD child’s freedom and allow him or her to decide things for himself/herself. Too much parental control and the ADD child becomes reclusive or depressed. Too little parental control and the ADD child becomes reckless or out of control; the secret to maintaining healthy control is balance. Balance is when both of you share control.

The next issue on the list is “limits.” If “control” was an automobile, then the ‘limits’ would be the roads on which it travels. Sometimes your ADD child may say something in public that embarrasses you, may talk in class when he is not supposed to or may suddenly decide to make a full meal in the kitchen at 4 AM. When asked, the child is stunned that any of this behavior is a problem; that’s because limits that are crystal clear to anyone else escape people with ADD. To the ADD person, limits must be taught. Setting limits requires patience mixed with persistence. Don’t give up. The ADD child will adhere to limits once he learns that he is capable of self-control.

The last issue on the list is “boundaries.” If “limits” are the roads, then “boundaries” are the rules of the road. Everyone in society adheres to boundaries; that’s why we have laws. However, children with ADD need more structure than the average child. Without ‘boundaries,’ the ADD child does not know where he stands. Believe it or not, setting bedtime hours, regimenting homework schedules, telling your child when it’s his turn to take charge or even telling him when it’s time to clean his teeth are boundaries that help the ADD child be at peace with the world. House rules, no matter how arbitrary, are an important part in the development of the ADD child’s self-esteem. The child may resist this structure on outside appearances, but without it, children fall apart emotionally. Boundaries are what you, the parent, set; it’s your responsibility in the task of finding balance in the pursuit of controlling ADD.

As you read the above, you were probably thinking that this is what all parents should be doing with their children - setting limits, defining boundaries and striking the balance between parental control and teaching the child to accept personal responsibility. This may be true, but with ADD these issues are amplified, which leads us to our first question.

Q: What’s the difference between raising an ADD child from any other kid?
A: Nothing and everything. We all have a perception of where our children should be developmentally compared to the other non-ADD children in their class. This image of normal development is an indelible part of our cultural upbringing. It produces much doubt and concern in the ADD child’s parent’s mind. In reality, children with ADD mature at a different rate than non-ADD children.

It is now accepted by our culture that girls mature faster than boys between certain ages, and that boys also mature faster than girls between other ages. It’s not yet, however, a part of our culture to recognize ADD children as having their own brand of developmental issues that need just as much attention. Children with ADD simply seem emotionally younger than their age, and they are often challenged with undue expectations. It would be easy to say that ADD children are underdeveloped emotionally, and that is that. However, ADD children often have the ability to look straight into a person’s soul, or perhaps ponder the nature of the universe as seen through the eyes of a bird. This emotional depth is inconsistent with straight-ahead under-development, so simple answers do not apply.

One aspect of successfully raising a child with ADD is to understand that he may seem emotionally younger than his years most of the time but then suddenly is capable of conducting a meaningful conversation and acting like a little adult. It’s this nagging contradiction that ADD children have difficulty accepting about themselves. Their highly developed “sense of self,” on one hand, is hypercritical of their little child locked inside. “Why am I so stupid?” they ask. This is the main contributing factor in the ADD child’s low self-esteem, which is why the parents of ADD children must help reinforce their child’s understanding of ADD. There is no harm in teaching them about ADD; it can only help their self-esteem and alleviate their sense of isolation from the rest of society. Too many ADD parents feel shame and subconsciously neglect to educate their children about their ADD.

Q: How does ADD work?
A: Recent research shows that the ADD brain has less overall blood flow than the average brain and that the ADD brain also produces fewer neurotransmitters of specific variety. This means that the ADD experience and its symptoms can be compared to certain forms of computer anomalies which have similar types of data starvation. Think of the two brain halves as two different people talking over the Internet. In the Internet conversation, the connection between the two parties relies on the speed and capacity of the Internet server. The slower the connection, the more frustrating the conversation. With ADD, it appears as though something similar is happening between the two brain hemispheres. There is a cord that connects the two halves (the brain’s equivalent to the Internet provider), and substances called neurotransmitters regulate this cord’s connection power.

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