Katherine Lizardo is an ADHD Mom, with an ADHD child, so I turned to her for expert insight. Research shows that a parent with ADHD has a 40-57% chance of having a child with ADHD. As Ms. Lizardo writes, “Knowing that my kids will highly likely have ADHD like me, I was not surprised when my son was diagnosed with ADHD as well.” As for her own diagnosis, she writes: “I’m grateful that I’ve been through therapy, medication, and other treatment options since I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult over 20 years ago. I am now sharing with my son the same skills and expertise I’ve learned managing my own ADHD.”
For parents like Katherine Lizardo, having a child with ADHD requires lots of love and patience. Here’s what we discussed, along with Ms. Lizardo’s keen insights:
What’s the hardest part of parenting an ADHD child?
“As an ADHD Mom, the hardest part of parenting an ADHD child is managing my symptoms with his. When both of us are experiencing emotional dysregulation simultaneously, we both have an extremely challenging time self-regulating. In those situations, I walk away and he goes to his safe place, which is his room. You can’t fight fire with fire. That’s why we work through our own emotions first and calm down. Afterward, we talk, we hug, and we tell each other how much we love each other. Physical and emotional connections are vital methods of communication for neurodivergent individuals, especially for highly-sensitive ones like my son and me.”
Can you share a personal anecdote about your relationship?
“Our ADHD makes us time blind. That’s an ADHD trait. The saying – The blind leading the blind – is apropos in our situation! It can be hilarious when we both lose track of time while trying to remind each other of time. These are situations where having a good sense of humor and compassion makes a big difference in our relationship.
For example, when I need to take him to an appointment – like his therapy appointment – it can be quite a comical series of events. It usually goes something like this. I remind him that his appointment is in an hour, so it’s time for us to prepare to go. We both change clothes in our own rooms. Then we both get distracted in our separate rooms. He usually gets distracted by a toy in his room and plays for ten minutes. I usually hyperfreeze – that’s what I call when I freeze on the spot suddenly, lost in my random ADHD thoughts, sorting them out. Once I do that, I realize a few minutes have passed. I then walk to my son’s room, knock on his door, and say loudly, “Time check.” That’s my cue to him to look at the time and ensure he has completed what he needed to do (which was to change in this case). My signal helps him get back on track if he hasn’t completed his task. But if he has completed his task, and we still have time before leaving, he knows he can play more. And that’s okay with me.”
Can you advise how you manage that time crunch?
“Words matter. That’s why I say “Time check” instead of “Let’s go!” or “Hurry up!” The latter phrases are unsettling, and make us feel frazzled. Listening to those words and intonation deeper makes us realize these phrases are shaming words. That’s because the undertone of both phrases, even if unspoken, is, “What’s wrong with you? What’s taking you so long? You’re not being responsible again for your time, etc.”
But, when I use the phrase “Time check,” it’s less confrontational and not shaming. I understand he might have been distracted, but this is a reminder to check for the time to ensure we make the appointment on time. I use this phrase because I believe it’s more compassionate and loving.”
What advice do you have for a parent of an ADHD child?
“I believe learning and showing compassion is a must for any parent with an ADHD child. The compassion I’m talking about includes self-compassion (for the parent) and compassion for the child. Both parents and the ADHD child can expect tough times. That’s a given. But when each shows compassion for themselves and the other, they can embrace their child’s ADHD.”
By putting yourself in your ADHD child’s shoes, you start feeling with them. After all, your ADHD child might not know what they need. That’s why they feel frustrated and unable to answer your question of “What’s wrong?”
Do kids ‘outgrow’ symptoms and/or degrees of Neurodivergence?
“I believe kids and adults with ADHD cannot outgrow ADHD because ADHD is hereditary. In January 2023, the largest genome study specifically on ADHD found 27 gene variants for it. They anticipate identifying 7200 more! This is evidence that ADHD is in our DNA – literally!
Knowing this scientific information, you cannot make an ADHD child or adult “outgrow” their ADHD. It’s biologically impossible.”
I strongly believe that a child or adult with ADHD can learn to embrace their ADHD. A parent can learn to embrace their child’s ADHD. Embracing ADHD means playing up their strengths and supporting their efforts to compensate for their weaknesses. People with ADHD must surround themselves with those who can help them embrace their ADHD.”
In summary, parents of kids with ADHD, or any Neurodivergence, must learn how to navigate these sometimes difficult passages. Love and understanding, or at least the clear attempts to understand are vital. Diagnoses are important, along with the simple understanding that children with ADHD, or other Neurodifferences are not just acting out, or purposely disrupting your life and their own. Often they’re more frustrated than you might be, since, as Lizardo says, they might not know what they need.
If you find yourself frustrated at your child’s behavior, try Katherine Lizardo’s routine. Establish a safe place, take time to calm down, don’t try to fix the condition, and be ready with lots of hugs and warmth, unless your child’s preference doesn’t allow that. Be aware that time itself may be a source of confusion. Be kind to yourself, remember that kids with ADHD and other Neurodifferences don’t choose to be that way, they just are that way, so embrace them.
Finally, if you find yourself as a parent at odds with your Neurodifferent child, with lots of tension, disagreement, and frequent battles, it may be time to consider your own diagnosis.