All in the ADHD family: Diagnosis in kids can spotlight parents’ own condition


I understand what you are saying. A an adult with ADHD I also wonder about the ill effects of hours of TV/electronics and the over-scheduling of children. For those who are easily-distracted, the more distractions, the more we struggle. Perhaps some of us with ADHD, had we been born in a different era, would experience fewer symptoms or at least find those symptoms less debilitating.

However, I don’t believe a case can be made that good parenting choices are able prevent ADHD in all children. My parents were incredible. They encouraged and facilitated creative play, reading and hours of outdoor activities. We seldom watched more than an hour of TV in a day, and we did not possess electronic games, as did most of our friends. My father helped me learn good study and organizational skills. We had some formal activities scheduled outside of school (I did play sports, which was helpful for excess energy) but were not over-scheduled. My parents were at the same time loving and firm. Sure they had their faults as all parents do. But I believe their parenting choices helped make my ADHD symptoms manageable. Manageable, not nonexistent.

I was an extremely high achiever, with an A+ average throughout school. And unlike the stereotype, I wasn’t a trouble-maker, trying to blame my actions on an imaginary disorder. But the struggle to focus, retain information, keep from losing my homework & library books, return permission slips, remember my locker combination, stay awake when sitting still, etc. was very stressful. I did well in school but believed I was stupid. How could a smart person forget their locker combination?

Those symptoms did not disappear with adulthood. And as my different areas of responsibility increased and diversified (marriage, work, paying bills, parenting, community involvement), so has the stress that comes from being forgetful and easily-distracted. It was not until a few years ago (age 30) when I attended a teacher education seminar that I decided to have a doctor evaluate me for ADD. I chose a very conservative evaluator (who thinks ADD is greatly over-diagnosed), and was diagnosed with moderate-severe ADD. Just knowing this has better enabled me to come to grips with my limitations. I’m creative. I have a high IQ. I am as easily-distracted as a toddler. I forget my own phone number. I’m ok with that. Just part of what makes me who I am.

I tried medication briefly–a very low dose of Adderall. I was like a severely vision-impaired person wearing glasses for the first time. It was amazing to see what it felt like for my brain to function like ‘normal people.’ I experienced no negative side effects. My personality was not changed. I was just much less stressed and better able to focus on one thing at a time. My thought slowed down to a manageable rate. My driving ability greatly increased. I was more patient, more productive.

However, our family now lives/works overseas in a country where Adderall is not available (and we are unable to import it). Other ADD meds were not effective for me, so I no longer take ADD medication. Life is much more stressful without it. I rely on the coping mechanisms I’ve developed all my life, support from my husband, healthy eating, exercise and caffeine. Adderall greatly increased my ‘quality of life’, reduced stress, and increased my effectiveness at work and at home, but I can function without it. If we move back to the US, I plan to try it again.

In the meantime, my husband and I are trying to do what we can to set our own children up for success. They both exhibit many of the same ADD symptoms I did as a child, and their teachers and school counselor say it is likely they have ADD. For now, though, we’re not even considering medication. They are thriving in a good school situation with a creative and flexible teacher. We’re trying to teach them to eat healthily (very little candy, soda, etc.), play actively outside, take responsibility for their actions, learn organization skills, etc. We encourage reading and creative play, limiting ‘screen time.’ We try to avoid over-scheduling. We try to help them discover the strengths and interests God has given them and develop those.

I know we’re far from perfect parents, and we probably get a lot of things wrong. And while I do not think it is possible for our parenting to prevent our kids from having ADHD, I pray that the choices we are making will set them up for success. We want to provide them with the tools for successful adulthood. I really don’t know if ADD medication will ever play a role in their future, but I hope others will not judge them or look down on them if it does.

No one has a perfectly-functioning brain. Some deficiencies are just more debilitating than others. Perhaps current society, with all of its electronic distractions, creates a particularly difficult environment for those with ADD-type deficiencies, resulting in greater disability than those born in a more ‘simple’ era. I don’t know. The fact of the matter is that those with ADD will have to learn to live and function in this particular place and time. Medication is not always the best solution, but for some it can play a significant role–and can mean the difference between success and failure.

I would really like to encourage those who are skeptical of ADD not to make quick judgment calls or paint all those who have been diagnosed with the same brush stroke. We’re not all irresponsible slackers, the products of poor parenting and nutrition, looking for a pharmaceutical fix to all of our problems.


I don’t usually comment on posts like these. However, you strike me as a rational, thoughtful person who is trying to address honestly some of the deficiencies in the parenting and living of our current generation. I agree with your observations, but I do not think that the conclusion should be one of discounting ADD entirely. Sometimes hearing about someone’s personal experience, in the context of all the medical jargon, can be helpful. I hope my story is food for thought.

Joy L

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