Being a mom is something that I have dreamt of since I was little. As soon as I gave birth to my first child, I thought I was ready. But all moms out there know that no one can prepare you for the 24/7 job called motherhood.
Recognizing the signs
During his preschool years, I began noticing that my son has more energy than most of his peers, which at times, he cannot control. It is manifested in simplest ways, like walking with loud footstep sounds or tossing things when packing away. Other observations are in the form of interrupting people while they are still talking or blurting out his thoughts without considering what others will feel. It dawned on me that my son might have special needs, particularly ADHD. At that time, others, including experts, told me that his actions might still be developmentally appropriate for preschoolers. I was hoping they were right.
However, when he entered the big school, the symptoms were still present. My husband and I sought the help of an expert who validated our observations. My son has ADHD. We immediately equipped ourselves with knowledge regarding his condition. We found out that the extra energy that he has is not something that he will overcome as he gets older, but will stay with him for the rest of his life. This fact is daunting but instead of focusing on the negative, we placed emphasis on the positive. Given the necessary tools, he can manage his situation. We held on to this thought, which I believe allowed my husband and I to accept his situation easier. This, I think, is the initial yet crucial step in helping any child with special needs.
Helping my son who has ADHD
We then assessed our stand regarding his needs. Both of us agreed that we will first try various coping or management strategies before considering medications. This brings me to another key step: being on the same page in terms of how to help him. It will not do any good if parents are fighting regarding their child’s situation. The child might blame himself on why conflict is present at home.
Although these are in place, things have not been easy for us, even frustrating at times. A lot of patience is needed because constant reminders are necessary. There were instances where parents in public play areas would leave because they find my son’s type of play too rough. I found myself in a constant state of worry, wondering if he is going to do well, especially in school, where I can’t be with him. This made me realize that he needs to know his condition to help himself cope. By this, we informed him that ADHD is an explanation but will never be used as an excuse.
How he productively uses all the energy
Obviously, even with knowledge about his condition, he can’t do this alone. As a family, we are one in helping him. At home, we have a mindset that coping means channeling his energy to useful tasks. For example, in school, I told him that when he feels the urge to move, he could raise his hands to recite. If that doesn’t work, he could ask permission to go to the washroom. During lunchtime, I am more lenient about finishing his food because of his need to move, which he addresses through play. At home, we make sure that he has the space to move and the necessary tools to use his excess energy.
He enjoys doing crafts so I make sure that there are art materials always available for him to use. As a family, we plan activities that allow him to move. On weekends, instead of using the car to go to church, we walk. He recently became a sacristan in our parish church and raved about how much he enjoyed serving because he got to use his energy appropriately. This particular situation made me realize that he can come up with his own coping mechanisms, an important skill for him to develop.
Sharing our story
When sharing these strategies with others, I often get questions on how I come up with such. My equation is simple: knowing my son and his environment plus putting myself in his place plus knowing if it fits in our household system equals a workable coping mechanism. I always keep in mind that strategies only work if it is doable within the household. This is crucial for us because we also have another son whose needs have to be considered as well.
Overall, our family is still a work in progress. There are days that things are easy while some are difficult. At the end of the day, what truly helps is that we continually assure him that our love will remain same.