What I Have Learned from Raising 3 Boys with ADD…And The Truth Behind the “ADD Epidemic”

In the average classroom, there are anywhere from 1 to 3 children with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder*). ADD is on the rise in America, and if you are one of the millions of parents who have a child with ADD, you no doubt deal with plenty of anxiety over your child’s diagnosis.

I understand that fear very well, as all three of my sons have ADD. Yep, I won the lottery!

What do I mean by that? After all, isn’t ADD a ‘disability’? Doesn’t it mean that my children can’t focus? That they get bad grades and don’t learn well and are a handful at home and at school?

Well, that’s what the world would have you believe about ADD. Because our world values cookie-cutter sameness. It values order, simplicity, and black-and-white answers to everything. But as any parent can tell you, nothing about parenting is black-and-white. After all, we are growing human beings here, not performing mathematical equations.

Over the years, I have become a unofficial ADD expert and many of my friends have come rushing to me after their children have received a similar diagnosis. “What am I supposed to do?” they ask me frantically. “”How can we fix this?”

Here is what I tell them, and what I would like to tell any other parents who have kids with ADD (or any adults reading who might have ADD themselves):

1) ADD doesn’t mean your kid is not smart. Just the opposite. ADD occurs because children’s brains are overloaded with the thoughts and observations spiraling around in their brains. They can’t focus on one simple thing because their brains are too advanced for that. They hunger for information and process the world at such an incredible rate that the idea of simply sitting down and quietly reading a book is anathema to them. It would be like asking a wild Mustang to plod around a small circle giving rides to customers. Does that mean that they can’t learn to read and focus? Of course not. But right now our traditional school systems do not take into account the needs of those kids who have learning differences. Some kids learn better when they don’t have to sit in a desk all day. When they can touch, hold and observe the world around them. When they can ask questions, make mistakes, and be themselves.

(Don’t believe me that kids with ADD are geniuses in the making? Check out this research that shows that people with ADD are more creative, more intuitive, and better in a crisis than those without ADD. Or go to Best for the Kids to learn “100 Ways to Make Your Kids Smarter.”)

2) Your children can feel your fear…and it’s really scaring them. We all impact each other with our energy, whether we are walking by someone in the mall or talking with a coworker over the phone. But our energetic connections are most strong with those who are nearest and dearest to us, particularly our children. After all, they are part of us! When these intimate energetic connections happen, we call it ‘entanglement’ in the quantum world. Entanglement is when two energies behave as if they are exactly the same, even if they are separated by time and space. Einstein called it the ‘spooky action at a distance,’ but in laymen’s terms, let me put it to you this way: Your kid not only knows what you’re feeling, he FEELS what you’re feeling. And if your kid has ADD, that’s even more true, because kids with ADD are more sensitive, observant and attune to the world around them.

So, even if you are putting on a brave face and offering encouragement to your child (“It’s okay, Johnny. We can get through this.”), they can sense if those words are just a show. That inwardly you are quaking with fear for their future and worrying what you did wrong to ’cause’ this problem. Even as you say, “It’s okay,” you are mentally cataloging all the different ways you can try to ‘fix’ their ADD, all the classes, learning specialists, drugs, and diet remedies to consider. They can feel that anxiety. That need to control. That need to fix. That inner unhappiness at their ADD. And it’s hurting them. We know that kids learn best and succeed when they feel smart. When they believe in their potential. When they believe in their worth, their wholeness, their strength.

3) Your child is going to be okay. Okay, now that I depressed you by telling you that your kid isn’t buying your phony Pollyanna act, here’s the good news: You can stop acting. You can stop being scared. I promise you. Your kid is going to be okay. I know, it’s hard to accept that. You don’t want to be at peace. You want to ‘fix, manage and control’ the perceived problem. You want to work yourself to the bone ensuring that your kid gets everything that they need. But if you want your kids to be okay (that is, to feel good about themselves, to feel strong, and to feel able to work hard and get results), there is only one thing you need to do: You need to be okay. You need to believe not only in them, but in yourself.

In fact, I find that children’s ADD diagnoses can be very triggering for parents because as they are sitting there in the doctor’s office listening to all the symptoms of ADD, part of them is thinking, “Oh no, that sounds like me.” Maybe you have trouble focusing. Maybe you find your thoughts flitting like a hummingbird from flower to flower instead of staying in one spot. Maybe you struggled in school or have yet to accomplish your own career goals. In essence, hearing that your children might be flawed cuts you to the core because it reminds you of your own humanness. Your own flaws. Your own vulnerability.

Accepting that isn’t easy. Until it is. Then, it’s as natural as breathing. Because acceptance is our natural state. Self-love is our birthright. We just have to get out of our own way and receive that bounty.

4) Be intentional about your energy and your thoughts. It’s not enough just to say “I accept my kid as he/she is” and “My kid is smart.” That’s good, but that’s not taking things to a quantum level. If you really want to unlock the power of the universe as well as your child’s true potential, you need to set an intention to hold your child in a state of power, grace, and brilliance in your mind. Visualize your child being surrounded in a warm, radiant light, a light that is not external, but a light that is coming from within them. See them glowing with love, compassion, hope and intelligence. Hold them in your mind to their highest potential. See them walking across that graduation stage. See them handing in their thesis. See them smiling with pride at their own reflection. You can also try a guided meditation on Mindful Parenting whenever you find your faith wavering or you need to ‘charge’ your parent heart.

5) You don’t have to do it all, all the time. As a parent of 3 kids with ADD, I have been to more parent-teacher meetings, doctor’s appointments, therapist appointments, etc. than I can count. My husband and I have been an unfailing team seeking solutions and resources for our children, but there is one thing I have learned in recent years: It’s okay to let your kid skip a night of reading. It’s okay to let them choose hockey over another session with the learning specialist at school. It’s okay to have a family movie night instead of agonizing over another round of homework at the kitchen table. It’s okay to scale back on the extra-curricular ‘fixes’ for ADD and just to let them be a kid. Learning shouldn’t be a punishment. Knowledge is a gift, and the pursuit of it should be treated with sacredness and devotion, not wielded as a device of torture.

6) Kids with ADD are going to change the world. When I say that I won the lottery with my three kids and their learning differences, I truly believe that. Like most children with ADD, my kids are almost eerily intelligent, and they are able to see things and sense things beyond the naked eye. They are clairsentient, and able to feel things and manifest things that are astounding to witness. I call it their Jedi mind trick, and they have been having so much fun learning how to embrace and use this power to improve their lives and the world around them.

So, yes, I believe that ADD is an epidemic, but I don’t believe it is an epidemic that bodes poorly for our future. Just the opposite. I think we are seeing a wave of beautiful, brilliant children washing onto our shores, a wave of outrageously gifted children that are here to change the world. We just have to help them move into a sense of wholeness, support their abilities, and then…get the heck out of the way and let them shine.

(Last, I will say this: Medication is not the enemy. Medication can be incredible when used accurately and with a doctor’s careful guidance. If you are concerned about the side effects from stimulant drugs, you might consider Amantadine, which is a non-stimulant that has an off-label use for ADD. Talk to your doctor, keep an open mind and consider all of your options. Stimulants do work wonders for many kids–and adults–so don’t dismiss these possibilities before talking with your child’s M.D. and doing your own research.

Finally, please check out Therese Rowley and her work on intuitive intelligence, as her work has been invaluable for me.)

*For the purposes of this blog, I am using the term Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). It is similar to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), except ADHD has the added component of physical hyperactivity. Learn more here.