I am the parent of a child with inattentive adhd, who is also gifted. Not in the sense of all children have gifts but academically gifted. These two diagnoses each provide their own set of challenges. I have learnt that I need to choose my battles carefully. I have learnt that not every hill is worth dying on. I have to weigh up the emotional costs to both of us and whether those fights are worth it in the long run.
Food. Most parents have a battle with food at some point. Food is often one of the few things that a child can control. It can be difficult to determine what is fussiness and at what point it crosses into a problem. Like all parents, I had ideas about what my child would eat long before I had a child who had their own wants, desires and needs. I wasn’t going to have a fussy child. Oh how the universe laughed.
My child to outsiders is just fussy. If I just forced him, he’d eat more. Those people have never been vomited on when their child was forced to eat something that they had a sensory reaction to. For Mr 9 its not about the taste, its about how the food feels. Meal time is not something that I want to create extra negative feelings about. Sometimes all he will eat is a bowl of cous cous. Other nights he will eat vegetables.
I’ve learned to compromise and that forcing the issue does nothing but create negative emotions around that food. We use praise for new foods tried and focus on what he does eat, rather than what he doesn’t. It’s not a perfect solution but for us it works. We have gone from screaming and tears at meal time to a much more relaxed atmosphere.
Homework is another battle that I refuse to fight. Studies have shown that homework in primary school has little academic benefit and that reading every night provides more than enough mental stimulation. It also helps that we have a teacher this year who also doesn’t focus on homework.
In the past Mr 9 has struggled to complete homework but has also struggled with the idea of letting his teacher down by not completing it. Our house turned into a battlefield every afternoon. There were tears from everyone. Mr 9 knew the work, he could do the work. He just struggled to get it completed and would grow frustrated.
Sleep has never come easily in our house. Even with medication we still have nights where sleep eludes Mr 9. His brain simply buzzes too much. I decided that I had done what I could to help with his sleep, what needed to change was how we dealt with it. Yelling and getting frustrated wasn’t getting anyone to sleep faster.
Changing my outlook helped to reduce the anxiety around his sleep, which in turn had the bonus of him sleeping better. We still have rules around his sleep. We still have nights where I lose my cool because I’m human. However the angst has reduced. He needs sleep but getting angry about it doesn’t solve the problem.
As parents we need to learn which battles are worth fighting. When you add in special needs, the battles are often much harder. We need to decide if the emotional toll is worth the outcome. Are we building our child up, or tearing them down? Will this battle matter in the grand scheme of things?