Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a common disorder in adolescent children, with symptoms of inattention, and/or impulsiveness and hyperactivity.
Although much research is taking place, the definitive causes of ADHD remain unknown. A combination of factors, such as environmental toxins, prenatal influences, heredity, and damage to brain structure and functions, is likely responsible. Prenatal exposure to alcohol, tobacco, and lead and severe malnutrition in early childhood increase the likelihood of ADHD. Although the relation between ADHD and dietary sugar and vitamins had been studies, results have been inclusive (McCracken, 2000a; Pary et al., 2002).
The symptoms of ADHD should have been present before the age of seven, must be present in two or more different settings (school and home, for example), and should be causing some impairment in the child’s functioning, including causing difficulty in school, or in social situations. Previously, it was believed that children outgrew ADHD, but it is known that ADHD can persist into adulthood (Wender, 2000). Estimates are that 30% to 50% of children with ADHD have symptoms that continue into adulthood (Searight, 2000).
Parenting a child with ADHD can create a mixture of feelings. The way in which parents see the child is an important part of the child’s self-image and self-esteem. If parents do not have enough knowledge on the very nature of ADHD, frustration starts to set in especially if parents report many largely unsuccessful attempts to discipline the child or to change the behavior. Parents would begin to blame and hold the child fully responsible for its behavior, sending out an implicit and explicit message that s/he is a disaster, vile, ungrateful, etc. which is terrible for the development of the child’s own image, identity and self-esteem.
Further, raising a child with ADHD can bring a special set of circumstances that can test marriage bonds. The stress of parenting a disruptive child can certainly create strain within a family and increase other marital conflicts. Both parents need to change things in their way of bringing the child up and make a more than regular effort to manage the child’s impulsive and irrational conducts and to do it by consensus. If parents are not aware of this, learning to tolerate the frustration of thinking nothing works and we need to wait for another time, that it takes the child longer to learn and automate the adequate behavior, this frustration can seep into their relationship, wearing it down due to constant arguing, low efficiency in improving the child’s behavior and tiredness.
The family’s ability to cope with the stress brought about by having ADHD children in the family depends on the parent’s and the members coping skills. Families with good communication skills are better able to discuss how they feel about this disorder and how it affects the family functioning. They can plan for the future and are flexible in adapting these plans as the situation changes. An established social support network provides strength, encouragement, and services during the treatment phase.
Family therapy is one way which can help a couple nurture change and development. It allows the whole family the opportunity to come together in a safe place in order to get issues out in the open to address, process, and problem solve. Extended family members can get involved as well so they can gain a more accurate understanding about how ADHD affects daily life.
Family therapy provides an avenue for strategies and techniques to help families understand and care for their child with ADHD, while also respecting the needs of siblings; develop better management and structure in the family; improve coping and communication skills; and stabilize the marital relationship. Guidelines are spelled out for sequencing and conducting individual, couple, and family interviews, as well as play sessions.
There are various aspects of life in which ADHD affects the child’s behavior and how it determines their personal relationships (family, social), their academic performance, career and professional choices, development of a proper concept of self and appropriate confidence in the world through their relationships with parents and teachers, their own personal, unique and original development are related to how a family equilibrium is being handled by the family system in moments of crisis.
Indeed, taking care of children with ADHD may be compounded by additional responsibilities; however, it is during this time that family members have the opportunity to reaffirm personal and family values and their commitment to one another. This provides a unique way for family growth.