ADHD runs in families. It is a genetic disorder and a family affair. If you are an adult with ADHD, it is highly likely that another relative of yours will have ADHD. For many adults this other someone is a grandchild. With the increased awareness and visibility of ADHD, the number of grandparents who are concerned about their grandchild with possible ADHD is becoming more and more common. Often these grandparents did not have the resources or access to information about ADHD when their own child was young. Being with their grandchildren, they recognize the same painful challenges their own children struggled with in their youth. With this increased awareness comes the hope that their grandchildren will not have to suffer the academic, social or self-esteem challenges their own children had to go through. Many grandparents are eager to share access to the resources, information, etc., that might help reduce the chaos, but don’t know how.
Sometimes this offer to help is received with much relief from overwhelmed families, however, many parents are understandably resistant to any suggestion or possibility that their child may have ADHD. It is never easy to think that something might be “wrong” with our children. Families are torn apart as grandparents vacillate between respecting their adult child’s right to parent their own children and their concern for their grandchild. Parents are torn between their own feelings and how to move forward in the best interests of their child. Grandchildren are often left to continue to struggle unaware and alone.
If you are a grandparent who suspects that your grandchild is struggling with behavior problems caused by ADHD and whose family is not quite ready to look at the possibility of this diagnoses, here are a few suggestions:
Maintain a supportive presence
Do not force your advice or opinions about how your grandchild should be parented. By maintaining a neutral supportive presence early on, you increase the chances that you will be listened to at a later date if the opportunity arises.
Change takes time
Considering a diagnosis for the parent of your grandchild is a huge adjustment. Know that each family/parent must take their own steps and time to finding out more about ADHD and explore the diagnosis. Although it is true that the earlier a child can be identified with their ADHD, the earlier they and their family can start using specific tools to better manage the challenges, it is better to be patient and let your family come to this awareness without outside pressure. Some families embrace the diagnosis with the optimism that finally there is a name and solutions for their struggles. Others parents, for various reasons take any suggestion from grandparents to mean they are not doing a good job parenting. Understandably, with this reaction, it will take a much longer time to accept the diagnosis and explore outside help.
Find your own support
Finally, consider working yourself with an ADHD expert or coach to learn as much about ADHD as you can. A coach can help you sort through your frustrations and feelings about the possibility of having a grandchild with ADHD. They can help introduce you to strategies that might work well to help your grandchild in small ways. By positioning yourself as an encouraging member of the family, with the pure intent to support the family, you leave the door open for future inquiries into ADHD resources and solutions.
The key to successfully managing ADHD, whether that is yourself or a grandchild with ADHD is consistent support and encouragement over the long term. As frustrating and helpless as it might seem to see your grandchild struggle, know that your unconditional support for them and their family is the long term key to their overall success.