I’ve seen it again and again over the years with my oldest and my youngest. Well-meaning (often) people say things that seem offensive, but really just display how little they understand your child.
I’ve heard everything from, “Oh, well can’t you just [fill in the blank]?” to “Oh that’s no big deal, my son/daughter does that, too” and everything in between.
I remember the first times it happened, or rather the first hundred times, I felt myself bristle. I couldn’t help it, it was just a knee-jerk reaction to someone doing what I perceived to be one or both of the following:
1. Assuming I hadn’t put any time or thought into better helping one of my sons with something they struggled with
2. Belittling what is/was a true challenge for one of my sons by brushing it off as something their child also did/does
Can I just go on record as saying something we’ve all wanted to say under these circumstances? Just because your son/daughter is hyper at times and doesn’t listen it doesn’t mean we’re in the same boat. Just because your child throws a tantrum or forgets to hand in school work now and again it doesn’t mean we’re struggling with the same things. There is so much more to our children’s challenges than that.
People are Uncomfortable Being Uncomfortable
You could easily drive yourself crazy wondering why you’ve just been hit by someone’s run-away insensitivity bus.
Why do people say these things?
Why do people feel the need to either offer off-hand advice or brush off your child’s difficulties?
Honestly, I think people say/do these things because they truly don’t understand and we are uncomfortable as humans with things we don’t understand. Rather than deal with the lack of comfort appropriately, we try to either brush off uncomfortable subjects or supply advice. I have found very, very few people actually ask me about my boys, what they’re going through, etc.–that includes friends and even some family.
Initially, I naively tried to help people understand why their suggestions weren’t something that would work for us or why their busy child wasn’t functioning on the same wavelength as one of my boys, but it always ended the same way. They argued. Not in a malicious way in most cases, but they pushed further to prove why their advice was great or why their child was just like mine.
I think it’s important to come to peace with the fact that these conversations will undoubtedly happen at the end of the day and there’s little you can do to prevent them at times.
Moving Forward Without Getting Discouraged
In the end, for your sanity, I suggest approaching conversations like this with the knowledge that none of us can truly understand what the other is dealing with until we’ve walked in each other’s shoes. Especially in brief conversations, unless someone is clearly interested in learning more about your situation, don’t sweat it. Don’t let it get to you. Don’t let it upset you!
Find a group of people who do understand your children/family and know that that’s where you’ll get the support you’re looking for in these conversations. For the same reason I would have no idea what it would be like to be a widow, I don’t expect parents of “typical” children to understand the struggles, sacrifice and schedules we deal with on a daily basis.
We already have so much on our plates, put these conversations on the list of things that we don’t allow to get us down or frustrated. Simply take a breath and let comments roll off your shoulders. When people want to know more, they’ll ask with an open mind. Don’t waste your breath trying to make someone understand when they’re not willing. You need all the energy you can muster to continue doing the most important job of all–helping your little ADHDers be as successful as they can be!