There are tons of articles on how to deal with having so many emotions. Write a rant in a notebook or on your computer, give yourself a time-out, or take a step back and re-evaluate the situation. These are all great ideas… for adults. What do you do when you have a 6 year-old who screams uncontrollably when he’s excited? Who responds with laughter 10 times louder when it wasn’t really that funny? Or, whips his dinner plate across the table at his sisters head, because she took the same iron man cup as him? … yes that happened!
If the hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention weren’t enough for kids with ADHD to deal with, they also feel intense emotions, constantly. These intense emotions impact every aspect of their life, especially the social interactions with friends and family. Many times I see other kids just sitting staring at my son and trying to figure him out.
Kids with ADHD aren’t more emotional than other kids their age. They feel the same emotions their counterparts do, but more intensely and it lasts longer. They way I usually refer to it is that my son feels adult size emotions and understands complex relational situations (like when one parent is a mad at the other, but doesn’t say anything, he still notices the cold shoulder they give).
Big emotions are a lot for any child to deal with. For my 6-year old trying to deal with ADHD, medications, fitting in at school, keeping up with academics, having few friends, when you throw in the emotional rollercoaster it’s almost too much.
What does this mean in daily life for kids with ADHD?
Quick to frustration and anger.
Obsessions about tiny details, like what time they’ll go to somewhere… and asking 100 times a minute.
Anxiety and being fearful of trying new things.
Trouble calming down when angry.
Getting more offended than usual at the tiniest things.
Excessive urgency – wanting something NOW. Basically all emotions and what they are feeling takes over.
As a parent, what should I do?
One thing I have trouble with is staying calm (because many times they are not) and recognizing what they are feeling, even if you don’t understand it. The reality is you don’t have to understand it (and most of us never will) but you must recognize that what they are feeling is real to them. Sometimes this means placing my hands over the sides of his eyes to ‘tunnel’ his focus and get him to calm down and try to see the bigger picture. Other times it’s letting him jump up and down because he’ happy… even if it’s in the middle of the grocery store. Once they are grounded again talk to them about what happened. Suggest other ways they can process what they are feeling (especially if there is a danger of them hurting themselves or others) and above all remind them you love them no matter what.
Help your child understand what they are feeling is normal and ok. ADHD kids will be able to manage their emotions, they are just a bit slower to develop the skills to do so. They will have many bigger things to deal with in life and having ADHD will make many of them more difficult. Be there for your kids. As the parent you need to be their safety net and help them navigate their way in the sea of emotions. ADHD kids work so hard to fit in at school, with friends, on sports teams, you are the place they can let go and no matter what happens you love them.