It’s hard to realize that our children ignore us when we ask them to do something, and we see that they repeatedly do not obey.
It’s discouraging to receive notes from school always seeing the same comments: does not pay attention in class, is easily distracted, has not submitted assigned homework….
What can we do? No matter how hard it is, we must remain calm and resist the temptation to engage in a war that we will lose not knowing why. We are adults and they are our children with ADHD; our duty is to follow them in their development.
I would like to speak about EMPATHY, because I am convinced it is a must all adults have to practice in order not to affect our children’s self-esteem and motivation in a negative way. This is an Emotional Intelligence facet we need to acquire as soon as possible.
The definition of Empathy, according to the dictionary is: ‘the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in their situation’. In terms of leadership, empathy is the ability to wear the other’s shoes and be able to see the world through their eyes.
Why would a leader need to be emphatetic with his team? In our case, I would say that for two very important reasons. The first refers to the capacity of recognizing the other as being different from us, with his faults and his qualities (and not to be tempted to think ‘he is my son, I know him very well’). The second is related to the fact that an empathetic leader knows how to leverage individual and collective motivation.
Any human being will flourish if he feels understood, encouraged, respected.
And how can I be empathetic with ADHD’s? The truth is, at first glance, it is difficult to know where to start. I agree with Jesus Bernal, a family therapist who gave a talk to parents and teachers a few weeks ago, when he said that the situation would be different if children with ADHD were in a wheelchair. It seems clear that a gym teacher would not dare to ask, or require the execution of a certain exercise, when, right in front of his eyes, common sense tells him that it makes no sense to do so.
Because it turns out that ADHD can not be seen… No, ADHD is not visible. Behaviors that are labelled in our mind as inadequate, bored, unbearable, or hurtful will be inmediately associated with bad conduct.
Wow, how easy it is to judge! But could it be something else?
We cannot see inside an ADHD´s brain, but technological researches prove that it is affected at a neurological level. Parents and educators need to adapt.
Being empathetic means that you have to be trained in order to understand how others perceive situations. If a person lacks empathy, he runs the risk of misinterpreting what is happening in a given situation and misunderstanding others intentions.
It’s easy to empathize with a person with the same ideas as your self, with children who obey, with students who meet our expectations. It is much more complicated when we are worried, angry, disappointed or frustrated. These negative feelings will be an obstacle when viewing the world through the eyes of another person, even with a loved one.
I know teachers who quietly say to the student, ‘Look, I have no other way to evaluate you other than your grades, so I ask that you try harder. Just study, and pass the exams. ” And the student thinks: ‘Okay, I will try harder, study more, but I am not able to obtain good grades, because I am not able to completely read the exams, I will not be able to finish the exercises, and I must complete the questions quickly because I can not bear the anguish of knowing that I will fail anyway and, that my attention will be disrupted by any noise or movement’
We have to look inside ourselves and see what is causing our anger or our disappointment, and how we can talk to our ADHD and make them listen to us (and speak) even when we feel very frustrated. Practicing and demonstrating empathy with an ADHD will help them developing social skills with other children, teachers, and parents.
I think that in those intense moments of frustration, we do not realize that we have lost something essential as leaders. We have lost our perspective, we have lost our vision. We can not become frustrated as a resullt by those little battles, because, people, we know that we are involved in a long-term situation.
We have to understand just what exactly are the challenges our children have to face. At first glance, the academic environment is very tedious, and standards are very high. They have difficulties with attention, behavior and learning and they enter into an academic system where expectations are not consistent with their reality. Let’s take a look.
– Identify their difficulties observing the intensity or frequency of their behavior
– Recognize their feelings: behind their apathy or resistance, there is often fear
– Do not hesitate to show interest in knowing what they feel and what they think, to promote confidence and to exercise the verbalization of emotions
– Have assertive communication: talk to them in a positive and open way in order to listen without criticizing or judging
– Remember not to change our goals as adults, but vary the tactics if needed: look for alternatives so that they feel supported
– Let’s engage them in the process, letting them see our position, seeking empathy for us
And I leave for the end what for me is key. Be PRESENT. Present and available. What could be more real, more comforting than a smile or a hug when we need it most?