When ADHD gets dangerous
Don't get consumed by the dangers your ADHD child can get into. Here are some tips to help make life a little bit easier.
It's one thing when you get a call to say your child is the "class clown", it's quite another when you get a call from the emergency room saying your child has been in an accident - again.  Children with ADHD tend to take more risks than their peers and the only danger isn't falling out of trees. How do you keep your child safe from something that is part of who they are?

The reality

  • Studies have shown that children with ADHD have more emergency room visits than their non-ADHD peers. 
  • Adolescents with ADHD are more likely to engage in risky behaviour, possibly leading to substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy.  It also results in them taking part in extreme sports and showing no fear when doing something dangerous, such as running across a busy street.
  • Further studies reveal that they are also more likely to drop out of school and less likely to enter and graduate from university. 
  • Adults with ADHD are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety and to be fired from their jobs. 
  • Teens and adults with ADHD have 2 to 3 times more car accidents, and these accidents are twice as likely to be severe than if the driver didn't have ADHD.  This is largely due to co-ordination deficits, slower reaction time and inattention.  Unfortunately, teen boys with ADHD are usually the first to ask for a motorbike.

These statistics are alarming and have driven many ADHD parents into a sheer panic.  Although these are the facts, there are ways that you can minimise the risks involved. 

The solution

The reasons why children and teens with ADHD take risks and behave recklessly are simple: They are looking for attention, they have a lot of pent-up energy and they battle to concentrate for long.

By providing alternative outlets and by giving them skills and tools to deal with their condition, the dangerous side of ADHD need never become a reality.

Here are a few tips:

  • Don't panic. There are thousands of children with ADHD who are successful, happy and injury-free. They go on to graduate with degrees in medicine and engineering and become happy adults. Be aware of the dangers, but don't become consumed by them.
  • Encourage your child to take part in sport. This releases much of their energy and also gets them interacting socially, which they crave.  Team sports such as soccer, hockey and netball are ideal because they also need to learn to co-operate with others to reach a common goal. 
  • Help them build their self-esteem. Children with ADHD are often teased, in trouble with teachers and made to feel "stupid". This leads to a low self-esteem, which only exaggerates their need for attention and approval. Acknowledge all positive behaviour and make sure they know that they are loved. It may also be necessary for your child to receive professional counselling in some cases.
  • Take note of who your child's friends are. Very often, they bond with other children with similar problems and this can lead to more risk-taking behaviour (a gang of boys with severe ADHD can get out of hand very quickly). Parents of non-ADHD children also play a role by not wanting their own children mixing with a child who "gets into trouble all the time." It is important for parents to speak to one another and to gain insight into the dynamics of ADHD. Ideally, let them hang out at your home. Be a supportive parent, it's better to be the cool mom who takes the children to a movie (and knows where they are and is responsible for getting them home safely again), than the judgemental mom who constantly harasses her son on his choice of friends.
  • Know the danger signs. Tell-tale symptoms of a problem (such as drug abuse) include: asking for more money, lying or secretive behaviour, sudden mood changes, loss of appetite, loss of interest in school or friends.  Know how your child normally behaves and take note if there are any subtle changes.
  • If ADHD medication has been prescribed, ensure that it's taken. This will help reduce impulsive behaviour and promote forward thinking behaviour (thinking about possible consequences for their actions).  There are also many natural alternatives that can help your child's inattention and impulsivity.

ADHD, when managed correctly, can actually be a blessing in disguise.  The love for risk-taking, intense confidence and flurry of ideas can also lead to tremendous success and fulfillment.  Just take a look at Richard Branson, Henry Ford, Robin Williams, John F. Kennedy and Albert Einstein.

Does your child have ADHD? How do you deal with it?

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