NCPA Tree Logo

 

Northern County Psychiatric Associates


Attention Deficit Disorder
Adult AD/HD
Children & Adolescents
Family Issues
Medication
Organization Skills
School

Depression
Children & Adolescents
Adults
Medication
Postpartum
Seasonal Depression

Bipolar Disorder
Family Issues
Medication

Anxiety
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Panic
Agoraphobia
Separation Anxiety Disorder

Medication
Specific Medications
Free Medication Programs

For Kids and Teens
Depression
Anxiety
Family therapy
Phobias

Dementia

Women's Mental Health

Mental Health Book Reviews

Bereavement

Managed Care Humor

Search Our Site by Key Words

Enter the word or phrase to search for:
Only match whole words

Our Privacy Policy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Your Grandchild Has Attention Deficit Disorder
Glenn Brynes, MD & Carol E. Watkins, MD

Grandparents with family 

Grandparents have always had an important role in the life of a child or adolescent. When the child's parents work outside the home, a grandparent may be the daytime caregiver. In some cases, when the parent is unable to care for a child, the grandparent functions as a parent. Some grandparents live far away from their grandchildren, and may only see them a few times each year. In all of these situations, the grandparent has a special meaning to the child and can influence the child's self-esteem.

When grandparents hear that a grandchild has been diagnosed with ADHD, they may not know what to do or say. First, they should educate themselves about the different types of ADHD. ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is sometimes also called attention deficit disorder or ADD. ADHD has three basic features. These are:

  • Inattention (distractibility, daydreaming or "spacing out")
  • Physical hyperactivity (fidgetiness, running about, often switching tasks)
  • Impulsivity (acting without thinking…later regretting it)

Children with Inattentive ADHD have trouble paying attention but may not show the physical hyperactivity or the impulsivity. This type is more common in girls but can be seen in boys too. Combined ADHD involves inattention along with hyperactivity and/or impulsivity. This is the classic "boy type" ADHD but some girls can show this too. These children can be creative and charming, but may require more of the parents' time and effort than other children.

ADHD is not just "bad behavior". It is a physical problem that is often inherited. Sometimes children "outgrow" or learn to manage the symptoms of ADHD as they grow up. But in many if not most cases, the condition persists into their adult life. When children are diagnosed with ADHD, it is not uncommon for their parents to recognize that they too have (or had) similar problems. Even grandparents might make similar discoveries. It helps to recognize this since symptoms of ADHD are quite often treatable in adults.

Family support is important during and after the time of the initial diagnosis. Parents may feel defensive and inadequate. They may compare themselves unfavorably to their own parents or in-laws. The nuclear family (parents and child) may experience even small remarks as judgement and react by withdrawing.

Extended family can be an important source of support, but can also be a source of tension. Grandparents and others may base their opinions on inaccurate or skewed material in the popular press. In previous generations, there was more stigma associated with mental illness and behavior disorders. If someone perceives ADHD as shameful, they don't want to think that it could appear in their family. If there were already conflicts in the extended family, the ADHD child may serve as the focal point for these simmering conflicts. Grandparents should not spank this child or tell the parents to do so. One should take special care to avoid such punishment in ADHD children because they can be impulsive. They might get the message that one can use hitting or violence to resolve conflicts. Even if gentler methods seem to take longer, they provide the child with a model of how to resolve disagreements.

Sometimes, the grandparent may see the signs of ADHD before the parents notice them. This must be approached tactfully. The grandparent should not make a diagnosis on his or her own. One might suggest discussion of the matter with the child’s pediatrician or teacher (who might recommend evaluation by a trained professional). It helps to reassure the parents that one is not making a judgement on their parenting. In other cases, it may be prudent to wait and let the parents figure it out themselves.

Childproofing may become an issue when the hyperactive ADHD child visits grandparents. Once one's children have left home, people are less likely to have childproofed houses. They may also display valuable or sentimental breakable objects on open shelves. They may have moved into a smaller home that does not have a place for children to run and play. This can present both the parents and the grandparents with a dilemma. The parents may feel on edge during the whole visit. They may feel the need to follow the child everywhere to make sure that nothing is broken. They may feel defensive about the child's behavior even if the grandparent says nothing. The grandparents may be puzzled or offended by the child's impulsive behavior and the parent's anxiety. The child may feel like the proverbial bull in a china shop.

Parents can have a more relaxing visit if they do not have to constantly worry about something being broken. There is some simple childproofing that can be done in anticipation of the active child's visit. Valuable and breakable things can be temporarily moved, or the rooms with breakables can be closed or gated off. If the grandparents have the space, a spare room can be set aside for the children. It can contain old worn furniture, children's books and some durable safe toys. If one has a yard, one can spend most of the visit outside. If these modifications are not possible, one can take the family to a park or to a "ball room." Talking while going on a walk can help the child discharge enough of their energy that they may be able to carry on a conversation. Television and videos will frequently hold the attention of even a very hyperactive child. However, they will also cut down on meaningful communication between the child and grandparents. Use videos as a last resort. The child might teach the grandparent how to play an interactive video or computer game.

When a child is having behavioral problems, misunderstandings and defensiveness are common. Often a frank, non-judgmental talk can help dispel misunderstandings. Avoid comments such as "None of my children did that." "It would go away if you disciplined them more.". In the past, many children with ADHD went undiagnosed. Some of their parents instinctively came up with their own structured behavior plans. The trick is to bring this up without being perceived as intrusive or judgmental. One might say, "You know, your husband was like that when he was a boy. He was a great kid, but sometimes it was tough. I know things are different today, and you have to figure out your own way to do things. If you ever want to know how we handled it, let me know."

Grandparents can fill an important psychological role in the child's development. The children tend to perceive the grandparent's acceptance as more unconditional. In some cases, the grandparent can be a source of advice and comfort for the parents. A child with ADHD may sometimes have more than the average amount of conflict with his or her parents. The child may feel different from his or her peers. In such situations, the grandparents may provide a loving time of respite and understanding for the child. During adolescence, the individual pulls away from parents but may still maintain closeness to the grandparents during times of family conflict.

Ultimately the most important for both parents and grandparents to do is to instill in the child a positive self-esteem and an attitude of responsibility and mastery. The entire family including the child should be encouraged to learn all they can about ADHD. With appropriate help, children can learn how to manage their own symptoms better. Even with a physical condition like ADHD, it is the child’s responsibility to learn as best he or she can to "fit in" to the world.


Read Our Collection of Original Articles on Adult and Pediatric AD/HD

ADHD and Medication: the Basics  

When a Grandchild Has ADHD

Adult Attention Deficit Disorder: Diagnosis, Accommodation and Mastery

Helping Your Child Succeed in School

Coping Styles in ADD Adults

Practical Hints for Raising and Educating an ADHD Child

Neurobiological Diagnosis and Personal Responsibility: How Does Morality Fit in with ADD?

How Computers Can Help Individuals with ADD

Book Reviews: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

See our Collection of Reviewed Links to Other ADHD Web Sites

 


Read Our Collection of Original Articles on Adult and Pediatric AD/HD

ADHD and Medication: the Basics  

When a Grandchild Has ADHD

Adult Attention Deficit Disorder: Diagnosis, Accommodation and Mastery

Helping Your Child Succeed in School

Coping Styles in ADD Adults

Practical Hints for Raising and Educating an ADHD Child

Neurobiological Diagnosis and Personal Responsibility: How Does Morality Fit in with ADD?

How Computers Can Help Individuals with ADD

Book Reviews: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

See our Collection of Reviewed Links to Other ADHD Web Sites

Search This Site By Key Words 

Enter the word or phrase to search for:
Only match whole words

Not sure of how a word is spelled?
Enter the first few letters of the word:

Awards For Our Site

 Northern County Psychiatric Associates 

Our practice has experience in the treatment of Attention Deficit disorder (ADD or ADHD), Depression, Separation Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and other psychiatric conditions. We are located in Northern Baltimore County and serve the Baltimore County, Carroll County and Harford County areas in Maryland. Since we are near the Pennsylvania border, we also serve the York County area.   Our services include psychotherapy, psychiatric evaluations, medication management, and family therapy. We treat children, adults, and the elderly.

We also maintain a list of informative web sites on mental health topics, such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Parenting and Support Groups. We have links of interest to the general public and links of interest to primary care physicians and other professionals.


Awards for  the NCPA site


Northern County Psychiatric Associates
Lutherville and Monkton
Baltimore County, Maryland
Phone: 410-329-2028
Web Site http://www.baltimorepsych.com
http://www.ncpamd.com 

Copyright 2000

Carol E. Watkins, M.D.
Glenn Brynes, Ph.D., M.D.

 

Featured Links
 

 Pictures of pills
Daytrana: New Skin Patch Treatment for ADHD

Spontaneous woman
Treating Girls and Women with AD/HD

hands clasping each other
Slides From Our Past Presentations
 

Boy alone and sad
Is It Still Safe to Treat Kids with Antidepressants?

Prescription pad
Why Do I Take So Many Medications?

faces of children and adults
How Therapy Heals