ADHD: Speaking into the Narrative of our Children’s Lives
Last week one of my co-workers at Orange suggested I read a fantastic guest post over on Eugene Cho’s blog. One thing led to another and I eventually landed on the guest poster’s (Pam Christensen) personal blog, discovering a number of brilliant pieces. I contacted Pam and she was gracious enough to allow me to re-run a particular post here.
Before I share Pam’s great guest post, I wanted to start with a personal note partially to explain my appreciation for the piece below. By now, more than a few of you have probably connected the dots (especially those of you who have heard me speak). You aren’t gonna be shocked at what I’m about to tell you.
I have ADHD.
Yep, I do. This is not a self diagnosis. This is a bonafide diagnosis made by a physician who specializes in these types of issues.
For those of you shaking your head thinking, “No way! You seem anything but inattentive”
Well, there’s this little term called hyperfocusing that pretty much sums me up. And by no means is that my only ADHD attribute! (I actually have many indicators.) Oddly enough, I received this diagnosis one month after my book, Leading a Special Needs Ministry, was released. That book was essentially the end result of years of hyperfocusing and then a rough 6-week period of ultra, mega, over-the-top hyperfocusing. (Balanced, healthy people do not write and edit a 55,000 word book in less than two months. This is true.)
So, the last few months I’ve been processing my own ADHD diagnosis and reflecting on how my wiring has impacted me for the last 40 years and even now. The diagnosis does explain a lot, especially some difficulty feeling misunderstood at various points in my life. Some days my personality has felt like a blessing and other days a curse. If you know someone with ADHD, and particularly a female with the hyperactive form, then perhaps you can appreciate the upsides and downsides of my life experiences. Fortunately, I’ve experienced the joy of seeing God’s redemptive hand in my own “disability”. Without my quirks, I doubt I would have started this blog, written a book, or helped any church ever include a kid with special needs.
It is because of Pam’s post (below) that I’ve decided to share more personally today. Virtually every reader of this blog has someone in their life with some sort of diagnosis or difference. As you love and lead a child with a disability, may you give them a God-view of their personality, ability, and life journey. Pam says this much better than I ever could. ~ Amy Fenton Lee
“I like that I have ADHD”: Speaking into the Narrative of our Childrens’ Lives
Ever have one of those amazing conversations with your kids? The ones you have when you least expect it, doing the most ordinary things? The ones that remind you that you, in many ways, have as much to learn from your child as they do from you? Recently, I had just such a conversation with my eight year old. And, as they so often do, it happened in our mini-van just driving down the street (it’s a very strange thing, but we almost always have the BIG talks in our van: salvation, sex, baptism, and even anarchy-but I’ll share that one another time). From the seat behind me came these words:
“I like that I have ADHD.“
He then proceeded to list all the things he liked about himself that could be attributed to having ADHD:
–I have a lot of energy.
–I am creative.
–I’m a good problem solver.
–I notice things that not very many other people do.
I agreed that these things were in true. Then I asked him how he knew these things about himself. His response? “You told me.” I did?
While I could (and may) write a posting about how “able” kids (and adults) with ADHD are, that’s not what I learned through this conversation with my then 8 year old, driving through our town. What I was reminded of was this: the influence we have over our child’s narrative.
When our boys each received their respective diagnoses, it was important to my husband and I that we help them understand first of all that there is nothing “wrong” with them, but rather that they have some challenges that we as a family, along with their teachers, doctors and counselors, we’re going to help them learn to live and succeed with. The reality is that most children who have ADHD will not “outgrow it”, as was previously believed (hence the recent upsurge in adult diagnoses as medical and mental health professionals are beginning to recognize that this is not just a children’s issue), so they need to be aware that these challenges will affect them long term. However, we also wanted them to know that ADHD also contributed to many of their strengths and so, in that way, is also a gift. As with so many of the hurdles in life, this comes with challenges and blessings. Your prayer is that God truly helps them “hear” these things.
Our child’s “story” (or our own, for that matter) does not start when they 30 or 25 or 18. In Psalm 139, we are told that God knows everyone’s story, intimately, even before we are created:
“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before they even came to be.” (vs. 16, NIV)
Our children’s narrative is a life long sculpting by them and God, and yet we, as parents are called to play a critical role as collaborators in that story. He chose to put this child in our lives. As we are awed and overjoyed, exhausted and impatient, humbled and overwhelmed, God comes along side and reminds us in little and big ways, that we are helping to shape our child’s story.
I can so easily get bogged down in the ways I may have spoken impatience and frustration, monotony and mediocrity, criticism and complaint into my child’s life. It is important to recognize these things, address them and seek forgiveness for them. It is equally important to recognize those times, when God reminds us of the good, that by his grace working through us, despite our sinful nature, we have breathed into our child’s story. Most of all, we need to remember how our influence helps shape our child’s story. My prayer is that it will keep them coming back to God’s story. ~ Pam Christensen Reposted with permission from 924Mark.Blogspot.com
Pam Christensen is the Associate Director of Children and Family Ministries at Quest Church. She has a passion for early childhood ministry as well as ministry to children and families with special needs. In her free time, Pam loves to read, study history, go on road trips, and play outside with her family and their dogs. She and her husband, have two boys and live in the Seattle area. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pam is currently leading a new “Faith + Ability” class for Quest Church.