Talking to kids about ADHD

I was going to take this blog in a new direction today. But I got a comment on last night’s post that got me thinking about another topic that could be helpful for parents.  Why did I choose to have my child labeled and how did I tell him?

As you know, the decision to label my kid was a difficult one for me. It took me a long time to get to this point. Here’s why I finally did it, aside from the fact that he would receive extra services in school:

  1. Other kids know he’s different. He knows he’s different. They might not know what it is, or what it’s called, but they know he’s different.  And in a society that does not always embrace diversity, that’s a tough pill to swallow. So why not call it what it is? I’m not a fan of brushing things under the carpet. If there’s something that’s not working, let’s fix it.
  2. If I didn’t get him a label, he might have gotten one anyway: troublemaker, lazy, disruptive, etc.
  3. The real breaking point for me was when my kid came home from school and started calling himself “weird” and “stupid.” Now anyone who’s spent any time with Logan knows that those things aren’t true. But he was starting to internalize the fact that he was different. Things that came easily to other children were a struggle for him. And he knew it.

So I decided it was time to talk with him, in plain old 6-year old language (minus the poopy diaper talk).  In case anyone else is looking for some words to explain this to their kids, here are some phrases that we use, based on OT recommendations and things I’ve read:

“Your brain is the computer for your body. It tells your body what to do.”
“Sometimes your brain is not with your body.” (impulsivity)
“Sometimes your brain leaves the group.” (distractedness)
“Sometimes your body leaves the group.” (moving too fast)
“Sometimes, your brain and your body leave the group.”
“Some things might be more difficult for you, but it is no excuse for bad behavior.” (setting the expectations)
“You don’t have to worry, because there are many other kids like you and we are here to help you.” (love)
“We all have something we’re working on.” (reality)

I know I struggled a lot with how to tell my son what’s going on. Once I found the language, he seemed to understand. The fact of the matter is, we are all works in progress. Every single one of us. We all have something we’re working on (or at least we should be). When I truly embraced that concept, my fear of labeling him ceased.  I stopped caring about whether or not people would judge him. And I got my nose pierced.  I started having more compassion for other people, knowing full well that I didn’t know their whole story. We  put our trust in God and found our worth in Him.  And it was very freeing.


  1. Hi Jana,

    May I copy this and give it to some Moms I know? What a beautiful way to explain things to all ages!! We are getting a special needs ministry (slowly) up and running in our church. It is so exciting because it benefits everyone – being more organized, more visual, more “hands on” – and looking to UNDERSTAND all our kiddos better!! Thanks so much for sharing so beautifully!!

    1. Hi Julie! Absolutely! That’s why I’m putting this out there. What a great ministry you’re starting! We went to one VBS a few years ago and we were basically turned away after a few days. I picked up Logan early and there were probably three adults standing around him. I couldn’t believe that one of them couldn’t take him and modify the lesson to meet his needs. I also have a friend who has to alternate with her husband when they go to church. They have a special needs child and often there isn’t anyone to care for him at church, so one of them has to stay home. There is such a need for the ministry you’re starting. And you raise a good point: I have these tools for Logan, but I use them with Stella as well. They really do benefit everyone. Thanks for reading my blog & good luck with your new ministry!

  2. Jana,

    Your blogs are terrific. I knew nothing at all about this before reading about what you’re going through. You have the capacity to be helping many many people, in addition to Logan. You articulate and express everything perfectly…you are one smart cookie!

    Hope to see you soon! I want you to know that God did not put us together only for flute lessons!


    1. Hi Dot! I’ve known that for some time ;) Thanks for your encouraging words! We’ll have to do a lunch date soon, now that I have most afternoons off. :)