It’s easy, especially when you have ADHD and are parenting a son who is bonkerballs with the same condition, to assume that you (and only you) are the worst parent ever. It seems like the entire world tries to remind me of this. There are the picture-perfect parenting paradise illusions of Facebook and Instagram, and the countless parenting books that, as a pediatrician once told me, intrinsically imply that all parents are doing it wrong.
ADHD has a way of amplifying everything, from big emotions and household decibel levels to mom guilt. The latter washes over me in the instances when my ADHD inevitably bumps up against his and I yell at my child.
Transitions are often tenuous, especially bedtime that can resemble a mind-bending prime-time courtroom drama that morphs into a overwrought Italian opera: Toothpaste flies. Dogs run. Doors slam. There might be a few swear words. Even with all that, my child still hasn’t put on their pajamas. And sometimes that pushes me over the edge. I’m not proud of it, but I’m also not hiding it.
ADHD Mom Guilt and Parental Shame
I know that yelling is never the right response. It’s not good for my child or myself. Every time it happens, it’s another mark on my personal scale of failure – already scored from other parenting fumbles and mishaps that come from navigating a life with ADHD.
Of course, I’m insecure as a parent. (Aren’t we all?) But I also want to do it all: Be the parent who never yells. Be calm in every storm. Be a person my child will trust and always come to in difficulty. Streak sunshine and butterflies out of my mouth while juggling 13 glass balls filled with napalm. Post all about it on Instagram. Instead, I cry (or yell) with Sisyphean frustration. (If you can do all of the things, there’s a circus for you somewhere.)
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But you know what else isn’t good for anyone? Parental shame. Shame is a big emotion that stunts love and mutual respect. Always remember, just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean that you stop being human.
So when tempers eventually ebb and rational characters emerge from the monsters lumbering through the home, that’s when I can sit with my child and talk.
How to Apologize to Kids
The magic happens when I apologize. I try to steer clear of blaming, excusing, or detailing what caused my own big feelings. I simply apologize for how I handled them. I encourage my child to see that I am human, and that I screw up. I apologize to him for behaving in a way that made him mad or scared.
Adults make mistakes. Actually, adults make whopper mistakes compared to most kids. My goal is to have more good days than bad ones. But when bad days happen, it’s how we recover, re-center, and move on that really counts – and what I want my child to understand.
[Read: 3 Clarifying Principles for Raising a Child with ADHD]
Do I still religiously seek advice (especially from ADDitude) for how to better navigate ADHD while helping my son with his? Yup! I just try to remember that the parenting advice comes from a place of support and kinship. Mostly, I realize that I’m not the only one struggling to grapple with my own dark parenting moments.
If “mother” is the word for God in the lips and hearts of all children (thank you, The Crow), then I hope I would be a benevolent God(dess). I hope to show my children that mistakes happen, that progress is paramount, and authentic apologies can bridge seemingly impassible chasms. A long hug helps, too. Always.
Mom Guilt, ADHD, and How to Apologize to Kids: Next Steps
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