Doctors take the issue of stress in kids with ADHD seriously.
ADHD symptoms can lead to frustration and feelings of loss of control and hopelessness — a sure set-up for daily stress. ADHD may also be accompanied by other mental health conditions.
Conditions that are also linked to stress include:
Are these conditions secondary to ADHD or themselves causes of stress? No one knows for sure, but it’s important to address stress, in addition to your ADHD.
I agree that the symptoms of ADHD can influence stress. I also feel that stress can influence the symptoms of ADHD. Like many factors relating to our health and wellbeing, factor ‘A’ affects factor ‘B’, which affects factor ‘A’ further, and so on.
It’s easier to think more clearly, and have organised thoughts when we feel great. Reducing stress helps us to feel great and sleep well. If we can help our children reduce stress, and sleep well, it will help start a positive spiral improved mood and concentration.
Stress also has an impact on many systems of the body. I would love to be able to list a pile of studies how stress affects the symptoms of ADHD, but it is agreed that stress can trigger headaches, increase depression, negatively affect sleep and weaken the immune system [link]
. These effects may contribute to attention issues.
Part of the subject of stress comes down to this idea, that I’ll discuss here. Almost all of us make this mistake, mainly because it’s hard in today’s rushed and stressed world, and many of us really don’t consider this idea at all.
Children behave the way they do for a reason. We need to see it that way. We need to seek to understand the reason. Like us, kids often behave a certain way because of a stressor, and we can often react stressfully back towards them. We often respond to our kids with the first thing that comes to mind. We expect them to listen to us, then shut-up, and do what we say. If they are behaving in a way we don’t like, we react. We want to stop them as quickly as possible, and we expect them to listen.
If our car is making a noise and isn’t running well, we seek to find the reason for it, or we hire someone else to find the reason and fix it. We don’t just yell at the car and expect it to just get better by itself. Luckily, the car won’t get stressed by our response. If a child is lacking a skill, and can’t do what we ask, the result will be stress and unwanted behaviour. Just like yelling at a car to start when it’s out of fuel, yelling at a child to do something that he’s lacking skills in, won’t work.
An example for children, that many parents can relate to, is a baby that won’t settle. You can seek advice, and get many different answers. Often people give a quick answer. They’ll choose their preferred answer, without investigation. They may choose colic, or say that the child just wants to be held. They may say that the child just wants to wrap you around your little finger, they just want attention. Someone may tell you that they bone alignment issues as a result of a difficult birth or other pain. In this example, you get many different answers, but none have been the result of an investigation. Even Doctors may give different answers before asking many questions and before investigation.
Our kids do get stressed by our response though. So, if our children act a certain way because they are stressed, can’t make sense of something, or need us for some reason to help them through something, we need to be there for them. We need to listen to them and try to understand what they need. We can’t add to their stress by being short with them, and just expecting them to deal with it. They haven’t got the skills yet to deal with many things that life throws at them. We need to help them.
We shouldn’t fix things with consequences. We should seek to understand the root of our children’s stressors that drive the behaviour. Look for the solution. There is always a reason and a solution. We just need to look. I would love to talk about this idea a lot more, as it applies to so many things……but small steps, enough for now. We shouldn’t fight against things, but rather look for the reasons, the root causes and solutions.
That being said, we can help right now by just understanding this concept with regards to our kids and their behaviour. Listen to them. Find the pattern that triggers behaviours. Help them develop their lacking skills. Find the skills they need to help them respond in a calmer way when the trigger occurs next time.
When we add to their stress, their stress builds, which affects how their body functions. It affects how well they sleep. Rather than searching for the reasons for behaviour, we often attempt to modify their behaviour through consequences, which adds to their stress. We are intentionally causing stress in an attempt to modify their behaviour. This won’t work! It adds to their stress and results in more attention issues and more behaviour issues.
This line of thinking may seem on the surface to be outside of the scope of attention issues, but it does contribute. Anything that affects sleep, affects attention. Anything that affects gut health affects attention (and stress does
). Anything that affects how our body functions can affect attention.
Be there for your kids. Take time to listen to them. Understand what troubles them. Help them through it.
As an added bonus, modelling great listening to them, helps them to be good listeners too.