I’m sure you have picked up your kid from school and the car door barely closes before they are snapping at you or even break down crying. After holding it together all day trying to be still, they know you are the person who has to love them no matter how they act.
Even on a good day, the transitions from school to home and the evening of homework that they aren’t sure how to handle stretching ahead can cause enough stress to set your child off. And while you want them to be comfortable at home, the outbursts make your already strained relationship more challenging.
When I was in school, I couldn't hide my academic failures, but I could hide my feelings. By the time I got home, I was agitated from suppressing my anger and embarrassment from being called out in class.
When my parents would go to teacher conferences, they were always mystified when the teachers told them how sweet I was. It wasn’t a side of me they saw very often.
ADHD kids are about 3 years behind other kids their age in terms of maturity. Parents have to consider that even when their kid is making an effort, he or she hasn't developed the same level of control as his peers. It’s an unfair comparison.
Anger was my primary way of communicating that something was wrong. What I thought was an SOS to my family was inflammatory to everyone else. I felt unheard. Once I started an argument, I felt like I had to commit to it. I never apologized because while I knew my outbursts were inappropriate, I never felt like my behavior was entirely my fault. Wasn’t I making it clear that I needed help?
What everyone else saw me doing did not match the situation I saw going on. I always knew I was going to be blamed. Everyone expected me to be the bad kid. By then, the damage is done, and hackles are raised beyond a point of reasonable discussion.
What I have found to be consistent across ADHD kids is that they often don’t remember the details of what happened in a heated moment, or they remember it differently. After they see red, their impulses escalate to the point they are saying things they know they shouldn’t. But they don’t know how to break the cycle.
Have you ever had a moment when you snapped on someone over something minimal? They were confused as to why you were so mad at them. The reality is that you may not have been angry at them but that one little thing they said caused you to snap.
This happened to me recently. This past January, I had my sweet baby boy. Come February, I noticed I was constantly snapping at my husband over the tiniest things that didn't even matter. He could have said, “that blue sky is beautiful,” and I would have started an argument about how it was gray.
This went on for too long. Finally, he brought it to my attention, and I lost it. I did all the things you're not supposed to do. I told him I kept snapping at him because he isn't doing anything to help with the house or the kids, and I was sick of it.
That wasn't true and we both knew it. He had been going above and beyond. However, he wasn't seeing what was going on in my head. The overwhelm that was taking over. I was stressed because I had a fussy 1-month-old and a 14-month-old who had just learned to walk and was getting into EVERYTHING. They both wanted mom ALL. THE. TIME. I was trying to find my new balance between running Focus Forward, being a mom, and being a wife. I was struggling with my 1-month postpartum body. The house was a mess, babies were crying, I was running on little sleep, all the things were going on.
Despite my snapping at my husband, I wasn't mad at him, but I unintentionally took it out on him. This happened because I couldn’t slow my brain down and see what was going on. I was stressed trying to balance my babies and business, the messy house was overwhelming me, and I was sad and struggling with my postpartum body. None of these emotions are anger. However, anger is the only way I know how to get my feelings out when I am overwhelmed.
In reading this, I am sure you can relate on some level. We have all been there. The difference is that as an adult, we have the skills to reflect and determine what is actually going on that caused us to snap.
Kids don’t have that skill, especially those with ADHD. While they may not be trying to balance work, babies, and home, they are trying to balance many other things. Their struggles in school, constantly comparing themselves to their peers, fights at home, being misunderstood, feeling like they are stupid, and the list could go on.
Every time I had an angry outburst as a kid, there was always something more going on. I just did not have the tools to express that in any other form than anger. I was ALWAYS grounded and our house felt like ground zero for WWIII.