ADHD is a lifelong condition that must be managed
Question: Does ADHD go away as children grow up?
Dobson: We used to believe the problem was eliminated with the onset of puberty. That’s what I was taught in graduate school. Now it is known that ADHD is a lifelong condition, usually influencing behavior from cradle to the grave.
Some ADHD adults learn to be less disorganized and impulsive as they get older. They channel their energy into sports activities or professions in which they function very well. Others have trouble settling on a career or holding a job. Follow-through remains a problem as they flit from one task to another. They are particularly unsuited for desk jobs, accounting positions or other assignments that demand attention to detail, long hours of sitting and the ability to juggle many balls at once.
Another consequence of ADHD in adolescence and adulthood is the thirst for highrisk activity. Even as children, they are accident-prone, and their parents get well-acquainted with the local emergency room. As they get older, rock climbing, bungee jumping, car racing, motorcycle riding, white-water rafting and related activities are among their favorite activities.
Adults with ADHD are sometimes called “adrenaline junkies,” because they are hooked on the “high” produced by the adrenaline rush associated with dangerous behavior. Others are more susceptible to drug usage, alcoholism and other addictive substances.
Some of those who have ADHD are at higher risk for marital conflict, too. It can be very irritating to a compulsive, highly ordered husband or wife to be married to a “messie” — someone whose life is chaotic, who forgets to pay the bills, fix the car or keep records for income tax reports. Such a couple usually need professional counseling to help them learn to work together and capitalize on each other’s strengths.
Question: My 2 1/2-yearold son suddenly refuses to cooperate with me. To add insult to injury, he’s recently become more receptive to correction from my husband. I’m feeling left out. Is it just my imagination? Dobson: No, your feelings are valid. Little boys do begin to pull away from their moms during the period between 15 and 36 months. Boys, even more than girls, become negative at that time and resist any efforts to corral or manage them. They say no to everything, even to things they like. They run when called and scream bloody mur- der at bedtime. They usually respond better to fathers — but not very much.
Believe it or not, this is a moment of opportunity for Mom. She must take charge during these delightful but challenging days of toddlerhood. It is not sufficient to leave the discipline solely to Dad. Respect for her authority and leadership is rooted in this period, and opportunities that are lost will be difficult to recover later on.
During this normal and natural period of disconnection and differentiation, it’s also important that mothers not allow themselves to feel rejected and wounded by their boys’ gravitation toward fathers. Just remember that the behavior isn’t personal.
Boys are genetically pro- grammed to respond that way.
I remember feeling somewhat embarrassed by my mother’s hugs and kisses when I was 3 years old. I told her one day that I thought it was “silly.” Her wise response was, “I do, too.” I wanted and needed her love, but I was already aware of a strange tug toward my dad.
Although most kids won’t be able to articulate that urge, what is happening is a healthy process from which manhood will flower in time. Mothers should encourage their husbands to be there for their sons when the need is the greatest. Men tend to be extremely busy during the early years of parenthood, and their minds are on other things. A gentle nudge will get their attention better than inundating them with guilt and criticism.