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ADHD and Enabling vs Empowering

Learning routines and habits can take a little longer for those who have ADHD than for those who do not have the symptoms of ADHD. This can be tricky for a parent to manage along with the hectic pace of life. We find ourselves telling our children or adolescents what to do each day, or perhaps even doing tasks for them just to get them out the door each morning.

It is not always easy to see the difference between empowering and enabling as enabling generally begins with the desire to help, with the best of intentions, but ultimately ends up with enabling someone and not even realizing it.

Enabling can describe any situation where “help” is offered in order to hide a problem or to make it go away quickly. Enabling, however, does not make the problem go away at all, it often makes it worse as it reduces the person’s need to change and takes away their motivation to try. Often, we enable unintentionally and do not realise the damaging effect on our children, adolescents, young adults, even our ADHD partners. Our actions make it difficult for them to get the support they need because they never fully see the consequences of their actions.

Empowering someone doesn’t mean solving or covering up their problems, it means giving them the means to achieve something independently, thereby becoming stronger and more successful.

The challenge is to learn to empathise with what the child, adolescent or adult is really feeling and understand the challenges they face. This is way more time consuming in the short term than just telling them how to solve their problems and ensuring that they do by checking up on all aspects of their life; checking if they have done their homework, assignment, got clean clothing for the morning etc.

To empower an individual we need to place our attention on helping to create a routine that will transition them towards independence. These skills should be built as early as possible so that our adolescents are largely independent in high school and are confident that they can make it on their own when taking the leap into university. Although this is an ideal time, it is never too late to start the process of empowering.

Sometimes a parent is too close to the situation to offer the ideal non-judgemental environment for the young person to explore their strengths and weaknesses and to truly empower them to think about how to solve problems in order to meet their goals and to build skills. A child, adolescent, or adult with ADHD must explore which Executive Functioning skills they have difficulty with, and which are their strengths and the ones they can use to compensate and build on. They will have had past successes which will guide them on how to approach a task and on how to change the environment to better support them.

An empowered child, adolescent, or adult is one who has developed a positive self-image and one who has a good foundation of strategies and skills to facilitate long-term success.

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Josi Tyson-Sears
Josi Tyson-Sears
Jul 30, 2021

This is timely advice for me. My daughter has just started at a private school and along with my second semester of uni starting, every night I am signing her diary, doing kindergarten homework, ironing uniforms and making lunch. I am the one with the ADHD challenges so having kids aged 4 and 2, in the morning we can all be at the same level of chaotic confusion, the only difference being my children aren’t tired. I have been trying to picture how I want our future school mornings/evenings to look, and how to get there - In a routine that gets us to school, looking well presented and on time, with all our homework done, library days and health…

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