By Sarah Prince
Our sweet daughter, Kieren, had always been bright, happy, engaged at school, and had a life full of many friends. We constantly asked her to clean her room, which seemed like an absolute impossibility for her, but otherwise, it seemed like she got along normally as a young girl entering her teenage years. Until it wasn’t normal.
Here in South Africa, where we live, Grade 7 is the final grade of primary school, and then in Grade 8 you begin high school. It’s a very important year of applying to high schools, focusing more deeply on homework and educational foundations for the following year, and saying goodbye to friends and the carefree kid days. We were ecstatic to walk the journey with Kieren, and she felt she was ready for the new step.
Until things began to seemingly break down. It was as if she couldn't keep up with her full schedule of school and activities, previously being very self-driven in cultural expressions such a competitive dance and acting. Her schedule suddenly became too full, and her grades started to dip. At home, we noticed her own space not being neat, and it beginning to cause extra stress. And in her friendships, the heated hormones started causing factions among girls who had been friends since they were 5 years old. We were seeing great mood swings and moments of total overwhelm in a girl who had always been easygoing and happy. What was happening, we wondered?
We realized that much more was happening than we could even see or expect in a adolescent girl. And it wasn’t just hormones and teenage girl issues; it was much deeper, in the brain she had been given by God but wrestled with her entire life!
My daughter was later diagnosed with ADHD, with the help of an educational psychologist, her teacher, and a general physician. I have never been scared or shy about a label, and we had actually joked for years with our daughter that some of her behaviors or messy tendencies were her ‘being a bit ADHD.” However, I now know that ADHD is not something you can be a ‘little bit’ of when you are busy or absentminded. ADHD is one of the most common neurological disorders in children, and yet we honestly don’t know the full breadth and impact of it in our kids. We commonly think of it as something little boys have where they are plagued by impulsiveness and hyperactivity. But it’s much more than a wiggling child, and it presents very differently in girls, which means it often gets overlooked!
The focus of my daughter’s diagnosis was her attention difficulty, which we didn’t even realize because she had always floated intellectually. Once we got an ADHD diagnosis we learned she was capable of far more than she had yet achieved. While boys are showing aggression and hyperactivity, my daughter was quietly masking her challenges and doing the best she could… alone. Research is showing that girls with ADHD engage in more internalized behaviors rather than exhibiting them outside. Because of this, girls with ADHD often struggle more with anxiety and depression, as the inner world can be total chaos, even when it appears on the outside that everything is fine.
This diagnosis has been life-changing for my daughter, and honestly, she has been bold and confident working through the entire diagnosis. What I quickly personally realized, as I dove into research about girls and ADHD, was that I ALSO had undiagnosed ADHD, and got a clinical diagnosis, as well.
ADHD FAMILY UNITE!
So now it’s not my daughter’s ADHD that is the challenge, but it’s our challenge together. And what an incredibly beautiful journey it’s been together. We had done tons of research, normalized conversations about it in our home and with friends, both gotten on medicine for days we needed help focusing, and learned a ton of tricks and hacks to help us get along in our daily lives. It’s very clear to anyone around us that ADHD presents us with some weaknesses and challenges, but we both see it as our superpower, as it gives us wild passion, deep hyperfocus, and huge empathy for others in our neurodivergent family.
For any parent who thinks their child might be neurodivergent and you are feeling nervous or overwhelmed, I am here to encourage you. Labels are only negative when we see them that way. A diagnosis can also unlock understanding, growth, and new focus and passion. ADHD has changed the lives of myself and my daughter. Learn about it, talk to experts, share thoughts with close friends and family, and walk ahead in curiosity and openness. Your brain is PERFECT and so is your child’s! It just might need different help or support to fully thrive. I know mine does!
Check out our Empathy and Inclusion line for ways to shout their worth!