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Q: “How Do I Get My Parents to Take My Concerns About ADHD Seriously?”

August 2, 2023

Q: “I’m currently in all advanced classes, but I still struggle with remembering due dates, procrastinating, zoning out when my mind wanders, and losing points due to silly mistakes. Whenever I bring up my ADHD-related behaviors (forgetfulness, fidgeting, constant daydreaming, losing interest in personal projects when the novelty wears off, being contrary, etc.), my parents act like I’m exaggerating. They say, I need to ‘try harder’ and ‘just be less lazy.’ How can I get my parents to take my concerns seriously? Can I speak to a psychologist without them?” — FrustratedSeekerofUnderstanding

Hi FrustratedSeekerofUnderstanding:

It’s disheartening when your parents don’t take your concerns seriously. You’ve done your due diligence by researching and reaching out to your teachers for support. I’m here to help you navigate this challenging situation.

When broaching the topic of ADHD with your parents, try to approach the conversation with patience, a calm manner, and a well-prepared mindset. I’m hopeful they can match you “tone-for-tone” when discussing your concerns.

Here are a few suggestions for effectively communicating your concerns.

Educate Yourself…

…So, you can educate them. Continue to gather information about ADHD and learning differences from reputable sources. Consider making a “book” filled with articles and other resources (such as books, podcasts, websites, etc.) they can read, absorb, and process at their own pace. ADDitude magazine is a wonderful place to start as it strikes the perfect balance of research and real life, and its content is easily digestible. I would also include any documentation you have from your teachers or your school where they have expressed concern or documented the challenges you may have.

When you thoroughly understand ADHD, its symptoms, and its impact on your daily life, it will help you articulate your experiences to your parents. Make sure to explain that your goal is not to self-diagnose, but to explore the possibility that you may have ADHD and seek professional guidance.

[Self-Test: Surprising Signs of ADHD in Girls]

Get Organized

Create a list of ADHD symptoms you’ve observed in yourself and any learning or life challenges you face. Be specific, provide examples, and suggest what you may need to overcome them. This will help you present a clear and comprehensive picture of your struggles.

Choose the Right Time

Find a calm and appropriate moment to speak with your parents. Try to find a time when they’re relaxed and relatively open to listening. I recommend having the conversation outside your home. As a parent, my children will tell you I’m a much better listener when I’m not at home. So, suggest a walk, breakfast at the local coffee shop, or even time in the car when your parents are less distracted.

Share your Feelings

And I mean your true emotions and frustrations. I firmly believe it’s not always what you say but how you say it. Don’t be accusatory. Try to structure the conversation using “I” language. “I feel…” or “I need…,” and not, “You make me feel…” Let them know how much this issue affects your well-being and its impact on your mental health and day-to-day functioning.

Request a Professional Evaluation

Ask your parents to consider scheduling an appointment with a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD. Explain that a professional evaluation can provide clarity and insight into your struggles. Make sure to emphasize that an evaluation doesn’t necessarily mean you have ADHD, but it will help you understand your challenges better and provide you with a solutions-oriented roadmap.

[Get This Free Guide: How Is ADHD Diagnosed?]

If your parents remain skeptical or reluctant, please contact a trusted adult who can advocate for you. This could be a teacher, school counselor or psychologist, or another family member who can help facilitate a productive conversation.

Speaking to a psychologist without involving your parents depends on your age and the laws in your location. In some places, minors can seek confidential mental health services without parental consent. I would start with your school psychologist or counselor. They should be able to advise you and provide guidance on confidentiality.

Please know that advocating for your well-being can be challenging, but your experiences and concerns are real and valid. Keep seeking support, remind yourself daily that you are not lazy, and understand that just because you learn differently doesn’t mean it’s wrong or bad.

Wishing you strength and success in your journey for answers and understanding.

How to Talk to Your Doctor & Parents About ADHD: Next Steps

ADHD Family Coach Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

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