We could not figure it out. Out of four of our sons, two definitely were struggling. A pleaser and very calm child, despite his best efforts, one of our sons could not succeed at his schoolwork. No matter what we tried, it wouldn’t work. Nothing made a difference and we couldn’t find an answer. One of our other sons did not really misbehave but flittered around from place to place, room to room, toy to toy with an unbelievable amount of inability to focus. We began talking to our friends and medical professionals to try to determine the source of the issue. While the presenting issue was different for both children, it was suggested and determined that they might both have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). On the advice of our pediatrician, we chose a medicine that would help our sons focus. Our decision wasn’t made blindly and we really agonized over it. That’s why it’s quite hurtful when a stranger or even a friend makes a comment about children who have ADD. I’ve decided to list a few so that hopefully you can share with your ministry volunteers so that they don’t accidentally alienate a family from your church.
- I could never medicate my kids. You know, there was a time I might have said the same thing. Parents who choose to give their children ADD medicines are often at a point of helplessness. It’s not a decision that they made quickly. In fact, many struggle even after they have begun the medicine. Choose to respect every parent’s decision to do what they feel is best for their own children.
- In my day, they fixed it with discipline. If you’ve been around any length of time, you’ve probably heard someone state that the cure for inappropriate behavior is discipline. It’s true that discipline is important. God commanded Christian parents to discipline their children. It has to be understood, however, that there are some times that no amount of discipline would work. It wasn’t that my son didn’t want to do well in school, he tried desperately, but he couldn’t. I’ve heard adult men and women say “I’m not smart” or “I didn’t do well in school.” I wonder how many of those people would have a different opinion of their intelligence if they had only been given the tool to help them focus and learn in the way they needed to.
- Have you tried _______? People are often quick to offer their suggestions and desperate parents will try anything. We had private tutors coming to our home after school, we bought essential oils said to aid in focus, we changed dietary habits, and more. For some, those are enough efforts, but for our family and many others, they don’t treat the root of the problem.
- Your child was so bad this morning. OK, so I really hope that no one has told any parents in your church the preceding statement, but any time a parent is made aware of a behavioral issue, no matter how kindly it is stated, the parent hears “your child was bad!” Recognize that the child wasn’t bad, his behavior was not appropriate. Try your best to avoid having to tell the parents. The child and the parents hear it enough in other places. They do not need to hear it at church. And quite honestly, there are just days that parents forget to give their children their medicine and then they are riddled with guilt.
Now, for the good news. Our children are thriving with their newfound ability to focus on their tasks. They have a great medicine and we work closely with our doctor to monitor it to the lowest possible dose. Our son who struggled so much to read is now on the honor roll and loves to read. Our other son is able to focus and have real, meaningful conversations. Choosing to use medicines for ADD in our home was a difficult one, but it is one that we feel was right for our family. Encourage your kids ministry leadership to consider this as they speak with parents of children who may have ADD.
Jeff Land is Publishing Team Leader for Bible Studies For Life: Kids. He holds a BSW from Mississippi College and a MACE from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jeff has served as children’s pastor and currently teaches second graders each week at his church. Jeff, his wife Abbey, and their four sons live in Coopertown, TN.