There’s a very good reason flight attendants go through all the “just in case something terrible happens” instructions before every flight. It’s not because they are afraid that we’ve never heard this before. And it’s not because the oxygen mask demonstration fluffs up their hair so perfectly.
It’s because experience has proven time and again that humans in danger will often do panicky and impulsive things that increase the danger for themselves and others. If flight attendants can coach most of us to do some proven, but counter-intuitive things, lives can be saved. They aren’t reminding us of safety protocols because we’re stupid, but because these cognitive reminders rehearse and prepare our cognitive mental systems just in case they need to over-ride our fear systems in a moment of panic and hysteria.
When a plane depressurizes and the oxygen masks come down, parents sitting next to their children will instinctively protect the children first. Unfortunately, putting an oxygen mask on a fear-filled child can easily take long enough for an adult to pass out. To be able to help your child, you must be conscious and breathing, much less thinking clearly. Parents, secure your masks before assisting others.
70% of children with ADHD have a parent who has it, too. Parents researching ADHD on behalf of their children often have ‘Aha’ moments and realize that one or both parent(s) probably has it, too. Still, because parents naturally feel protective of their children, most never think of getting themselves help before their children. There’s a tendency to feel that “I’ve been okay so far, but my child is struggling right now,”
But with both oxygen masks and ADHD, the parent is the one who delivers the key treatments to the child. ADHD parents administer medications, watch for side effects, observe for improvements, conference and coordinate with teachers, manage behavioral point systems, manage homework, deliver forgotten lunches, consult with therapists and go to bed exhausted on even the very best days.
ADHD doctors write the prescriptions, but we do not deliver the care. Getting children to us is not the most important issue. Managing the child’s environment is the substance of treatment. It is a brutally demanding job that taxes non-ADHD parents to the limit. And it is is exactly the type of work that treatment can help the parent with ADHD do better.
Adult ADHD parents don’t have anyone to craft their environment. Adult cognitive demands are much higher than children’s, and the adult world isn’t full of cognitive helpers in the same way a school is. Adults with ADHD are perhaps more reliant on medication, because the support structure is more meager.
It runs counter to powerful instincts for parents to take a treatment first before providing it to their children. With oxygen masks and ADHD, though, that is how it needs to be done. When both a child and her mom have ADHD, and there’s only one pill left for today, I’m giving it to her mom. That way, both can still receive treatment.
Parents, please secure your cognition before assisting others.