A problem shared: I’m worried my son has ADHD

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Something troubling you? Share it with your new BFs, Jo Davison and Nik Brear

I have been a single parent with two children for years, but have recently got re-married.

Both children get along really well with my new husband and already see him as a dad, which is lovely.

My my youngest son, who is six, up until this point has always been a generally well-behaved child, if a little energetic at times. Recently though, my husband and I are finding we’re having more and more problems with him and his behaviour.

His attention span seems to be a big part of the problem, in that it’s very short. Sometimes he doesn’t seem to be able to concentrate on a situation or task very well at all. What’s more, he seems to enjoy misbehaving in order to gain attention, which isn’t usually like him.

I have tried all of the usual tactics that would have worked in the past, but he doesn’t respond to anything either my husband or I do or say.

Now a friend has suggested that he might have ADHD, but I am unsure about how I would get him checked for this, and whether it is even a good idea to plant this seed of an idea.

My son always seems to be frustrated and angry at the moment, which is upsetting. I am unsure why he has suddenly started behaving this way, as he has generally had a really good upbringing with plenty of family around him that love him, although he doesn’t have his real dad in his life and never has.

He is a very creative boy and all of his teachers at school have commented that this is particularly the case when he is feeling at his calmest. Do you think that this is something I should push for him, given its calming effect on his behaviour, or is it a waste of time for his education?

From recent Government suggestions about the arts not being an integral part of the education, I am unsure what is best for him, but desperately want to help him find something that he can put his attention into. At the end of the day I want to help my son in any way I can, but I’m not sure where to turn as this behaviour seems to have come out of nowhere.

Jo advises:

It’s impossible to judge, from just a description in a letter, whether there is a serious problem with your son’s behaviour.

The best person to advise you on that is your doctor, surely. Though it does‘t sound like you have consulted your GP over this.

I can’t help but wonder why not. It would be the place I would turn to if I had similar serious concerns about my child.

Maybe you are concerned about your little boy being labelled. Yet you seem to be listening to the suspicions of a friend. Which doesn’t add up. Some parents do seem quick to assume there is a behavioural condition to blame when they are finding a child hard to cope with.

There is a huge difference between the issues kids with ADHD have to live with and a normal child who is difficult to get through to. Your friend is putting two and two together and coming up with 546. After all, your son has behaved normally up to this point. Children don’t suddenly develop a condition like ADHD. It sounds more likely he’s reacting to the life changes he has had to cope with. He and his sibling have had you all to themselves. No matter how much he likes his new step-father, he’s going to feel some resentment at having to share you three ways.

You’ve spoken to his teachers, which makes good sense, and know the way your son likes to unwind is through art. That’s fantastic. Encourage him by providing art material at home. Make time and join in with him. His love of art could also give him a way to express things that are worrying him.

Nik advises:

I think there’s a lot of things going on here.

Firstly, as well as your son and new husband may get along, your marriage is still a big change for him. He and his brother have gone from being at the very centre of your world all this time to, suddenly, having to share the spotlight with another man in your life. No matter how wonderful he is and how much your children might like him, it’s still a big adjustment.

I think it’s important to make time to spend one-on-one with each of your children, doing things that each of them enjoys doing with you alone, as well as the family time you all spend together. And encourage your husband and children to do the same, so that they can begin building up trust and a friendship and relationship of their own, that is separate to you. Once your son is reassured of the place he still holds in your life, and understands that he is important in the eyes of your husband too, hopefully that will put an end to this misbehaving in order to get attention.

As for the arts, I think they can be an incredible asset to a child’s education, as long as they are used to complement and not replace his studies. Try indulging your son in some different classes to see if he takes a shine to something in particular that might give him a positive outpouring for all of his extra energy.

If you still have concerns about him after giving this a try, your GP would be the best person to speak with, but I agree that you shouldn’t rush into bandying any labels about while your son is still struggling with such big adjustments in his home life.

What would you advise? You can offer your own words of wisdom. Send your 200-word answer to this week’s problem. We’ll publish the best next week. Write to jo.davison@thestar.co.uk (include A Problem Shared in the notes field and add your name, age, occupation and area of

Sheffield you live in).