Resources / For families

The Superpowers of ADHD

kids playing with bubbles outside
Brightline Logo Mark Orange
Brightline team

Jun 4, 2024

Kids with neurodiverse brains often get fidgety, struggle with finishing a chore, or don’t seem to be paying attention. But that’s only part of who they are (the tip of the iceberg, really). And what you don’t always see — the superpowers that are just below the surface — is remarkable. 

The challenging behaviors naturally get a lot of your attention, which makes sense because you want to keep your child safe, and frankly, you’ve got a daily to-do list to get through. But if you’re willing to look at things a little differently, you’ll discover that some of the qualities that come along with neurodiversity have a positive side, too — including instincts and skills that can be nurtured to help your child grow steady, confident, and strong.

From super frustrating to super powerful

Yes, your child has superpowers! To focus on them, you just need to reframe your thinking a bit. When you see a quality your child has in a more positive light, you can use that new perspective to create a feel-good situation for you both.

So, what are some of these superpowers and where are they hiding? When you shift from changing your child’s behavior to changing the way you think about the behavior, you’ll be able to see them. 

Here are a few:

  • Lots of energy: Sometimes having an abundance of energy is looked at as a negative quality, because trying to use up a never-ending supply of it is exhausting (for you, not for them). Lots of energy means finding lots of activities they enjoy. Physical things like team sports and jiu jitsu help them learn to focus and work with others while it moves some of that energy through their body. Controlled activities that keep them moving also provide discipline and trains their brain into doing something productive.

  • Strong problem-solving capabilities: Most kids with ADHD are very good at thinking on their feet. And because their brains work differently, they can come up with solutions that people with other kinds of brains may not. How do you harness this superpower? Engage them in problem-solving activities, games that require quick thinking, or brainstorming sessions. Flexibility here is key — your middle schooler might have a new way of taking the trash out (one can at a time with three loops around the car) that isn’t how you normally like it done (from the driveway to the curb in one minute flat). But having them figure out how to do something on their own can feel like a win for everybody.

  • Out-of-the-box thinking: Think of your child’s ability to come up with different ideas, perspectives, and solutions than the ones you might think of as innovative rather than defiant. Let their imagination lead the way by leaving “right” and “wrong” out of the discussion. Instead, encourage them to think and talk through all of their ideas. Maybe instead of one drawer for socks and another for t-shirts, they want to organize all their clothes by color — one drawer for blue, another for white, a third for green. An approach like this can turn “boring” tasks like homework or household chores into something interesting that they actually enjoy.

  • Creativity and innovation: Neurodivergent brains don’t always think and see like other brains do. Instead of looking at it as “their way vs. my way” — consider that it’s just a “new way” of getting something done. For example, let’s say you repeatedly remind your child to put the towel back on the rack in the bathroom, and they keep hanging it on the doorknob instead. When you ask them why they insist on doing it that way, they tell you it’s because it reminds them to wash and dry their hands before they open the door. Okay then! Releasing some of how you feel things “should” happen makes a lot of room for your child’s innovation and independence. (Either way, the hands get washed and the wet towel is off the floor, right?)

  • Ability to zone in and focus: When a child is really enjoying themselves, they can go “all in” on whatever it is they’re doing — a great book, a favorite movie, or an activity. This is true for kids with neurodivergent brains, too. They have the ability to hyperfocus, especially when it comes to things they like. If you can help them tap into that passion and apply it to tasks they aren’t as excited about, you’re going to let this superpower shine. For example, are they super into their favorite song? Turn up the volume and challenge them to tidy their room before the last beat drops. Do they love gaming? Earn 10 extra minutes to play for every chore or homework project they start — and finish — this week.

Progress over perfection

Keep in mind that too much negative attention over time can make kids feel ashamed. It’s hard for them to find their superpowers, too, especially when they’re always wondering what’s wrong with them. 

Having you there to remind them on a regular basis that they are worthy and wonderful, regardless of whether things are going well, helps them continue to identify their strengths and build self-esteem.

Here are five ways to help your child’s superpowers develop:

  1. Positive reinforcement: Simply acknowledging your child when they do something right is a powerful motivator. You can also step out of the negative feedback cycle at any time by saying something like “I’m so proud of you” for no particular reason.

  2. Structured environment: Kids with ADHD don’t always love routines, but they thrive when they are in place. Help your child by keeping clear schedules and limiting distractions when they have homework to focus on. This framework helps them feel grounded and in control of what they’re doing. 

  3. Open communication: Be your child’s advocate at school. Talk with teachers about any extra support that’s needed, and share the strengths you see at home so they can encourage those same behaviors on campus. And encourage communication at home by giving your child a safe space to express their thoughts and feelings.

  4. Therapy: In therapy, your child can learn why their brain works differently and how they can view their differences as positives. They can also work on controlling impulses that affect their home life and time at school or with friends. Parents and caregivers can encourage those lessons at home, reminding kids that the more they understand themselves, the better they will feel.

  5. Medication: Your child’s therapist can help you decide whether or not medication is appropriate for your child. Sometimes it’s a short-term fix that allows younger kids to focus on building habits that will stay with them once they’ve come off the regimen. For others, medication can be a part of daily life for a long time. Every situation is unique and every decision is personal.

Parenting a child — with ADHD or without — is not a perfect science. Strive for balance between the good moments and the hard ones, and give everybody some grace when that balance is hard to find. Try to let go of what everyone else expects and do what works best for your family. And remember to ask for help when you need it — your Brightline team is here for your family. 

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