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Helping Your Daughter with ADD (ADHD) to Feel Good About Herself

Kathleen G. Nadeau, Ph.D.

For most boys with ADD (ADHD), parents, teachers and professionals struggle to get them to sit down, be quiet, and pay attention. Ironically, for many girls with ADD (ADHD), they need help to stand up and be heard! Their ADD (ADHD) is bothering them more than it's bothering their parents and teachers. Certainly there are some girls with ADD (ADHD) who are active, argumentative or defiant, but many more girls struggle with issues such as:

  • not feeling liked and accepted by other girls,;

  • worries that they can't keep up with all that is expected of them;

  • fears that their teacher will become angry at them,

  • dread that they will be embarrassed in class; and

  • a sense of being pummeled by criticisms and corrections every day,

These issues often lead to low self-esteem that may later develop into clinical depression or an anxiety disorder.

Some girls with ADD (ADHD) begin to have social problems as early as preschool. By elementary school years, the self-esteem of most girls with ADD (ADHD) has taken a battering.

Why is having ADD (ADHD) often harder on girls? ADD (ADHD) symptoms are more congruent with stereotypes of boys. Boys aren't expected to like school; it's not a surprise when a boy is loud, aggressive or defiant; boys aren't expected to be neat, orderly or always polite. In fact, some studies have shown that boys with ADD (ADHD) are admired by other boys for ADD (ADHD)-related traits.

But while "boys will be boys", girls are expected to be "young ladies" - i.e., compliant, considerate, and self-controlled. They are expected to be good listeners, not to interrupt, grab, or push. When a girl has trouble conforming to those expectations, when she doesn't fit in with other girls her age, when she is frequently corrected and criticized by parents and teachers, she begins to feel badly about herself at an early age.

ADD (ADHD) has a "bad name" in many circles. Some parents, with the best of intentions, reject the "ADD (ADHD) label" for their daughter fearing the label will only make her struggles worse. And even when parents seek diagnosis and treatment, many girls, reject the ADD (ADHD) label. "I can't have ADD (ADHD)! I'm nothing like 'those boys' who are hyper, who are always in trouble and do poorly in school."

Work to increase your daughter's self-esteem and confidence.

To help your daughter with ADD (ADHD) to feel good about herself, it's important to teach her about ADD (ADHD) from a positive, constructive perspective. Elementary school aged girls with ADD (ADHD) need to understand how they are impacted by ADD (ADHD) in a way that will allow them to feel good about themselves at the same time.

Because there are few positive role models for girls with ADD (ADHD), we commissioned Barbara Roberts, a teacher and children's writer, to write The Adventures of Phoebe Flower to provide girls with a realistic, but positive image of a girl with ADD (ADHD). This four-book series is suitable for girls ages 8-11. In the course of these four highly engaging, kid-tested books, Phoebe goes from second to fourth grade - with many adventures and misadventures along the way. A loveable, loyal, spunky, and creative girl - Phoebe is a girl that your daughter with ADD (ADHD) will both identify with and admire. Your daughter may not want to be lumped in with "those boys with ADD" but she'll feel proud to be a girl like Phoebe.

Reading the Phoebe series together with your daughter will help her feel supported and understood as you learn together what it means to be a girl with ADD (ADHD).

Give her a chance to tell you what ADD (ADHD) is like, from her perspective.

A good way to begin a heart-to-heart talk with your daughter is to use the brief questionnaire we've designed for personal, family use available on this same website. (ADD (ADHD) Checklist for Girls) These questions aren't meant to be diagnostic, but rather a great way to begin a dialogue with your daughter about her problems and concerns. Instead of once again feeling criticized, she'll feel that you're interested in her concerns. Reading and discussing these items together is a good beginning.

Learn all you can about ADD (ADHD) in girls and how you can help your daughter.

Understanding Girls with AD/HD by Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D., Ellen Littman, Ph.D., and Patricia Quinn, M.D. is the first and only book that focuses exclusively on the issues of girls. Because girls are less likely to stand out and less likely to demonstrate difficult classroom behavior, few educators and mental health professionals understand the painful struggles experienced by girls with ADHD.

Sadly, many girls with ADD (ADHD) never receive diagnosis and much-needed treatment. Many professionals believe that girls are less impacted by ADD (ADHD), and are unaware of the very real risks for girls with untreated ADD (ADHD) - including chronic demoralization, anxiety, depression, underachievement, teen pregnancy, cigarette addiction, and substance abuse.

The good news is that ADD (ADHD) is a highly treatable condition. Talking with your daughter about her worries is the first step to getting her the help and support she needs. The earlier that a girl with ADD (ADHD) receives the help and support that she needs, the more likely she is to function well at home, with her friends, and at school, allowing her to live up to her potential.

Resources for parents of girls with ADD (ADHD):

Understanding Girls with AD/HD by Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D., Ellen Littman, Ph.D. and Patricia Quinn, M.D. provides information, parent checklists, and ways that parents can help their daughters with ADHD from preschool years through high school years.

The Adventures of Phoebe Flower is a four-book series is suitable for girls ages 8-11 that provides girls with a realistic, but positive image of a girl with ADD (ADHD).



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 Featured Books  
Understanding Girls With AD/HD

Understanding Girls With AD/HD

Kathleen Nadeau, Ellen Littman & Patricia Quinn

296 pages; $19.95

More Info.

Adventures of Phoebe Flower

Adventures of Phoebe Flower

Barbara Roberts

60 pages; $5.95

More Info.


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