Children need to have dreams
for themselves so they can feel hopeful about their futures. That’s why they need to be exposed to the widest range of possibilities and to be able to explore them at will.
The “at will” part is extremely important. Children don’t have all that much control over their lives, and those with ADD/ADHD have even less. They deserve at least to have the freedom to dream the dreams they want and to pick and choose among them.
I remember how my mother and I used to fight about my practicing the piano. There were days when I’d come home from school thoroughly wired from trying to behave myself, and the last thing I wanted to do was struggle with a new piano piece. But my mother insisted that I practice at least half an hour a day, so when I came home she’d lock me in the basement with the piano. Most days I’d play – grudgingly. But sometimes my frustration was so unbearable that I’d pound the keyboard with my fists until she let me out.
She would have been much smarter just to leave me alone. After a week or two of not practicing enough – and being embarrassed at my lesson – I would either have started practicing more or moved on to something else.
So I urge you to be smart with your child and let her explore at her own pace.
But first he needs to figure out what interests him. And that’s where your neighborhood library comes in.
Chances are your child already knows the fiction section has loads of good stories, but she may not know that the nonfiction sections are filled with hidden treasure. Is he interested in dinosaurs? There are plenty of books about them. What about the stars or worms or Roman soldiers? Plenty of books about them, too.
Maybe she wants to learn about women scientists or fashion design or Greek mathematics. The library’s got the stuff.
What’s so wonderful about the library is the fact that all the books are free. So if he takes out three books about spiders and another about Mozart and then goes home and decides none of them are worth reading, he doesn’t have to feel guilty.
And once she’s found a sustainable interest, you two can go to a bookstore and buy some books about it. That way he’ll have a reference library of his own to study whenever he wants.
And don’t forget about the Internet. There are web sites dedicated to just about anything you can think of, and there are several children’s sites with interactive sections so kids can talk to each other about their interests. Just be sure to monitor your child’s activities on-line, because there’s always the danger of predators.
And then there’s that great open field of exploration, the encyclopedia. Most publishers now offer CD versions for under $100, and libraries often sell sets at their used book sales or in their used bookstores. I got a huge, gorgeous set of a recent Encyclopaedia Britannica at one library store for only forty bucks!
Of course, interests don’t have to be confined to reading. There’s the old standby of music lessons, or maybe dance lessons or a drama club.
There’s also the wide variety of arts and crafts. Since so many school districts have been cutting art programs because of budget crunches, this is an area you and your child should definitely consider.
Many local art centers and organizations like the YMCA offer classes, but sometimes it’s more fun just to work on your own. It’s not very expensive to have drawing paper and crayons around, and if your child shows a strong interest, then he can move on to tempera or watercolor or even acrylic paints. (All three are water-soluble.)
Or she can work with clay or paper sculpture or altered books or stamping or collage – the opportunities for inexpensive fun really are endless.
I happen to love yarn, and I’ve worked my way through knitting and crochet and am now weaving on cardboard looms. I also spin my own yarn on a drop spindle. I didn’t even know that regular people were still spinning yarn until I found the magazine, Spin-Off, at a bookstore. It took me a couple of years to get up the courage, but I finally ordered a starter kit and a video by mail, and after a few hours of breaking the fiber and banging my feet, I was spinning yarn. (Yee-hah!)
So browse the magazine racks wherever you find them. From model railroads and rockets to quilting and teddy bears, there’s a magazine for just about any art or craft.
And then take an hour or two and go browsing with your child in a craft or hobby store. Every time I go to a craft store, I always find something new to intrigue me. It seems that women tend to go to the craft stores and men to the hobby stores, but don’t let that stop your child. If your daughter wants to build a model airplane, get her one; if your son wants to start scrapbooking, get him the supplies.
And don’t forget about sharing your own interests. Whether you collect stamps or sew doll clothes or build rocking chairs, there’s a good chance your child will want to join you. Just don’t pressure her to stick around if she appears to lose interest.
Individual interests are important to all children, but they’re particularly helpful to children with ADD/ADHD because they encourage mental and physical concentration. There’s nothing like doing something you enjoy to teach you how to wall out unwelcome distractions.
Finally, a personal, passionate interest can make life worth living. I got felled by chronic fatigue syndrome when I was 40, and there were times during my long and very frustrating recover when my love affair with yarn was the only thing that kept me going.
So give your child the gift of passion by helping him discover what he truly loves to do.