After working in education for a decade, Celine decided to open her counselling practice to support teens, young adults and parents navigating life’s complexities. Supporting autistic teens and adults is one of her areas of expertise.
Our Beyond the Label blog series explores the real experiences and stories of the disability community in Australia. In this story, Celene Noort, Counsellor at Ordered Minds, shares her experience of being a parent of a teenager with ADHD and anxiety.
As a mother of a child with ADHD and anxiety, things haven’t always been easy. While life is much more peaceful these days, there have been some bumps in the road that have led me to learn some important lessons.
This story begins when my partner and I, after being together for three years, decided to move in with our four teenagers (between 11 and 14) all in one house. I mean…who does that? Well, we did.
We even did a course on blended families before we moved in together. This was as naïve as learning to drive on the freeway when you have no idea where to put the key or even where the brakes are.
One of my children, who has always had an active and curious mind, developed ‘strong opinions’ and as the teenage years began, his behaviour became increasingly difficult to live with. Every morning would begin with him refusing to go to school, not wanting to get out of bed and me noticing how little influence I had on his response. I’d be anxious to arrive at work on time, knowing every minute of argument added exponential time in traffic and another story as to why I was late to work. In the background, our other children were the witness of this spectacle while I’d try to keep myself together. We had fallen into a gridlock, and there was no winner in this.
We questioned what was behind his behaviour: ADHD, anxiety, was it the divorce, was it teenagers being teenagers, was it the blending part that did not blend according to plan? Many diagnoses and comments were thrown around here and there. Mostly I blamed myself.
The teenage years developed their own momentum and life became increasingly difficult. I felt I had no ability to regulate this situation, which caused me great angst and made me feel isolated. I had no understanding, no preparation or education on the topic of teenagers with ADHD.
We eventually had an appointment with a behavioural specialist who diagnosed my son with ADHD. This came with no surprise or relief, we now had a name but still few solutions. I also had no close support and no friends who could understand without judging (I was the first one in our group to have children). I was thrown into a web of fear, sleepless nights and constant worry.
During all this, I was working full time, taking care of my newly established family, my partner in regular travels (and denial) and showing up everywhere else my life needed me to.
Internally, I felt like an absolute failure. I so wanted to be there for my son and while I physically was present, my lack of knowledge on how to deal with this situation was paralysing. I felt like I was not showing up for him in the way he needed me to.
I felt the pressure of being a mum, a step-mum, a partner, a daughter and a friend, while in the back of my mind, I knew my son was indulging in risky behaviours. He was missing school and his impulsivity was out of control, and to be honest, internally, so was I. It was rough for those who could see what was going on and for others, it was just a teenager being a teenager and a mum overthinking everything. But I was not. As I look back on the situation, I realise there are lessons you learn at the time and lessons you learn with time.
Fast forward ten or so years later and life is much more peaceful. Our four children have all found their places in the world. While there are small pieces we are still putting together, there are lessons I can share with parents who feel they are currently struggling with a teenager with ADHD:
Firstly: It is not your fault, there are ways to approach this proactively and you are not alone.
Seek help: find a therapist who can support you. You do not need to have a mental illness to get a counselling session where you will be heard, validated and supported.
Reach out to friends and do not hesitate to voice your struggles. A few years later I told my close friends what we went through, and they had no idea. They told me they wish they knew. As I was able to support them when they went through hard times with their own teenagers, I realised I was worried about their judgements but in truth, what I was struggling with was my own judgement.
Gabor Mate “Scattered minds”
Eunice Churchill “ A Beginner's Guide on Raising Boys with ADHD”
"Understanding ADHD in Girls and Women” By: Joanne Steer, Andrea Bilbow (Foreword by)
Huberman Lab on Spotify: ADHD & How Anyone Can Improve Their Focus
Parental as anything, with Maggie Dent.
Speak to someone:
Family Relationship Advice Line: 1800 050 321 (National telephone service)
13YARN: 139276 (A national helpline for Indigenous people going through a tough time and feeling like having a yarn)
Parentline Australia: available in ACT, NSW, QLD and NT, SA, VIC, TAS
Ngala Parenting Line WA: 08 9368 9368 or regional 1800 111 546
If in Crisis:
Contact Lifeline Australia 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: Call a counsellor on 1300 22 4636
This article was written by Celine Noort, a counsellor at Ordered Minds. After working in education for a decade, Celine decided to open her counselling practice to support teens, young adults and parents navigating life’s complexities.
Beyond the Label is a blog series that explores the real experiences and stories of the disability community in Australia. From dating and relationships to friendships, family, work, and caring for someone with a disability, we're covering it all. You can see more Beyond the Label stories here.
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