If you have a young child with ADHD (particularly a little girl), a great way to explain ADHD to them is to relate it to Elsa’s powers from Frozen. In case you’ve been living under a rock the past three years, Elsa is a queen who was born with ice powers. As a child, Elsa had a difficult time keeping her powers under control. (In case you haven’t caught on yet, the “powers” are ADHD.) Elsa once hurt her younger sister by accidentally blasting her in the head with her powers, leaving her sister with a “scar” (a white streak in her hair). As much as I love my own daughter with ADHD, raising her is hard work. Very hard. Only a parent of a child with ADHD truly knows what it is like. My daughter is impulsive and can say and do hurtful things to people she loves without even realizing she is hurting their feelings. And no, she is not a “brat” and it is not because of bad parenting on my part. ADHD is a neurological condition (I refuse to use the word “disorder,” because it’s not.) that simply put, allows people to use their brains differently than most people’s.
Elsa’s parents were scared for their daughter and didn’t know what else to do, so they did the only thing they felt they could: Contain her power by giving Elsa gloves to wear. “Conceal. Don’t feel,” they advised Elsa. To me, the gloves in the story represent society. Society would love for all children to behave the same, wouldn’t they? At school, they want children to sit nicely and quietly in their seats, listen attentively to lessons, and work diligently and seamlessly on their assignments. How nice it would be for teachers if every child in their classroom behaved like this, right? Well, I beg to differ. I am not arguing that it wouldn’t make teachers’ lives easier, but I think it would definitely make them boring! If a rainbow were only one color (let’s say grey), it would not only be boring, it would be ugly. I may be a little biased here, but people with ADHD make the world more fun and more beautiful. Walt Disney, Adam Levine, and Albert Einstein are just a few famous ADHDers who have made the world a better place.
During Elsa’s entire childhood, she isolated herself from everyone, including her younger sister. Elsa knew she was different, so she hid away in her room until she was old enough to become the queen and required to come out. At her coronation, Elsa wore gloves to conceal her power, but was instructed to remove them for a part of the ceremony. Reluctantly, she removed them and then put them back on as quickly as she could. A lot of times, young children with ADHD feel insecure and have a difficult time in social situations. What they think is hilarious may not be to their peers, which makes for some embarrassing moments at recess. As a result, children with ADHD may feel like they are awkward and that nobody wants to be their friend, so they shy away in fear of being rejected by their peers. It truly is heartbreaking to see my own daughter sitting on a bench at recess while the other kids from her class are playing a game of kickball together.
As a grown woman, Elsa decides to throw her gloves away and finally be free to be her true self. She uses her powers to build a gorgeous gigantic ice castle and a lovable walking talking snowman named Olaf. “I never knew what I was capable of,” Elsa confesses to her sister. If we can teach our children with ADHD to not worry about what other people think of them and to simply embrace and love being themselves, they will accomplish so many amazing things in their lives. Not only does Elsa learn to embrace and love her powers, she learns to control it with the power of love. Now, this “love” could be a number of things when it comes to ADHD, with behavioral therapy and medication being a couple. What our children with ADHD really need and want is the love, support, understanding, and guidance of their family and friends.
I’m not naive. Life is no fairytale and I know ADHD can feel like a curse sometimes, but trust me, it’s not. ADHD is a gift. It truly is a power. Elsa’s parents were wrong when they gave her the gloves and told her to conceal her powers, but I can understand why they did. They were scared. When my daughter was initially diagnosed with ADHD, I was scared too. I am sure I have made mistakes with my daughter’s ADHD as well. I’m not perfect. Along the way though, I have learned and am still learning ways to help my daughter control her ADHD. She may not build an enormous ice castle, but there is no doubt in my mind that she will accomplish things in her life of the same magnitude.