Why Didn't I Know My Child Has ADHD?

a mother helping girl get ready for school
KidStock/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

As a parent, the love you feel for your child has no bounds. You would do anything for them, including walking barefoot around the world, if that would help. So when their child is diagnosed with ADHD, it’s no surprise that  parents feel overwhelmed with guilt. They wonder how they didn’t notice ADHD symptoms before.  

5 Reasons Why You Didn’t Realize Your Child Has ADHD

1) Knowledge

Many adults are being diagnosed with ADHD.

You never stop being a parent, so whether your child is 25 or 55 when they are first diagnosed with ADHD, you can feel guilty for not noticing signs of ADHD when they were a child.

Nowadays, books stores have a whole section for books about ADHD and there are many websites dedicated to the topic. However,  it is easy to forget  that this wasn’t always the case. Don’t judge yourself. As a parent you can only do the best you can with the knowledge that is available at the time.

2) Family Characteristics

Your son or daughter's ADHD behavior might not have been on your radar because it might have been similar to other members of your extended family. For example,  if you had brothers, sisters, cousins or parents who were ‘always on the go’ or  ‘daydreamers’ then your child’s behavior might not look out of place.  It might only be as a result of  a teacher or friend mentioning ADHD that your child gets tested for ADHD.

This often prompts other family members to get a diagnosis too.

3) ADHD Was Being Masked

Sometimes ADHD symptoms aren’t detected because your child has another condition.

More than 50% of children with ADHD also have another condition that coexists with ADHD. A few examples include anxiety disorder, learning disabilities, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and substance abuse.

If your child is diagnosed with another condition first, ADHD symptoms can be masked by or attributed to the first condition.

4) Coping Skills

Sometimes  ADHD doesn’t become apparent until your child moves into the higher grades at school or attends university. This is because the skills they developed to cope with the challenges of ADHD aren’t enough anymore to manage the demands of higher academic requirements. The ADHD symptoms become more obvious at that point in their lives, both to you and your child. 

5) Change in the Environment

Sometimes your child will have been treating their ADHD naturally without either of you realizing they had ADHD. It is only when their life changes and those helpful things are no long present that the ADHD becomes obvious. Here are some examples:


They move from a very structured school to a less structured school or university. 

Class Size

They go from small class sizes to bigger classes. 

Favourite Teacher

They may lose a  favorite teacher either because they move, graduate or perhaps the teacher retires. 


They may stop exercising either because  they lose interest in their favorite sport, become injured or they graduate and don’t find a another team to join.

Moving Away from Home

They miss the inbuilt structure, helpful reminders and healthy diet of home.

As hard as it is, try not to feel guilty. Instead use that energy to be proactive. No matter how old your child is, they will still look to you for guidance and support. Being accepting of the diagnosis as well as learning about ADHD will help your child feel loved and supported.

Continue Reading