Why Kids with ADHD Struggle with Emotions

How people feel and handle emotions starts in infancy. Some babies are just naturally quick to startle while others are generally calm and less reactive.

Some tend to get irritated easily. They’re quick to cry and slow to calm down. Other babies are not easily upset and are quickly calmed.

The basic temperaments people have at birth influence how they behave from the start. They may change quite a bit—or not that much—as kids grow up.

Like their peers, kids with ADHD aren’t all alike in their temperaments. Some are more laid-back or timid. Others are more reactive, outspoken and aggressive.

But often, they don’t have the same capacity to manage their emotions as other kids their age. They have less ability to react to their own emotions using their brain’s reasoning powers.

Kids with ADHD typically have trouble with working memory (along with other executive functions). And that makes it very hard for them to keep the bigger picture in mind. They tend to get stuck in whatever they’re feeling at that moment.

As they grow up, most kids who don’t have ADHD learn how to manage their emotions so they don’t get too caught up in them. If they begin to feel too angry or hurt, they learn to say to themselves, “Calm down, chill out—this doesn’t have to be such a big deal.”

If they’re getting too discouraged trying to do something, they might be able to tell themselves, “OK, that doesn’t look like it’s going to work. I’ll try again or will try to find a better way to deal with it.”

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