There’s always this tendency to make things complicated, but summer is a great time to keep things simple! It’s the perfect chance to let your kids focus on ONE thing–and doing a GREAT job with it!
A reward system can be a powerful behavior management tool. How can you change make it work well in your family?
Would you be willing to try something extraordinary, heroic, even herculean,to improve daily family life impacted by ADHD? Most likely, your answer is, “Yes! Anything!” What about three easy, uncomplicated steps that could bring the same dramatic improvements?
Brain Health – We Are What We Eat
Within the past 10 years, researchers have been learning the importance of the connection between gut health and brain health. The gut is an important component in the process of making essential “neurotransmitters” like dopamine and serotonin. The quality of food we take inside determines the quality and availability of these neurotransmitters for use in our body.
As parents, we want to give our children with ADHD every advantage, neurologically. That goes for cell creation and balance of hormones essential for thinking and doing. That’s why it’s important to encourage the consumption of high quality, clean, live food, the essential foundation of brain health.
Parents Brains can be Reactive, Too
It’s a paradox, really. For survival purposes, the brain is hardwired to zone in on threats. Yet the brain does not learn and develop well when it is threatened.
A threatened brain wreaks havoc in relationships. When the brain is triggered repeatedly, it gets stressed, which makes it far more likely to experience life events as threatening than if it were a calm brain.
This causes more complications in parenting than you might imagine.
“Catch” is the operative word here! It implies that your kid has purposely set out to deceive you. Has he, or is there something else going on here?
The challenge is that everyday logic points in the wrong direction! It’s hard enough to accept that once AGAIN, he didn’t turn in his homework, clean his room, or brush his teeth. But that he lied about it, AGAIN – how is that supposed to be ok?
That was my least favorite phrase growing up. It hurt every time I heard it. There wasn’t a “NO!” big enough to convey that I was out of control, my mind racing not-on-purpose, my agitation quick and energy boundless. I was confused, embarrassed, frustrated. I was not attention-seeking, not acting out for fun.
Every adult who grew up with the ADD/ADHD brain type probably has a particular reprimand that still makes his or her stomach clench. Those few words that can convey so much pain, anger and regret, even decades later. Language is such a powerful part of who we are, and it should not be treated lightly, especially with children. Forget the old sticks and stones rhyme; the hurt from words can last much longer than a scrape or cut.
Watch Your Mouth
Have you ever noticed that we parents tend to confuse “obedience” with “respect”? News bulletin: they’re not the same thing!
When our kids don’t “obey” us, we take it personally and take it as a sign of disrespect. We want them to “mind” us, because we know it’s important for their health and safety. But also, because our egos are tied up in it and when they don’t, we lose confidence.
When we turn our attention from their challenge to how WE feel about it, we’re not helping them learn to manage difficult experiences – we’re making it all about us.
The parent-child relationship is a battlefield of personalities, talents, deficits, wills, egos and many other aspects of the humble human’s inner being. The more mindful we are of all these inner forces, the less likely both parent and kids will get slogged down, if not outright whooped, on that battlefield.
As Dr. Mark Bertin says, “When we’re not mindful, we’re not making choices.” It follows that when we’re not making conscious choices, we are not in control. And when we’re not in control, our kids don’t have a shot of being in control, either. Make sense?
Summer is a great time to help kids learn and practice planning skills, so get them involved in planning family activities!
Psst…hey you. Yeah, you! The one who looks frazzled and, I’m guessing, wishes you were in Jamaica with nothing but a trashy novel on your to-do list.
You have a good kid. Sure, sometimes she forgets to turn in her homework; or she tells a lie; or she acts out in school or has a meltdown at home. She’s still a good kid. And Reward systems can help you remember that, and help her know that, too.
Reward systems are not about ignoring bad behaviour. They are about recognizing and celebrating positive, healthy behavior. How can you make sure the system you put into place does this effectively, and encourages your child to be the good kid you know she is?
I must confess something to you: I thought ADHD medication would help my son get along in the world “normally.” I thought that little pill would squelch his hyperactivity and inattention, and help my square-peg kid fit in the round hole of societal norm.
Boy, did I have a lot to learn!
Well, I missed my flight. No, I wasn’t rushing, or running late. I did not get caught in traffic, or fail to leave enough time to get there. I was at the gate, on time, relaxing, chatting with a friend… Only it wasn’t my gate.
It’s just such a classic story. Textbook even. Where ADHD and Dyslexia intersect to provide yet another opportunity for learning.
I transposed a couple of numbers, was distracted on the phone, remembered what the porter told me instead of what I saw, mixed my seat number with the gate number…and voilà I sat peacefully at the wrong gate until it was too late to make my flight!
Consistency. Structure. Planning.
As the parent of a child with ADHD, you probably feel like you’re constantly focusing on consistency, structure and planning. You want to create an environment that is supportive for your child.
In the midst of all of these lists and reminders, something is missing. Your relationship with your child may feel strained. Now don’t get me wrong, all of those things are very helpful. However, there’s something important for you to add to this list.
*Note to all you Superdads out there: this applies to you too – so read on!
About once a week my kids accuse me of being ADD. I’m not, actually, but they see the challenges I have managing the details of life, and it can look A LOT like the things I’m coaching them to manage.
Besides, it’s fun to razz Mom a little.
After listening to one of our guest experts recently, I’ve discovered the truth. I suffer from:
STRESSED OUT SUPERMOM SYNDROME!
Being the grown-up in the family with the most executive function can be a challenge on the best of days. Add to that single parenting, menopause, full time job (ok, more than full time), and mostly it can be exhausting. Personally, I have complete compassion for the other moms out there who add their own ADHD to the mix – hats off to you girls!
Life with ADHD is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week-adventure!!
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with ADHD, then you know how tempting it is to focus on the “negative aspects and problems” of ADHD. Rarely are the strengths or positive qualities of ADHD appreciated, much less celebrated!!
Why It’s Important to Learn to Say No
We do it to ourselves, don’t we? We say yes to everything, from volunteering for school to helping out our favorite charity to attending religious programs to helping out a friend. We want to do all of these things, we want to please the people we care about, we want to expose our children to important experiences.
But, in truth, for many of us, it’s too much of a good thing. It’s time to learn to say no – consciously, and deliberately, for the health of our selves and our families.
Strengthening memory, for people with ADHD or other learning differences, can improve executive functioning and focus, as well as decrease frustration in the classroom, workplace, and at home.
While 21st century information overload definitely taxes our everyday memory, we have the ability to remember much more than we do. The key is to work at it. Not being able to remember what someone just said can result in the perception that you’re not paying attention to them; therefore, weakness in memory exacerbates the symptoms of ADHD.
So, if I’m totally honest, there are parts of living with ADHD – and raising a family with it, especially – that make me crazy. Sure, I’ve learned to manage a LOT, to mitigate, to minimize, to accept, to let go. I’ve really gotten pretty good at it.
But sometimes, it just gets old.
Like the food in my refrigerator. Talk about old. One of my biggest pet peeves about how ADHD shows up – more than the overall chaos, clutter and disorganization – is the amount of wasted food I end up throwing away on too regular a basis!
When you are a parent raising a child with ADHD, it is easy to lose that “loving feeling” you once had as a couple, all in the name of being a “good parent.” Forging ahead in overdrive, you forget about your own needs, let alone the needs of your spouse. Ask yourself:
- Do you feel so overwhelmed, tired & exhausted that you feel disconnected from your partner?
- Do you miss that “loving feeling” you once had as a couple?
- Does it seem like your partner doesn’t even know who you are anymore?
- Is your relationship stuck on autopilot?
- Do you feel like you don’t have anything left to give to your partner at the end of the day?
When it comes to matters of paying attention, you need to focus on the process, not the result. This is never truer than when we look at the process of communicating with teenagers.
Occasionally, despite my best intentions, I end up raising my voice while preaching the virtues of life to my teenage son. It happened again recently, but this time was different. This time, as I went on and on, I realized that my son was not listening to a word I was saying. Not only wasn’t I getting my message across. I wasn’t having any impact at all.
If you have young kids – or listen to the radio – you’ve probably heard “Happy” by Pharrell Williams from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack. And you’ve probably had it stuck in your head ever since. If not, YouTube it at your own risk! He sings: “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth…Clap along if you know what happiness is to you.” Tapping my foot to the rhythm, this made me think of our perception of happiness. What is happiness to me? To you? Why does it so often take a back seat in life? And what makes happiness so darn elusive?
If I live to be 100, I’ll never forget the joy of that afternoon, overshadowed by the years of misery that followed.
She was 6 years old. Adorable in her little uniform shirt, having already changed into jean shorts when she got home from school. It was August, and she sat upright at my grandmother’s antique Queen Anne’s desk, pony-tail bobbing, home from her first day of 1st Grade.
Poised and ready to tackle her homework, I dare say she was almost excited, proud in that “I’m-a-big-girl-now” kind of a way. Loose curls falling out of the bob and draping onto her shoulders, she was ready to get to work.
When does life slow down!? If you’re like me, your days are getting busier and busier. We juggle work, kids, homes, obligations, and responsibilities. It feels like we need a 40-hour day to get everything done – and get a good night’s sleep while we’re at it! This week, in particular, has been a crazy one for me. I’m volunteering at a day camp and trying to keep up with my work and family in the evenings. I can feel my battery draining!
Families with children with ADHD often discover that one or both parents has ADHD, too. And when this happens, non-ADHD adult partners find that they are called upon to motivate everyone in the family, creating routines that will make family life easier. It can be exhausting. Besides, you may end up feeling like the family bad guy. Here are some great ways to inspire change in family members and enjoy family living with ADHD:
Understand your limits. ADHD symptoms and behaviors belong to the person with the ADHD, not you. As you seek to create change in your family, try not to take responsibility for the change that others should be making. If you tell your husband or child to do something, are constantly reminding or nagging them to meet deadlines, or are generally running their lives, you are actually interfering with their ability to decide for themselves what they need to do. Change comes from within…so don’t try to create it from without.
You have the right to remain silent. Use it! I know you think I’m kidding, but I’m not. Quiet space – where it’s not just you who remains silent, but the radio, the phone, the television, the computer – is not just a luxury. It is a necessity, even for the most extroverted of parents. Turn of the noise and give your brain some room to breathe.
Why You Need to a Time-Out
Today I was driving – miraculously alone in the car – and I turned off the radio. Silence. It’s amazing how loud it can be. But then the noises in my head started competing for airtime. Tempted to turn on the radio several times, I stopped myself. The thoughts of people I wanted to contact came in to my head, and I let them whirl around. I confess to making one call, fortunately only to leave a message. But I returned to the relative quiet of my chatty brain.
Just do it…yourself. Don’t get me wrong - I firmly believe in delegating and asking for help! But sometimes the kindest thing you can do for yourself is to tackle a challenge or chore on your own. If you’re feeling on edge, for instance, it may not be the best time for your son to help with dinner.
I was driving to an event with my spouse recently, and I could tell he was anxious when the parking lot was full. I insisted he get out and let me park the car. Yes, I was willing to walk several blocks – in high heels – to keep my own anxiety level from rising. It was a win-win situation: He was calmer, and I met an interesting woman in the parking lot while walking in.
Because I chose to do it myself, stress left us alone that night. Sometimes, making a positive choice to reduce your stress – even if it requires a bit more work – is just the self-care you need. You can avoid the stress of leaving a task unfinished, lessen the chance of a meltdown, and help everyone – yourself included – remain on a more even keel.
I’m a lucky man – I get to go to “summer camp” all year round. This is something that many kids with ADHD wish they could do!
Often, families ask us what we do at camp that changed their child. They want to know what systems we use that might be transferred to home and school.
Certainly, there are a range of goals that each family has when sending their children to a residential summer camp. Some want social skills improvement, others want their children to gain a general sense of independence. Camp can offer as many outcomes as there are campers. So it’s important for us to evaluate how the skills they learn at camp can generalize to home. What do the campers really bring home that is of value? And how can we, as parents, apply that all year round?
Penicillin. Potato chips. The Slinky. Scotch Gard. The Pacemaker. Fireworks. Post-its.
What if there were no mistakes? I’m not saying that everything happens for some big-picture “lesson” (that’s another post), or that we should like everything that happens. But what if everything that happens is just an experience? What if we have the ability to choose whether to see it as desirable or something that we would prefer not to repeat? Would that help to let go when things don’t go quite the way we planned?
I remember Don Knotts drawing on a courtroom chalkboard during an episode of Mayberry RFD: Ass|U|Me. “When you assume,” he said, “You make an ass out of you and me.”
Who says there’s nothing to learn from television! Think about how often you take action based on what you assume about a situation, when really you don’t know for sure. This can trigger a cycle of miscommunication that can spiral out of control and interfere with our relationships.
Say your child has been in trouble at school because she has forgotten her homework. You only find out because her teacher calls you. “But, Mom, I didn’t want you to get mad.” (Which is exactly what you are because she didn’t tell you!) She made an assumption about your response, and that prevented open communication.
The best way to teach your kids to stop making assumptions is to stop making assumptions yourself! It’s not easy but it’s definitely a pattern you can change. Make the distinction between what you know and what you think you know. That difference can make a huge difference!
“For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.” -Lily Tomlin
Over the last few weeks, Diane and I have been running ourselves ragged – not exactly walking the talk, if you know what I mean. Sometimes circumstances take control of our calendar, and we choose to roll with it… for a while. The catch is to be conscious that we are making that choice and to rein things in before they get out of control.
A teacher in my kids’ school spoke out, recently, about the relationship between teachers and parents. He phrased it so beautifully that I asked if I could share it with all of you.
Thanks to the incomparable Greg Changnon for his words of wisdom:
The relationship between parent and teacher can be a difficult one. Both are members of a team that is guiding the student through the education experience. And sometimes, of course, teammates can squabble, disagreeing over the right play or the most effective strategy. The best sort of teammate is the one who trusts the other completely, who remains grateful for the other’s participation and influence.
I sat in the school auditorium, surrounded by about 300 other parents. I was there to absorb the wisdom of a parenting author I highly respect, teaching us about the importance of letting go, of letting our kids make mistakes. It is a message I believe in quite strongly.
I figured I knew a lot about the topic, given that my child – about 12 years old at the time — was an EXPERT at making mistakes. So it never occurred to me that I would be so shaken by the talk being given that evening.
As I sat and listened to the author’s stories, and her answers to what seemed like simple questions from other parents, I began to shake my head. The tears started welling up. “She just doesn’t understand,” I thought. “It’s just not that simple to let this kid fail. She fails all the time, don’t you understand? Her self-esteem is on the line!”
Find a phrase, like a mantra, that helps you love your children even when their behavior is unlovable or annoying. A phrase that helps you want to support your kids even when their behavior makes you want to throw up your hands in disgust! It’s not something that you say out loud – it’s just a private reminder from you to yourself.
Here are some examples:
“Oh, she doesn’t know how, I can help her with that.”
“Clearly he forgot – drat that working memory – let me remind him.”
“I wonder what distracted her – let me get her back on track.”
What’s important about this phrase is that it speaks to you, ties you into your compassion for the challenges your child is facing, and helps you offer re-direction in a way that is respectful and encouraging, rather than punitive and critical.
Ask Your Kids (Where They Need Your Help)
Sometimes, our kids just “get it” better than we do. Seriously, when we pay attention, they tell us exactly what they need!
While kids with ADHD often have difficulty sustaining focus – which is how a 10-minute chore can last 2 hours –they also have trouble shifting their focus. When your child is playing video games, for instance, she is getting constant stimulation and feedback. No wonder she doesn’t want to stop!
As a coach and therapist I thought I knew all about the power of “attending and ignoring,” the topic of a positive parenting seminar I attended last fall. Just as I started to tune out, the instructor offered an example of how to use “attending and ignoring” to eliminate whining behavior in our kids. My attention perked up.
Sustaining focus is a major obstacle for ADHD kids, and let’s face it, ADHD adults! Teaching our children to use systems and structures can help them stay on track and complete everyday activities more effectively. Homework, for instance, is a daily struggle for many families.
Our Values are who we are at our core, they’re what we stand for, what gives our life meaning. They offer a lens, a framework for looking at our selves and the choices we make in our lives.
I often like to say that if you were on a deserted island, your values are those things that would still be important to you. For example, I have a value around community and connection. It’s critically important to me. If I were deserted on an island, I would find a way to organize the fish, or the shells, or something so that I would feel like I am a part of something larger than myself. Connection gives my life meaning. It is a deeply held value of mine.
A relationship of trust tells our kids it’s ok to be themselves, to mess up, to try, to fail, to succeed – because we will be there with our love unconditionally. It is critical that we foster this connection for our kids’ sake – and our own.
Despite the fact that scientists’ understanding of ADHD has grown by leaps and bounds in the past 1-2 decades, this condition remains an enigma to most of us. In the day-to-day struggle, we parents still find ourselves asking the same questions repeatedly:•“What were you thinking?”
•“Why did you do that?”
•“Why isn’t this done yet?”
But with all the new science, isn’t there a way to help parents of children with ADHD get through the day?
You walk into your favorite coffee shop for a cup – black, no cream, no sugar. You’re trying to rein in your calorie intake. But then you spot them. Fresh, warm chocolate chip cookies. The aroma is wafting towards you, enticing with its promise of comfort. But no! You turn your eyes away. You check your email. You look at the person in front of you in line and make up a story about her to pass the time. You do everything you can think of to resist temptation, get your coffee (ok, just a little cream), and leave. Congratulations! Your executive functions have helped you use self control.
Working memory is our internal Post-it note, the place where we hold information temporarily before we take action or move it to long-term storage. It’s where we put phone numbers before we can dial them; it’s where we keep our ideas while having a conversation, and numbers when doing mental arithmetic.
Working memory is also where kids and adults with ADHD experience significant challenge. If your child knows every line of Toy Story or X-Men but can’t remember where he put his baseball glove a minute ago, you are not alone! This is a very common, and often frustrating, issue for ADHD families. How can systems and structures help?
Some tasks, like driving, become automatic when we master them. When you’re 16, every turn of the wheel requires conscious thought (or should!). Once you learn, you go on autopilot unless something jars you – a car in the wrong lane, a dog running into the road, a police cruiser in your rearview mirror when you’re going 60mph in a 50mph zone.
Well, parenting is not an automatic task! We can’t go on autopilot, especially when our kids have ADHD. Something is always jarring us – a meltdown, a bad report card, a 10-minute worksheet that turns into an evening-long struggle. We always have to be “on,” and it’s exhausting. How can we give ourselves a break?
As parents, we all have dreams for our children – visions of what they will do, be, and accomplish in life. Our dreams are based on our hopes – and there is nothing wrong with that! Our expectations, on the other hand, should be firmly grounded in reality. When setting guidelines for your child, whether for chores, homework, or behavior, ask yourself two important questions:
- What can my child do now?
- How can I challenge her to get to the next level?
Your relationship with your child began long before pregnancy or adoption: you envisioned what it would be like, you dreamed and you planned, imagining a healthy, smiling child who can easily navigate any challenges life may present. You didn’t imagine a child with special needs.
As a parent of a child with special needs, whether ADHD or something else, it is natural to have conflicting feelings about it. These feelings are normal. You might feel optimism and pride on the one hand, but you might also feel frustration, confusion, and even guilt on the other.
In fact, conflicting feelings about a change in our expectations and plans is the very definition of grief.
Sounds crazy, right? I mean, we’re always telling our kids that there are no stupid questions, and they should ask for help. And that’s true — most of the time.
But sometimes, our kids’ questions (and ours) are not born of curiosity. They are coming from anxiety. Usually, it’s one of two scenarios:
Inspiring Innovation, a blog by Meron Bareket created to inspire worldwide entrepreneurs to follow their dreams, learn from the experts, and turn ideas into reality, was kind enough to collaborate with me and conduct an interview about my journey with ADHD.
In episode 42 of the Inspiring Innovation Podcast, Meron conducts questions that allow me to open up and share my honest experiences. I begin to discuss how I went through the first ten years of raising my children with undiagnosed ADHD, along with the hardships that followed and surrounded our everyday life. As the conversation progresses, I continue to take a glimpse at the emotions inside the Taylor-Klaus home, and the answers I sought out in order to find balance and harmony for my loved ones and the place we like to call home.
As an ADHD parent, you probably spend a lot of time and energy mastering the art of ‘helping your ADHD child survive school.’ As parents, we do everything we can to help our children get through each school year, right? But then what? Are they ready for the next step?
What are you doing to help your child or teen master the skills necessary to transition out of elementary school, middle school, high school or college – and ultimately enter the workforce? Are you empowering your child or teen to develop the necessary skills?
ADHDer’s are ALWAYS interrupting people. It’s an extremely common, albeit annoying, symptom of ADHD. There are many things coming into play at the same time – impulsiveness, difficulty with working memory, boredom, enthusiasm, quick-thinking (rightly or wrongly anticipating what the other person is going to say).
So what’s the parent (or spouse) of a child with ADHD to do? We don’t want to be correcting them ALL the time, but we want to finish a sentence!