Elaine and Diane founded ImpactADHD for parents like them who have struggled, or are struggling day in and day out, to help their families thrive. Through our website and social media presence, we provide a modern twist on ADHD support groups for parents, meeting the needs of parents in today’s world – on the phone, online, anytime.
But how many of us are really confident and/or consistent all the time? Really, even on our best days, sometimes those doubts and distractions get in the way and we are flying by the seat of our pants (again!). So here’s where the tip comes in – Fake it ‘til You Make It.
To support you in this act, try some tricks and tools you’ve learned on ImpactADHD.com (Note: Coaches Club is great for this); or, maybe you could ask yourself, “What would ___ do?” and fill in the blank with your favorite parent role model like Donna Reid, Claire Huxtable, Carol Brady, or Mother Teresa. Above all, keep your sense of humor, and be gentle with yourself. At the end of the hour (or day or week), you might just look back and think, “that was easy!”
As parents, we tend to get frustrated when our kids act like kids – even neuro-typical kids. It can be maddening when they tie their shoes at a snail’s pace, or cry over something as simple as spilled milk, or behave immaturely in the car.
So take a few minutes to put yourself in your child’s place. What do you think it feels like to struggle with the motor coordination of tying a shoe, or carrying a plate and glass to the table (when your same-age peers have already mastered the skill)? What must it feel like to know you have a big report to do, but have no clue how to get started (while your best friend – if you have one – is already half way done)? How would you handle the frustration of knowing you’re disappointing your parents, but feeling powerless to change it?
Strategies. Coping strategies. ADD-mitigating strategies. Great words. They seem loaded with promise. “Wow, I wanna get more strategies, to crush my ADHD, so I can do better at school, be a better parent, advance in my career – and ultimately be happier!”
We all want strategies, right? Would that it were that simple!
Healthy habits that make our lives better (e.g., brushing our teeth regularly or hanging our keys in the same place every day so we don’t lose them) are simple strategies that are “action-ized.” Whether we learn them from authority figures, or take them out of a book or article, it’s the action that makes them a habit.
In the world of ADHD parents and parents with ADD/ADHD kids, there are two problems with “strategies.” First, a strategy is useless as long as it sits on a website or as a note in your notepad. It’s just a strategy. It might be a nicely worded one — even an inspiring one — but if the inspiration doesn’t result in perspiration, it’s still sitting on that screen or piece of paper, NOT changing your life.
I mean, if you were putting every strategy you ever read or heard into action, you’d be the most successful, happiest, sexiest ADDer (or parent of an ADDer) on the planet! And if your kids had put all the strategies you’d “taught” them into play, we wouldn’t be having this virtual conversation, now would we?
Step 1. Start with awareness of the problem and what you’re trying to achieve. Fully flesh out the magnitude and costs of the problem, and identify the benefits of the successful implementation of a coping strategy.
Step 2. Add buy-in. Buy-in has two parts.
First, get a clear UNDERSTANDING about why the strategy exists – the problem it’s trying to solve or the weakness it’s trying to compensate for.
Second, embrace the validity of the strategy. You gotta BELIEVE that it will work, or you won’t have any interest in putting it into action.
Step 3. Sprinkle in large doses of motivation. It comes in all shapes, sizes and flavors. It’s a critical ingredient, even though it changes with each application.
Step 1. Have the conversation about awareness in a non-pedantic way. State the problem clearly, and what could be achieved with the strategy. Again, it’s not enough to just issue the advice, “Do THIS! Start doing THAT!”
Step 2. Since awareness alone won’t cut it, you need to get to BUY-IN to persuade your child that it’s worth the effort. Talk about how a strategy you adopted works for you every day. It doesn’t have to be the same strategy you’re trying to teach, though that’s helpful.
Step 3. Cement the buy-in by being clear about YOUR motives. Your kid’s perception of YOUR motivation makes a difference. If your motivation is something s/he cares about (rather than all about what YOU want), it can inspire them. For example, “I care about your future – and I want you to kick @$$. I think this might help” is sure to get at least a smile.
Step 4. Your child’s motivation is a key ingredient for success. Focus on the results of using the strategy – results for your CHILD, not for you! Just as your child may not share your reasons for wanting to use a new structure, you don’t have to agree with his/her reasons, either.
Step 5. If your child has trouble identifying a motivation, then create one together. It’s okay to offer something tangible. What might look like bribery to typical kids is actually a motivation technique for kids with ADD/ADHD. Without enough incentive, their brains have a really hard time getting activated.
Bottom line: you need to be willing to “have the convo with the kids” (as well as with yourself). You need to fill in the blanks, walk them through the steps to success, and help them stay motivated along the way. Needless to say, success will breed success.
So don’t ever stop exploring and adopting new strategies. And try not to get discouraged when your kids seem to refuse to use them. Remember, it’s hard for their brains to adopt new strategies, so show them some compassion, and keep at it! (Hey, that sounds like a good strategy…)
Welcome to Tea & Tips, where we respond to burning questions from parents and educators — taking aim on one topic at a time, guiding you to improve communication, confidence and calm.
Tea & Tips: Sibling Challenges - YouTube
Sibling challenges. I've got two, and you've got more than two, and this happens all the time. If you've got two kids that are at completely different levels -- and maybe the older kid has executive functioning issues, the younger kid doesn't, or vice versa-- and your expectations are going to be different for different ones. And you're going to have different rules for one of them than the other, and one of them goes: "It's not fair."
Or, "You're babying her." You're not, you're not parenting enough. Right. There's lots of judgment from one of the kids about how you're handling the other kid. If that kid needs more support or more accommodations.
And I like what you used to say about what fair really means.
Well, so I used to tell my kids -- so I have three, right? -- that fair does not mean the same. And when they would say it's not fair, because I heard that a lot, my response was: "I know it doesn't seem fair" (because I wanted to acknowledge their experience. Acknowledgement and then Compassion.) "I get that that doesn't feel good. And I want you to trust me. I promise you that I will make sure that each of you gets what you need, from me and from each other, but you're not going to need the same thing. So you're not going to get the same thing. I'm going to make sure you get what you need and she gets what she needs and it's not always going to be the same. And that's what's gonna make it fair."
Well, and I think part of it is coming up with a simple explanation. If you've one kid who's really good at sports, and you've got one kid that's really good at art, you're not gonna make your sporto do art, and you're not gonna make your art kid do sports. You're going to say, well this is what you need, this is what you like. And it's kind of the same parallel. And I think kids get it a little bit more and it feels differently. Fair.
And so if you, if you play to the strengths and help them see that, I think that's another way for them to accept it differently. Or like, okay, I'm good at this, but I'm not good at that. And what about, (you know, all of our kids are great at everything.) Having said that, to really help them see how they do certain things because they're better at it and not others, helps them understand that everybody else has some things they're better at or not than others as well.
And the other thing which we talk about in another video is, is making sure everybody understands what's going on with when each kid.
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It's National Bullying Prevention Month. For those of us with children who struggle socially, we know how important it is to raise awareness about the dangers of bullying in the veritable playground of children's lives.
But, what about adults? Is bullying a relevant discussion for us? We've all heard about Cyber-Bullying, Road Rage, and workplace Anger Management issues (grown-up language for bullying behavior). Bullying is one of those themes that starts in childhood and persists throughout our lives.
The worst bully, though, is the one who resides within us. That's the hardest one to avoid – and the ONLY one you can actually do something to change!
I confess to being a big, bad bully. Not necessarily to my friends (who definitely get the kindest me), or to my family (at least, I hope not). I don't scream a lot, and I make an effort not to avoid controlling others. That's not the kind of bully I'm talking about.
Where I lack compassion, however, is for myself. If I spoke to my friends or family the way I speak to myself, all too often, I'd be identified as someone to fear or avoid.
So, I'm a bully. So are you, by the way. And no bully is more dangerous than the one who lies within.
The Inner Gremlin
Most of us live with an internal bully, the ultimate gremlin voice who tells us what we're doing wrong, and how we can do no right. (Diane wrote a great blog on this. See: Silence.) It is a common refrain for me to tell my clients to “Put the Stick Down.”
Really, have you ever noticed how much time you spend hitting yourself over the head?
“I'm such an idiot.” “How could I have been so stupid?” “What was I thinking!” or maybe, “I can't do anything right.” “There's no way I can do that,” or “Why would they want me, anyway?”
These messages sound familiar? Not only are you likely to recognize them, but you probably know how to push your own buttons, to use them at just that weak moment when they'll hit a vulnerable spot.
Of course, the bully does not act alone. Like Malfoy and his goons in "Harry Potter," the internal bully is protected and energized by the world of popular culture -- television, movies, magazines, etc.
Consider those messages of the pop culture – you should be… thinner, smoother, smarter, sexier. It doesn't matter what should be more, our internal critic only wants to remind you that you are not all that!
Our gremlins internalize these social images, and then cruelly turn them back on us like the button on a bomb — it's going to explode, and there's nothing you can do to stop it.
Second, commit to failing forward. When you vow to learn from your mistakes without making yourself “bad,” you'll dis-arm your inner critic. Mistakes are a critical part of the learning process. Cut yourself some slack.
Third, stop making excuses, or blaming others. When you begin to take responsibility for your “stuff,” it becomes simple to separate the “stuff” from your personal worth. When you “own your stuff,” you'll earn greater respect from others, and you'll naturally start to put the stick down. In other words: accept life's “whoops” factor; mistakes happen.
For pop culture-induced bullying, try curiosity. You might want to pretend to be a reporter and ask yourself, “Is it REALLY true that everyone else is thinner and smarter than me?” Substitute your particular gremlin voice, but you get the idea.
The bottom line, here, is that you can change a bully's behavior when that bully is you. When you do, you'll teach your children to do the same. Now THAT's what I call standing up to a bully!
In a world filled with so much information, literally at our fingertips, how do we narrow our focus to practical and applicable tools for our daily lives? And how is that different in the world of ADHD?
The solution I use with my clients: the 3 M's will help you COPE.
Clutter represents deferred decisions. Nowadays, we move so fast we are often distracted. We can't or don't exercise the discipline needed to make quick, in-the-moment decisions and follow-through on making them happen. This is especially true of the flood of stuff in our homes. Consequently, surfaces are covered and piles accumulate.
When we do decide to buckle-down and get organized, many of us lack the ability to create order out of chaos, to choose the right system of containers & tools. We are overwhelmed by the mere thought of where to start.
To reduce clutter and create some breathing room, set a goal to tackle the 3 M's: Minimize, Maximize, & Maintain.
Find some peace in your hectic life, you must minimize. This is easier said than done with ADHD in the mix, so consider finding a “Body Double” who will help you purge, and then you do the same for her. This can be a friend, or a paid organizer. Think in terms of 4 piles: trash, recycling, keep or donate.
Learn to maximize the way space is used and take advantage of the available space you have. Start small, with one area at a time, and tackle your home surface by surface, closet by closet.
Order is a constant process, fluid and changeable, and there is joy in the journey. When we continually minimize the amount of items in a space, maximize the use of the available space, and pay attention to keeping it maintained, we have a plan to keep things organized and peaceful.
Once you've decided what to keep, and are on the path to maintenance, it's time to take things to the next level of detail and C.O.P.E:
Categorize (group like items together)
Order (put things in order)
Proximity (put things near where they will be used)
Ease of Use (make sure things are easy to access)
Don't underestimate how simple this sounds—it's really effective to put a little bit of extra thought into where and how to store items you decide to keep.
Now, some people would prefer to have someone else handle organization, leaving them free to do other things that are more natural and enjoyable, and there's no shame in that! When you have ADHD it can be particularly helpful to have support and assistance in the process. Just in case you want to tackle organization on your own – and remember to consider a body double if you do -- here are a few more tips to keep you on track:
Set boundaries around when, where, and for how long you are going to “get organized.” Set an appointment with yourself, use a timer, and be specific about where you are going to focus your energy. If you tend to get caught in “zigzag organizing” -- jumping from room to room or area to area – then take on two projects at a time and when one gets boring, move to the other. But limit yourself to only those projects! Set a timer for 15 minutes before the end of your scheduled session, and begin to straighten up so that you can leave the space livable until your next session.
Start with the obvious by working with items that are already out in the open, on the floor, countertops, entry-ways, spilling out of baskets/containers, etc. Do not go pulling stuff out of drawers and closets before you have cleared out the obvious clutter. It could lead to overwhelm and possibly abandoning the effort entirely.
Set yourself up for success by making sure you are free from distractions. Turn off the phone, get coverage for the kids (or give them a job), don't plan to leave in the middle of the process for another appointment, and be sure to have supplies like sorting containers, big trash bags, sticky notes for labeling, a big black marker, cleaning stuff, and the vacuum for those dust bunnies that will pop up during the process!
Make sure the organizing session is fun by playing inspirational music (whatever that means for you), making sure there is enough light in the space to see what you are doing, having scheduled breaks with special goodies to snack on, and having a reward in place for when you complete the task!
Finally, remember that there is no shame in asking for help, either from a professional or from a trusted friend who will keep you on track, without judgment. It helps make organizing happen more quickly, and with greater success.
The simple skills outlined above are applicable to numerous areas of life, not just getting organized. Learning them and teaching them to your children will have wide-reaching and lasting benefits. Good luck and Happy Organizing!
Increased focus and attention. Better sleep. Reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. Happier kids, and calmer parents. It can seem like a pipe dream for parents of Complex children. I know I thought so, once upon a time. But we can start making these things a reality. How? Mindfulness.
I started my own mindfulness practice by making the commitment to be completely there. Not all the time – I’m only human! – but in manageable chunks. I decided that each day in the shower, I would be absolutely present: I’d feel the soap on my skin, smell the shampoo, listen to the water rushing. This way, I quiet the distractions, worries, and anxieties that otherwise swirl through my head. Now that’s a refreshing shower!
That’s what mindfulness is: letting go of all the “stuff” that can drag you down and sap your energy. It enables you to reduce stress and increase focus, to be a calmer, more responsive parent.
Start with yourself. How did you teach your child to talk? By talking to her and around her. It’s the same with mindfulness: you teach by example. Many parents have their own practice. If not, cultivate one. Start in the shower! Or set aside 5 minutes to meditate.
Let your kids see you practice. When you have a mindfulness strategy or practice, let your kids see it. If, for instance, you feel your stress level rising, say, “Wait a second, honey. I’m going to take a deep breath and calm down because I feel myself getting upset.” Mindfulness can be as simple as taking deep breaths or waiting a few seconds before responding to a situation. Whatever you do, make sure you share it clearly with your children.
Involve them. Keep it simple. You could, for instance, sit quietly all together for 5 minutes in the morning. If bedtime is a struggle or your child has sleep difficulties, try setting aside time each evening for relaxing with soothing music. The great part is that, as your child grows, she can take these techniques and adapt them to her developmental level.
When she has a clearer brain, she can tap into her executive function in a way that is not accessible when she’s completely overwhelmed and stressed. She can tap into emotional regulation and behavior management. Not at first, perhaps, but with regular practice, she’ll get there.
Remember that this is a process, not an endpoint. Try different approaches and see what works. The goal is not to develop your kid into a master yogi or a Tibetan monk; it’s to help her manage her stress or emotions in a healthy way, and become more aware of what’s going on around her.
Does practice make perfect? No! But practicing mindfulness does create powerful changes for the whole family. Life won’t be perfect; there’ll be bumps, bruises, twists, and turns. But you, and your kids, will be much better equipped to handle them.
Sanity Is Not Optional
Freaking out? Want to recover your SANITY? We can help you gain the clarity you need. Talk to us and find out HOW!
It’s tough to decide how much of ourselves — our time and our lives — to give to our kids. As a Mom of kids with ADHD, I lean toward giving-myself-away. What about you?
Many parents feel torn between choices for their kids, and choices for themselves. Often, parents make decisions from a sense of obligation and duty. They want to do what is best for their children, but they have not figured out how to do that and still consider what is best for themselves. As a result, they tend to feel resentful, angry, and guilty.
Resentment and guilt aren’t good for anyone in the family.
So, what’s the solution? I have come to realize that it’s REALLY important for parents to do things for ourselves that make us – happy.
That may mean considering ourselves when we make decisions about how to use our time. I want my kids to understand that sometimes I make decisions for them, and sometimes I make decisions for myself.
I still have a tendency to give myself away. But now, when I spread myself too thin, I’m aware that I’m doing it, and there is (often) a method behind the madness.
I am firmly committed to my own pursuit of happiness. I have put myself back into the equation, and it’s made all the difference – for myself AND my family.
What would it be like to enjoy an entire day of calm? What about enjoying this on a consistent basis? You can. Even if you have the most challenging children.
But let’s make sure we define what calm is. Calm is not an absence of noise, problems or chaos around you. It means that no matter what is happening around you, you experience calm inside AND begin to spread that calm to those around you.
Instead of your environment changing you into a Crazy Mom or Freak Dad, YOU begin to change your environment. In order to achieve this, you don’t need superhuman capabilities. This is for everyday Moms, Dads and kids. We must understand a few bedrock principles that will guide us to 24/7 Calm.
The Calm Creed
1. I cannot control other people, how they behave or how they react.
2. I cannot control situations and circumstances—most are beyond my control.
3. When I react to people and circumstances, I surrender power over my emotions.
4. I can only control one thing in life—my emotions, my actions, my reactions.
5. No matter how my child behaves, I control myself. When I “lose it,” I lose my authority. I spread and create the calm I want.
Make a Conscious Choice to Remain Calm
Realize that we cannot control our kids, nor should we want to. Our primary job as parents is to control ourselves and model proper behavior. How many of us throw adult tantrums when something goes wrong, then expect our children to remain calm? No matter what your child or spouse does, remain calm. Screaming or withdrawing emotionally only makes the situation worse. When we are calm, we can be fully engaged and solve problems instead of creating more of them.
We are not responsible for our children’s behavior, attitudes and actions. If your child is in a bad mood, so be it. Choose not to give in to or join his pity party. If your child comes into the kitchen barking orders, you are not obligated to respond. Walk away calmly, go about your business and let your child know that when he’s ready to be polite, you’ll help him with breakfast. If your child refuses to do his homework, then he will suffer the consequences at school. Our children need to learn that they are responsible for their choices, and you are responsible for yours.
Assume a Calm Posture
Each time you approach your child or spouse, ask yourself, “Do I want to have a conversation or a confrontation?” Instead of standing by and barking orders, sit down, put your feet up and relax. It is much harder to yell and lecture when you assume a calm posture. Kids are drawn to adults who sit—sitting says, “I am in control, everything is okay and I want to connect with you.”
Take Care of Yourself
Exercise, walk your dog, pray, listen to music—do whatever helps you feel at peace. Make a decision that no matter what your child or spouse does, you are only responsible for your actions. This liberates parents and frees children to be responsible for their choices.
Be the Calm in the Storm
The most effective way to calm an emotional child is for us to be calm. Instead of threatening an upset child, we need to draw the child into our calm. Sit down and begin to color with crayons or build with Legos. Play catch or do push-ups with your child. Invite him into your calm. This will freak him out at first, because he is used to seeing you get upset. What you are communicating, though, is (1) Your actions cannot control or manipulate me and (2) No matter how out of control you may feel, I am a rock you can count on.
At this moment, the piles are high on the desk around me, the hour is looming late, the children will soon arrive in need and want of my attention and time, and there is a finite deadline of a plane to catch tomorrow.
I cannot possibly “get it all done.” In fact, I can’t really get most of it done. All I can do is the best I can with the time, and energy, I have left. So what am I going to do about it?
Find Your Peace & Calm
Well, I’m going to write a bit. I’m lucky that writing actually brings me a bit of peace and calm. Some people like to organize, but I like to write. It organizes my brain. Then I guess I’ll look around and determine what would make me feel better if I handle it before I leave. I don’t mean cleaning out the mystery jars in the refrigerator, though certainly that would be nice. But what will make it easier for me when I get back? What will best support my family and me?
The subject of how to make choices between difficult or conflicting options, and how we choose to spend our time, has come up several times this week, with a friend and a client. Each was deliberating about a challenging decision in her life. Each felt obligated to do something optional that they did not really want to do. For each, I asked, “how would it help you?” to make one decision over another. Both responded quizzically. They’d never really thought about it.
Dismissing The Shoulds
We get caught up in “the shoulds” of life, don’t we? I should invite this friend over, I should make an appearance at that event, I should volunteer at my kids’ school, I should, I should. What makes it so hard to ask myself, “What do I want to do?” Perhaps more difficult for many of us, what makes it so hard to answer?
I find that many of my peers have a hard time feeling comfortable ‘wanting’ for themselves. I understand this intimately, because I think I lived the first 40+ years of my life trying to fulfill everyone else’s expectations of me. At some point, through coaching, I realized that my expectations are just as valid as everyone else’s. In fact, this is my life! Maybe my thoughts and feelings are even more important than what others think I should be doing! At first, that was a pretty radical realization.
Doing What I Wanted
My life changed when I decided to spend a year making an effort to do what I wanted, and to stop acting purely out of obligation. Okay, so I’m not a big fan of cooking and cleaning, but I do really have a strong motivation to be a good mom and create a safe, healthy home for my family. I stopped making appearances, and started paying attention to that inner voice when I found myself compelled but not excited to do something. Was I doing it for a good reason? Was it my reason, or someone else’s?
So what’s this have to do with my getting out of town tomorrow?
In the limited hours I have remaining, I plan to take a few moments (when I’m done writing this blog) to get clear about what will help me feel settled when I return. I’m not going to ask myself, “what should I do before I leave?” because that puts me in a place of obligation and pressure. Instead, I’m asking myself, “What will help me leave with a sense of comfort?”
For example, bedtime with my kids is a top priority, as I want to leave them in an emotionally strong place and there is nothing quite like snuggling and routine to offer that. I also want to have a family dinner. Again, can’t beat the value of that!
What Else Matters?
I don’t really care about the clothes I bring, so the laundry I was hoping to get done probably won’t happen. As for arrangements for child coverage, I do want to double–check that. I may not be much for logistics, but when health and safety is in order, it’s a priority.
Now I’m still likely to try to fit more in than I have time, and I’m guessing I will ‘lose some sleep on it’ with a delayed bedtime. But when I get on that plane tomorrow with my husband, bound for parts unknown to celebrate our 21 years together, I can guarantee one thing: I won’t look back at what I didn’t get done, and will look forward to what’s in store for us! And that is my idea of getting it ‘all’ done!