Each year, we take our son to have a vision examination. Every year, for the past three years, he has needed a change of lenses. His vision has changed, and the glasses just weren’t working for him anymore. Parents of children with ADHD and trauma often feel as though the “traditional parenting lens” they use to see their child’s behavior is not working. They wonder what they are doing wrong and ask the question: Can there be any way to help our child manage his outbursts? The good news is: YES! But it starts with understanding the assumptions underlying traditional parenting techniques and grasping onto a new lens through which we can view our child’s behavior.
1. Kids do well when they can.
Traditional parenting techniques usually divide into two categories: rewards and consequences. But underlying rewards and consequences is an assumption about our child’s behavior: Kids do well when they want to. If we operate with that assumption, then we believe that finding the right motivator is the key to behavior. But parents of ADHD and trauma kiddos know that our kids want to do well. And honestly, who wouldn’t? So what’s the alternative lens through which we can view our kid’s behavior? It’s the belief that kids do well when they can. When we view our child’s maladaptive behavior through this lens, the question is no longer “Why is he/she being so manipulative/bratty/bull-headed/etc.” Instead it changes to “What is preventing my child from doing well?” To better understand that, we need to understand how the brain works.
2. Keep the Brain in Mind
When a person feels threatened or stressed, the amygdala in the brain begins to produce cortisol. This is the fight/flight/freeze hormone in our brain. For kids with ADHD, the sensitivity to threat or stress can be heightened. So what seems to us as not a big deal may very well be a big deal to them. This happens particularly when the child has an unmet need (hunger, feeling safe, feeling loved, etc.) or a lagging skill (inflexible thinking, understanding social cues, etc.). Because of this stress, cortisol is released, and it blocks access to the thinking part of our brain called the frontal lobe. This is where cause and effect resides. So just about the time you’re disciplining your child and saying, “Because you screamed at me you’re in time out,” your child’s brain cannot receive that input, and the teaching is lost on the child. So, what do we do in the meantime?
3. Learn to calm yourself and your child, not correct.
When your child is in a meltdown is not the time to try and teach the child or correct the child’s behavior. The child is in a dysregulated state, and the goal is to help the child get regulated.
Ways to do this include:
- Deep breathing
- Speaking slowly
- Naming and validating the emotions your child may be feeling (“I would be angry too right now.”)
- Not isolating the child but staying with them.
- When your child is calm, create a “calming plan” and offer it when meltdowns happen.
This is not an exhaustive list, but it will begin to help you create a plan to help you remain calm in the midst of the storm.
When our children are in the middle of a meltdown, it is normal to let our emotions take over too. We have to choose to think and respond, rather than just feel and react. Remember, your kid wants to do well, but sometimes their brain won’t let them. It’s our job to help them identify what’s preventing them from doing well and work through it so they can. When our traditional “lenses” aren’t working, it’s time for new ones.
Jared and DeAnn Jennette started Embrace Parent Coaching to help parents of adopted children or other children with trauma and a diagnosis of ADHD, SPD, or other
“alphabet soup” diagnoses. For more information and coaching on “changing your lenses,” contact them at Embraceparentcoaching.com
A home with ADHD is a lot like a three-ring circus. There’s constant activity in every direction, with emotions running high and low, all over the place. There’s always someone vying to be the center of attention, and others trying to impress and amaze. And then there’s the smoke and mirrors — what it looks like on the surface is almost never the real story.
As the mom in an ADHD family of 5, for years it felt like I was performing a circus high-wire act — without a net. With my kids on my shoulders, all eyes were on me, expecting me to get us all down to safety! I had little confidence in any step I took.
Not all parents are terrified to take a step, though. Some are more like lion tamers, in control and in charge, directing and instructing. They need to make sure everyone is jumping through the appropriate hoops, and keeping all the spectators amazed and safe.
In both cases, the circus life for families with ADHD is complicated, demanding, and just not a lot of fun. Maintaining balance on a high-wire and constant vigilance in the lion’s cage takes its toll.
Worse than that: Parents (and kids) are missing out on the joy of family life.
So what’s a parent to do? Living in a constant state of performance anxiety is not exactly sustainable for 18 years. Something has to change.
By the time I met Diane, I was down off the high wire and had discovered a secret to transforming my family’s circus. Through coaching, I had learned to take a strength-based approach to parenting, and started setting realistic expectations – for myself, and for my kids. I understood the value of lightening up, and tried to stop taking things so personally.
It’s not that I closed down the circus. You might say I learned to join the clowns.
The clowns’ role in the circus is to do the juggling, keep all the balls and plates spinning in the air – and keep a positive energy going. At one moment scared out of their wits, and the next moment hysterically laughing at the antics of another, the clowns are not vying to be the center of attention, but keeping things moving, supporting the rest of the show. Just like parents.
Clowns do exciting things sometimes (like getting shot out of a cannon), but they manage to do it with a smile on their faces. Sometimes they make mistakes, and when they do they clean up and move on. They have the run of the circus, and for the most part, they seem to be having a pretty good time. Most importantly, they’re never really in any real danger. Their job is to let it go and enjoy the ride.
As parents, it’s up to us to decide how we want to manage the circus life of a family with ADHD.
Do we want to “wow” the world with daring, death-defying feats? Or do we want to ride around, safely near the ground, enjoying life and making people laugh from the comfort — and joy — of a clown car?
At ImpactADHD, Diane and I spend all of our time working directly with parents on the phone and online, and creating programs that are a combination of coaching and training – all with the single goal of helping parents turn their circus from a nightmare into a joyride!
With ADHD in the family, you’re going to live in an interruption-driven environment. There are going to be ups and downs, excitement and terror, laughter and tears.
How you approach the “chaos” is all a matter of perspective. Are you ready to trade-in your mini-van for a clown car? Take if from our experience – that’s a sure way for you to learn to enjoy the ride!
BIO: Elaine Taylor-Klaus and Diane Dempster are the co-founders of ImpactADHD.com, a parenting resource that provides direct support and training, online and on the phone. Experts in the fields of both coaching and ADHD, personally and professionally, Elaine and Diane are certified professional coaches, community educators, and advocates for families living with ADHD and related challenges. They are passionate about providing guidance to help parents reduce the stress of raising complex children.
To Be Or Not To Be (Shakespeare)
And For Me
To Bope Or Not To Bope
we live in a biper world
i have spent the majority of my life
trying to bipe
i can bipe no longer
i am a boper and i love to bope
This Is A Short Telling
Of A Long Story Of Discovery
Telling Of This Sort
Lends To Accentuation Of The Details
Pardon The Exaggerations
so it was
when i woke that day
i really could not
find my head
I Was Readying Myself For Work
I Found That I Was Not My Usual Self
I Could Not Find My Head!?!
I Knew The Face
But The Brain Was Quite Different
I Failed To Get My Thoughts To Focus
My Thinking Felt “Dizzy”
This Persisted On And On
It Became Apparent That
I Was No Longer
Thinking As I Had
For The Majority
Of My Adult Life
Throughout All Of This
I Felt A Familiarity
With That Different Brain
A Brain That I Had Known Before
My Medical Evaluation Was Normal
For An Inability To Maintain Attention
My Sister Carole
Suggested That I Had Attention Deficit
I Laughed Robustly
I Planned A Day Of Yard Work
The Yard Work Remained Untouched
I Had Been Distracted
By Numerous Other Projects
Contemplating All Of This
I Realized That I Liked
To Start A Thousand Things
To Never Finish One
To Be Impulsive
To Be Explosive
To Be Profane
To Be Late
To Joy The Thrill Of Risk
To Imbibe A Beer Or Three Or Four
To Love To Think
was it really
i am adhd
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
Then I Knew
I Was Not Disordered
I Was Now Myself
For The First Time In Years
The Different Yet Familiar Brain
That I Had Been Experiencing
Was The Brain That I Said Goodby To
When I Was About Ten Years Old
I Recognized Then
If I Was Going To Fit
Into A World Of Rigid Norms
And Succeed On The Basis Of That
I Was Going To Have To
Tightly Tighten The Screws
To My Childhood Brain
During The Ensuing Fifty Years
I Sure Tried To Keep Those Screws Tight
And To Function The Same
As Most Everyone Else
In A World Of Sameness
Everyday The Same
Until That Nearly Sixty Year Old Day
When I Could Not
That The Life Question For Me
Was To Bope Or Not To Bope
i chose to bope
i AM a boper
in a world of bipers
I Am A Brain Outside Of The Box Person
I Am One Of The Minority In This World
Where The Overwhelming Majority
Are Brain Inside Of The Box Persons
No Matter How Colorful Bipers Appear
They Think Within
The Confines Of Rigid Norms
Us Bopers Love To Think Outside Of
The Confines Of Those Norms
Way Outside Of
Us Bopers Love To Think
Way Beyond Any Horizons
does that make me disordered
am i just different
You Can Label Me As Having ADHD
But Only If That Stands For
ATTENTION DIFFERENT HIGHLY DRIVEN
Physician – Author – Artist
ECHOES AND SHADOWS CHASING LIGHT
A Collage Of Some Of His Writings And Drawings
About Any Everything