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Top Four Tips to Combat Loneliness for Parents of Children with ADHD/ODD

I remember the first time a parent said to me “Your son is too violent. I hope you understand. I don’t want my son to get hurt. I can’t let him play with your son.” I remember being devastated and feeling so alone. If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, I bet you’ve asked yourself questions like, ‘how do you find yourself again? How do you find a group, who loves you and understand you AND your child?’ Here are four tips to help you navigate through this difficult time. 1. Smile. Through the tears, through the feelings of sadness, hurt and anger. Just smile. When you look happy, you are more approachable to other people. And when your child looks back at you and sees you smile, they will be more assured and calmer. 2. Go out. Put yourself out there. No one is going to come to your door and making you leave your bed, house or den. That might mean going to a coffee shop, a painting night, joining a book club or any other fun event. The point is, to get yourself out there and connect with others. 3. Take an exercise class. It’ll have a dual effect of pumping your endorphins and making you feel better and meeting people who are also happy. You will be involved in a group activity that gives you a common goal, and a common topic to talk about and do together. 4. Find your “like”. Join a support group. There are other parents out there who have children similar to yours and they will have a wealth of understanding for you and your child. It’s tough now, it feels unfair, unjustified, not right, but your child will grow up. While you’re on your journey of raising your child, put yourself out there and you will find people who understand that your child’s behavior is not your own, they will see that you’re doing your very best and they will be a blessing to you and your child just like you will be a blessing to them.

How to explain ADHD to your kids

When my son was first officially diagnosed with ADHD, he was about 6 years old. Kindergarten. Hmm…. How to explain to him, “Yeah! You were diagnosed with a neurological disorder that makes you move, and fidget, and call out, and have some social issues with your peers!” No matter how smart he was, that wouldn’t go over well. So I started thinking; in life, everyone has something. Some people are good at sports, but not a reading. Some people have difficulty letting go of their blankie. Sometimes, people’s strengths and weaknesses don’t have a name: they are just a group of behaviors, while sometimes if we’re lucky, those groups of behaviors have a label. That’s good; in many cases that means that there are many other people who also have those behaviors and we may know how to help. Many times, when we give something a label or a name, it means that it’s real. It validates the experience. So that’s what I did for my son. In a rare quiet moment I sat with him and spoke about my strengths and weaknesses. I told him how hard it was for me to do math, which is super easy for him. I spoke about how sometimes when I was younger, it was really hard for me to say “I’m sorry”. I spoke about how reading was easy for me. We talked about what a strength was and what a weakness was. I asked him what he thought his strengths and weaknesses were. In typical, insightful 6-year-old fashion, he shared that he loved reading, but had a hard time raising his hand. Perfect segue into ADHD. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, I told him and having these makes him who he is as a person. Our combination of strengths and weaknesses is absolutely normal. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, our pattern of strengths and weaknesses has a name. Fortunately, his does. It’s Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. That means, it’s hard for him to stop and think before he acts; sometimes his emotions are in control, and sometimes he just has to move. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just a thing, and that’s ok. Remember that everyone has something. What’s good about this approach is that it normalizes the experience for kids. It also gives parents much needed perspective. ADHD isn’t a bad thing. Everyone has something.

Top Three Resources for Kids with ADHD

People ask me all the time why I decided to work with kids who have ADHD. My oldest son was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder when he was about 6 years old. That being said, I’m pretty sure I would have been diagnosed with ADHD when I was that age as well. Seriously though, it felt like second nature for me to work with these children and their families. As I sit here and write this, I’m looking around my (messy) house, searching for ADHD resources that I can share with everyone. I want to suggest things that everyone can have access to, no matter who you are or where you are. 1. The first, most helpful resource is to find a local psychologist who specializes in working with kids who have ADHD. This saved our family. I can’t begin to say how helpful it was to have someone (figuratively) in my ear, giving us tips through our challenging times. I would suggest finding someone with experience, maybe even a strong cognitive behavioral background. But mostly, you have to feel good about them and be able to connect with them. Know that they have your and your child’s best interest at heart. 2. Mindfulness. I know this is a buzzword right now. But research shows how overwhelming the benefits of mindfulness and meditation are on both the growing and grown brain. Knowing that you can accept whatever life throws at you without judgment, knowing that you can take a few minutes to breathe and clear your head, is sometimes the best present you can give yourself and your child. 3. Look to your community. This might include support groups, your place of worship, and your child’s teacher. Don’t automatically assume you are alone. Your community has people who have worked with other children with ADHD. And by you reaching out for help, you make others feel as though they are invested in your child and family as well. When you do this, you teach your child that they can always ask for help. You are not alone, and they are not alone.

The Effect of ADHD on Siblings

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is commonly diagnosed in childhood. It not only affects the children afflicted, but their family, especially their siblings. The constant noise and chaos associated with ADHD is often overwhelming for other children in the family. Here are some tips to help siblings: 1. Carve out alone time with each sibling. It’s hard enough to watch the child with ADHD get all the attention all the time. Even if it’s negative. And by the end of the day the parents are exhausted. Even so, carve out an hour a week for “Mommy – Johnny time”. Do something just the two of you. Even if it’s sitting in Starbucks for hot chocolate. Let this be time to reconnect and find out how they are doing. 2. Keep your expectations within normal limits. This might be hard, because you spend a lot of time working with the child with ADHD, you may not have the energy or patience with their sibling. But remember, they are allowed to say “no”, just like every other kid. And they won’t do everything you ask when you ask. They aren’t supposed to. That’s normal, and it’s ok. 3. Remember to be fair. If the rule in the house is “make your bed”, don’t give the siblings a pass. They have to follow the rules too. This can be hard, because they are being affected by everything that’s going on around the house. But they need to grow up to be happy healthy people as well. A little responsibility never hurt anyone. 4. Talk to them. In a calm moment, ask them how they are doing. Not just how they feel about their math class, but about being the sibling to a child with ADHD. Normalize the experience for them. Help them to know that they aren’t alone. Help them to know that they are part of a family going through this adventure. 5. Educate them about empathy. Siblings can often be the best friends and cruelest peers. Teach them to use their powers for good. Sometimes your brother may take your candy, but it’s not the last piece in the world. Patience and respect can go a long way, even when the other child seems not to have either. The calmer you are, the calmer the entire house will be. And the happier everyone is. It’s hard to be the parent. It’s hard to be the brother or sister, even when there isn’t another “label”. ADHD can affect a whole family. The constant noise and chaos associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is often overwhelming for the children afflicted, and their siblings as well. It’s important to remind our kids that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. It’s up to us as parents to help all of our children to live with the strengths and weaknesses of others and help them to grow up to be healthy, and happy individuals.
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