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My Child Plays Sports

I woke up last night in the middle of a panic attack. It’s not the first time, either. Heart pounding, sweating, mind racing. I have two son who are competitive gymnasts.  We travel all over for meets. Both go to the same gym but compete at different levels. My younger son enjoys the comradery, but he’d much rather sing, ride his bike around the neighborhood, and hang out with his friends. For some kids, being part of a team is about learning to lose gracefully and putting effort and pride into everything they do. And that’s such an important lesson. My older son, however, lives and breathes gymnastics. This is what he wants to do. He has big dreams and plans, and works hours a day on achieving his goals. I’ve read a lot of blogs. They all say, “You are doing a good thing; you’re teaching them about perseverance and how to lose gracefully”. Occasionally, people will recognize the time, money, and energy parents put into their children’s sports. Sometimes this is to fulfill the parents’ desires for greatness through their kids. Sometimes it’s the athletes drive and motivation. My sons call me a “gymnastics mom”. They make fun of me when I remind them to point their toes or get out of their heads and into the back tuck.  Which brings me back to my panic attack.  Am I pushing too hard? Am I giving him my all so they can give theirs? Should I leave it alone? Most of all, am I the cause of their stress or lack of effort? How do I stop getting tense in the middle of the night, meet, or practice? As anyone who’s ever experienced a panic attack knows, they aren’t so easy to stop. And one leads into another into the next. In the moment it’s hard to remember to breath, unclench your jaw, or count backwards from 10,000. Sometimes a podcast helps as a distraction; meditation to remind me to get into my breath and get out of my thoughts.  It’s hardest to remember not to try too hard. Just to let it go. And that’s the best thing I can for my kids: to learn to chill, take it as it comes, accept what is and trust in myself as a parent, as a chauffeur, as a psychologist, and as a back-seat coach and cheering squad. It’s hard not to take their scores and effort, or lack thereof, personally; to equate my blood, sweat, and tears with how they perform, or don’t. And I guess that the point. My sons’ gymnastics (or any other) experiences aren’t in my control. The decisions I make for them, and the emotions and drive I try to instill are done in good faith, with love and knowledge. And that’s where it must end: faith in myself and faith in my kids. I can only do so much. And I have to be ok with that, and let the rest be.

Gratitude

Gratitude is a hot buzz word right now. Everywhere you go, you hear about being “in the moment” and being thankful for what you have. If you Google 'Gratitude', a million different definitions come up. I like the one from Psychology Today, which states  “Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has—as opposed to, for example, a consumer-driven emphasis on what one wants.” People who express gratitude, meaningfully and often, tend to experience more positive emotions, sleep better, are kinder, and have stronger immune systems. Gratitude does not just have to be shown after a big event, like a bar mitzvah or a promotion; it works best when integrated into our daily lives. Being thankful for every day, little things, helps us realized how blessed we are. When forming a habit, we’re told to practice at the same time every day, over a significant period of time. When we think about practicing gratitude, we are taught to notice new little things. If you say “I am thankful for my spouse and children”  all the time, you lose interest in gratitude. It just becomes a meaningless platitude. But if everyday we are able to find even one new things to be thankful for, we begin to look at our world differently. Studies have shown there are many different, healthy, and effective ways of displaying gratitude: you can write in a journal. Logging your thoughts for yourself helps keep you on track and reminds you of all the many things around you you are thankful for. You can also write a letter to those who have helped shape you into you. Letting people know how much they mean to you, what effect they have had on you, is immeasurable. You feel good saying something, and knowing that you are making someone happy. The other person is touched and honored, knowing that their comments, or actions, have made a difference, even to one person. Giving is another way to practice gratitude. Winston Churchill once said “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” When we give money, even a small amount, to someone else, we feel more pleasure than if we were to spend that amount on ourselves. When we donate, Oxytocin, the “feel good” hormone, is released in our brains, which helps to lower our stress and increases our sense of connection to others. This oxytocin boost will cause people to give more generously and feel a greater sense of empathy towards others. This in turns causes people to want to pay it forward, to keep the loop going. A recent survey noted that people who donated to charity in the past month reported a greater sense of satisfaction. In fact, across 136 countries, donating to a charity that you believe in and are thankful for had a similar impact on happiness levels as doubling your household income. A little Thank You goes a long way. Not just for you, but for all those you meet.

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.
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