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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.

Mental Health Blog Day – May 20th

Today is Mental Health Blog Day and I remember 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. 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. It’s just a thing…and everyone has to deal with something. Feel free to read more of my blog posts here: Long Island Child Psych Blog. Remember, don’t be ashamed of your story; it will inspire others. It’s time to think outside of the stigma. Today is the day: #mhblogday

Mommy/Daddy Guilt

There are so many things we want to pass along to our kids: love of music, love of sports, good work ethics, beautiful curls or blue eyes. Sometimes, our genetics adds little “bonuses” with our gifts, like ADHD. Or Celiac. Or any number of other genetic blips. It’s hard to parent a child in general, but adding the guilt on top of that makes it even more gut wrenching. I remember feeling terribly guilty that my son had ADHD. It’s because my husband has difficulty starting a project without being asked many times. It’s because I was bouncy and combative as a child. Maybe if we didn’t have so many kids. Maybe if we didn’t send him to school so early, or to camp. Maybe if I didn’t work. If I did ‘x’ differently, maybe then he’d be able to listen, and sit, and keep his hands to himself. I’m here to tell you that almost everyone feels some level of guilt. It’s normal to second guess yourself and your choices. But don’t let that overwhelm you or your ability to parent. It’s not anyone’s “fault”. It is what it is. It’s also important to know if you are consumed with guilt, or any sort of overwhelming emotion for that matter, you can’t parent effectively. Let’s play devils advocate. Let’s imagine, for example, that it is totally your fault. As in, you hand-picked these genetics to give to your child. You can get upset that you shouldn’t have done that and that you made a mistake. You want to wish it away but you can’t. Your child has green eyes and that’s it. However, if your child has diabetes or autism, your job changes; it gets more interesting.
How do you teach your children not to rail against their nature, but to embrace their strengths, their idiosyncrasies? It’s a tough job but you start with the fact that everyone has something that they come up against in life. It’s not that they have this, but how they handle it that makes them the person that they are. Who they are isn’t bad; each little negative has a flip side, a positive. Our job as parents is to find the positive and help them shine, even if our children can’t figure out how to do it for themselves yet. Feeling guilty comes with being a parent. You don’t want to hurt or disappoint your child, but no, they can’t have the $300 toy car. They will cry about it and you might feel bad. What makes you a good parent is the ability to know what is within your control, and what isn’t. The genes that are passed along to your child are not within your control, but how you love and live with your child is. That is what makes all the difference.

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.
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