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Top Three Tips to Help Your Child Build Better Friendships

As parents, we want the best for our children. We want the best education, the best toys, the best friends etc. However, what happens when we can’t give them that, when we can’t dictate their friendships or even help our kids to keep their friendships healthy and thriving? It’s the hardest thing to watch your child try and fail, or not try at all. Yet, there are things you can do and ways to help your child succeed in their friendships. I hope my top three tips prove useful to you and your child. 1. Check your ego at the proverbial door. It’s not about you. Sometimes we want our children to like whom we like, or be friends with the type of kids we weren’t able to build friendships with when we were younger. This isn’t about that, after all, they have their own needs and wants. Our job is to steer them into making healthy decisions. They don’t need to gravitate to the richest or the most popular kids, and that’s hard for some parents to understand. True, healthy, thriving friendships should always be the goal that every parent seeks for their child. Sometimes our children choose to engage in friendships that we think are not the best options for them. Step back, encourage and support them; let them know that you’re there. The friendship may continue for a long time or it may abruptly fail. It will be difficult to see your child hurt but this real life experience helps them learn best. As long as they are safe, let them engage in that opportunity to gain experience and learn more about healthy friendships with the group they have chosen to be with. 2. Find their group where they are at. If your child gets along better with younger children, so be it. The friendship skills are similar. Getting them comfortable in their own skin, with their own developmental peers, is more important. Remember, it’s best for your child to have one or two good friends than to continually try to break into many other unhealthy friendship groups. 3. Find their passion. This is often harder, because it may change monthly, or daily. So don’t go spending tons of money on hockey equipment at first, try to rent or find some used. Expose your kids to many different types of activities and know that something will stick. It may not happen today, it may not happen in a year and that’s ok. The more exposure to various activities, the better rounded your child will become. The wonderful added bonus in this approach is that it gives your child even more exposure to different peer groups and a greater chance for them to find their niche. Remember, above all, a calm, loving and supportive parent is most important. Everything else will come in time.

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 Choose a Summer Camp for Your Child

In our minds, summer is usually the time to break loose. Our kids get excited about having no more rules, no more books, riding around the neighborhood with their friends. However, let’s take the time to imagine if summer wasn’t that carefree. Our kids know the rules in school, they know where to sit, who to talk to and how to play. Yet, in the summer those rules don’t apply. It’s as though they are thrust into a world they aren’t yet ready for. They have a bundle of energy, they want to play but they don’t know how. For a child encountering these feelings, summer can be really stressful for them. Enter summer camp! It provides a structured environment that is wholly centered on fun. Like school, it clearly defines how to have fun, when to have fun and with whom. The right camp provides a structured, active environment that can help your child blossom and learn to have fun with their friends, whether they have ADHD or not. Now that we’ve established camp can be a lifesaver for you and your child, here are some tips on choosing the right summer camp for your little one(s). 1. Ask. The most important thing you can do is, ask your child. They go to school and try to listen/follow the rules all year long. This is the time to listen and find out what activities they enjoy? Do they want to meet new people or go to camp with familiar faces? If they are involved in the process of choosing a camp, they are more likely to enjoy their summer. Ask their teachers and school staff as well. They know your child and have a different opinion on how they interact with others at school. Remember to keep this information in mind when you are choosing a summer program. 2. Staff. There are a few important things you want to look for in a camp. The smaller the camper the counselor ratio, the more supervision there will be. Imagine everyone is off playing basketball and your child doesn’t want to. A small camper to counselor ratio will allow someone to take a walk with your child, cool them off, and maybe even tutor them on the game while sitting on the sidelines. This approach is wonderful because it doesn’t stress out the rest of the group or embarrass your child. This experience really happened with my son and it was the best solution possible!
You also want to know the age of the counselors and their training. You might choose to pay more for a camp where every counselor is a teacher, as opposed to a teenager but you know they have more patience and training to work with your particular child. You also want to know how many nurses are on staff. This is important if your child is going to be receiving medication. It’s reassuring to know that someone is on staff that can either administer the medicine or keep a trained eye on your child to make sure no adverse reactions occur in the hot sun while they are running around. 3. Activities. In this day and age, many kids want to spend the summer glued to an electronic device. Don’t let them. The more physical activities they are involved in, the better and happier they will be. This is true of all children, but especially those with ADHD. There’s something to be said about being outside, running around in the fresh air. There are tons of studies that say that one of the most effective treatments for ADHD. Outdoor exercise is highly beneficial, so look for a camp that provides outside activities, shade and access to water and hydration. On the flip side, you want to know that if it rains the fun doesn’t stop. A good camp will have an organized rainy day plan. 4. Types of Camp. There are camps that specialize in working with children who have been diagnosed with ADHD, learning disabilities, or Tourette’s Syndrome etc. These may be a great option for you. However, don’t rule out the local programs either. They may be just what your child needs. Remember, each camp is different, and each child is different. It may take some investigating, but there is a program out there to help your child have the best summer of their lives.

When People Make Comments About Your Kid

I remember the first time someone said they didn’t want their son playing with mine. They were both about 5 years old, and the mom said my son was “just too rough.” She didn’t want her son getting hurt. This was someone I considered a friend. The kids played well together often, I had thought. So when mom said this, I was absolutely taken aback. I spent the next few days just listening; watching how other parents and kids interacted with my son. I know he had issues, but I wondered how others dealt with him. To be honest, when kids are that young, parents aren’t often cruel. There is usually an expectation of “Oh, he’s a five-year-old boy”. However, when they get older society expects children to grow up and sometimes our kids don’t get that memo. They may not mature as quickly as their peers or act as other kids expect them to and then the hurtful words come. In addition to that, there are the sly glances and the avoidance. How you handle that as a parent effects how your children will handle these social games as well. Here are some tips that I hope will help you handle these difficult situations with aplomb. 1. Don’t worry so much about what other people think. This is true in general, but especially when it comes to your child. You are the expert on your child. Other people are merely consultants. This will also help you to be less hurt and upset by what they say. 2. Smile. A lot. It’s a great habit to get into. When you are angry, or upset at someone else, just smile at them. They get confused and don’t know what to do with that. And it keeps the tension of the moment off of you and yours. Imagine if that’s a skill your child could emulate? It’s such a great gift you can give to them! 3. Hug your Child. They are loved, and they need to know that. We may think they don’t hear the comments or see the glances, but they do. They need to know that you, their rock, their support, still loves them unconditionally. 4. If you must reply, be calm. See number 2. Yelling and getting emotional just makes everything a tangled mess. When you are calm and in control, you can control the situation. Whether you are stopping someone else from disciplining your child, or you are correcting a misperception, it should only be done when you can take a calm breath and maintain that mood. If you yell and scream, you lower yourself to their level. And now there are many children fighting, even ones that are really big and should know better. 5. If all else fails, walk away. That old adage is true: if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything. Some people aren’t happy and some people think pointing out other peoples flaws make them look better. You don’t have to be part of that. Leave. You and your child deserve better. Everyone is going through something, it’s just that sometimes those “things” are more obvious. Remember that you love your child, regardless of what other feel and that is what’s really important.

ODD (Pre) Teens

I love being a mom. I love that my five-year-old daughter says “Good morning Sunshine!” when I wake her up (even after she’s called me from the other room yelling, “WAKE ME UP, MOMMY!!!!”) I love that my almost 9 year old wants to share with me all the gruesome ways people have died while wearing Disney costumes (don’t believe everything you see on the internet, kid). I love how my 11-year-old son asks me how to make shakes in the morning, and to find out whether the ‘Farm to Table Restaurant’ is available for a special lunch, just for the two of us. I love my 12-year-old son as well. It’s just harder to remember that when he’s yelling at me to shut up and saying how untrustworthy I am, when he’s chosen to sneak on the computer to play games at some ridiculous hour in the morning. As I am so gently reminded by my husband, sometimes, I need to take my own advice. So here it is for my benefit and yours: some tips on living with an Oppositional (Pre) Teenager. 1. You love them. Sometimes it’s hard to remember this was the tiny infant you held until they fell asleep. Or played with on the swings for hours. But it’s the same kid. They are just buried in there under a tremendous amount of hormones. We need to remember that these kids are sometimes even harder to parent than typical teenagers because of their O.D.D. Remember, after the storm come the calm. Hang in there; it’s going to get better. 2. Tell them. When confronted, these kids will count the numerous ways they have been wronged, persecuted, maligned etc. Ignore it. Calmly tell them what they did wrong and walk away. Sometimes, it feels like they don’t hear you, but they are soaking in everything you say and do to incorporate into their adult repertoire. By telling them what they did wrong, in a calm manner, you are showing them that you are in control. Don’t take anything they say while they are in the midst of a “fit” seriously. They will say anything, and I do mean anything, to get your goat. Don’t respond. Stick to the topic at hand. Be short and sweet; then walk away. 3. Don’t fight, discuss sparingly. Even though they fight us every step of the way, we need to remember that these kids need boundaries. When we engage in fighting with them, those boundaries get loosened, and they get scared. Think of it this way: I’m going fight with you to push back against those boundaries (that’s what O.D.D. kids do), but if you fight back with me, those boundaries that I’m testing aren’t as secure as I need them to be, and now I’m lost. If you need to discuss something, or you think it’s a topic worth exploring, wait until both of you are calm and have a back and forth conversation. Always remain calmly in charge, and when you feel yourself getting tense, gracefully excuse yourself and walk away. 4. Let it go. I can hear Disney playing in the background…. But seriously, some things aren’t worth fighting over. Listening to a 12 year old interrupting, while a five year old sings “we don’t interrupt”, and an 11 year old continually trying to speak over him, and a 9 year old egging everyone on, trust me, I was tempted to walk in there and start yelling in order to gain control of the situation. You know what though, in two minutes, it all calmed down, and I didn’t have do a thing. It wasn’t worth me getting involved; they needed to figure this out on their own. My take away from this is, my 12 year old needs to learn from life, not from mom consistently stepping in and telling him what to do. 5. In Vivo learning. That’s fancy talk for learning from experience. Sometimes we want to tell our kids what to do, we want to reintroduce the rules AGAIN for the millionth time. Don’t. It’s more effective coming from someone who’s not you. You don’t want to sound like the teacher from Peanuts “wah wah wah”. Our kids learn so much quicker from real life experience. We can tell them if they play basketball in the rain, they are going to get sick, be cold, fall and get hurt. However, if we let them just do it, and they come in cold and wet and battling a sniffle, or if they fall and hurt their hand, they will think twice about playing in the next rainstorm. Kids learn so much more effectively from personal experience. Just as with neurotypical teens, it’s time to let our older kids experience things on their own. That’s not to say let them engage in unsafe behaviors or let them put themselves in dangerous situations. We still need to parent, but pick your battles and allow let them learn some important life lessons. 6. Take care of yourself. This is so important. I know I’ve mentioned this in other posts, but it’s so important to remember that if you are happy, you are more likely to be calm. The calmer you are, the less they will fight. (Not that they won’t fight, it’ll just be less intense and not last as long.) They will also feel safer when you are calmer, and you’ll be happier and able to deal with these adverse situations much better. Good luck. I promise you, it’s going to get better.

5 Ideas to Help Parents of Kids with ADD/ADHD Stay Positive

Welcome to the New Year!! With a new year comes new opportunities to help our kids. Remember when your kids were young and people would say, “Happy parent, happy baby?” Same is true now. No matter the age of your child, the happier and calmer you are, the happier and calmer your child will be. It’s not easy but it’s worth it. When you, as a parent are calmer and happier, your child will be less easy to rile, quick(er) to calm down, and will seek to emulate your relaxed and cheerful mood. With that in mind, here are 5 helpful tips to help you stay calm and happy. 1. Remember that this too shall pass. You might crave sleeping in later or the freedom to go out for a leisurely meal and walk, but when your kids are out of the house and you’re on your own, you will miss the noise and chaos. Keep that in mind when you start to feel your shoulders inching towards your ears. 2. You love your child. As frustrating, annoying and maddening as his or her behavior is, it’s not who THEY are. Sometimes we need to take a moment or two out of our day to remember that. Pull out their pictures and look at these candid moments when your kids are happy and smiling, and go over a few of their wonderful qualities in your mind. Remember you love THEM, madly and completely. Be grateful that they are yours and that they are as wonderful as they are. The more you practice gratitude, the easier it will be to remember these important points. 3. Practice Meditation. Even a few minutes a day can help you easily clear your mind and focus on what’s important. I understand how hard it is to find two, let alone ten minutes to stop and think. Maybe you have to take a moment and do it when you first wake up, or just before you go to sleep. It doesn’t matter when, but taking those few minutes to just breathe and clear your mind will help immeasurably. 4. Practice Mindfulness. Be in the moment. Smile when your kids are running around playing super heroes. Maybe someone will cry out in a moment, but for right now, they are laughing and playing together and that’s one of the best parts of being a kid. 5. Do something together. Pick a LEGO project, or color a picture together. Don’t stress about whether it comes out “right”. The goal isn’t for it to look professional; the goal is to spend quality time with your child. So whatever the activity is, make sure it’s something that is enjoyable and something they want to do, not something that targets their weakness. Take the time to do this and the outcome will be wonderful, because you are doing it together. Enjoy the New Year, and take the time to enjoy your child. They are only young once, and time flies by way too quickly.

How You Can Have a Holly, Jolly, Holiday At Home

Welcome to the Holidays! A time of joy! A time of songs, twinkling lights and presents! However, for kids with ADHD, it’s also a time of stress, fights, and chaos. For parents and caregivers of kids with ADHD, here’s some great news…it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some ideas to help make this holiday season calm and full of joy. Kids (and adults) with ADHD function best with structure. During school, or work, there is a schedule to follow, and they can lean on that to help support them. During the holiday season, that structure isn’t there. And oftentimes, they feel that their support is gone too. So, it’s our job to help create a structure for them. That might mean having a schedule set up every day, and sharing that with them the night before. It doesn’t mean you need every minute planned out, but you can’t be spontaneous and fly by the seat of your pants either. Don’t plan a day of running around. Many people can’t go from the mall to the park, to the restaurant, to the grocery store, to the playground and then to a friend’s house. They would need down time and so would your child with ADHD. So, limit what you plan to do throughout the day. Don’t overload the schedule, and you won’t overload your child. Give them something to do. If they are given a responsibility, oftentimes, they will live up to it. They get the opportunity to “own” it, and feel like they’re an important part of it. This goes a long way to help their self-esteem. So, take the time to give them a job, and don’t forget to give them credit and praise for a task well done. Even if they need a little bit of help to get through it. Lastly, remain calm. Take some time for yourself during the day. If it means 10 minutes of meditating, or taking a moment to savor a cup of coffee or eggnog (alcohol free, or course) in the morning, that’s going to help set the stage for the whole day, and possibly the entire holiday season. You are important! If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. Also, when you take care of yourself, you are also showing your family how important it is to take care of THEMSELVES. For your children with and without ADHD, that’s an invaluable life lesson for them to learn. It’s a true gift from you to them. Happy Holidays!!!

Top 5 tips to establish structure in your home if you have kids with ADD/ADHD

Living with someone who has ADHD can be rewarding and challenging all at once. They can be active and full of energy, and infuse the home with intensity and activity. Taking that energy and turning it into something productive, or maybe just toning down the intensity, are the keys to achieving success in this particular area of your life. Here are some tips to help you and your family create a warm, loving, structured home environment: 1. Stay calm. If I could put that in capital letters while shouting it from the rooftops I would. But really, that the number one most important thing you need to remember when working with high intensity/high energy people. The calmer you are, the calmer they will be. When, not if, you feel yourself sliding into the not-so-calm zone, give yourself a break. Remove yourself from the room if you must. Take a few deep breaths. Count backwards from 100 by 7’s. Whatever it takes. If you can do all of this in front of your child, even better, but if not, no worries. Having someone show them how to calm down will ultimately help them later in life. 2. Be consistent. When you say 30 minutes, don’t fall for the “5 minutes more, PLEEEEEEAAAASSSSE!” They need to know that you say what you mean (and you are willing to back it up), but also that there are boundaries. These aren’t kids for whom you can let the rules slide. Not yet, anyway. They need to know that the rules are the rules and there isn’t much wiggle room, no matter how hard they plead, cry, or throw things. If you get overwhelmed, see Tip 1. 3. Be concrete. When you ask for your kids to do something, make the request short and succinct. It needs to be something they understand and can do. Be clear with them; tell them to, “Pick up that toy,” instead of saying, “clean up the room.” The more concrete you are, the easier it will be for them to understand your instructions and follow them. 4. Make sure you can back up what you say. This goes along with Tip 3. When you say, “eat your dinner”, how are you going to enforce that? Are you willing to send them to bed hungry if they refuse to eat supper? You need to ask yourself, are you willing to stick to you guns, especially if it helps your child in the long run? Back up what you say but don’t engage in the battle. Ultimately, your child will learn more by being hungry a few times than by you forcing them to eat. And you’ll be much calmer too. (See Tip 1) 5. Remember to smile. Even in the most structured environment, if you look and sound like a drill sergeant, that’s what your child will remember. So smile. Remember, this too shall pass. Try to enjoy the small moments, because in the end, that’s what it’s all about.

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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