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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.

My top 3 resources if you have kids with ADD/ADHD

Having kids is tough. Having a child with ADHD can be especially challenging, but it doesn’t need to be. As parents we need to remember that we are not alone. There are lots of resources in our own communities to help us. We teach our kids that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it; well it’s time to take our own advice and take advantage of the resources available. 1. Find a local mental health professional. Preferably someone who works with kids if you can find it, but if not, that ok too. Keep in mind; if you are ok, your kids are ok. They look to you to gauge their moods; to see if a situation is worthy of stress. Speaking to a professional and learning how to cope with your stress shows your kids how to handle their stress. If that person happens to specialize in working with children who have ADHD, that’s even better. 2. Community Centers can be a family friendly resource. Parenting groups, swim classes, babysitting, Mommy/Daddy and me programs etc. These classes are often available at a community center or place of worship within the community. There are therapists or counselors available in these centers who can help you and your child unwind and have a good time together. You’ll meet parents who are going through the same thing you are, who understand who your child is and where you are coming from. Chances are, the two of you are like-minded, because you are both there! It’s nice to enter a room and know that you are not alone. 3. Find a Park or an outdoor space and go. Running around and playing are wonderful places for you and your child to meet other people. Not to mention the exercise will help your child eat, sleep, and socialize better. Most of the parks are free of charge or a nominal fee, so you don’t have to worry about spending tons of money. Parks are places of beauty and nature that allow you and your child to literally run around and practice all the skills you work on at home and in therapy, so go out and enjoy! Different communities may have more specific resources. Utilize them and remember that you are not alone.

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.

Happy Holidays!!!

Dr. Deena Abbe and everyone here at Long Island Child Psych would like to wish you a very Happy, Joyous, and Peaceful holiday season!

Free Session Giveaway!!!

Recently I wrote a post entitled, “Top Three Resources for Kids with ADHD“. In it I shared various ways you can get support if you have a child with ADHD. For parents and caregivers who live in New York State, I want to offer one of you an opportunity for some intentional support. Till Wednesday 28th January 2015, enter to win a free 45 minute session with me, Dr. Deena Abbe. Enter this giveaway for a free 45 minute session with me, either here on my blog or on my Facebook page. I want to help your family be its best.

New York State Health Insurance

Many people may not be aware of this Health Insurance concern. With the deadline fast approaching to sign up for Healthy New York’s ‘Individual Health Insurance’ through the exchange, you might be unaware that New York State has dropped out of network benefits. This affects almost all Health Insurance Plans, not just those on the exchange. What does this change really mean to you? Well, here’s some extra information to help clarify things. According to Medical News Today, Health Insurance is “a type of insurance coverage that covers the cost of an insured individual’s medical and surgical expenses. Depending on the type of health insurance coverage, either the insured pays costs out-of-pocket and is then reimbursed, or the insurer makes payments directly to the provider.” In New York State, this is changing. As of December 31st, any plans renewed after that date will not include out of network benefits. In the past when you saw a doctor who did not accept your insurance, chances are you would submit a bill to the insurance company. The insurance company would then reimburse you a portion of what you paid. Unfortunately, this is not happening anymore! New York State is no longer requiring health insurance plans to offer an out-of-network benefit, and so the insurance plans are dropping them. Let me repeat that: MOST INSURANCE PLANS WILL NOT BE OFFERING AN OUT OF NETWORK BENEFIT!!!! That means you will no longer be reimbursed for your doctors who are not in the network, and who do not accept your health insurance. Please note, that these same insurance companies dropped many doctors who were on the insurance plans simply because they believed that having a smaller network meant they could keep their costs down. They are also paying those particular doctors less. When New York State was given the option of having out of network benefits, they placed the decision in the hands of the insurance companies. Those companies decided that it was too expensive to cover out of network benefits, and they dropped them. So, if you get your insurance on New York’s Health Exchange, chances are you will not have out of network benefits. If you get your insurance through work, you may not have out of network benefits, either. Not happy? Call your local senator or congressman and let them know that you want to continue receiving out of network benefits. If insurance companies paid their in network doctors appropriately, most would be pleased to continue being in network. Here’s the thing, you deserve to see a doctor of your choosing without making a choice between your health and your wallet.

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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