Parenting Tips for ADHD
A while back I shared a post on Facebook titled Looking Back, which centered around some of my early struggles in life with learning disabilities. Depending on the doctor and my hyperactive level at the time of tests, I was diagnosed with either ADD or ADHD. I was on par with the temperament but borderline on the hyperactive scale. This was back in the early 80s in a small town where there was little understanding on this topic. I was also diagnosed with dyslexia and severe anxiety. I never took any medications so I’m unable to speak on those. I instead spent many hours after school with helpers from about kindergarten to 8th grade.
Every child is different and has their own makeup so while there isn’t a single solution for all, there are things we can do to improve our understanding and thereby the situation. It is my hope that the following helps other parents deal with children in today’s age.
ADHD/ADD labels and identity…
An important factor to consider is shifting your perception on how you see labels and disabilities. We’ve become quick to label things as disabilities, which impacts our behavior and can instill the victim mindset in our children. This can cause our children to attach to these limitations as part of their identity. This makes it nearly impossible to outgrow or heal when it becomes a part of our identity.
Labels cause us to act differently, not so much in our words but the energy and intent behind our words and actions. How you treat and speak to your child speaks volumes to their unconscious mind. Work with them patiently and calmly – as you remain calm it helps them relax. This allows for you to help them with understanding without crippling their self-esteem. The biggest challenge with ADD/ADHD is feeling misunderstood. Most of the time we don’t even know what is going on and struggle to convey anything. Add anxiety to this and it causes us to lock up mentally and emotionally.
As a parent one of the best things you can do is exercise patience. This is a challenge and is going to require some changes on your part, and practicing presence will benefit greatly. Work to remain centered with yourself and go back to your breath when frustrated or feeling short. Too often we expect a child to think as an adult. It’s important to understand that children have a different level of awareness and do not see things as clearly as adults.
As an adult it helps to reflect back to your younger self and visualize what would have helped you. This will help you provide the guidance and perspective to help your child. No one can get under your skin like your own child. They are little mirrors of our own unconscious doing a wonderful job reflecting it. I ended up cutting back on caffeine and meditating more often to help me be more present. While this helped tremendously, I still find myself being challenged from time to time with my daughter. Make time for a daily meditation practice, or silence and reflection, to help you be more present with your child.
Helping with anxiety…
I was very empathic as a child and I question if that is not the case with every child who struggles with anxiety and focus. Children feel at deeper levels and this is even more intense if they are an empath (or indigo child). When I was younger, I recall going to the hospital to visit my grandparents where I felt as if I was being poked with a 1000 needles. It seemed as though I could feel everyone’s pain at once. It helps to be patient with empathic children to help them convey what they are feeling, as they often struggle to find the words and therefore act out in other ways.
Yelling or abuse in the home triggers massive anxiety causing children to shutdown crippling their self-worth. This leads to more frustration causing them to act out and vastly impacts their ability to communicate. The best thing you can do as a parent is to remain patient and work to avoid any excessive yelling. Children have a different level of awareness and anxiety makes it extremely difficult to convey what they are feeling. Work with your children patiently to help them convey what they are feeling. They have a very different level of awareness so help is often essential and it must be gentle, this cannot be forced or dictated as that only exacerbates the symptoms.
Discipline and speech…
One of the greatest gifts a parent can do for their children is to help them develop a healthy self-esteem. How you speak to them is crucial for this. Often the acting out is due to feeling misunderstood and unable to express what they are feeling or thinking. If they are in the wrong, by all means discipline them and remind them why they are being disciplined, have them repeat it. But if it feels like they are coming from a ‘place of unknown’ due to overwhelming anxiety, then what they really need is for you to exercise compassion and patience.
Avoid calling them “bad” or telling them they are a “problem child” and work to find a way to educate them on the matter. The idea here is to work with them, to help them build understanding. If you are disciplining them, repeat what they did and the impacts of it, then ask them to repeat it back so they understand. This will help them from feeling screwed up or broken. Children are very present and always in the moment so reiterating things helps immensely with understanding, and avoids creating more stress and anxiety.
Letting go of the label…
The biggest challenge with labels is that we look at them as the answer to our problems, the cause of all our issues as to why we feel broken. The hard truth is that it keeps us from ‘growing’ out of it. I rarely speak about the challenges with my younger self as they have not been a part of my identity for some time. When I released them I grew beyond them.
The brain is no longer seen as a static organ but found to be pliable as noted in neuroplasticity. Basically, whatever we repeat (mentally) changes and forms new pathways in the brain. We can change nearly any part of our life with repetition and practice. The thoughts we think and the stories we tell ourselves are vital in this process. I recommend encouraging your child that they can grow out of it and work with them and see what happens. There are many nightly audio programs out there to help with this as well. Light therapy has been around for over 20 years now and is extremely effective in treating ADD/ADHD and even autism (in some cases completely reversing it). It’s costly and not yet main stream but it’s getting there.
Diet and resources…
Lets face it, diet changes are not always welcomed. When it comes to the body and challenges there are many components and diet does play a part. Monitor your children’s behavior before and after meals and notice what happens. There is some fascinating detail in the book titled “Skinny Bitch“, around foods and their impact. Another great book that I highly recommend is “Staying Focused In A Hyper World (Volume 1)” by John Gray. Mindful practices are also greatly beneficial. In case your curious, the above picture is me as a child :).
Until next time,