Tag Archives: children

TIPS FOR PARENTING YOUR CHILD WITH ADHD

Posted on December 6, 2017

Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental health conditions in children according to Statistics Canada. It is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, although these symptoms vary. ADHD usually arises in the preschool years but is typically identified in the elementary school grades. Drop out rates for these kids are higher. Proper assessment of ADHD and dealing with the disorder are critical because approximately 75% of children will continue to have the diagnosis through adolescence and over half continue into adulthood. So how do we as parents deal with our kids who display these symptoms? Parenting is challenging enough. But parenting a child with ADHD takes even more patience, strategy, energy and support.

Here are a few tips you’ll find helpful:

1. STAY CALM
We cannot emphasize enough the importance of staying calm as one of the best supports you can give your child. ADHD is a neurological difference, therefore reacting to your child as if they are doing these things on purpose is destructive. Dan Siegel, a pioneering UCLA psychiatrist, emphasizes the importance of attachment relationships for brain development. He explains how the child’s brain responds to the stress of an upset parent’s response:
Children with ADHD tend to lash out more when they are frustrated.  When a parent is outwardly upset, the child’s sympathetic nervous system engages, leaving them to either further escalate or retract. This is the natural fight or flight response. So, the result will likely be negative for both of you if you don’t stay calm; more arguing and/or raised voices. It’s likely you’ll find yourself in a bigger mess than when you began. So pay attention to yourself, especially if you are quick to escalate and react. Teach children ways to express their frustration constructively by your example.
Your role in helping your child calm down is essential in supporting them to think more clearly. Staying calm is critical in helping them to develop neuropathways (“wiring their brains”) to develop effective critical thinking skills. If you or your child are too excited to engage in logical reasoning, then it’s up to you, the adult, to take a ‘time-in’ (some moment to calm), before revisiting the issue. By doing so, you can support your child’s development of more effective reasoning skills.
Active listening will also help your child calm down. You need to be calm to offer authentic active listening. You are your child’s primary attachment figure, and when they feel heard by you it helps them calm down. This isn’t always easy, but it is very important and it works.
Your child needs to know that they can trust you to help them. They need you to be consistent so that they can live their lives with some measure of predictability about what will happen and how you will react.

2. SET LIMITS TO YOUR OVER FUNCTIONING BEHAVIOURS
Again, monitoring your own behaviour is key to providing positive support for your child. If you’re inclined to be worried and in turn over function, remind yourself that the more you do for your child, the less they learn to do for themselves. This will ultimately frustrate them. Remember your role is to support their healthy functioning.
However, children with ADHD are slower to develop in the area of executive functioning, namely time management and organization. They will need you to provide greater structure and follow through to help them succeed.  For example, during a homework session, it’s fine to ask “Do you need more lined paper?” But taking your child’s pencil and saying you’ll both work on theit math can be problematic and disempowering for your child. It’s fine to help, but doing the work for them can undermine confidence.
If you’d still like to keep an eye on your child during homework, sit close by to help them focus but bring your own work to the table. This will help them learn about independent self-regulation.

3. SET STRUCTURE FOR DAILY FUNCTIONING
Structure helps reduce disorganization, distractibility and anxiety. Use strategies and tools for organization and time management, such as charts, lists, agendas, post-its, calendars, timers, reminders and alarms. Set a consistent time to do homework, with certain privileges available when the work is complete. Reward charts for young children and calendars and planners for older ones, with clear rules and routines, effectively provide external supports for internally challenged children.
It’s best to avoid imposing pressure as much as possible. It can be stress inducing. But what does pressure-free structure look like?
Avoid using threats or unreasonable deadlines or punishments that contribute to hostility, fear or drama. Start with smaller achievable tasks. Then review and celebrate those small successes. This will build confidence and assist your child in seeing where they are winning with school, and with you!

4. YOU CAN HELP YOUR CHILD MAKE WISE CHOICES THEY FEEL GOOD ABOUT  
ADHD can be anxiety provoking. Predictability and a sense of control is an effective remedy. So, when dealing with an issue or decision that your child must make, provide them with just 2-3 positive options from which to choose. Again this lessens the stress, but supports the development of their critical thinking. Creating some structure for them to make decisions is less anxiety provoking and more likely to result in their success and confidence. With this, you’re helping your child learn to focus on what they can control.

More tips to come! 

10 Tips On Mindful Separation: How To Tell Your Children

Posted on March 26, 2015

holding-hands-b-wYou have decided to make the difficult step to separate. You’ve decided to be mindful and collaborative in your separation. Now, how do you tell your children? Here are some sound guidelines to follow when speaking with your children about your separation.

  1. Be prepared. Timing is important. Once you have some concrete plans in place, you are ready to take the first step. Try to iron out as much of the detail as possible so when your children ask you questions, you are prepared with solid answers. Your kids will respond better knowing how their day-to-day lives will be impacted by this change.
  2. Book a family meeting. Let your children know you need to have a serious family discussion. Book this time earlier in the day when you can spend some time together following the discussion. Do not do this before bedtime.
  3. Know the plan. Be prepared to answer questions such as, “Where will I live” and “When will I see you?” You need to have already made the main decisions about the separation agreement: children’s schedules and living arrangements. Their input can be taken into account so they feel heard; however, the primary decisions are best made prior to this initial meeting. Again, this shows them you are working together in their best interest and it takes the bigger decisions out of their hands. Consider the parts of this situation they can control and let them know about these aspects. For example, “You get to choose the room colour and bed sheets for your new bedroom.”
  4. Tell them together. Modeling your ability to work cooperatively helps the kids feel more confident that you are both at the helm. This provides more certainty for them and allows them to ask you questions together, again providing a more secure base for this significant life transition.
  5. How much should I tell them? When your children have questions, do not speak to them about any details of the breakdown of your marriage but rather speak in generalities about how you will all move forward. “We have had some wonderful years together but sometimes couples grow apart. We have both decided that this is the healthiest decision. Sometimes adult love changes, unlike a parent’s love for a child that remains forever.” Reassure them that adult love is different than a parent’s love for their child.
  6. Be prepared for emotion. When your children have an emotional response, do your best to allow this and stay supportive. Let them know that it is normal for them to have feelings about such a change in their lives. If you have some emotion, this is normal. You can acknowledge your feelings and swiftly redirect the conversation back to the children and their response. Be kind and open to each child’s reaction. No one child is the same. Stay open and invite their questions.
  7. Similar to #3, know the plan. Discuss the upcoming changes to ensure the children know what will change and what will remain the same. Let them know about specific changes and begin to formulate a visual of how things will look differently and what will remain. Giving this information will help them settle. The unknown is hard. They will want to learn what they can and cannot control about this impending change.
  8. Be respectful and supportive of one another. This will go a long way to insulate the child from your adult conflict and protect their relationships with both of you. This can be very tricky. Kids often take on roles to protect their parents and take sides. This can be emotionally exhausting for kids and is not in their best interest. The more supportive you are of one another in this process, the better for the children. Do not talk to your child about what the other partner did that was wrong. Resist any temptation to blame your partner using your child as a sounding board. This will only set your child up for emotional stress and take they away from a healthier emotional life.
  9. Provide resources for your kids. Gather a few age-appropriate books on separation and divorce, read them with your children and leave them somewhere special so the kids can access them at anytime. Check in with them periodically to see how they are doing with the new information. Be aware of mood changes and keep your lines of communication open.
  10. Seek the help you need individually and as a family from professionals with the appropriate clinical expertise. Find other collaboratively trained professionals such as lawyers and financial advisors to support your family through a collaborative process.

Remember, working cooperatively with your spouse is the best for your kids. A collaborative separation and divorce will cost the family less emotionally and financially, and will keep your children’s wellness as something you and your spouse maintain as your central focus throughout this challenging time of transition.