I never knew what fear felt like before I became a parent.
While my faith grounds me and I know from a biblical perspective, I am not to live in fear as it’s a barrier to my relationship with God, I do have it.
One of my strongest fears ties into one of my son’s greatest strengths…isn’t that ironic? My parent “fear” is losing my child. Meaning, he will get lost and I’ll never see him again. (Gosh, I am feeling utterly vulnerable sharing this!) Maybe because it’s happened at least 5 times since he’s been born. The wandering in crowds seems to own us, even though I’d consider myself an amazing hyper alert and vigilant mom when it comes to crowds and my children. Case in point, even the most vigilant parents can lose their child in the blink of an eye if they don’t have their eyes on them. Most recently this past summer and I’m sharing it because this last time I learned something about my son when he got lost. Something I didn’t realize about him.
It was one of the first weekends of summer and we made the trip to our local amusement park. We were all obviously giddy with anticipation for the day ahead, but when we got out of the car, we made sure to stop and put on sunscreen. We could hear the people screaming whilst riding the rides and music was playing throughout the park. Our boys were looking around at the massive roller coasters and all the swirly whirly metal rides around the park, excited to join in the fun.
Our day progressed, but before long the sky fell black, thunder rolled and the sky opened up. It was an all out Southern summer thunderstorm. We all bolted for the car along with hundreds of others exiting the park. It was raining so hard I could barely see 3 ft ahead of me. Before long, we made it to the truck, except my son. He was nowhere to be found. In the running and confusion, he became lost. And we had lost sight of him.
Words really can’t explain how I felt, as I went from 0-100 in half a second thinking I’d never see him again. I immediately began screaming for him in the parking lot, as if anyone could hear me over the roaring of the storm. I ran back and forth from the entrance of the park to the truck, up and down the parking lots to no avail. There was a woman who even stopped and asked me what he was wearing and I described him and she ran the opposite direction in search of him. I saw her 2 more times with no success. (I would have loved to give her a hug and thank her for caring about my son, but I never saw her after that moment.)
They say, when in utter panic mode, a minute is like an hour, right? I believe about 20 minutes elapsed, which literally felt like a day, until I heard our oldest son screaming for me somewhere nearby. My youngest had found his way back to the car. I cannot tell you the relief I had. Have you ever not been able to control your sobbing and crying? What a moment. Praise the Lord.
Fast forward to the evening when I was able to converse and talk about it without crying. My son told me that in the midst of all the running and crowds of people, he ran straight past our row and almost to the end of the parking lot. After walking down some rows of cars, he realized he wasn’t where he was supposed to be. Instead of panicking, he stopped and tuned into his senses. He remembered what part – literally the part – of the roller coaster he was looking at when we were putting sunscreen on. He knew he had to backtrack to get to that view of the roller coaster, and there he would find the truck.
And he did. Did he realize he was lost and we weren’t with him? Yes. Was he scared? A little bit – his senses were heightened and he was highly alert – he even said it was sorta exciting. Of course he did – he had his own little unplanned adventure! He was great under pressure and kept control of himself in that situation (which I applauded him for months after). When I asked him if he was worried about finding his way back, he said, “Momma, I’ll always find my way back to you.”
I debated whether to share this story due to how emotional it is for me thinking about the times he’s been lost. I literally have a pit in my stomach writing this. However it’s important to continue to bring awareness to an awesome strength of ADHD. Be it visual, auditory, smell, touch, taste, those with ADHD have heightened senses. My son is so spot on with directions because of what he sees outside and how he associates buildings, signs, houses, trees, stores and roads and connects them all together.
Which leads me to think ahead to when he drives and when your teens begin driving. It’s never too early to test your teen on their surroundings. Ask them what they see, notice, hear, smell. It will be challenging enough when they are behind the wheel. Why not engage them when you are driving now and see if they know how to get back and forth to the school, grocery, their friends’ houses? It’s a great way to gauge how in touch they are with their surroundings. Who knows, they may surprise you and find their way back home, all by themselves. Mine certainly did.
With an Abundant amount of GrADDitude for my son’s senses,
Why does it feel like some mornings it takes an act of God to get your children out the door?
Take the stress out of mornings with some very simple steps which will make a smooth transition from bed to bus stop!
Pack backpacks the night before. Once homework is done, place everything you need for the next day in it. There should be a “set” place for them, too! This might sound silly, but how many times has your backpack grown legs and moved from one room to another unbeknownst to you and all of a sudden there’s an extra 3 minutes (and high stress) looking for the backpack? Pick a spot!
Prepare lunch boxes/snacks the night before. Parents, this is for you! You have enough on your plate (literally) in the mornings, don’t add to it. Prepare all of this the night before so you and your child can grab and go in the morning.
Breakfast is only served when your child is fully dressed. MEANING: once your child leaves their bedroom in the morning, they do not return! That means socks and shoes are on before they eat. How much time is wasted putting socks and shoes on right before you walk out the door? It will stop the yelling, arguments and stress. Enforce this and it will become a habit quite quickly…and you will have more peace in the mornings.
After eating, the last thing they do is brush their teeth. Good hygiene is important and that happens after they eat! Yes, this may mean moving toothbrushes to a place closer to the kitchen and yes, buying a second set of them, but it is worth it! The goal is to not have them return to their rooms or upstairs once they come to the kitchen. Think about it like this – you are minimizing distractions!
Always have a timer in the kitchen. I am a huge fan of the Time Timer. It shows time elapsing – set it when they begin eating breakfast so they know how much time they have. When it goes off, that’s when it’s time to leave the table and brush their teeth. If you need to set it again for the teeth brushing, you can do this as well, but I’m not sure how many children and teens are brushing more than 3 minutes!
Once teeth are brushed, they head to the door, grab their backpack, lunch box and off they go!
With Much GrADDitude (and more peace in the mornings!),
No, I’m not referring to a washing machine and dryer (although I do love laundry!)!
I’m referring to the importance of front-loading our children when we know they will be subjected to a situation where you (and they) know it may not set up well for them. Where you know they will be anxious, nervous, shut down, clingy or just flat out have a meltdown…specifically social situations.
I work with parents who need assistance with social situations and their child with ADHD. Situations where there are a lot of people, noise, tons of friends around, babysitters coming over when parents have a date night, going to a new school, or just knowing a certain situation will not bode well for your loved one.
My older son reminded me of the importance of this parenting strategy. Our family is in the midst of a move to a small town just under 2 hours from our current home. He recently shared how uncomfortable it is to make new friends (at least for him as he is my not-so-social- guy-who-really-wants-to-be). That led me to realize how we have been dealing with our imminent move: I’ve been front-loading our boys for the past 6 months.
What I mean by this is simple…I know we have an uncomfortable situation quickly approaching and I have been talking through scenarios with them: new home, new school, new church, new routine, sharing a room, new schedules, etc.
And, it hasn’t happened all at once either. We’ve known about this move for a little under a year and we have gradually introduced certain scenarios that may or may not be favorable when we move. They’ve been involved in choosing their school (they both decided on the same school, phew!), participating in reconstructing their room and space where we are moving. We’ve walked through beginning at a new church and establishing new friends (this is their biggest fear). You get the point. We have been engaging in how things will be different and we’ve also allowed and asked the really hard questions:
“What will be hardest about moving?”
“What would make this an easy move and transition for you?”
“What do you need to happen before we leave?”
By giving them a chance to put words to their feelings, it validates, calms, acknowledges and accepts where they are.
Friends, this strategy can and should be used in every situation you know could be uncomfortable for your ADHD child.
It’s a simple four step process:
Talk through the scenario
Ask what they need
Remind them of a time when they handled it well
Give them time to process and adjust their thinking around the event that is not favorable to them
..walk through it all (as many times as needed within reason!) so there are no obstacles until they are in a better place and not fearful or in shut down mode. It is a critical step in their self-advocacy when they can verbalize what they need to be more comfortable. This is what you ultimately want for them: self-control, independence and self-awareness to handle the situations that may not set up well for them.
Who knows, just talking through and front-loading may turn out to be the absolute best situation where they are able to participate in the event that once caused great stress and angst!
That’s how many friends I allow our boys to be with on a group chat.
Oh, I can hear and see all the comments on this one: She’s a bad mom…an unrealistic Mom…controlling Mom.
How about this one: Boundary Mom.
This all started one weekend a few years ago when we did a random phone check with our oldest son’s phone. Thankfully, he wasn’t on his phone to see the 300 plus text messages on a group chat (of 10) from the night before. REALLY? 300 messages? While I won’t get into the content, suffice it to say, it could have been kept between 2 of the boys, not all 10. Had he seen it there would have been immediate anxiety and stress due to the sheer volume and speed when they all came in.
This is where the boundary line comes and how we should be supporting our children in setting such distinct lines. This is what I tell my boys: Not everyone needs to be “in the know” of your personal stuff. You are not an open book. You are entitled to privacy and you should be able to distinguish who you really want to share with. Not every feeling, emotion, thought is a public service announcement. There are very few things left that we can keep private in this world, what is it that you wish to keep to yourself?
You get it: I am not a fan of group texts. I constantly ask myself what my issue is with it and it’s two-fold, really:
The constant “dinging.” Don’t we have enough noise in our lives without all of this happening too? And how incredibly distracting is this for our ADHD teens! You might say, “Well, turn your phone to silent or turn it off.” How realistic is that, though? How many of us REALLY have our phones on silent each day? Besides, if I turn my phone off, then I can’t talk to my clients and conduct my business.
On the teen front, when they get added to a group text, holy moly, the constant chirping of texts from all the participants is a non-stop chorus of unwanted music!
It’s also the informality of it. Perhaps I’m just old school. I’d much rather hear from one or two people as it’s more personal and special. I feel like this generation is not learning the skill of conversing and engaging because of group texting. And my generation is losing it. I came from the times of wrap-yourself-around-the-landline-phone cords where we talked to friends for hours (unless our neighbors were listening!). Here I am slowly succumbing to this era of technology, torn between trying to help our sons see the importance of privacy, close friends, boundaries, conversing, whilst allowing them the freedom of navigating this technological frontier.
Need help with boundaries on group texting? Here are a few words of advice:
Words of advice for group chats (whether you are 12 or 62):
If the content of the conversation doesn’t interest you or apply, leave the group text conversation.
If you don’t know all the others in the group text, leave the conversation.
If anyone asks for your picture, leave the conversation.
If there’s anyone threatening themselves or anyone on the group chat, tell your parents immediately.
Often people will say things over text that they won’t say to your face…meaning name calling, bullying, gossiping, etc. If that is negatively affecting you, leave the conversation.
Keep feelings and thoughts private and have enough confidence and respect for yourself not to share with everyone.
Ask yourself — Do you really need to keep up with all these friends’ affairs? Isn’t that exhausting? Use discernment on who and what you wish to care and know about – chances are it’s only a few chosen friends.
Don’t be ashamed to leave the conversation. Be bold, be confident. Who knows, there may be someone else on the chat who is feeling the same way.
Keep your group chat to small number of people in the conversation. Less is always more.
Think about how you might be affecting someone else on the chat by your comments and participation.
Don’t chime in and lose yourself and text something that is outside your character just because you get drawn into the conversation. Nothing good comes out of compromised values.
Remember, what you say on text, stays on texts. It cannot be taken back. AND it can be easily shared.
Think about it like this: if all the “friends” on the text conversation were physically around you face-to-face, what would you say, how would you act and would you even participate in the conversation? Your behavior on group texting should mimic a face-to-face interaction.
With much GrADDitude, (and hopefully less “dinging and chirping”)
How much do you think social media contributes to the formation of identity in our teens?
During the middle and high school years, teens are on the one-way highway to self-discovery. Self-identity, trying to figure out their place in social circles and friend groups, who they are and what they want to do, coupled with hormones…the teen years are one of the most challenging, yet awesome times in their lives.
As parents, we get to walk alongside them and see them sprout! Each day is an opportunity to discover something; each experience a new growth opportunity. When you’ve reached this phase in parenting, it’s truly as amazing as those first few years when they learned to sit up, crawl, walk and talk.
On the other side, we also get to witness the not so fun side and the stressful and potentially damaging reality from where they perceive and develop their self-worth: through the screen of their device.
The amount of time teens spend on screens is utterly staggering. The amount of time preparing and agonizing over the perfect post and then anticipating and processing the responses is equally shocking. And it’s all causing incredible levels of anxiety in our teens, especially those with ADHD.
What is causing the anxiety?
It’s the pressure of posting the right picture or text so they get over 100 likes…because anything else is not socially acceptable. It’s the time spent and number of pictures taken before they find the “right one” that will fill their self-esteem tank. And it’s the agony of knowing they may be tagged in a post that is not so flattering, yet is out there…out of their control. And it’s also that feeling of missing out when they see a post about an event they weren’t invited to but many friends are at.
Then there’s the increasing need for instant and constant gratification. The amount of time it takes for Instagram and Snapchat to post, share and update does little to help our teens refrain and use self-control. They are constantly on their device with anxious anticipation watching the number of likes increase with each refresh. Our teens are literally glued to their phones to secure their self-worth, rarely finding it out in the world.
While there may be a ton of validation for all those with great and seemingly “perfect” pictures boosting that teen into sudden popularity and a feeling of success and acceptance, there is another group of teens suffering anxiety and depression because of them. A post can trigger a ton of self-doubt and negative self-talk creating angst in their emotional state. One comment can make the difference in a teen’s ability to engage in groups or become reclusive and secluded. That’s the power (good and bad) of social media.
What can we do as parents?
Social media is here to stay – no one is denying that. As parents, we need to be extra diligent in connecting with our teens. Teens need a safe, nonjudgmental environment to share and express themselves. Sometimes they don’t need answers, they just need to be heard and listened to. By asking the appropriate questions, we can partner with them, listen to them and help them think through these pressing social situations which create anxiety and enter adulthood with a healthy sense of self.
Click here to get a list of questions to help engage with your teens to ensure you have a pulse on their emotional well being and to keep the anxiety in check. Download it and keep it handy!
When our oldest son began 6th grade, over the course of many conversations varying in topic, I began to share with him that it was time to start speaking for himself at school.
Meaning: less of me and much more of him.
I felt like it was a conversation that required a loud booming voice over saying, “You are now leaving the little kid zone where parents and teachers speak for you. You, my son, can now activate your own voice! Welcome to Middle School!”
At this age, your teen must start developing self-advocacy. While I know this skill is years in the making, the conversation needs to begin in Middle School, so Parents, it’s time to cut the cord – yes, it really is…it’s time. You can do it!
The one main reason why students need to understand their ADHD and advocate for themselves: COLLEGE. I recently attended a local meeting where the speaker was the local Learning Disability Director from a community college. She shared how college students with LDs want to “do it on their own” but fail classes because they are not communicating their needs with their teachers. Sound familiar?
When your child has ADHD and is college bound, here are some examples of how they must OWN their ADHD:
They have to know when to schedule their classes based on their medication and when it is most effective, or when their brain is most tuned in
They have to be able to explain why they need a separate testing room
They may need to explain why they need study guides and notes in advance
They need to know what helps in class – if they need earbuds to stay focused in the classroom, or extra time on tests.
And most importantly, they need to know how to communicate all these things in a way that their needs will be met
All of these accommodations are very typical in secondary education, and so are the parents who are communicating with the teachers and the school.
But this is NOT so in post secondary! Post Secondary education is all about the student…if they don’t speak up and OWN their ADHD and advocate, they will not be successful.
Parents, it’s time to cut the cord…sorry not sorry! It is. Start letting go of being the conduit between your teen and the school. In a few years, you will not be there for them to ask, so they need to start thinking independently for themselves. Challenge them to do this! How?
One easy way — When your teen has questions on homework and projects, don’t be the first to jump in and tell them what to do and give them the solutions – who is that helping??? Allow them to figure it out and ask them what they need to do to find the answers. Who do they need to contact and how do they plan on doing this? This may entail going to help sessions (managing their time after school), meeting teachers during lunch (managing their time in school), asking to talk to teachers after a class (face to face conversation in school). This teaches them to think for themselves and be 3 steps ahead. It’s helping them plan; to realize when/where they need help, to be proactive, to be responsible.
Remember our main goal: Understanding, Owning and Succeeding with their ADHD.
I’m going to share a story, one I know you all can relate to.
How many times have you been in this situation: You’re in a conversation with your teen about the after school schedule, or you’re sharing something that happened to you or you’re letting them know what needs to be done for the day (i.e. chores)…a conversation where their attention must be had, and, out of left field, comes this comment: “Mom, I drafted Antonio Brown on Madden and he scored 2 touchdowns and helped me beat the Eagles!”
WHHAAAATTTT? Are you kidding me???? Did you not hear anything I just said? Where did that come from????? Why did you interrupt me?
This is so typical for those with ADHD. It is normal. It is impulsive. It is lacking self-control. Some may even consider it rude. It’s what’s on their mind because something is important to them. In this case, it was Madden.
BUT, as I’m always striving to see the positives in ADHD and help my son become better at managing it and how he presents himself to others, here’s my interpretation: it’s also his way of connecting to me and wanting me to have an interest in his “world” or, in this particular conversation, Madden. It’s also what’s on his mind. He doesn’t want to forget to tell me right then and there, so, it gets blurted out. He is sharing. He is present. He also has my attention.
After we spend time (not too much, mind you!) talking about his team, I circle back to the “What were we talking about before Madden?” I then ask him to repeat the conversation. And guess what? He repeats it…every time…word for word.
So, what to do when the comments and words just come tumbling out that are completely irrelevant to the conversation at hand? Two things:
Go with it!
I acknowledge how happy he must have been to have Antonio Brown score for him. If we get more into Madden for a couple minutes, then we get more into Madden for a couple minutes – what’s the big deal? No harm no foul! I’m engaged with my son the way he needs me to be. I’m asking the same of him, am I not?
I can’t stress enough how important it is to acknowledge what our children share with us. While I have absolutely no interest in Madden, that’s not the point. My son does. I don’t need to be an expert in it to engage and react and acknowledge. Those little acts of listening and commenting go further than you realize. You are teaching your child to react, respond, engage, validate and acknowledge when someone shares something with them. That, my friends, is the big picture in ALL of this.
Remember it is also a teachable moment.
I remind him and ask him, “When in the conversation would have been a better time to share what was on your mind?” He knows he interrupted, but he still (and will for a LONG time) works on his impulse control blurting out thoughts. While it’s always a very fine line of not making him feel bad about when he shared, it is also crucial for him to understand that while our home is a safe place to blurt things out and be impulsive, the world may not (most likely will not!) react the same way.
As parents, we prepare our children for what’s out there – the good, the bad, and the ugly. In some social situations, he could really get his feelings hurt and be seen as annoying or rude for interrupting. Chances are, that’s already happened to him. So I am always roleplaying, if I may, so he can understand how that conversation would have played out differently with someone else.
One of my favorite hashtags is #trainthemup. We must train up our children for the world. The best ways to do that is when moments like these happen in your home – teachable, trainable moments – our teens are never too old to learn the ways of the world! Walk through the scenario and explain how they will be perceived and how they respond to that. My son is sweet, kind and gentle and if he thought someone thought of him as rude that would be so hurtful to him. However, he needs to understand how his lack of self-control in that situation could present himself as such.
Self-control and impulsivity will always be a struggle and challenge for our loved ones with ADHD. Why? Because, as I call it, there’s always a “tab open”. There is always something on their mind that needs to be said, shared and communicated, and yes, blurted out at the appropriate time, so it’s not forgotten! So, indulge them, but help them to indulge at the proper time in the conversation! Give them a minute to talk about whatever was irrelevant to your topic, but so important in their world that they just couldn’t wait to share it with you!
Remember, friends, what is our ultimate goal? For our loved ones to understand how ADHD affects their lives, own their ADHD and succeed with ADHD!
I’ve got to step up and live out what I coach. While the whole Middle School “concept” is to allow our children to become independent, do the work on their own, advocate for themselves, etc., this concept in our home is slowly unwinding. While I want to honor the school’s desires and encourage my son’s sense of responsibility, we are halfway through the school year and I can see the slow demise of his academic interest. Not sure if it’s coming off the much needed Christmas season or the halfway mark where it seems the school year is never ending, or just simply, the winter blahs (yes, I believe there is such a thing and I don’t even live in the North anymore!), but something is happening. If I don’t get a hold of it, all academic progress and success are about to unravel in record speed!
Oblige me, please, as I’m going to coach myself here for a minute… “Knowing what I know about ADHD and homework/after school life, what is happening to my son?”
Quite simply: there’s too much information, too many places to get it and no idea where to begin or how to decipher all the work.
So it is time for intervention. I refuse to allow our son to dwindle away academically and tow the line of grades. Our parenting style is such that we do not put pressure on grades. We expect effort, work ethic, attitude, responsibility and accountability – character traits that can be taught and modeled. Grades will come with the traits.
We need a reset on homework. And no, this doesn’t mean I’m going to be doing it with him every day. I’ll be the first to admit, it makes the after school hours so much easier for us when our children come home and handle their work…when we are hands off, right? Well, that’s all fine and good, until it’s not. This is the part where we cannot allow our children to fail because we as parents get lazy. Yes, I’ve said it. I’m guilty. I’ve been riding the easy train for a while now and it’s slowly veering off course.
So, how am I going to get this train on the right path?
Quite simply: We’re having a meeting. In it, we will discuss what’s been working, what hasn’t been working. This can be broken down to environment (where is the best place for him to work), tools (making sure he has what he needs at his fingertips including paper, ipad, pencils, notebooks, graph paper), timing (when is he at his best to complete his work), resources (where is he finding what he needs), distractions (what’s getting in his way?), etc. It’s time to find out where the obstacles are. Here’s a breakdown of what I am referring to:
We will discuss the processes of homework:
What will he need before he even sits down? What needs to be printed out? Where can he find the work, notes, labs, study guides, resources, etc? Does he have the paper, the pencils, erasers, ipad, notebook, study guide, labs, etc.?
What part of his homework would he like to do first? Would he like to get the subjects he enjoys out of the way, or do the “not so fun stuff” first?
Many times, people with ADHD start right in the midst of things without having all they need to begin, so very little gets accomplished.
We will discuss planning:
What are his plans when he walks in the door after school? When will he begin? When will he end? When are the breaks? How will he keep track of his time?
All of this will help his executive functioning skills of planning, time management and working memory. We are striving to get our teens to think 3 steps ahead, not just be in the moment. By planning out the remainder of his evening, this allows him to think forward and figure out how he can best use his strengths.
Finally, we will discuss the nitty gritty of the homework – the actual “work” of it:
This is where it’s important for us to remember that our presence is needed. While I’m not “doing” the homework, I am in his presence and close to him physically. I know sitting at the same table or even close by in the same room works for my son. I could be writing my blog or responding to emails, (or cooking dinner!) but just being there with him helps.
I also know speaking out loud helps him too…meaning if he has a question on a homework problem, sometimes hearing me read it out loud helps him understand it better than reading it to himself. Or, when I sit close to him he tends to read his problems and answers out loud which allows him to catch the run on sentences, the misspellings of words. When he hears his written words, he understands where the errors are. Be it in English, Science or History… read it to them or have them read it out loud to you (or to your pets!). Hearing it makes the difference!
So there you have it. I’m off my lazy track, the intervention is complete. All is well and we are back on the straight and narrow of accountability!
I find myself saying this to our sons more than I’d like to admit. In our world of DM’ing, Snapchat, IG, FB, Twitter (likes, impressions, reactions, live feeds, stories, etc.), Amazon Prime (same day shipping and delivery), the world of instant gratification is contributing to our challenge of modeling patience, self control, and restraint to our children. These character traits are crucial to their success in all areas of life.
Just because we can order something on Amazon and get it before anyone else does, or just because we can drive to the nearest Game Stop, sporting goods store or Target and get that so call “needed” game or equipment, doesn’t mean we drop it all and acquiesce just because we can.
Add in the ADHD element where self control is always a struggle and you have a well mixed cocktail of impulsivity, hyper focusing (not letting go of wanting something so badly), and needing that instant gratification to fill a supposed need that all of a sudden exists!
If our children get envious or jealous of their friends because they have something they don’t – what a great learning opportunity!
We should be teaching our children to be happy for others when they have things we don’t. We aren’t raising selfish, entitled children, are we? We want to raise selfLESS children who are confident in themselves to have the ability to be joyful for others.
In our home, we strive to raise Kingdom Kids with Kingdom character. Selfless, grateful, joyful, patient, kind, unassuming, unentitled, humble, young men. We are a work in progress, both as adults as well as parents. Some days we hit the mark and other days we fall well below it! I am grateful for grace! Ultimately, we strive to model these “fruits of the Spirit”, if I may.
Having constraint with the worldly items and allowing our children to see that we can say, “No” to something allows them the confidence to see that it doesn’t rule our lives and we have control over it.
Remember, we want our children to learn control of their world and what “reigns” in their life and that it’s OK to say “No” to things, people and events.