As long as I can recall, in our family we’ve used codewords to ease communication. When my kids were really little, they were visual cues, like reminders to use a fork or requests to lower the volume. As they grew older, they became verbal cues to help our kids learn to manage the intense emotionality that often comes with ADHD and anxiety.
Codewords are cues that we all agree upon in our family, words that we use to communicate with each other succinctly. Like a family whistle peeling through the air in a public space, codewords help us get to the heart of a matter quickly. Better yet, they help us avoid unnecessary meltdowns.
For example, “bubblegum” is a word we’ve used for about fourteen years. It means, “Brace yourself, because you might not like what I’m about to tell you.” Broccoli ice cream” has been around even longer. It means, “Someone is losing the ability to cope because s/he’s hungry. Stop everything, now, and get some food!”
Much like crying “uncle” when you’re ready to give up a wrestling match, codewords communicate big concepts in a flash. “Rope” in my family means, “Okay, everyone, back off because I’m trying really hard not to lose my cool.” And “Don’t poke the bear” (okay, it’s a codephrase), means, “leave your sister or brother alone because she’s really not in the mood right now to be messed with.”
What triggers in your family could be avoided with a few well-chosen codewords? If you’re not sure, ask your kids. Not only will they probably know, but they’ll likely do a better job of naming them than you. After all, would you ever have come up with broccoli ice cream?
Elaine Taylor-Klaus, CPCC, is the cofounder of ImpactADHD.com. Her website offers support for parents of children with ADHD, including tips, strategies, and coaching to make family life work. Whether new to the world of ADHD, or worn out from managing it, Elaine helps parents improve family life. Visit www.ImpactADHD.com.