Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hands-On Support for Parenting

guest blog by Cindy Goldrich, EdM, ACAC

ADHD involves more than just difficulty with inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. For many children, it involves difficulty with managing their emotions, their ability to plan and carry out their goals, and much more. Children with ADHD often feel misunderstood, overwhelmed, and ill equipped to manage what is expected of them. When they don’t seem to be working toward their potential or are acting defiant, parents find it difficult to know how to react in a way that will truly change their child's behavior.

When a child is diagnosed, parents often are given little more than some reading material, general advice, and perhaps medication for their child. Yet the family’s most pressing need, particularly for the parents, is to become as knowledgeable as possible about this complex and often misunderstood condition. Wonderful resources are available, but for many parents, nothing replaces contact with other individuals who can help them understand their challenges and support them through a process of growth and change. Enter the world of parent training and parent coaching.

Parent the child you have

Every person is born with a unique chemistry, physique, and temperament. As parents become more educated and aware of how the traits of ADHD impact their child’s life, they become more conscious of how they must adjust their parenting to match the needs of their child. This is what I call “parent the child you have.”

Children with ADHD, just like all children, are blessed with a range of strengths and talents. It is vital that we recognize and nurture their interests and passions even when it may seem to take time and energy away from some of their academic pursuits. One of the greatest challenges children (and adults) with ADHD face is that many of them have a slower processing speed and a less accurate sense of the passage of time. As a result of this and other challenges (distraction, organization, etc.), they often need more time to accomplish what their peers do. I refer to this as having a “disability perspective.”

No one wants to think of their child as having a disability; however, if we do not recognize the disabling aspects of our personal weaknesses, we do not make appropriate adjustments in our expectations. With limited hours after school and on weekends, it is important to balance the academic pressure and expectations with the activities that bring the child personal growth and satisfaction. Parents must coordinate and support this complex balancing act so that the child is not in a constant state of frustration and stress due to the range of demands and expectations placed on them at school.

Always keep in mind that ADHD looks different in each child. With “parent the child you have” as your guiding principle, you will be able to help your child thrive. The more you and your child can learn about how ADHD affects your child specifically, the more equipped you both will be to face the challenges ahead.

Parent training: CHADD's Parent to Parent
by Katherine McGavern

In 2006, CHADD created Parent to Parent, a comprehensive course taught by parents of children with ADHD who have been trained and certified by CHADD to teach the program. The seven-session course covers a wide range of information, starting with the science of ADHD and proper assessment. Then it outlines multimodal treatment options, including a comprehensive look at ADHD medications. The course introduces parenting strategies and positive behavioral interventions for ADHD management at home and school, a complete description of school accommodations (educational rights) and how to get them, guidelines for building an education team, advice about how to talk to the child about his or her very special brain, and a view of ADHD across the lifespan.

Each of the weekly two-hour sessions covers an area of information absolutely essential to the successful management of ADHD. And best of all, the training is from a parent's perspective, brought to you by experts who have faced the same struggles, questions, and challenges you face. In addition to the classes you will receive a Parent to Parent workbook full of helpful articles, tips and worksheets to use in your own family.”

Limited to twenty-five parents per session, Parent to Parent encourages interaction among its "students," who experience the relief and comfort of being in a training filled with other parents who are struggling with the frustration, exasperation, confusion, and helplessness that usually accompany an ADHD diagnosis.

Find out when the next Parent to Parent class is being offered and follow the links to enroll.

Parent coaching
by Cindy Goldrich, EdM, ACAC

Parents often find they need support in addition to understanding the essential science and laws regarding ADHD. Some seek out therapy to help them understand and cope with their feelings; for many, however, support comes in the form of ADHD parent coaching.

Family members, friends, and even well-meaning teachers and other professionals may offer advice and strategies with the intention of helping you “fix” or “teach” your child. You must learn to trust your inner voice and tailor your parenting to meet the needs of your unique child. For some, this will mean providing tighter control, for some it may mean offering more guidance and support, and for others, it may mean reducing certain obligations or expectations in the present time. These are some of the issues a parent coach can help you explore and resolve.

A trained professional who combines the knowledge of coaching, parenting, and ADHD, an ADHD parent coach provides parents with appropriate tips, tools, strategies, and ongoing support to manage the complexities of raising a child with ADHD. Once a parent is educated about the impact that ADHD, executive function deficits, stress, anxiety, and pressure have on learning and behavior, the parent coach can help the parent set reasonable goals. Through ongoing encouragement, recommendations, feedback, and support, the coach can help the parent develop the tools, strategies, and confidence necessary to remain accountable to the changes he or she wishes to make.

Change and growth take time, patience, and sometimes a little extra help and support from someone outside your family who can add insight and perspective. A trained parent coach will provide you with the support, strategies, and structure needed to make the real and sustainable changes in your family. With proper strategies and a proactive approach, the road may still be difficult, but success and satisfaction will be well within your reach.

An earlier version appears in the June 2014 issue of Attention magazine. Join CHADD and receive every issue!
Join conversations about parenting kids with ADHD on Attention connection, your social network for all things ADHD!

Cindy Goldrich, EdM, ACAC, a mental health counselor and a certified ADHD coach, specializes in coaching parents of children who have ADHD. She is the cofounder of the Long Island Professional ADHD Consortium.
Katherine McGavern coaches adults with ADHD and is a certified Parent to Parent teacher. She  is a member of the editorial advisory board of
Attention and a co-founding member of CHADD Mercer County.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Becoming Happier

guest blog by Marie S. Paxson

Ever feel like your kids took a look at that chart of all the bad things that can happen to young people with ADHD… and started using it as some sort of to-do list?

I believe these difficult episodes reinforce the theory that those with ADHD may have a thirty percent lag in brain development. So their growing years are going to last longer.

Last week I talked about managing unhappiness. While you will need to master that skill, that’s only part of the equation. You’re going to need some ways to become happier while raising challenging children.

These suggestions may feel contrived. We all want happiness to just appear as needed, but it doesn’t work that way. Genuinely happy people invite it in and make room for it. The elements of ongoing happiness and contentment include gratitude, spirituality, and pleasant memories.

Let’s start with gratitude. Ugh!—right? I’m not a sunshine-and-rainbows kind of gal. I embrace my tendency towards snark, since I’m not mean spirited. But it is hard to argue with the scientific evidence that gratitude increases one’s ability to be happy. Research also suggests that expressing gratitude should be done frequently, not just while one is unhappy.

If you don’t know where to begin, you can start with saying a quick thank you for your food, clothing, and shelter. Since you are doing this to increase happiness, the habit is more important than the topic.

Here’s what I do, since smelling the roses doesn’t come naturally to me. On a regular basis, I express gratitude for all of the near misses in my daily life. My dog didn’t chase that jogger? Check. Spilled beverage didn’t ruin my paperwork? Check. Husband didn’t bring up the topic I asked him to avoid at a party? Check. You get the idea.

This leads us right into spirituality. Research has shown that those with strong faith or spiritual beliefs are happier. If you are part of a faith that you like, you could delve deeper. If aren’t finding meaning with your current method, you might consider changing congregations. If you don’t know what you believe, exploring different spiritual paths can be comforting as well as enlightening. The point is to connect with something outside of ourselves.

Another strategy to increase happiness is to think back on a time when you were happy or happiest. What were the elements of that time of your life? Can some be replicated now?

Suppose you recall being really happy at your cousin’s wedding. What enjoyable elements were present? The people you were with? Staying at a hotel? Dancing? After identifying this, you can add these as “essentials” to be enjoyed regularly. If you have adult ADHD, you may need to create a reminder to scan your weekly schedule to ensure it includes joyful activities.

Remember that suggestion from last week’s post about radical self-care? Take it seriously. Popular culture describes radical self-care as making a priority of stress reduction and engaging in enjoyable activities. It is moving self-care to the top of your to-do list. It means dropping everything and putting your needs first.

Why do it? It seems counterintuitive to do relaxing or interesting activities during a crisis. But radical self-care can break the cycle of obsessive thoughts and useless worry. It can restore balance to your thoughts and prevent erosion of your general health. Also, do you want your children to remember you as a depleted, frazzled parent with weak coping skills? Do you want them to think that is an appropriate response to life’s difficulties?

Look online for examples. The most important aspect is that it is individualized. Don’t just follow a list created by others. Do what speaks to YOU.

The bottom line is that you are going to a parent for a very long time. Your role will not end when your child turns eighteen, twenty-one, or even thirty, although your daily involvement will change. Making the effort to increase your happiness will maintain your health and improve your ability to problem solve, which will pay off for your entire family.

A longer version of this post appears in the April 2015 issue of Attention magazine. Join CHADD and receive every issue!
Join conversations about parenting kids with ADHD on Attention connection, your social network for all things ADHD!

Marie S. Paxson chairs the editorial advisory board of Attention magazine. A former member of the organization’s national board of directors, she is a past president of CHADD.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Managing Unhappiness

guest blog by Marie S. Paxson

Can you be the parent of a child with ADHD and still be happy?

Meeting attendance doubled when our CHADD chapter presented this topic. Ironically, without the coordinator’s expert leadership, it could have become one of our gloomiest meetings.

You may be surprised to learn that managing unhappiness is one of the keys to increasing happiness. As the parent of two young adults with ADHD, some of the lessons I’ve learned and insights I’ve gained about managing unhappiness may be helpful for you.

•    During difficult times, is aiming for happiness even realistic? Some things are just sad or upsetting. Learning to stay in uncomfortable moments is not instinctive. It was much easier to go to my favorite vices, like distracting myself by meddling, uninvited, into other people’s business. I had to learn techniques to “sit with the sadness.”

•    If you are in a truly miserable situation, learn about and practice radical self-care. You may want to tackle a problem immediately, but it is better to stabilize yourself before taking part in tough decisions or difficult conversations.

•    Connect with others in a similar situation. You will probably have to look outside your circle of friends who are raising neurotypical children. Having understanding and supportive friends provides many benefits. Make this a priority. One Mother’s Day, my best friend and I didn’t like how our teens were treating us. So, we went to a local restaurant for brunch together. Yes, it was odd being surrounded by happy moms and grandmoms receiving flowers and adulation from their families. But since that was not our experience, we celebrated our ability to rise above it all. Jill and I ended up giggling and feeling so grateful we could count on each other. (We met at a CHADD meeting, by the way.)

•    Adjust your expectations. I like the saying “Don’t go to the hardware store for a loaf of bread.” This means having reasonable expectations and not expecting actions that are beyond our children’s current capabilities. If our children will struggle with forgetfulness, lack of focus, or impulsive behavior, why do we get annoyed when they display these traits? Recognizing that they are a work in progress provides perspective. Realizing that they pay a bigger price than we do for their difficulties invites compassion.

•    Avoid braggy parents who have “perfect” children. You are NEVER stuck with these folks; you have choices. In their company, fake a lost phone or stomach distress. Get away from them as soon as you can. Sometimes braggers do this because they miscalculate their audience. Sometimes they are taking credit for their child’s accomplishments. Sometimes they are lying. The reasons don't matter. Just like baseball players don't swing the bat at every pitch, you don't have to listen to every story they share about their fabulous children.

As you add more happiness to your life, you will develop greater tolerance and may even appreciate other children’s accomplishments. But if you aren’t there yet, don’t make yourself miserable… RUN. As you are running, send the bragger a warm (not smug) thought. Sooner or later, all children make disappointing decisions and these parents do not have the coping skills or resilience that you have acquired.

•    Don’t overdo the parental sacrificing. All parents give up time, energy, and money. If you feel resentful about missing a favorite aspect of your life, that is a sign that you have scaled back too much.

Next Week: Becoming Happier

A longer version of this post appears in the April 2015 issue of Attention magazine. Join CHADD and receive every issue!
Join conversations about parenting kids with ADHD on Attention connection, your social network for all things ADHD!

Marie S. Paxson chairs the editorial advisory board of Attention magazine. A former member of the organization’s national board of directors, she is a past president of CHADD.