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Family and Relationships

Family and Relationships

Possible Ways to Communicate the Impact of ADHD on Your Life to Those Around You

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Michele Borba discusses her suggestions for setting realistic expectations with loved ones

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    Personal Stories From Families With ADHD
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    Kirk Martin and Elaine Taylor-Klaus share their personal experiences with ADHD

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    Celebrating Daily Winning Moments
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    Elaine Taylor-Klaus discusses how she celebrates the positive traits and behaviors in her children

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    Making Moments With Your ADHD Family
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    Kirk Martin discusses the impact ADHD has had on his family and how he has embraced his family’s dynamic

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    Nurturing Your Marriage
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    Kirk Martin discusses steps he’s taken to work toward strengthening his relationship with his spouse

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    Setting Expectations
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    Michele Borba discusses her suggestions for setting realistic expectations with loved ones

Family and Relationships

NO is Not a Bad Word By Kirk Martin

One of the many reasons I experience stress is that my life can be hectic – it is a non-stop rush from getting kids ready in the morning to getting them to bed at night.

Personally, I have felt at times that my frantic schedule is not sustainable. Something has to give. I always fear that it will be my patience or worse my kids’ emotional state that will suffer.

It is at that point that I remember the power of just saying “no.” After all, I am the adult. I must take ownership and take back control of my family’s schedule. If my focus is on trying to keep up with the Jones’, then the Jones family is controlling my life.

What are your top priorities every day or week? What is most important for your kids’ emotional, physical and intellectual growth? Determine what is critical and focus on those two or three things.

Then try saying no to pressures from family, neighbors and society. Your children do not have to participate in 16 different extracurricular activities. If you find yourself exhausted or even resentful because you’ve turned into a taxi driver, then maybe it is time you need to make a choice. Change is hard, but I have never regretted slowing life down.

Side note: I also try to remember to say YES to priorities I value. Every Tuesday night, we put on pajamas and have pancakes for dinner. Every Friday night, we watch a movie (kids AND parents get to rotate picking movies) and pop popcorn.

These times are anchors in your schedule that are always set. So, if competing interests come up, you just say, “Nope, Tuesday night is family night.” These traditions are always issue-free. No matter what your kids have done, you stick with these traditions because they build relationships…and also provide a time for you to laugh and relax.

Because moms often struggle to fit their own activities into the schedule, I urge you to create a couple of your own traditions, just for you. Monday is ME day. No matter what else is going on, pick a day and take thirty minutes that is your own – every week.

Interviewing and Securing a Babysitter By Elaine Taylor-Klaus, CPCC, PCC

Whenever I see a pregnant woman eager to deliver, I often caution her – pregnancy is the easiest babysitting she’ll ever get!
Hiring a babysitter is one of many steps I took as a parent in learning to “Let Go” (which in my opinion is ultimately what parenting is about). You want to make safe, calculated choices without making yourself crazy. After all, people have been taking care of each other’s kids for decades!

So what do I look for in a babysitter? For an occasional night out, I do not need Mrs. Doubtfire. My criterion is someone who is going to keep my child safe, happy, clean, fed and ideally well rested. For the moms and dads I work with, I suggest looking for someone who has cared for children in some way in her life – as an older sibling, a camp counsellor, or even a lifeguard. While safety is always the top priority, there’s nothing better than a playful babysitter and nothing worse than a mean one. You’re going out to have fun – let your child have a good time, too!

Once you have someone identified, take the time to set them up for success. If your child has difficulty with separation, I recommend inviting the sitter over to play, but don’t leave the house. If they seem like they click, then plan a short outing during the day. Once you feel like you have a winner, go for the gold and plan an evening out.

Get the sitter to the house at least 30 minutes early so that you are not rushing through instructions. Write everything down as specifically as possible – what and when to feed the child(ren), what time to put them to bed, do they sleep with the lights on, etc. In my experience with families, the more parents do ahead of time, the less stressed their children will be. Since babysitting is not a full-time job, set reasonable expectations. If your child(ren) is safe and happy enough, consider it a success!

Depending on the age & stage of your child(ren), here are some guiding principles to consider:

  • Hire slowly and fire quickly. Take the time to check references and talk to several people to find someone you feel comfortable with. If your gut tells you there is something not quite right, trust it and move on!
  • Think about how often you’re comfortable leaving your child(ren) with a babysitter. We try not to go out two nights in a row unless we must attend school-related events, or our kids are with friends or family at least one night.
  • Respect your child’s routine, and work around it. When possible, have a sitter come in time for your child to get comfortable, but be clear about bedtimes and evening rituals. With kids age 4 or older, you can enlist help in “training” the babysitter with your routines.
  • This may not be right for you, but you can think about paying your kids for their part in a babysitting success. Fifty cents can be a powerful motivator to empower your child to feel like s/he has a job, too. This works great with siblings – all kids get paid (differential amounts) when the evening goes smoothly!
“Embracing a New Normal”: Communicating with Family and Friends about ADHD By Elaine Taylor-Klaus, CPCC, PCC

I will never forget that conversation with my sister. “You just don’t understand,” I heard myself say. “It’s not that simple.” I remember it like yesterday, though it was more than a decade ago. Honestly, she was trying to help and didn’t mean to be making things harder for me. But I was tired of feeling judged, and she really DIDN’T understand. It turns out, I didn’t fully understand, either.

And then it hit me. She couldn’t understand because I had not explained it well; and, I had not explained it well because I hadn’t accepted it myself.

After years of trying to “normalize” my child’s behavior, I finally accepted that I had a special needs child. Don’t get me wrong, I had been managing those special needs for years – an endless stream of therapies, nutrition, doctors, medication, etc. But I had not fully come to terms with what it meant for our family. I had been treating the symptoms, hiding from the stigma of clinical diagnosis. That denial prevented me from gaining the support that I needed most, the understanding and acceptance of my family and friends.

From that day forward, I stepped out of the veritable closet of denial. I began to talk honestly and openly about my children’s challenges, and enlisted support without apology (at least, I tried). I also began to help my children understand their challenges so that they could be a part of their solutions.

Effectively, we created a “new normal” in our family: we celebrated our differences, instead of constantly trying to hide it or pretend they weren’t there. We began to educate grandparents, and pay attention to how to help our kids be successful, instead of putting them in lose-lose situations and then getting upset that they were having trouble.

Now, I can’t say that my entire family has become enthusiastically supportive – they have their own issues of denial to contend with. But when I gave up the ghost of perfect children and began to accept the children I had – for all their strengths and foibles – I was able to ask for what I needed from my family, and set my children up for success.

One more thing: it was liberating, by the way. I highly recommend it.

Fun Ways to Encourage Success at Home and in the Community By Michele Borba, EdD

In my experience, some of the most energetic, passionate and fun-loving families are those living with ADHD. Don’t get me wrong, it can be overwhelming for parents and families of children with ADHD.  But to be honest, all families experience their own unique challenges. However, I have always been impressed with a parent’s desire to roll their sleeves up with me and find creative solutions to keep their families functioning without losing what makes them so special. Over the years, I have modified some of my favorite classroom activities for the home. Below are some ideas that the families I have worked with have found to be helpful:

Things to Try at Home:

  • Create a “Just in Case” box with quieter more soothing activities – such as puzzles, an Etch A Sketch, or blocks – to give “just in case”
  • Set up opportunities to release energy (a basketball hoop, punching bag, or weights)
  • Use “On Your Mark” to build in time for your child to process your requests: Say, “On your mark. I need you to brush your teeth.” Say, “Get set!” Then give a moment to think. Say, “Go!” Repeat the task again, “Go brush your teeth!”

Things to Try in Your Community:

  • Find a sport outlet such as soccer, swimming, track and field (where everyone runs as a pack and are less competitive) instead of being a shortstop on a baseball team (where the child must wait for the ball and stand out).
  • If your child loves to be active and move around, find an interest tailored to your child’s passion movement such as playing the drum, marching band, skateboarding, scouting, rollerblading, or snowboarding.
Impulsivity and Friendships By Michele Borba, EdD

In talking with families, I have heard heartbreaking stories of children that have been picked last in gym class or left alone on the playground. As a parent of a child with ADHD, you may be wondering if your child’s impulsive tendencies might play a role in how they are viewed by their peers or friends. When talking to moms and dads whose children have experienced negative social repercussions due to impulsivity, I offer these suggestions that I have adapted based on my experience as a special education teacher:

Friendship Ideas to Try:

  • Some kids with ADHD have a tendency to be impulsive; invite “calmer” friends that may not increase these tendencies.
  • Reduce the number of playmates and start with only one.
  • Find a pal that matches his/her abilities. (Impulsive kids may choose younger friends that may be more accepting and at the child’s developmental level).
  • Decrease playtime to an hour instead of a half-day.
  • Befriend parents of your child's pals. Let them know that they may call you if any issues arise.
  • Be an active participant in play dates and be ready to intervene before there is a problem. When visiting take a quick scan of the room then ask the parent if you might move any fragile or valuable items to an out-of-reach area.

In my experience as a teacher and parent, I know parents who try their best to celebrate the things about their children that make them unique and special. I have chatted with parents who believe that their child’s impulsivity helps them to be creative. If you nurture the positive, it could enhance your child’s self-esteem and help overcome the challenges of ADHD.