To the Mom With the ADHD Child

I don’t usually write super personal posts. I prefer to do research and give my readers as much information, tips and inspiration as I can.  I LOVE to make people smile.  Recently I saw a post on Facebook from a frazzled mother begging for someone to tell her that her ADHD child would grow up to be a productive, well adjusted adult.  I have ADHD.  I also have 2 boys with ADHD, so I figured I would share a little insight to help all of the moms out there pulling their hair out.

Some Reassurance

Before I get started with practical tips to help you out, I want to reassure you, your child will be okay. Having ADHD as a child is miserable, but having ADHD as an adult can actually be an asset.  As long as you learn to manage the energy and focus the energy on the good, you will be great.

As a child, you need to sit still and focus through hours of school, then you come home and have to sit still through hours of homework and then sit through dinner.  This is a recipe for disaster for someone with ADHD.  We need to MOVE. We need breaks in our focus and we need to answer at least a few of the random questions running through our heads. Young children do not understand how to verbalize this, and they understand even less how to manage it.  This makes for frustrated teachers, frustrated parents and frustrated children.

As an adult, your responsibilities are entirely different.  You need to be able to wear many hats, to switch focus many times a day, and to run around for most of the day.  Adults need to be able to get our work done, take care of children, keep the house in some semblance of order and make our spouse a priority.  Somewhere in there we also have to stuff in exercise and taking care of ourselves.  For someone with ADHD, this is an environment they thrive in.

Honestly most of my adult life I have had at least 2 jobs. Right now I have a full-time job as a railroad signalman, I write this blog, I just finished a book and plan on having a riding lesson journal and a mystery novel out by the end of the year.  I participate in one large mastermind group, one small mastermind and the ladies circle at my church.  Many people say “how do you get it all done?!?!”  the answer is ADHD.  I have too much energy, the ability to switch focus quickly and I have learned how to manage my brain for maximum effectiveness.  (Well most of the time anyway!)

 

Real Life Tips

My children have different degrees of ADHD, and between the three of us we have come up with some pretty good ways to manage our ADHD, becoming productive members of society and students with 4.0 averages.  In full disclosure, it took me till I was 35 and went back to college.  Thankfully my children figured out by their high school years.

The Homework Battle

“Sit there until it is done!” my dad bellowed at me again.  I stared down at the page, in 4 hours I had barely been able to finish 4 problems.  Guess I will be here all night, I thought with a sigh.  Then my brain went back to planning the layout of the barn I would build when I grew up.  

This was the scene in my house 5 days a week for many school years.  My parents sitting me at a desk and telling me to stay there until it was done.  It wasn’t until 7th grade when a very good teacher talked my parents into trying something different.  ADHD was not an official thing when I was a kid, but this teacher recognized my constant fidgeting and high energy and asked my parents to try a different tactic.  She told them to send me outside to play first, then ask me to do my homework.  It worked.  Just by burning off some extra energy I was able to focus better.

Here are some of the things that have helped one or all of us.

  • Get some exercise first. Sports, hiking, running, playing tag and pillow fights can all be used to burn off some energy before asking your child to concentrate.
  • Break it up.  Either by time or number of problems.  Something like complete these 15 math problems correctly and then you get 10 minutes of play.  If your kids are young  (under 12) PLAY! Make it fun.  Put your socks on and see who can slide the farthest across the hardwoods, have a dance party or have a mini Top Chef challenge.  Do this for a week and the homework gets done, and you all sleep better.
  • Be Okay with Movement. My youngest and I are pacers.  If we are on the phone, we are usually pacing in circles in the house somewhere. This drives my husband crazy but living with a house full of people with ADHD he has learned to accept it.  Accepting that movement is a natural part of your child’s personality will keep everyone happier.
  • Answer the Questions. Occasionally our brain gets stuck, we have heard some strange question or seen something that piqued our interest, and we can not get it out of our heads. Help your child by teaching them to research.  Books, Google, and libraries are all wonderful resources to someone with ADHD.
  • Give them a small notebook.  If they are old enough to write, give them a small notebook.  Tell them if they start to lose focus, write down the new topic that has invaded their brain in the notebook so they can come back to it later.  Sometimes just that few minutes to take a few notes on the new topic can refocus them.

The Bedtime Battle

Similar to the homework battle, the bedtime battle can be attributed to too much energy and a brain that is still whirring like crazy.  Some days they go to bed like angels, some days the demon invades.  I was a demon on more days than I would care to admit and bedtime can still be a tough thing for me and my boys.  We don’t always have the answers but here are some of the things that help us.

  • Hot tea or hot chocolate.  Both help to promote relaxation.
  • Brain Dumps. Grab a journal and dump every thought that comes into my head for 15 minutes.
  • PJs right before bed. Putting your PJs on right before bed gives the body a physical signal that it is time to go to bed.  This one will take a little while to work, but it will help.  So no hanging out in PJs unless it is time to go to bed.
  • Reading before bed.  Reading can be a great way to relax your child’s brain.  If your child can’t read yet, read to them, if they are learning you read a page and let your child read a page.
  • Create a short routine. Remember kids with ADHD have trouble focusing, so a routine can help, but only if you keep it short.

Give Yourself and Your Child Grace

I am not going to lie, even if you find some great ways to help your child, there are still going to be days you want to pull your hair out.  On the bad days, give yourself and your child a little grace.  No child will be perfect every day, no parent will be perfect every day.  Give yourself a break, do the best you can and everyone will survive.

A Blessing and A Curse

ADHD has been both a blessing and a curse in my life.  It allows me to switch my focus between many things and gives me plenty of energy to get it all done.  I will never have a desk job, I will never sit through a movie without doing something else at the same time but I have learned to embrace the good and accept the bad.

The one question I get asked more than any other is “How do you get so much done” the answer: I have ADHD and I know how to use it.

If you have found some things to help your child manage their ADHD please leave them in the comments to help all the other moms out there facing similar issues.

 

14 Comments

  1. Joleisa

    January 17, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    Michele thanks for this article that puts a good perspective on things. I think hearing it from ‘the horse’s mouth is actually why I appreciate this so much. As a teacher, I’ve had lots of theoretical knowledge about ADHD and how best to operate as a teacher who shows understanding for my students with ADHD.
    I have a question though… Do you think kids with the condition should be taught in ‘regular’ classes with mainstream students? Bearing in mind the need to keep moving and let off steam etc.
    In my own experience, we are expected to run our lessons in such a way that they are organised etc with a smooth flow. However I teach a lot of students with varying difficulties that I’m to make adjustments for in the same room! I think the behaviours exhibited by some students with ADHD cause some other students to want to ‘try it on’ in terms of their own behaviour! When they are challenged, they point out to you, the teacher, that you let so n so get away with it, so it makes it seem as if I’m unfair. Please give me your take on this.
    Lovely article by the way, and thanks for sharing.

    1. Michele Cook

      January 17, 2017 at 5:08 pm

      Thanks for the comment Jo!
      To answer your question, I think an entire revamp of our entire school system is needed. It is not fair to a teacher to ask them to teach large groups of children with varying abilities and needs. ADHD kids can be very disruptive in a traditional classroom setting, I am positive I was, and the teachers had no idea what to do with me. I aced tests but caused a ruckus, so I was learning, but at the same time I was preventing other kids from learning. By the time my boys went to school there was much more research available and the teachers were slightly better equipped to handle it. My older boy was the more disruptive of the two, and to channel his energy they would have him tutor other children in different classrooms. There were a few other kids that were also afforded the same luxury.

      Really I would love to see classrooms with much smaller groups and much more interactive. I would love to see a 20 minute sit down geometry lesson followed up with a pool game to show how the angles worked. I would like to see a science lesson about viscosity and then have a cooking class with delicious sauces to show the differences (and teach kids to multiply and divide fractions). I want kids to hear about history in vivid detail followed by a trip to a local historic site. I want kids to have a fake stock and investment portfolio to learn how the stock market and interest works.

      Our school system needs serious revamping, not just for ADHD kids, but for all kids.

      Should you have to try to teach us high energy little monsters in the same class room as the sweet little girl who sits quietly and does her work. No, its not fair to either of them. Do we live in a world where we can do that, not at the moment.

      The best advice I can give you is to give those little monsters special challenges. If you need help with a lesson (or even if you don’t) ask them to do a little research for you, bring your crocheting in to keep idle hands busy, or maybe have a few exercises for the whole class geared to the high energy kids. A math relay (small teams, finish 10 problems and run a lap around the room and pass the baton to the next kid) or something like that might help them concentrate and burn off some energy, and be a bunch of fun for all the kids.

      This video from boyinaband really hits home with me and my crew. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xe6nLVXEC0

  2. Lenore

    January 22, 2017 at 10:20 am

    Michele, thanks for these words. I have never been diagnosed with a adhd but sometimes wonder if I have it because I have so many of the symptoms. So much of what you say hits home and I too seemed to have managed to channel my energy and endless streaming in my brain as an adult. My heart goes out to kids being in school all day. Sitting still and trying to absorb lessons all day is tortuous. We need to change the way we do things.

    1. Michele Cook

      January 22, 2017 at 7:01 pm

      Hi Lenore,
      Thank you for the kind words. I do hope that more schools change the way the teach, not just for the ADHD child, but for all the kids who learn differently. There are tons of options and learning shouldn’t be one size fits all.
      Thanks again for the comment!

  3. Kelly

    February 15, 2017 at 8:40 am

    Thank you for this article! I have 3 yes I said 3 children with ADHD and most days are a struggle for us. We have found and use many of the tricks that you have listed. I hope other parents and educators use some of these also. They reallly do work!

    1. Michele Cook

      February 15, 2017 at 12:31 pm

      Wow 3 little ones with ADHD, must be such a struggle to herd everyone in the same direction! I am glad you are finding great ways to focus their energy on the good. It really can be a blessing when you are older, but ohhh so challenging as a kid!

  4. Amelia leavell

    February 17, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    An absolute tremendously great read Ms. Cook! I loved the part about “Real Life Tips”, everybody’s ADHD gauges differently, most parents don’t realize this because they are typically consumed with other more stressful matters. All people are different but the ideas you have posted her are absolutely amazing. I’m definitely going to have to get try out the bedtime methods suggested.

    1. Michele Cook

      February 17, 2017 at 9:47 pm

      Thanks so much! I hope those bed time tips help you out 😀

  5. Bree

    February 20, 2017 at 9:28 am

    This is was so helpful! I’ve shared it a few times now. My son has combination ADHD and I was already mindful of some of your suggestions but a lot of things I’ve never considered (i.e. carrying a journal to brain dump & maybe I should invest in fidgets for homework time). I appreciate your insight. It’s valuable <3

    1. Michele Cook

      February 20, 2017 at 4:33 pm

      Thank you for the comment Bree. If you have found anything else to be helpful please share. I know there are a lot of moms out there pulling their hair ou trying to figure out what to do with these overly energetic love bugs!

  6. Sherry

    March 5, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    Thank you so much for this article Michele! Your tips are very helpful. I suggested my son’s after school program allow the kids to have some exercise before starting their homework after reading this. He’s been struggling with completing his homework there then I have to struggle with him at home.
    He’s 8 and sometimes has emotional outbursts with crying and yelling when he doesn’t get his way or the routine changes. He has learned to self regulate so he can recover on his own, but his behavior has been disrespectful at times. Once his mind is set that what he thinks is right he refuses to listen to correction. Do you have any suggestions that could help?

    1. Michele Cook

      March 5, 2017 at 3:44 pm

      Hi Sherry,
      First thanks for the compliments on the article. Second, before I give you any other advice I suggest you read this post about self-care for real people. I can hear the exhaustion and frustration in your message and I know if you don’t take some time to take care of yourself, you won’t have the energy to help your son.

      To help with your son I think you need to take 3 steps.
      1. When he is calm, ask him how he feels during these episodes. If he just tells you it feels bad (because it does) ask him to try and put it into words better to help you understand it. If he starts to get upset, soothe him and tell him it’s okay, you are just trying to understand. What I think is happening is his brain is stuck and he can’t get it unstuck so he gets frustrated and upset. At 8 he might not have figured out how to vocalize this yet so giving him a chance when he is calm may help.

      2. After he explains it to you, come up with a plan. You can likely see the episode coming, so make a plan with him that when you see it coming, you are going to give him a warning. You can use something simple and silly like “Purple playdoh!” so that he knows what it is about, but it doesn’t embarrass him if you are out in public. You should also come up with a consequence to his actions during this conversation.

      3. If he gets into full on fit mode, you are going to have to be strong. This will be the hardest part. Pushing him and yelling at him will not get his brain unstuck. You have to be a wall he keeps running into. Calm, solid, unemotional (you can cry later I promise!). The less reactive you become the quicker he will figure out a way to get himself out of it. Don’t remind him of the upcoming punishment, of the pain he is causing you or anything else. Just “No sir” is enough. You basically have to ignore the emotional side, showing your emotion will just feed his. This part is hard!! The first time it may take an hour of you ignoring the tantrum before he quits, but the next time will be less and the time after less than that.
      After he calms, you can dole out the agreed upon punishment.

      My father used to look at me and say “are you done?” after I had been at it a while. Grrrrr I knew it was over then, that he would wait me out and I would lose. Bless the patience of that man! After a while, it just took a look, and I knew I was beat.

      The good news is this phase does not last forever. Once your son finds his own ways to unstick his brain, or at least verbalize his feelings, he will move on. He will grow out of it. Take care of yourself, stand strong, and try very hard not to react.

      I wish you the best with him,
      Michele

  7. Christia

    March 23, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Over the TOP helpful!!! I also have 2 boys with ADHD and sometimes I am at a loss. I am a RN and do research every single night especially on nights where my voice was raised and I lost my cool. I also struggle with my husband not fully understanding ADHD and understanding that they learn differently. He thinks they should be like our over the top amazing people pleasing daughter. She will bust her tail to make everyone happy and my boys are just happy if their name is on the paper, written somewhat legible. I love reading post like yours because it gives me hope and first hand solutions. So thank you so much

    1. Michele Cook

      March 23, 2017 at 6:21 pm

      Hi Christia,
      I am so glad you found this post helpful. Dealing with ADHD can be so frustrating, on both sides of the equation! If you ever have any tips for my readers please share, we can all use a little help!

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