Counseling 101: Supporting your ADD/ADHD child.

Picture this: you’re driving your child to his third day of school. The day started off like most other days—you struggled to wake little Johnny, he stumbled aimlessly around his room for what seems like hours before you finally went in there to make sure he didn’t need help finding the kitchen. Miraculously, he made it to the breakfast table where he stood next to his chair and picked all the marshmallows out of his bowl of Lucky Charms. It was only when you were waiting in the carpool line that you realized he had two different shoes on. Oh well, you think to yourself. He was fine last time this happened! This sound familiar to anyone? I think it’s safe to say that 99% of parents have been in this situation with their child. However, when this type of inattentive or hyperactive behavior begins to interfere with a child’s academic, social, and family life, a larger problem may be to blame.

It seems as though every “difficult” kid is being diagnosed with ADD or ADHD these days. According to Healthline Network, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) says that 5% of American children have ADHD while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts that number at 11%. That’s an increase of 42% in only eight years. Crazy, right? So what the heck is going on? There are LOTS of theories about the prevalence of ADD/ADHD being on the rise in the U.S. including additives in our foods, air pollution, genetics, and my personal favorite, bad parenting (sarcasm…). I work with children who have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD every day and their parents are some of the most attentive, nurturing, encouraging, and consistent parents that I’ve ever come across. Parenting has little to do with it if we’re talking about true Attention Deficit Disorder. It may, however, have something to do with it if a child doesn’t listen to mom because she never follows through on behavioral consequences. Now, I’ll step off my soapbox and throw some facts about ADD/ADHD at you…

  • ADHD has a male to female incidence ratio of 6:1.
  • Secondary problems of language learning, visual-motor skills, handwriting, and self-control often coexist with ADHD.
  • Symptoms of ADHD typically first appear between the ages of 3 and 5.
  • Boys and girls display very different ADHD symptoms. Boys’ symptoms often include acting out, hyperactivity such as running and hitting, lack of focus, and physical aggression. Girls’ symptoms often appear more internal: being withdrawn, low self-esteem, anxiousness, intellectual impairment and difficulty in the classroom, tendency toward daydreaming, and verbal aggression such as teasing or taunting.
  • In early childhood, kiddos with ADHD often display a difficult temperament and sensitivity to typical stimuli. They also may have had a confused wake/sleep cycle.

Whatever your child’s specific situation may be, if you are concerned about him or her displaying symptoms/behaviors associated with ADHD, get it checked out! Many health care providers are able to diagnose ADHD, but use good judgement. We utilize standardized rating scales and computerized assessments, reports from teachers and other caregivers, a thorough developmental history, and a diagnostic interview with both the parents and the child in order to determine if a child has ADHD. Make sure that whomever evaluates your child obtains all the necessary information needed to make (or not) a diagnosis. In the mean-time, here are the 10 Golden Rules for Parents of Kids with ADD according to Dr. Russell Barkley:

  1. Make the rules specific and clear—post them in writing.
  2. Use rewards that are powerful and meaningful to the child.
  3. Give feedback often… let them know how they’re doing!
  4. Help them anticipate and plan for what’s coming up.
  5. Expect that they will have good days and bad days.
  6. Use positives and praise more than negatives… or punishments.
  7. Keep in mind that we are dealing with a biological problem… NOT a character defect!
  8. “Act—don’t yak!” don’t talk too much, respond with behavior.
  9. Maintain a sense of humor… be patient!
  10. Forgive your child AND yourself… you are all in this together, and trying your best.

The hurried child: Are you willing to swim upstream?

As August moves forward, school settles into a familiar rhythm and the pace of family life quickens. School. Practices. Foreign languages. Clubs. Tutors. Private lessons. Games. Church activities. Homework. And the list goes on…and on…and, well, you get the picture. Our homes ring with the words, “Hurry up, we’ll be late” and we rush our kids from one activity to the next. We zip through the drive-thru and throw processed food at our kids as they attempt to finish homework in the backseat. We sacrifice their nutrition and our own sanity to the rush of one more practice or game or commitment. As parents, we have a choice to make: do we follow along with our hurried culture and sign our children up for yet one more activity (who said peer pressure vanished with high school?!) or, do we swim upstream?

Many modern day American parents have fallen victim to this underlying system of beliefs: My children deserve to be happy and successful. It is my job to make them happy and successful. If I give my child more “opportunities” (also known as classes, lessons, tutors, etc.) to obtain experience and knowledge they will be more likely to grow up to be happy and successful and I will have done my job. If we (and I definitely include myself here!) as adults recall the most happy, carefree days of our own childhood it is likely that those memories do not involve structured, organized “opportunities”, but rather (gasp!) unstructured free play with friends and/or siblings. Our children today are stressed-out, over-scheduled, and under-played.

Research is overwhelmingly in support of slowing down the pace of our children’s daily lives and of giving them back the chance to get bored, to find something to do on their own and to relish in pretend play. I could name book after book written by prestigious authors who support this notion, but, at the end of the day it comes down to this: Are we, as parents, willing to swim upstream? It is hard work. It can be exhausting. It is not fun or easy to hold to a different set of beliefs from our culture (pesky peer pressure again!). Are we willing to stand our ground and say “no” to countless “opportunities” that present themselves to us time and time again? Are we willing to listen to our kids bickering and fighting as they attempt to plow through their own boredom to find something to do? It is far easier to sit in the bleachers checking your own email as your child runs up and down the basketball court than to stick it out at home on a Saturday morning as your child struggles to find a new mode of entertainment. Remember, we have created this culture of hurriedness for our children and they will have to “detox” and adjust as we slow the pace.

Okay, you are still with me so I will assume you might be willing to swim upstream. How do we do this in a practical way?

  • Just say NO! Limit your children to one or maybe two activities at a time, depending on their age. If it is soccer season and your child really wants to be on the team, go for it! But let that be the activity for that season. I will warn you, and I speak from experience here, this is hard. There will be times when you think you are depriving your child of the chance to be the next Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan or Julie Andrews before he or she turns 10. You worry that you are not helping your child find his or her “thing.” Hang in there. It gets easier.
  • Unplug on a regular basis. Have technology-free time as a  family: play a board game together, go for a walk, collect items and make a collage or sculpture, take turns asking each other “what if” questions (What if you could jump into a book…which book would you jump into and why?), bake something yummy and share it with a neighbor.
  • Make family dinners a priority. The research here is so strong! Families who eat a meal together on a regular basis have kids who perform better in school and hold up under peer pressure when it comes to big stuff like drugs, alcohol, and sex.
  • Fight the urge to plan every moment. Allow for chunks of time in your child’s day that are not filled with activities and events.
  • Resist the urge to buy every latest and greatest toy or electronic gadget. Provide your child with toys that encourage open-ended play: blocks, blank paper and crayons/paints/markers, play-doh or clay, dress up clothes, boxes of varying sizes that can become anything, etc.
  • Pay attention to your child. Ask your child which activity he or she would most like to engage in right now. Watch for signs of your child being overwhelmed or stressed-out (fatigue, anxiety, irritability, poor sleep habits) and be prepared to scale

Brené Brown: Why Your Critics Aren’t The Ones Who Count

In her 99U talk—Why Your Critics Aren’t the Ones Who Count—Dr. Brené Brown gets personal and shares how she struggled in the wake of her success as she dealt with various, personal attacks wielded by critics in the public arena. Similar to how most of us would respond, Brené was devastated by the undeservedly negative criticism, yet it was precisely at this darkest time when she stumbled upon the following quote that radically changed her thinking and, as a result, changed her life. In her video Brené reveals what she ultimately learned about herself as well as life lessons—guidance that may be of benefit to us all.

THE MAN IN THE ARENA
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

~Excerpt from the Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic” delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France on April 23, 1910.~

Brené’s Final Thoughts:  

  1. It’s not about winning or losing. It’s about showing up and being seen.
  2. If you’re going to show up and be seen, you will be criticized. That is the guarantee and the only certainty you have. So, you have to decide at that moment if courage is a value that you hold because criticism is a natural consequence.
  3. Brene’s philosophy about criticism—To the critics: If you’re not putting yourself on the line and just talking about how I could do it better, I’m in no way interested in your feedback. PERIOD.

It’s so scary to show up, it feels dangerous to be seen. It’s terrifying, but it is not as scary, dangerous, or terrifying as getting to the end of our lives and thinking: What if I would have shown up…What would have been different?

5 (Psychologically Beneficial) Reasons to Make Love to Your Husband Tonight

We have all been there – it has been THE longest day at work and you came home to cook dinner, give baths, do homework with the kids, and clean up.  You are utterly exhausted and you finally get your head on the pillow fully expecting to go into a sleep coma for the next 8 hours when you feel your husband curl up next to you with his signature “let’s get it on” move. You respond in the same way your husband has heard so many times before, “Honey, I’m so tired, later, I promise.” Your husband rolls over, disappointed.

This scenario is so common place in many marriages and relationships.  I hear this story in my office with struggling couples all of the time.  Despite the overwhelming research about the benefits of sex in a marriage and how healthy marriages require intimacy, over and over again we choose to forego sex because we are tired.  The truth is-we ARE tired.  More and more we add to our plates in order to keep up with the pace of today’s society.  We prioritize the children and work and church and friends and family but don’t prioritize our sexual relationships with our spouses.  Genetically our husbands are more likely to be ready to “go” despite how overworked they may have been that day.  So what is the difference? Why is it so much easier for us, as women, to put it off? Well, we are built differently than men are.  For many of us it takes much more intentionality than it does for our husbands.

So, why? You’re clearly worn out, burned out, and have another full day of the same tomorrow! Why choose sex over sleep tonight? Here are some good reasons to give in and enjoy rather than call it a night, even for the busiest of us.

  1. Ladies, when your husband is getting sex on a regular basis he is like a well-oiled machine. He can literally see the world more clearly.  He will be more willing to help out and he will take on the world with a new attitude.  Men feel like they can take on any obstacle when they know that their wife finds them sexually attractive and “wants” them.  A positive outlook on life can be life changing for the both of you.
  2. Sex improves your libido. When you have sex with your husband you will eventually begin to desire sex more often.  Remind yourself how good it feels to make love to your husband regularly by starting somewhere, tonight.
  3. If you are tired, having sex will assist in getting you a better night’s sleep. It is easy to lay in bed and start thinking about the day you had and all of the things that you have to do the next day, these anxious thoughts are very likely to keep you up at night and disturb your sleep.  Sex has the opposite effect on you – it relaxes your body and therefore allows for better sleep.
  4. It reduces your stress level. Studies show that having sex lowers stress related blood pressure.  So a bit of fun under the sheets may actually help you deal with that busy next day better than if you skipped it.
  5. Sex makes you feel better about yourself. Some psychologists say that regular sex even improves your self-esteem.  Naturally, feeling wanted and desired by somebody you love and care for improves positive feelings about yourself.

So go ahead, give it a roll in the sheets tonight and take a look at the benefits it will have on you and your marriage.