Do more of one good thing in 2015!

As we break out our new calendars, most of us will review the past year and think about what we want to do differently in 2015. We often set our objectives based on what didn’t work out the way we had hoped in 2014. I would like to suggest a different approach for you and your family that focuses on successes. Instead of creating resolutions focused on change, what about aiming to more of one good thing from 2014?Making the most out of 2014

Take a minute to think back over the past year. What were some things that you really enjoyed? What were some things that made your son or daughter happy? Savor these memories and then write them down.

Next, create a quiet time to repeat this exercise with your family. Together, encourage each person to pick one thing from their list that they would like to repeat again in 2015, perhaps more regularly. Maybe you went on a great family hike or bike ride; maybe you went to a movie together or played a fun game; maybe you cooked a delicious meal together. Create a family list of these choices (a great opportunity for artistic or computer skills!) and post it in a common place so you can see it as a reminder, even in passing, as the days fly by.My goals list concepts of target and objective

The new year is also a good time to check in on the goals for the school year with your child or teen that you made in September. Most ADHD kids will benefit from a re-evaluation at this time of year. Make a separate time from the one above for this conversation.

First, find the document with the hopes and plans for this year. Secondly, BEFORE you comment about whatever progress or setbacks have occurred, ask your son or daughter for their opinion. Then, repeat what you heard them say and ask them for any possible modifications. Finally, now you can make A FEW suggestions, remembering to stay as positive as possible. If goals have been met, praise-praise-praise those achievements and talk about how to maintain such great progress. Again, write these new ideas down, so you can refer to them at some time in the future.

My best wishes for a happy, healthy and peaceful new year to all!

De-stress your holiday season: SIMPLIFY

Every year, at this time in December, my clients and my friends are usually very stressed. Some people have a long list of gifts to buy and wait until the last minute to do their shopping. Some people schedule back-to-back social plans and celebrate with gusto. Other folks dislike the holidays altogether and would prefer to hide in bed under the covers until January. In general, everyone seems to be in a state of perpetual motion, running from one thing to the next, trying to get things done and seeing family and friends. This pace is not only challenging to Stress and relaxmaintain but also especially hard for kids and adults with ADHD who get easily overwhelmed, even without the holiday fervor. How can you create experience that is fun, rewarding and calmer for you, your family and your ADHD child or teen?

Start with a mindset of “SIMPLIFY, not COMPLEX-IFY”. Usually the holiday overwhelm comes from two main sources: leaving things until the last minute and trying to do too much. Let’s face it—everything takes longer than we think it does. If you start planning your tasks with that mentality and give yourself more time to do things, the process will go more smoothly. Here are some suggestions for addressing this:

1. Make a master list and then break it down into shorter ones, with no more than 3-4 different places in one outing. Map out where you need to go and group places together than are near each other.

Businesswoman present2. Teach your ADHD kids to do this too by explaining what, why and how you are doing things when you go out together to run errands.

3. Schedule in a break for hot chocolate or tea to break up the trip.

4. Be sure to cross things off your shorter and master lists when they are completed. You can do this yourself or ask your kids to assist you. It’s easier to see your accomplishments this way.

Secondly, reduce the number of social engagements. The holiday season is usually jammed packed with things to do, people to see and places to go.   As parents, we have to take into consideration how much our ADHD children and teens can actually tolerate, process and enjoy. Sometimes you have to curb your own desire and capacity to do several things in a day in order to help regulate what your kids can really manage. Part of the holiday stress for ADHD kids and families comes from having too many of these activities in a row and not enough ‘down time’ to process them. When your ADHD daughter has a meltdown at 6 p.m. because she doesn’t like the macaroni and cheese, it probably has nothing to do with the food and everything to do with unloading steam from holding it together for so long throughout the day.

To cut down on the “squeeze it all in” mentality, you can:A busy calendar.

1. Sit down with your family and decide how many things in a day people really can handle during the holiday season.

2. Talk about what constitutes ”down time” and make sure it includes something that is settling rather than stimulating. Limit individual technology use and encourage quiet activities including playing games, reading and listening to music. Maybe watch a family movie. Write down these ideas and post them on the refrigerator so people can refer to them when they are most needed.

Good luck and Happy Holidays to All!Abstract Happy Holidays Background

The Myth of Multi-Tasking

Recently, I attended the Learning and the Brain Conference in Boston where I listened to many wise people talk about how our society is under siege from “information overload.” Daniel Goleman, author of  several books including “Focus” and “Emotional Intelligence” mentioned that we process 5 times as more information today than just 20 years ago.       Multi-tasking contributes directly to this sense of being overwhelmed and over-extended.Business woman multitasking

How many of us can relate to the following scenario? We are in the kitchen at 6 p.m. trying to prepare dinner while we are talking on the phone and looking at our texts when the Beep comes in. Meanwhile, our teenage son is watching television while doing his math homework and checking Facebook. We are all hijacked by our devices into thinking that we can do all of these tasks simultaneously. However, our brains are not fooled. While we seem to be over-activated and addicted to the constant stimulation, our stress hormones rise with every text or email alert, exhaust the connections between different parts of our brain and increase our susceptibility to illness, accidents and inattentiveness.

What can we do about this unhealthy trend that promotes disconnection from ourselves and from each other? Reduce your own multi-tasking and help your kids cut back too. Here are a few suggestions:Businessman overworked at office

1. Make a conscious effort to do one thing at a time. First, this means noticing when you are multi-tasking and pausing to stop engaging in one of your activities. Examples would be NO texting while driving (a cause of over 300,000 accidents last year) and NO texting or taking phone calls during family meals. Recently I saw someone talking on his cell phone when he was biking–YIKES! How about using the time when you are doing chores or helping your kids with homework to connect with each other and take a technology break? It’s not easy to do but the pay-offs will be increased sanity and calm for you, for them and for your household. (By the way, listening to music while doing something, interestingly enough, didn’t seem to be included in the multi-tasking/information overload processes.)

2. Teach your children to turn off or put away their cell phones when they are doing homework. Set up a tech-free study period followed by a time-limited break that could include checking for texts, Snapchats, Facebook messages, etc. I recommend starting with 45 minutes for middle and high school teens for working and 10 minutes for the break. Use a timer for the break to mark its beginning and ending. For elementary school children, 20-30 minutes for studying and 15 minutes for a break seems to work well. Also, help your kids navigate fewer open tabs on their browser too so that the study period is really productive.

3. Create some time for conversations with your children when you are not distracted by your phone. It doesn’t feel good to anyone to have someone turn their attention away from you to their buzzing phone (texts, calls, emails, etc.) while you are in the middle of saying something that you think is important. This may look like multi-tasking but it’s really more like dismissing: you turn away from the person next to you towards the digital universe.

Talk to your kids about the benefits of doing fewer things simultaneously, even if it feels weird to try it. When you model this change in behavior for them and stick by the guidelines yourself that you want them to follow, you decrease the information overload and build cognitive strengths like improved attention and memory. It takes fortitude and persistence, so start slowly but don’t give up!!