To Time Out or Not to Time Out?

Many parents of ADHD children and teens come into my office and report that nothing really works in terms of discipline and consequences. “My son just
doesn’t care what we take away” or “my daughter laughs when we ground her.” While all kids balk at rules sometimes, those with ADHD, because of their ADHD, seem to do this more often and louder. To be successful at reining in and re-directing undesirable behaviors in ADHD kids, parents not only have to be incredibly patient but alsod334ff08-a746-41e8-9e04-51c5ac55cad1 consistent, clear and calm. From this firm ground, you can then make well-considered decisions about the rapidly changing emotional meltdowns and behavioral infractions you encounter with your child.

Today’s parents have, in general, moved away from physical punishment such as spanking to using Time Outs. But Time Outs still focus on the “wrong-ness” of the action. Time Outs seem to give parents and children a break when they most need it and emotions are running high. But, most kids experience them as punishment which makes them feel worse about themselves. They frequently feel like they are bad people who are engaging in bad behaviors that, because of their ADHD, they often can’t control. In addition, Time Outs usually don’t teach emotional regulation because learning this key executive functioning skill requires interaction not isolation. Kids benefit from discussing ways of managing big feelings and getting help using these techniques at times when they are the hardest to implement. Of course, a child in Time Out will eventually calm down but they usually don’t come away from the experience with the necessary skills they will need the next time they get triggered and have a meltdown.

I believe that people need some separation from each other when emotions getZur Weißglut bringen high but this separation has to be negotiated and agreed upon before it is implemented. This means making a plan together for those times when things get heated or out of control that works well for everyone. Imposing a physical separation such as sending your son to his room when he is in a meltdown may not be the most effective solution for him even though it would give you some relief. He may need a quiet few moments with you on the couch rubbing his head and reading a book. You may need 20 minutes alone in your room with some deep breathing or mindless television. So, I like to advocate for Time Apart Together: a pre-negotiated break from the problematic interactions that doesn’t banishment your ornery teen to his room out of mutual anger and frustration.

The Time Apart Together System (TATS) is based on creating an environment that teaches self-management through collaboration when people are not upset. This technique relies on the parent-child bond that is the main incentive for cooperation in the first place. I am certain that neither you, your ADHD child or teen or anyone else who is resides with you likes the meltdowns, yelling and emotional escalation that often precede a standard Time Out.

Here’s how to use Together Time Apart:

  1. Identify together what contributes to meltdowns and what types of ‘breaks’ would help everyone slow down and calm down. When you see your child heading towards an eruption, try one: You can even give it a special name. I have worked with people who call them anything from “Pink Elephant”, “Take Ten” to “That Dr. Sharon Thing.” You too can ask for a break when you feel as if you are losing it. In a few weeks, once you have tried out the interventions several times, discuss how your new plan is working.
  2. Sometimes a time in—the opposite of what you, as a parent feels like doing when you are in a dither, can be most helpful. Try taking a deep breath, counting to ten and giving a hug, starting an activity like reading a book or having a game of catch. Comfort and distraction can be great antidotes for anger and emotional eruptions.
  3. Once the meltdown has started is not the time for any negotiation orEthnic mother happy talking with teenage daughter teaching. Your ADHD child’s thinking brain has been kidnapped by her emotion brain—it’s fight or flight mode. Stay nearby and stay calm but don’t give in to her demands. Take some mental notes and use them when you re-evaluate the TATS that you have devised.

Good luck on embarking on your family’s TATS today!







Keeping the Vacation Alive After You Return Home

How many of us long for our family summer vacations and then feel like they whiz by all too quickly? We return from our days off with that certain “I’ve just had a break glow” only to see it fade too soon and too fast. Vacations offer us a much-needed respite not only from our daily routines but also from the typical ways we interact. These breaks are especially needed by ADHD kids. They canVacation and travel, a huge pile of things for the holiday really benefit from a different environment, meeting new people and taking time away from academics. Hopefully, you and your ADHD child or teen have also been able to have fun together. These positive connections enrich your relationship by nourishing the bonds that foster collaboration. Soon, however, your ADHD son or daughter will go back to school and you will be catapulted into the busy-ness of life once again. How can you keep the vacation glow alive?

Time functions differently for ADHD kids. They live primarily in the present don’t spend much time in the past. They focus on the future when it is immediately in front of them and they don’t tend to linger on the past. In addition, ADHD kids (and adults too) frequently have working memory deficits. This means that it can be hard to recall or hold onto things in their brain. Information that is recorded in the brain doesn’t transfer efficiently to long term memory storage. Furthermore, many kids with and without ADHD are so often distracted by their technology that they miss out on what is going on around them or forget about it when “an important text” interrupts their ラベンダー畑 子ども達current activity. Thus, the glow from the vacation can evaporate much too soon. How can you help them stay connected to the benefits of time off and incorporate them into your home once you get home?

Try these tips to recapture and preserve the glow from your family vacation:

1. During a meal or other family time (for instance, being in a car is always a good time to talk because you are all there together), review some of the highlights of your family trip. Be specific. “That double chocolate ice cream cone was the best!” “I loved riding that big wave right up the sand.” Write them down if you can and maybe put a phrase or two around the house on post-its.

2. Together with your ADHD son or daughter, find some pictures or video from the vacation that illustrate or connect to those moments. Try to post some of these images in a common space in the house as well. Maybe watch a video clip or two. Allow yourselves to reminisce.

3. Share some stories about your family vacation with friends or family, encouraging the kids to participate (even with interruptions). The goal here is to rekindle the excitement of the original experience and keep it alive.

4. Do this periodically for the next month or two. It will help all of you remember what fun you had and the closeness you shared.

Portrait Of Family On Airbed In Swimming Pool

Enjoy your vacation!

Avoiding the Summer Slump

School's out“School’s over. YAY! I have no homework today!”

Do these words sound familiar? Most children and teens with ADHD (and without it) are thrilled to have a break from academics and enjoy their summer–their free time. Yet, children with learning challenges can lose some of the important gains that they made over the school year if they do not continue to use those new skills. How can you encourage your child to maintain those gains without “ruining” their summer break with unwanted schoolwork?

First, set reasonable goals based on your knowledge of your child’s academic performance as well as their own perceptions. So, start with a conversation. Maintaining learned skills differs from learning new ones and it’s the preservation that matters most here. Let go of any notions you may have of teaching your ADHD child this or that new academic skill and focus instead on what your child or teen has already mastered. For elementary students, review their report cards and any relevant work from the year to assist you in creating your goals. For teens, they may already have summer homework so you can sit down and plan out their work strategy for completing it in a timely fashion. Make sure to use a calendar to help you and emphasize the importance of NOT leaving things until late August to avoid a crisis.

Secondly, since the goal is upholding and strengthening what your son or daughter has already grasped, find materials that meet them where they are. Elementary kids may like selecting books in a series that they have already young boy with a bookstarted, getting a math workbook or finding an online math or science program to review the subjects in a game format.  High school kids can always benefit from reading a compelling book so help them find something that matches their interests. You could even read the book simultaneously and then casually talk about it with them while driving in the car together or doing the dishes. In general, reading ANYTHING is a great idea–whether it’s a mystery, graphic novel or Minecraft story. Magazines count too! Sometimes reading on an electronic device like a Kindle or Nook has added benefits such as keeping them focused on one small page at a time and using an electronic device!

Thirdly, talk with your ADHD child or teen about the minimum amount of time each day or week to do this maintenance program. This does not mean debating its value; it means agreeing on working for at least 15 minutes a day or an hour a week or whatever you together decide. If you need to incentivize the activity, then link doing the work to something they want to do: “Okay, we can play catch after you read for 20 minutes.” Or, “You can watch your show after you do this math game.” Or, “You can have the car when you can tell me what happened in the next chapter.”Mother Helping Children With Homework In Kitchen

Be as creative and positive as you can be. These tasks don’t have to be painful and can be framed as the important continuation of cognitive growth that they are.


When “I’m Sorry” Just Doesn’t Cut It Any More

How many times have parents of ADHD kids heard them say, “I’m sorry” but it didn’t feel like they really understood what they had done? That it didn’t feel genuine? Most Adhd kids harbor feelings of being wrong or doing bad things from an early age. They likely have been admonished at school and at home numerous times for: impulsivity, being overly active, daydreaming or social
father teaches his daughterawkwardness. Basically, they are reprimanded for doing things which have seemed nearly impossible to be in their awareness or control. Apologies are just one more thing on the long list of what they should do better and usually aren’t a big priority.

In my clinical practice, I often play games with ADHD children and teens while we talk about issues in their lives. Yahtzee, Battleship, Checkers, Uno are longstanding choices. But my favorite game to play with my clients is Sorry. I love playing this game because it is always interesting to me to see how each person proceeds to say it. We set the ground rules for saying “Sorry” at the very beginning and they are simple: You must look the other player in the eye and say “Sorry” directly and clearly. That’s all there is.

Here’s what is fascinating. Some kids cooperate easily and with good humor.
Others have a lot of trouble following through: they will mumble, avert their eyes, say it as fast as they can or omit saying anything at all. Over the years, I have observed that most of the ADHD kids who struggle with simple apologies during the game also struggle at home, at school or with friends with personal accountability. They often harbor such a deep sense of shame about their various misbehaviors or mistakes that apologizing is just too painful. So, when arrive at the “sorry” part of the game and I see them avoid it, I try to turn it intoman with signboard with the text I am sorry something playful before addressing their discomfort later more directly. Then, we can talk about how to give real apology and mean it: using eye contact, tone of voice and volume.

As adults, we realize the importance of accountability, humility and the acknowledgment of our errors and our limitations in the context of maintaining and nurturing our relationships with family, friends, colleagues, etc. Often, it isn’t so easy for us to apologize for own our hurtful words or actions. So, it makes sense that ADHD kids and teens are not only reluctant to be, in their own minds, wrong AGAIN but at some level, very accustomed to having committed yet another mistake. They frequently want to say a quick “Sorry”, get it over with and move on. How can we teach our ADHD children and teens to do better without shaming them further?

Sometimes just asking for eye contact and a thoughtful “I am sorry because . . .” can be enough. But at other times, something more may be called for. I like Apologies of Action because they integrate words with doing. Some people call this “Making Amends.” Either way, it is a collaborative, teaching process: your ADHD child or teen learns that their speech and actions affect others and that reparations can be made. When she says or does something hurtful, she needs to make her apology meaningful—not just a throw away. This requires a combination of a verbal apology and doing something to help the person.

For example, one ADHD teen I know was driving his parents’ car (with their permission) and backed accidentally into a mailbox in a snow bank. He felt terrible but couldn’t make a real apology which infuriated them. When they sat down to talk about the next day, he shared his embarrassment, guilt and regret about the accident. The parents accepted his apology but also asked him for his participation in repairing the car. He met with his father and the insurance adjuster to report the incident. He went with the mother to get an estimate on the damages to the car. He wasn’t allowed to drive the rental car so he had to bike places instead. In the end, he told me that it “turned out okay. I was surprised. I learned about what to do if this happens again and I showed my Daughter picking flowers for motherparents that I really was sorry.” In another family, if their ADHD daughter breaks her sister’s Lego creations, she has to apologize and then work with her to rebuild something. The actions logically follow the affront.

I encourage you to think about how you can assist your children or teen in learning to make sincere apologies and following them with actions when appropriate which isn’t all of the time. These aren’t punishments; they are efforts to make amends. Pick and choose the moments when you use Apologies of Actions based on when a simple, genuine “I’m sorry” is enough.

Frustrated with a lack of progress? Improve your consistency!

Many parents who are frustrated with their ADHD children come into my office and complain that “No matter what we do, our son (or daughter) doesn’t change. Nothing works.” As I meet with these families, the heart of the problem usually lies with inconsistency. Sometimes parents can create a plan of action to deal with behaviors and stick with it; other times, they are improvising moment by moment. Too often, they get stuck and feel defeated. With all of these mother with   daughter having serious conversationdifferent scenarios, the ADHD kids, who thrive on predictability, can end up feeling confused. How can we change these patterns and create more success?

Inconsistent parenting reflects mixed messages and unclear rules that evolve over time and unintentionally. It’s not something people decide to do: it frequently occurs because parents are tired, worn down and out of ideas. Inconsistent parenting can look like this: One school night, you let your 10 year old ADHD son stay up until 11 pm to watch the football play-off game because you don’t want to miss any of the action to put him to bed. Yet, a few days later, when he wants to watch a basketball game with you past 10 pm, you refuse. Here’s another example: You tell your teenage daughter that she will lose her phone for the evening when she doesn’t clean up her room as you both agreed but then you let her keep it when she goes out so you can reach her.

Consistent parenting means having the same consequences for the same behaviors over time—again and again and again. They don’t change and can’t be negotiated. It means that you don’t give your ADHD children and teens consequences that you can’t enforce or remember or don’t want to deal with. ADHD kids need to know what is coming so they can learn from their experiences and start to understand that their actions have effects. This is exactly where their executive functioning skills are weak. It takes time and repetition.

You have to lay the foundation for this consistency by establishing clear guidelines for behavior with your son or daughter that mean something to themGespräche in der Familie and to you. The process is collaborative but ultimately not democratic; you still have the final and most powerful vote because, after all, you are the responsible adult. How can you begin this process?

  1. Get some paper and a pen and sit down with your family. Start with a fair assessment of the basic rules. Ask your kids what they think the consequences should be for not following them. Sometimes they will come up with ideas that are far more impactful that you will.
  2. Pick the top 3 issues and create a plan of action for not cooperating. Write everything down.
  3. Meet alone with your parenting partner (if you have one) and go through this list. Ask yourselves if you can honestly follow through on the consequences and how you can support each other to do so. If you can’t do them, come up with other ideas that you can enact.
  4. Meet again with the family. Go over the plan. Post it in a place where family-playground 18everyone can see it and refer to it when needed.
  5. For the next 3 months, meet every two weeks to check in, see how things are going and make any necessary changes to what you are doing that would help things go more smoothly.

Good luck!


“What did THAT mean?” Is it disrespect or self-expression?

As 21st century parents, we want our kids to share their feelings and talk through their problems with us. We encourage them to let out their feelings and believe that this is basically healthy, which it often is. But sometimes this self-expression is inappropriate and we are surprised, even urloshocked, by what we hear. My clients have frequently reported their dismay when their ADHD sons or daughters (depending on their ages), have said things like, “I hate you!” “You’re a terrible mother. “Don’t you know anything?” “What is your problem?” “You are so stupid.” Then, there’s cursing, slamming doors, eye rolling, or punching the wall. In today’s world, when many parents want their ADHD children to learn to speak up for themselves and strengthen their own voices, it can be hard to know when things have gone too far. The lines between self-expression and disrespect can become blurred really fast. What starts out as a joke can quickly turn mean and what seems like a discussion can turn suddenly into a shouting match. ADHD kids, because they struggle with impulse control, understanding limits and reading social cues can get carried away or inappropriate without always knowing it. What should parents do?

I think that parents first have to assess for themselves what constitutes disrespectful behaviors. We all have our limits: what are yours? In my house, eye-rolling and name-calling were at the top of our list. Telling me what a jerk I am just isn’t okay. You can tell me that you are angry, that you don’t like what I said or what I am doing, but you don’t get to call me names. Likewise, I don’t get to call you names either–no matter how frustrated and fed up I may be. Clear boundaries are essential for ADHD kids who can’t always monitor their
words and actions effectively. They have big feelings and limited skills in Cute child screaming because she is angryexpressing them. They need assistance and feedback based on consistent family guidelines. They also need some concrete tools that reduce disrespectful language and actions and increase more acceptable ones. How can you teach your ADHD sons and daughters to share what is going on for them in ways that other people can hear?

Here are some useful tips:

  1. Consider what really pushes YOUR buttons as unacceptable ways of speaking or behaving. Write down the top 3 offending actions. (If you have a partner, do this exercise together so you can present a united front with your family.) It’s also important to ask yourself if you engage in any of those 3 behaviors. Be honest because respect goes both ways. Believe me, your ADHD son or daughter will be the first person to point out any of your transgressions.
  2. Think about (and discuss) what types of self-expression you want to encourage. Would you like your daughter to use her words when she feels upset instead of going to her room and crying? Would you like your son to control his body and stop slamming doors? Be specific about these goals.
  3. Sit down with your ADHD child or teen. Ask them what they consider to be disrespectful–what they do and what others have done to them. Suggest some relevant recent family or school incidents if they are stuck. “Remember when Sam pushed you on the playground and
    Heart-to-heart talkcalled you ‘a crybaby?” Share some of your own earlier reflections. Decide together which of all of these ideas and observations you would all like to see changed first.
  4. Introduce this alternative method of self expression using this formula: “I feel ________ when you ____________.” It may be awkward and corny at first but it’s important to keep using this so it becomes a viable alternative for appropriate sharing. Usually ADHD kids benefit when you post it in a common space like the refrigerator. Refer to it often, especially when things are heating up. If your kids use it, then let them know you appreciate their efforts.




Feeling bad? Help your ADHD child take in the GOOD!

Have you ever noticed how your ADHD son or daughter remembers the negative things people say to them more than the positive? While all human
brains are wired for the negativity bias, the minds of ADHD children and adultsPortrait of a beautiful young woman and her son seem vulnerable to holding onto what is “bad” about them. Most likely, this pattern has been learned over the years when they have been criticized for not
remembering things, not doing things properly, not controlling themselves, etc. While our ancestors needed the ability to learn and remember lessons from tough experiences for survival in the jungle, people today also need to learn how to retain lessons from good experiences. This is especially true for ADHD children and teens.

Beneficial experiences not only serve as the foundation of self-esteem, secure attachment and self-management but they also nourish inner strengths. In order for the good moments to outmaneuver the negativity bias, they have to be installed in the brain’s neural structures. This process requires holding in the working memory long enough to be picked up by short-term memory structures and then transferred to the long-term memory. Of course, kids and adults with ADHD, by definition, usually struggle with working memory challenges so this transfer doesn’t occur as frequently as we would like, if at all. So the key issue here is “long enough.”

While there is no research to give us a specific time for this, “long enough” usually means holding a positive emotion, desire, action or outcome to actually feel it, to reflect on it and let it sink in. I would venture to guess this means up
to a minute if not longer. How can you assist your ADHD child or teen to do this more successfully?

  1. When something good happens, teach them that relishing it is important. In our ultra fast-paced world, everyone moves on to the next thing so quickly that the important integration needed to Father and teen son fist-bumpingconsolidate memory can be missed. SLOW IT DOWN.
  2. Practice doing highs and lows of the day at dinner with the family. Everyone needs to say something. No questions about the statements during the sharing. If you want to follow up on an issue, then ask first. We are trying to create a safe place to hold both the positive and negative occurrences simultaneously, giving them equal weight. This process with create new, essential neural pathways. If daily highs and lows are too much for your family, then do them once a weekly at regular meal–for example, Sunday dinners.
  3. Give genuine, positive feedback daily that is succinct. Honestly, nothing is too small to be acknowledged. When you do this, make sure you get down to your child’s physical level. If your ADHD teen is taller than you are, ask them to sit down so you are at the same level. Put a hand on their arm or shoulder, if that’s comfortable. Maintain eye contact and be clear that they get it! As corny as it sounds, you could even ask to repeat what they heard you say. “Look I really want to make sure that you understood what I said. Can you please repeat it?” “Do I have to?” “Yes.” “Fine,I heard you tell me that you appreciated that I hung up my coat when I got home.” Or, “I heard you say that you liked when I got off my computer right after the timer went off.” These exchanges build the neural pathways we are seeking to create, increase inner strengths and foster interpersonal connection.Happy family with arms up
  4. Keep it up, regardless of any unwelcome response that you may receive. Remember, the pull towards negativity and retaining bad experiences is longstanding and ingrained. Stopping your efforts to counteract it will likely increase its influence.

Start building the GOOD today!



Want more family harmony? Change your T.O.V!

It’s a rainy Sunday morning and you decide to make pancakes for the family for breakfast as a nice treat. You whip up the batter and drop large creamy Plate of Pancakes isolated on whitespoonfuls onto the sizzling griddle. As the golden discs bubble, your 11  year old ADHD daughter bounces into the kitchen. “I’m so hungry. WHEN will the pancakes be ready? I want to eat NOW!” You start to feel the hair on the back of your neck prickle as that familiar irritation sets in and try to stay calm.  “Soon. Why don’t you set the table while they finish? Then we can press the chocolate chips in and make smiley faces.” “No. I just want to eat NOW!” she says turning up the volume considerably. In  turn, you raise your voice: “I am trying to do something nice here and all you have to do is set the table to help out. NOW DO IT!” She yells “NOOOOOOO!” and runs to her room. You shout after her “No chocolate chips for you then” and flip the pancakes with an aggressive thwack.

How did a simple conversation escalate into an unpleasant argument? Why can’t your daughter modulate how she expresses herself and just cooperate with your request? Why did you allow yourself to be upset by her in the first place? Families with ADHD children and teens often struggle with emotional reactivityMother disciplined her girl. and verbal impulse control. Negative feelings and unpleasant words can intensify in the blink of an eye so that the interaction derails quickly into hostility, screaming and tears. These situations can be easily turned around by bringing everyone’s attention to T.O.V.–Tone Of Voice.

So often, ADHD kids don’t really hear how they say things to other people and don’t fully understand the effects of what they are saying on them. They need help learning how to slow down and reflect on what they just expressed. But, since they are usually sensitive to criticism, direct feedback can frequently backfire. Introducing T.O.V. allows your son or daughter to reflect for themselves on how they can say something differently and lets them come up with their own changes on how they are speaking. They learn several executive functioning skills simultaneously: emotional regulation, personal insight and self-control.

Here’s how it works:

  1. In a calm moment, you explain to your ADHD son or daughter (and perhaps your other children too–it works with everyone!) that sometimes people need help learning how their words and their tone of voice affect others. To that end, you will be saying to them “T. O. V.” when you think they should alter how they are speaking to you and, at times, to each other. Then, you will give them a minute or two to change how their tone of voice and try again. Sometimes, all of us just need to re-calibrate and do something over. Isolated young boy
  2. If your child or teen can’t manage to change how they are talking to you, then taking an immediate, timed break for personal space can help. This break allows everyone to calm down and  regroup; it is not a punishment. Usually breaks of up to 5-10 minutes are sufficient but some people need more time. Agree on the time of the breaks when you have the initial conversation.
  3. If your son or daughter changes how they are speaking to you by lowering their volume, altering their words from provocative to more neutral or shifting their attitude, YOUR JOB is to respond to their new statements and move forward. Of course, you can appreciate their efforts when the conversation is over which provides positive reinforcement for them.
  4. Be prepared that they may call “T.O.V” on you sometimes too,
    especially if you are yelling. How you respond to this is critical: try acknowledging your feelings or laughing at yourself or admitting that you could do better. However, the goal is not to create a constant calling out of “T.O.V.” in your household. It’s used for helping your child re-group in selective moments, such as once or twice a day. If you overuse it, it will lose its impact.Asian child doing shoulder massage to her mother

I hope that you will give this a try!!!

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with REAL Heart!

This week, television shows, Hallmark cards and advertisements tell us repeatedly that Valentine’s Day is about celebrating love–romantic love, familial love, Retro Valentines card with abstract heartsfriendship love. I even saw a Valentine’s Day card for your dog! It can all be a bit overwhelming, especially if you are feeling less loving than the commercials suggest you should be. I would like to suggest that you can transform this day into something meaningful for you and your ADHD son or daughter by being authentic and acknowledging what is positive in your relationship.

Often we are so busy with our chaotic lives that we neglect to notice and name things that are going well and move quickly onto what isn’t working. While it is great to give and receive funny cards and candy on Valentine’s Day, it can also feel wonderful to share and name things that family members like and appreciate about each other. It might sound corny but such conversations or written words, however brief, can have lasting effects. Taking the time to add your own comments about a positive behavior or attitude on a card or at a meal will show that you really see your child’s efforts to do well and encourage more of them. Even teenagers who can seem indifferent or combative to you actually listen to your positive feedback. The trick is keeping your Mother and daughtercomments “short and sweet”: you have to grab their attention, be succinct and speak genuinely or your ADHD son or daughter will smell a rat and stop listening immediately.

Here are my tips for a Valentine’s Day with REAL heart for you and your ADHD child:

1. Talk to your family and set a time for Valentine’s Day cards, gifts or exchanges. It doesn’t have to be a big deal; just a time when everyone can be together. Make an agreement about the general plan: “We will be giving cards and not gifts.” Or, “We will give gifts that are homemade only.” Or, “No cards, no gifts, only chocolate.” Do what seems natural for your family. Participation is not mandatory but attendance is.

2. If you give cards, write a few things that your son or daughter does that you like. BE SPECIFIC. “I like how you hum when you eat your food.” “I love when you give me a hug before bed.” “I appreciate when you clear your plate after dinner.” “I like your sense of style, even though it’s different from mine.” If you are doing a verbal exchange, plan what you have to say so you it doesn’t seem like you are making things up at the last minute.

3. When you get together as a family, share your cards or comments without elaborating or dwelling on them. Your ADHD son or daughter has a limited attention span and we want this to be fun. Lingering on topics, even if they are good ones, promotes distractedness. Reciprocity and connection, however brief, are the goals here.

Enjoy an authentic Valentine’s Day!  Red heart paper cut out with clothes pin



Trouble starting something? Get MOTIVATED!

Teenager sleep with a Books Have you ever asked your ADHD son to start his homework over and over and still he doesn’t sit down to do it? Even if he is failing the class and it means he won’t be able to play on the basketball team? Even if it means that he won’t be able to go out on Friday night? It’s hard not to become immensely frustrated with him and his behavior at this point. Most likely, he can’t start his homework because he lacks motivation-either internal or external–which would get him going. How can parents assist their children in developing motivation?

Let’s first reflect on ourselves and what helps us do things. It’s easy to do something you like, whether it’s reading an engrossing novel or playing tennis on a sunny day. It is MUCH harder to do something thatOverflowing laundry basket you don’t like such as folding laundry or taking out the trash. When a task is fundamentally unrewarding or uninteresting, we are not very compelled to do it. We lack internal motivation. When a task doesn’t have meaningful deadlines or immediate consequences to get us started (i.e. your boss expects the report tomorrow), it lacks external motivation. In both cases, we have to find something to get us going and our adult brains rely on fully matured frontal lobes to do so.  

ADHD children and teens have not yet developed the executive functioning skills to overcome poor focus, disinterest or boredom to get unpleasant tasks done. They often do not possess the strategies or solutions to address either internal or external motivation deficits. If something seems unappealing, they turn away from it–even if the consequences are serious. Most kids have to rely on external rewards to rouse themselves; internal motivation, and the satisfaction a person receives when a dreaded task is completed, comes later– in early adulthood. So children and teens need help from adults in their lives to create external rewards that are both meaningful and encouraging.

Here are some tips on how you can create effective external rewards that will MOTIVATE your son or daughter:

1. Talk about the concept of external motivation. Most ADHD childrenMother with son doing homework and teens will acknowledge when they struggle with focusing and what tasks lack inherent interest or value for them. Ask what has assisted them in doing such things in the past and what would entice them to do them now.

2. Decide in advance with your child what the rewards will be for finishing something that is difficult to do. For example, if your son finishes his history project on time, maybe he can go out for pizza with his friends. Or, if he works for 30 minutes, he can earn 10 minutes of social media or music time. Do not remove the agreed upon reward if he engages in a separate behavior that you don’t like. If he earned the reward for doing the agreed-upon activity, then he should have it.

3. Remember, (as I have written about in previous blogs) Most ADHD kids and teens have a great deal of difficulty starting something unpleasant because the task seems too large. Break it down into smaller components with timed rest periods during which your son or daughter can engage in a desired activity. Let’s say, for example, your 10 year old daughter’s room is a mess and you want her to pick it up. Think realistically together with her about how long she can actually work before she gets distracted, let’s say 15 minutes. Then, set up 3 15 minute work periods with 5 minute movement, snack or bathroom breaks. Remember that she may need help figuring out where to begin or she may want you to stay in her room and guide her through the process. Your support can be a key to her success. Sprinter getting ready to start the race

Good luck with your efforts and let’s get started!!




Stop reacting and start responding!

It’s been a long day and you finally make it home from work with a car full of groceries which have to be unpacked and then, somehow, magically transformed into a tasty and nutritious meal. You trudge into the house, bags in each hand, and your ADHD son rushes towards you, waving a pink piece of paper in your face. “You need to sign this so I can go on the field trip on Friday. It’s really important, my teacher said so. Can you sign it now?” You are amazed that he not only can’t see that you have no hands to sign anything but that he also doesn’t offer to take one of the grocery bags and help you. You can feel yourself about to lose it. What should you do? You can react and and shout at him, “What are you doing? Can’t you see that my hands are full?” Boy confronts his motherIn all likelihood, you will get a bigger reaction in return. OR, you can respond by saying, “Hey, I can see this is important but my arms are full. Why don’t you give me a hand and then we can take care of it right away?” By doing this second option, you will probably avoid a blow-out and maybe even get some cooperation along the way.

The big difference between reacting and responding is how you manage yourself. Did you ever have one of those moments when you say something in frustration and wish that you could suck it back inside to make it go away? We all do! Most likely, those words are part of a knee-jerk reaction–a time when your emotional brain has hijacked your thinking brain. As adults, our developed pre-frontal cortex (located behind your forehead)–the seat of the thinking brain, can re-establish control and figure out how to put those emotions back into their place. Our ADHD children and teens, whose pre-frontal cortex is still maturing (until at least age 25), need extra assistance with managing emotions. Our self-management behaviors and our ability to talk about their choices and actions can show them how to do this.

Responding requires you to acknowledge what your child is expressing,A man is accused of something
either verbally or non-verbally, in a non-judgmental way. It’s not dismissive and it doesn’t exacerbate tension or stress. It relies on patience, clear communication and paying attention to what is going on around you. This is why responding can be so challenging for people with ADHD. When someone responds, they validate whatever is going on and then create time for a solution. This can be especially tough in ADHD families when things happen very quickly–often escalating within seconds. You have to slow things down that are moving too fast–either for yourself or for your child or teen.

Here’s how you can do MORE responding and LESS reacting:

1. When people react, they act first, think second and breathe last (if at all). When we respond, we breathe first, think second, and act last. Switching the order of our actions and thoughts in this way offers the opportunity for things to be done differently. Do this yourself first a few times to see how it feels. The, you can start to talk your ADHD son or daughter through the steps in moments when they could use the help.

2. Responding does not involve blaming or name-calling. Use “I” statements and teach your kids to do this too. For example, “I get scared when you don’t come home at the time we agreed because I don’t know where you are” or “I don’t like when you call me ‘stupid.’ We don’t talk to each other like that in this family.” These words reflect your sentiments about yourself and offer an opening for your child to reply more thoughtfully than defensively. Daughter Greets Mother On Return From Work

3. Try to practice active listening. “I heard you say that this permission slip is important to you. It’s important to me too and I will sign it once I have fully arrived home.” This recognition is reassuring to your child and teen and lowers his or her anxiety that their needs will be met. ADHD kids often worry that they won’t remember things and don’t expect others to either. This anxiety often fuels their insistence that things have to be done now and their frustration when they have to wait. Restating what you perceive as their concerns and offering a plan for dealing them helps them calm down.

I invite you to try this approach and see what happens. Reducing the frequency of reactivity in any ADHD family will create more calm in the midst of our busy, demanding lives and relationships.



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!