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, friendship 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 comments “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!