It’s really tough to stand in uncertainty and, right now, people around the globe are facing this challenge as best they can. With all of the confusion about whether to send kids back to school and how to manage hybrid or home learning while working, many parents are wrestling with anxiety, frustration and hopelessness. There are just no clear guidelines about what to do or how to move forward. As parents of kids with ADHD, you’re used to facing struggles at home. Issues related to impulsivity, inattention, disorganization among other executive functioning skills can fray your nerves when there’s not a pandemic. Living in close quarters, dealing with food, housing, work or educational insecurity, you’ve probably lost your temper a few more times recently than you would have liked. While regrets can foster change, judging yourself unkindly only makes matter worse. Instead, let’s try to practice self-compassion through humor.
Having a sense of humor when raising kids is an essential tool for any parent. Children can expand your heart and push your buttons like no one else. Being able to laugh at what happens, at your reactions and sometimes at life itself helps ease the journey, especially right now. Everybody does things they’re proud of as a parent and things that they wish they hadn’t. Having compassion for yourself when you stumble enables you to giggle at your foibles without bombarding yourself with shame. Self-blame or criticism of others often intensifies small incidents into full-blown explosions. Maintaining a sense of humor reduces the chances of a conflagration.
As the parent, you need to set the example for your kids by using a tone that brings humor, boundaries and self-reflection to the unprecedented situations we are facing. For example, when your child or teen with ADHD speaks to you in a disrespectful tone, you have a choice. You can angrily tell them “You’re not allowed to speak to me that way. Go to your room.” Or, you can say: “Fresh is for vegetables, not speaking to me like that.” The first option throws fuel on the fire; the second one, dampens the flames. If your teenage son gets into your car, plugs in his phone and listens to rap music loudly that he knows you hate, you could tell him that he’s being selfish and entitled and unplug his phone. Or, you could learn some of the lyrics to his favorite songs and sing along. That will certainly change the dynamic in the car and likely make you both smile. You’re managing your own reaction with humor and not responding negatively.
We need some laughs–any humor–to alleviate our stress and worrying. I’m not talking about ignoring the complex reality you are dealing with, but rather pivoting to something lighter temporarily. Put some reminders about positive attitudes and quick comebacks. Consider watching some old family videos (kids love to see themselves when they were younger); make a family movie night with favorite comedy and popcorn; play a silly game together (Mad Libs, charades, Sorry); crank the music and dance in your living room. Using self-control and creativity to look at yourself and your reactions differently, you shift conversations and situations away from annoyance or aggravation by injecting some levity. You’re not only modeling this for your kids as an effective coping tool, you’ll feel better and they will too.