Once your child has been diagnosed with ADHD or anxiety, pausing to evaluate your approach is the first step in any journey towards success. You will want to take this first step over and over again to evaluate growth and if your parenting approach needs to change.
Whatever your approach there is one consistent theme that has to stay in place.
Be patient and manage your expectations.
Being patient and flexible is key because your approach may need to shift day-by-day, hour-by-hour, or even a minute-by-minute. Always remember depending on the strength of your child’s working memory the impact of consequences can be very short lived. As a parent this can be frustrating because what works one day may not work the next.
Being flexible doesn’t mean that your child can be disrespectful or not have to meet certain expectations. It does mean that your child may get from A to Z in a way that makes no sense to anyone else but themselves. It may mean even though you wanted homework done by 5 because it “fits” better into the plan for the evening you let the timing go and your child gets it done at an alternative time.
Joellen came to see us because she felt like she was banging her head against the wall trying to figure out what she should “expect” from her son. Everytime she thought she had him figured out he would totally shift gears and what was working fell apart. Joellen was exhausted and didn’t know what to do next. When we dug in deeper with Joellen we learned that she had reasonable expectations; it was just that her son’s way of reaching them looked different each day. Joellen was interpreting this as disrespect and a just not caring attitude. Joellen’s son, Billy, experienced anxiety during the school day along with challenges of ADHD and a poor weakened memory. This meant that sometimes Billy came home completely drained from the school day. It also meant that Joellen and Billy would sometimes have the same argument over and over because Billy didn’t always learn from the consequences of the day before. We helped Joellen better understand what was happening for Billy in his brain and some ideas for helping them both through these challenges. The plan was to have a large whiteboard with a timeline of what was happening after school. A literal horizontal timeline that showed times and activities. On a day that Billy came home exhausted and needed a break rather than argue with his mom he could look at the timeline and figure out if there was another way to meet expectations. He needed Joellen’s help with this at first as he was also learning how to have a better understanding of time and prioritizing tasks. This process allowed Billy to feel empowered over his own way of meeting expectations.
It wasn’t easy for Joellen to let go of some of the control she had but she quickly saw Billy meeting expectations in his own way. This can be the most difficult part of parenting—shifting your approach to meet your child’s needs. Once you shift your approach, the success will speak for itself so go ahead and take a leap of faith and try something new—even if it doesn’t fit your style of learning or expectation. Deep breaths. You’ve got this!
If you would like to “hear” more about creating a treatment plan have a listen here.
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