Parent Guilt is the Worst!
“The more I am learning about ADHD, the more I am seeing I am doing everything wrong.” -parent of 9 year old, Max
This is parent guilt—plain and simple. We don’t love to hear quotes like this as often as we do, but we get it because we are parents ourselves. We know what it feels like to want the very best for our children and to constantly analyze everything we feel we could have done better. But after years and years of parenting and working with families, we know one thing to be true. If you are analyzing and thinking about how to do things differently, then you are doing everything right. You are loving your child so fiercely that you strive for perfection. Of course we can’t achieve perfection, but if you think about it, that’s not so good for our children either. Hear us out on this one….if you make mistakes, analyze them, and learn how to do things differently, then aren’t you modeling the exact skills you want your child to have? Yes! We want our children to be OK with making mistakes so they can be thoughtful in their approaches the next time and make changes.
Check out this example from Sarah, parent of 14 year old Noah. Sarah was feeling like her summer was already getting off to a rocky start with the constant arguing over Noah getting off the Xbox when she asked. She didn’t like yelling and felt like lately it was the only way she could communicate with him to get him to do anything. She felt like they were both so frustrated at each other all the time and that it was damaging their relationship. Hoping to remedy this situation, Sarah caught Noah just before he was logging on to play with his friends. She simply stated, “Let’s do better. You will need to get off the Xbox in 45 minutes for dinner. How can we make that happen without World War 3–and you can’t tell me ‘I don’t know!” She kept the tone light and he responded with “Can you ask me how many minutes I will need to finish the mission?” Sarah shared her concern that the mission could cut into dinner and then something remarkable happened. Noah explained how the game worked to her and that nothing ever takes more than 20 minutes. Sarah and Noah connected on a different level. She felt like she understood the situation more and how hard it must have been for Noah to stop right in the middle of a mission that could possibly only take 5 minutes. In her research, she knows that the ADHD Brain has a tough time transitioning and is stimulated both by screens and arguing. She realized their battles over getting off the Xbox wasn’t a matter of disrespecting her request. It was as simple as a component of the game coupled with ADHD. . She shifted the way she was thinking and saw that the game is important to Noah. “So, when I was asking you to end 5 minutes before you were about to finish the game, it was almost like you asking me to leave my pedicure with only 8 toes done!” She did get a good natured comment, “ you’re so weird, Mom” but she felt like she finally was able to step back and see the situation in a new light. The wrap up of the conversation was the best part. “Noah, I’m glad I understand the situation better. I’d also like you to work on how you communicate with me. If we are both yelling, we get nowhere, got it.? Just explain it to me with a better tone.” And with that, he put his headphones on and they carried on. No guilt, just love and better communication.