October is ADHD Awareness Month.
Throughout the month of October, Time Timer is sharing resources and information specific to supporting children and students with ADHD, including amazing guest blog posts by parents and experts.
Today, we’re sharing an essay by Beth Grushkin, from Fuzzymama, an ADHD mama, Montessori teacher, and Simplicity Parenting Family Coach.
Read on to learn about Beth’s top ADHD parenting advice!
By Beth Grushkin
If you are struggling with knowing how to parent kids with ADHD, I get it.
Boy, do I get it.
I have been a parent for 14 years to two boys, both of whom were diagnosed with ADHD in fourth grade.
A little hindsight is always helpful to get some perspective and I feel like I am finally in a spot, now with a teen and tween, where the knowledge I’ve gained can be helpful to other people.
I am still on the journey and nowhere close to being a perfect parent. But, the teacher in me always loves to share what I have learned in the hopes that I can help someone else get to where they want to be faster.
I can put my favorite ADHD Parenting Advice into six categories:
Change your perspective.
Parenting kids with ADHD or other developmental disabilities can require you to look through a different lens. Parenting is challenging, no matter how you slice it.
But, it’s even harder when your kids don’t fit the “norm” or seem to be having more difficulty than their peers.
I am giving you permission to take comfort in the fact that you are doing the best you can at any given moment.
And so are your kids.
Sometimes that means we are all just winging it.
No shame in that.
Parenting, like any tough job, is about learning on the job, as you go. There’s no way we can prepare for our toughest parenting battles. Every day opens us up to new opportunities for growth.
And through all the learning we need to keep this one idea in perspective: Our kids are not giving us a hard time; they are having a hard time.
Once I really got that into my brain, my whole parenting journey shifted.
Behavior is communication and my work as a parent is not to punish or dole out consequences but to dig deep and figure out what’s causing the behavior in the first place.
I observe, ask questions, offer suggestions, try a new approach – all with the goal of solving the underlying issue. It takes some time to approach parenting in this way, but for me now, it’s really the only way I know how to successfully parent my children.
It’s never about the behavior.
It took me a long time to figure this out and putting this idea into practice is still not always easy because it's the behaviors that you see first.
It’s the behaviors we want to get rid of.
But we have to dig deeper.
Our kids want to do well.
They want to be successful at school and at home, but sometimes they just don't know how.
Out comes an unsavory behavior because there is a lagging skill or an unsolved problem.
That is the work of being an ADHD parent:
We have to dig deep and try to figure out what is behind the behavior.
Sometimes all we have to do is ask, “What’s up? You seem really angry today.”
But sometimes communicating their needs is the lagging skill. So, we ask questions, give them options to choose from: Are you upset about going to school? Did something happen last night at band practice? “
There will be lots of digging, questioning, and sometimes guessing to figure out what the problem is.
It takes time, but every minute you put towards figuring out the underlying issues will reap countless rewards.
Seek out others who understand what you are going through.
Parenting kids with special needs is difficult and can be really isolating, especially when the things that seem to be working for other kids are not working for yours.
There might be lots of well-intended advice coming your way.
It can make you feel like a failure, pretty quickly. (Ask me how I know?)
Finding someone who “gets it” is so important and can be such a huge relief – quite frankly, a Godsend.
Gleaning advice and comfort from fellow ADHD parents has been vital to my emotional well- being. It is so amazing to find people who accept your kids AND understand the parenting struggles you are going through – with ZERO judgment.
Social media can be a real gift when it comes to finding others who are on a similar parenting journey. I love Instagram for finding like-minded parents. Don’t be afraid to use the message feature to introduce yourself or ask questions – that’s the whole reason most other parents on there, too!
Take a closer look at yourself.
So many of the lessons I have learned as a parent have to do with me, not my sons.
Both of my kids can be explosive. And turns out, I was contributing to their explosions. Meeting their outbursts with “explosions” of my own, wasn’t just ironic, it was so counterproductive.
Our kids cannot be calm and in control unless we are.
We hear it all the time, but many of us ignore it.
You have to work on yourself first.
This ADHD parenting journey can be a rough one. Our kids are super sensitive and know immediately when we are not in control of our own emotions.
Our kids model our reactions – I see it over and over again. Both of my boys spit out word for word, things I have said – both good and bad.
It usually takes me by surprise and carry’s a huge lesson.
As parents, we need to prioritize looking after ourselves. Do whatever you need to do to feel a sense of peace and calm. Connect with friends, practice good sleep hygiene, spend time on a passion project.
Find something you love to do and do it as often as possible. Not only will you fill your cup, but you’ll also provide some wonderful modeling for our kids.
Encourage your child's interests.
ADHD kids are often criticized and corrected all day long – especially at school.
As a result, their confidence can lag far behind their peers.
Helping your kids pursue an interest can be super great for lots of reasons.
They can feel successful knowing they are “good” at something.
Your kids will gain skills and in turn, confidence from practicing something they love to do.
Feeling supported and encouraged (by you) will do great things for your relationship.
You may already know exactly what to encourage, but if you don’t it won’t be hard to find out – just ask your kids:
Is there something you haven't done in a while that you’d like to do again? Are there any classes you’d like to join? Teams you’d like to sign up for?
Don’t let a lack of local activities discourage you. Check online for courses in just about anything under the sun.
Never underestimate the power of a very helpful product.
There are lots of products out there aimed at helping quell the symptoms of ADHD. It can be dizzying to sift through them all to find one that works.
But when you find something that works, it can be life changing.
I know because it’s happened to me!
The Time Timer has been such an amazing tool to help both of my kids. And here’s why:
ADHD kids can have time blindness, which is the inability to both gauge the passage of time and to estimate how long a task will take.
The Time Timer helps with both.
My kids can finish their homework in a reasonable amount of time because the red disk allows them to literally see the passage of time. The Time Timer has also given them a sense of how long 10 minutes is and that their math homework will not take three hours, but rather about 10 minutes.
And hey! It’s not just for schoolwork.
We use it for screen time (the beep tells both of us that time is up) and chores (they weed for 15 minutes, clean the bathroom for 10!).
And last, but not least: Focus on enjoying your kids.
I have to remind myself of this one because I tend to get so caught up in figuring out what’s wrong that I forget to just love my boys for who they are.
Underneath all those ADHD behaviors that can be draining to us parents, is a kid who just needs to be loved for who they are.
It can take a bit more effort from us tired parents, but we will all reap the benefits in the end.
My kids are growing up before my very eyes and too soon will not be kids anymore. So, I am choosing to do a little less fixing and a lot more loving.
Won’t you join me?
About the Author
Beth Grushkin lives outside Chicago with her husband and two boys. A teacher for over 20 years, Beth has taught in both public and Montessori schools. Her blog, Fuzzymama.com, was started 4 years ago to chronicle her (mostly) natural ADHD solutions for her two boys.