Parenting by the Seat of Our Pants

Parenting is simultaneously the most rewarding, and the hardest, job we can have. Just when we think we have everything under control, our kids’ needs change – or our circumstances change – and we are back to “What in the heck do I do now?!?”

When you parent a child who has ADHD or associated challenges, you have more questions…and more rewards. When things go well, it’s a victory that other parents may take for granted.

When our little one begins a short book despite reading problems, figures out a way to calm herself down, or follows a request for the first time without push back, it’s a triumph for the whole family.

When our teen takes out the trash without a reminder, starts homework independently, or organizes a sleepover on a long weekend, we know that they are making real progress.

When our young adult makes a budget, gets ready to graduate, or prepares for a job interview, we know we are doing our job and we can all celebrate.

But when things don’t go as planned, when school is difficult, when our kids don’t know how to make or keep friends, when there are homework wars, when there’s worry about a young adult who isn’t prepared for the next steps of independence, it’s something that can make parents feel like they’re alone without a place to turn. And we blame ourselves.

It’s a privilege to be in the position of supporting the growth of a child. It’s really miraculous how our kids grow and change. But there can be a problem when we expect near-perfection in our parenting. We have in our mind’s eye how we want to parent and then something unexpected occurs and the only thing we can do is to make the best decision we can at the time.

That’s why I’ve joked over the years that I was going to write a blog called “Parenting by the Seat of My Pants.” No matter our education, or background, we are all just doing the best we can with the information we have at the moment.  

Clearly, we all want to be great parents. Our kids deserve the very best. But, as parents, we need to give ourselves permission to be human…and give ourselves permission to occasionally parent by the seat of our pants.

Coaching can help. Contact me if I can be a resource.

 

 

 

 

As You Transition to Something New, Remember What Worked

As we approach transitions, whether it is transition to the new school year, a new job, or a move across country, we can build on our successes by remembering what worked. And then going from there.

School – love it, hate it or just tolerate it, the new school year is upon us.

Whether we are students, parents, other family members, or know someone who is, many of us are ruled by school academic calendars. Many K-12 schools and colleges have already started and others will start soon. So how do we make a smoother transition to another school year?

If we are going back to school or supporting someone who is, there are several questions to ask:

What worked?

Really – think through what worked last year. It’s easy to focus on the things that didn’t work. The should’ves, could’ves and might’ves where we can get stuck and wonder: What’s the use? Why try?

But if we focus on what worked, our mindset shifts and opportunities for success become apparent. Everyone’s wins are different, but it’s important to think about what worked so we can do it again.

As an example, it could be that keeping a calendar of assignments, tests, practices, games, and performances really made a difference…at least for a little while.

If it worked well, keep it up! Do it again. Rinse and repeat.

What could be tweaked?

If something kind of worked, we might look at the obstacles that got in the way and figure out what might be tweaked. For example, maybe you kept a paper calendar, color coded by family member or class, and it just got too much to keep up. What about trying an electronic calendar that can be easily changed as necessary? Maybe you kept an electronic calendar and it worked great … until it didn’t because you found that you weren’t really looking at it. What about figuring out a way to help you remember to check your calendar? That could be a reminder on your phone to check your calendar at certain times of the day or maybe a reward for yourself for doing so. Whatever it takes to make the habit stick more readily.

There is no right or wrong way of doing things. There’s just works for you and your brain.

If ADHD coaching or consulting might be something to add to the mix, contact us. We will be happy to help you set yourself up for success during whatever transition you are approaching.

Making The Most of Summer with ADHD

The prospect of a relaxing summer, unencumbered by the stress of school, is highly anticipated by both students and their parents. Students with ADHD deserve time to relax, hike, bike, swim, wiggle their toes in the sand, and otherwise enjoy the summer months. Parents of students with ADHD also deserve a break from the role of being a “homework cop.”

Despite the difficulty for both students and their families to keep up with the many demands of a busy schedule during the academic year, school does provide the structure that is helpful to students with ADHD. A lack of structure and routine can be trying for someone with executive function and self-regulation challenges.

So how do we, as parents, provide the right amount of structure during the summer months so that our students can have much-needed “down time” without overdoing it? What is the right amount of structure anyway?

For each student the ideal mix of activities is going to be different, of course, but parents of students with ADHD might aim for:

  • Some learning – either through a summer class, information-oriented camp, tutoring, self-study or daily academic time to keep skills up and avoid summer learning loss
  • Some exercise – either through organized sports, camps, lessons, shared exercise opportunities with family, or free play
  • Some routine – for sleeping, eating, chores, and self-care
  • Some socialization – with family, established friends, and friends-to-be
  • Some exploration of interests and passions, which can include limited screen time via smart phones, internet, videogames, or TV
  • Some relaxation, allowing time for students to look up at the clouds, think, and dream

It might be mentioned, too, that summer is often a great time to start ADHD coaching to help students develop the strategies, habits and tools that will allow them to “hit the ground running” once school starts again in the fall.

As the summer begins, you might talk with your family to discuss summer goals in addition to any planned activities, vacations, or classes that are on the schedule. What do they want to learn? What do they want to discover? What would they really like to do to make this summer one to remember?

Whatever summer looks like for your family, when parents and students are in agreement as to the goals and the new routines of summer, the easier and more fun it will be for everyone!

A Great Start for the School Year

The beginning of the school year is a great time to start fresh, appreciating what went well last year and figuring out ways to circumvent challenge areas.  Below are some tips that might help set your child and family up for success this new school year.

  • Adjust bedtimes and wake up times progressively earlier each day so your kids are accustomed to the school schedule and are well rested on the first important days.
  • If your child is attending a new school, you might visit the school and get a “lay of the land” – the location of classroom(s), lockers, gym, bathrooms, and how s/he might need to move from one class to another.
  • Review medication, if applicable.
  • Even if your child has a 504 or IEP, prepare a short letter introducing your child to the teacher, sharing strengths and interests, areas of ADHD or related challenges, what has worked in the past, agreed-upon accommodations and modifications, your contact information and willingness to be a partner in your child’s education. If the 504 or IEP document needs to be changed to reflect your child’s current needs, request a 504 or IEP review meeting.
  • Go to an office supply store with your child and purchase organization systems and supplies that have worked in the past – or that your child is interested in trying. (Such supplies might include a month-at-a-glance wall calendar, a magnetic white board for reminders, two-pocket notebook dividers for a place to put completed homework and things to file, etc.)
  • Talk with your child about what worked last year; attention to what went well (and why) is the first step to being able to repeat the actions that brought success.
  • Approach this new school year as a “fresh start” to address challenge areas. Explore what your child may want to do differently in class, on the playground, getting out the door in the morning, homework and study habits, etc. and help them come up with strategies they would like to try.
  • Come up with some family strategies/routines that will serve everyone…a set time to wake up and a routine for the morning; time in the evening to make the lunch, pack the backpack, and lay out clothes to be worn; a checklist and/or launching pad by the door for things that your child needs to take to school; exercise before starting to do homework or studying, an understanding about internet/music/phone use during homework time; and “incentives” to abide by the new routines.

If we can help you set your child or teen up for school success, contact us at info@FocusForEffectiveness.com.

Here’s to a great school year – for your whole family!

What Went Well – and Why?

Here is a sneak peek at another one of Roxanne Fouché’s contributions to More Ways to Succeed with ADHD: Even More Strategies for 2013 from the World’s Best ADHD Coaches and Experts to Help You Succeed with ADHD:

Many people find it difficult to focus on what is working vs. the things that are not going well.  But it is important to understand and acknowledge our strengths and triumphs because they are the foundation upon which we build success.  Research in positive psychology has shown that it is very helpful to acknowledge what is going right in our lives.  At the end of the day, write down 3 – 5 things that answer the question:  What Went Well – and Why?  Focusing on the “wins” of the day and your part in allowing them to happen helps you repeat those actions for continued success.  The added bonus is that when you know that you are going to be writing what went well (and why), it shifts your focus so that you are actively looking for the positives throughout the day.

How Change REALLY Happens

Here’s a sneak peek at a tip that Roxanne Fouché contributed to the upcoming book, More Ways to Succeed with ADHD: Even More Strategies for 2013 from the World’s Best ADHD Coaches and Experts to Help You Succeed with ADHD:

When we want to make a change in our lives, it’s helpful to plan what we want to do, think about the value of that change, and decide how we want to accomplish our goal.  Adequate preparation for a change includes designing small, doable steps, sharing our intentions with others (so we have an accountability partners), as well as anticipating potential obstacles and how we might want to deal with them.

 

It’s also helpful to know that change is not straight forward, moving seamlessly from contemplation to action.  Rather, studies have shown that backtracking is a common part of the change process, allowing us to learn from the experience and figure out what got in the way.  This learning through trial and error allows us to gain more self-knowledge from the experience, making it that much more likely that the next time we begin, we will succeed.

 

Say Again?

Here’s another one of our tips from the book, 365+1 Ways to Succeed With ADHD: A Whole New Year’s Worth of Valuable Tips and Strategies From the World’s Best ADHD Coaches and Experts:

ADHD can get in the way of someone’s paying attention to, understanding, and/or remembering what someone else is saying.  When kids are small, parents often get their children’s attention before they speak and then ask them to repeat back what was understood.  As we get older, it’s up to us to practice good listening skills with family, friends, teachers and people at work.  We need to let someone else finish speaking before we say something (not an easy task for many of us!).  We can also ask questions to make sure we understand and remember what was said.  This could be as simple as asking for repetition (“I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”), asking clarifying questions (“So is the meeting at 10:00 or 10:30 on Tuesday?”) or confirming your understanding (“Okay, just so we’re on the same page, you want me to have this ready by the 14th.”).

 

When You Say NO, What Are You Saying YES To?

Here’s a sneak peek at one of our tips from the upcoming book, 365+1 Ways to Succeed With ADHD: A Whole New Year’s Worth of Valuable Tips and Strategies From the World’s Best ADHD Coaches and Experts:

There will be a book launch party with extra “goodies” from the contributors for those who buy the book from on October 11, 2012. Stay tuned!

People with ADHD can find themselves saying, “yes” before they have taken the time to consider the consequences. Because time is a finite resource, for every “yes” that we offer, we are naturally saying “no” to something else. “Yes, I’ll be on the committee” means “no” to some family time; “yes” to the project means “no” to a different activity that has more potential or is more interesting. To break the habit of automatically saying “yes,” pause between someone’s request and your response so that you have time to think it through. You might say, “Hmm, interesting idea. I’ll get back to you on that.” Although it’s nice to be agreeable and to be considered a team player, sometimes “no” is the best response. When you say “no,” you are giving yourself the opportunity – and the permission – to say “yes” to something that is more important to you.

Getting The Right Kind of Help For Your Child – And You!

Parenting is simultaneously the hardest and most rewarding job a person can have. There are extra challenges when you have a child with ADHD, especially if your child is struggling in school, the main job of childhood. It’s heartbreaking to watch your child have difficulty with learning and homework, and particularly frustrating when you don’t know where to turn for help.

In order to set your children up for success, you need to match the assistance you seek with the specific difficulties your child is having. As there is a lot of help out there, parents need to know where to look and what to ask for.

Determine What Is Getting in the Way

Although it’s easy to see the poor grades, the reluctance to go to school, or your child’s acting out, it’s important to identify the possible reasons for the behavior.

Is your child doing poorly on tests? Are there gaps in his/her knowledge or skills, making school more difficult than it should be? Is s/he taking way too long to complete homework assignments – or not turning them in at all?

Trust yourself and your perception of what is getting in the way. You know your child best and have seen what has occurred over the years with different programs and teachers.

Work With School Personnel

If your child is having general learning or behavioral difficulty in school, you might work with school personnel to make sure that your child’s program and services are meeting his/her unique needs. This may entail such things as:

  • meeting with the teacher to discuss your concerns,
  • requesting a meeting with the school team to discuss interventions that have been tried and/or those that might be put into place,
  • pursuing testing to see if your child qualifies for specific programs, accommodations, modifications or services, or
  • requesting a review meeting with the IEP or Section 504 team as soon as problems are noted rather than waiting until the annual meeting.

It’s vitally important that the six hours or so that your child is in school are adequately addressing your child’s learning needs so that s/he can succeed.

Study Buddy for Homework Completion

Sometimes a child knows the material, but can’t sit down to complete the work without close supervision. If homework time is an undue struggle, perhaps a high school/college student looking for extra income might be all that is required for your child to begin – and finish! – required homework.

Tutoring for Specific Subjects

After a grueling day at school, it’s not uncommon for children to have difficulty working with their parents on homework or studying. If your child needs help with a particular academic area, a tutor can preview the material or re-teach what wasn’t understood so that your child can better understand the subject matter and improve grades.

Individualized Instruction with an Educational Therapist

Sometimes a tutor just isn’t enough, especially when there are learning difficulties due to ADHD and/or learning disabilities. An educational therapist can provide individualized instruction in keeping with your child’s unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses. Educational therapists work on specific academic subjects while addressing underlying weaknesses in areas such as visual or auditory processing, memory, and study or test taking skills. They help students develop appropriate learning strategies and gain more confidence in their abilities.

ADHD Coaching to Get and Stay On Track

As students with ADHD get older, it’s often difficult for them to deal with increasing life demands and higher expectations for independence. A coach specifically trained in ADHD can help your child manage his/her life and responsibilities in and out of school.

Coaches provide support, structure and accountability as students work to develop skills and strategies to plan, organize, manage time, begin tasks, sustain focus, and work toward completion. They help students get and stay on track by developing goals, designing actions and monitoring progress to support desired growth.

Support For Parents

It’s often a challenge to balance the desire to give your children help for today’s success while encouraging the development of strategies for tomorrow’s independence.  Parents can often benefit from coaching and consulting designed to provide support and information that will benefit not only your child – but you, as well!

Note: a version of this blog post appeared on www.ImpactADHD.com, where Roxanne was featured as a Guest Expert in August, 2012.