With ADHD, keep it simple
I don’t have to tell you that ADHD parenting can be confusing. Our kids’ brains are everywhere and nowhere at the same time. They have boundless energy and are sluggish all in the same day. They talk and talk but are hard to understand. It seems like they have complex needs and, yet, my best advice is to keep it simple.
Here’s why, despite complaints and meltdowns to the contrary, simple is better:
Three reasons to keep it simple:
First of all, our kids’ natural inclination is to soak up everything and that can be super fun and super stimulating to their brains, but they also need to learn how to focus and calm their brains, and when they’re stimulated all the time, they can’t learn to focus on the task at hand.
Second, we don’t know how to keep things simple so we rely on you to teach us. This teaching may look like decluttering. It may look like following a schedule. It may look like having certain activities at certain times and then having down time. It may look like no-tech time. Or you can do all of these. Remember that ADHD kids are KIDS and don’t have a long history of learning what works for them. You have to guide them through and see what works for them.
Third, the joy of ADHD is that our brains are capable of making connections that non-ADHD brains don’t make. We tend to think that that’s done when our brains are whizzing and whirring, but that’s not the case. Usually, connections are made in the calm. We rest our brains – if only for a moment – and then everything falls into place. It is the rest that brings together all the disparate and wonderful thoughts into some cohesion.
Connecting this to behavior and communication
One of the hardest tasks in parenting ADHD kids and teens is communicating effectively so that our kids will follow directions and carry out their various daily tasks (homework, chores, exercise). When kids have cluttered schedules, cluttered environments, cluttered instructions (overly complex or overly long instructions) their brains become cluttered as well. (I’m told this is true of nearly everyone).
Your step-by-step approach to getting out of the house on time, may be thorough but is it too much information at once? Even if you can separate out each task, can your ADHD child? Or does he or she take in too much and get overwhelmed? Some of the most ingenious parenting techniques just don’t work with ADHD children. It’s not you, it’s not them; it’s merely a mismatch between the technique and the receiver.
When ADHD kids are overstimulated they will act out, get rowdy, or they will retreat and shut down. Our nervous systems are extra sensitive. We can over-react to movie theater screenings (as opposed to seeing the same movie on TV or on a computer or tablet), crowds, long waits, too many words (or just words!), having to hurry, transitions, and more.
I recommend embracing the simple along with embracing the imperfect. Try to narrow a task down to 3 steps at the very most (two is better) until your child gets used to the task. Two or three steps are pretty easy to remember. For example, when I’m helping kids organize their rooms, I tell them: 1) pull up your comforter, 2) nothing on the floor except furniture, 3) put other stuff in the closet until you can get to it. This is easy to remember: comforter, clean floor, the rest in the closet. And, they will probably need your help with sorting through the stuff in the closet.
You can also clear physical clutter (and, thus, mental clutter) by giving your kids less and having less stuff around the house. I’m not good with managing clutter so my personal space is filled with things on the wall – paintings, photographs – rather than cute or artistic knick-knacks. I can’t manage knick-knacks. I can’t manage having a lot of anything in my personal space. It just looks like clutter to me, and I get overwhelmed.
Rotate toys or rent them instead of purchasing! Check books out of the library instead of having overflowing shelves.
What our kids don’t know until parents teach them
What ADHD kids don’t know is that there is freedom and peace of mind in the rest between thoughts. As parents, it’s our job to provide them with moments of rest so that they can experience this serenity. It’s a shock at first but there is joy in it eventually.
What tricks have you tried to keep it simple for your kiddos? Just scroll down and share your thoughts in the comments section. I love, love, love hearing from you.
Copyright 2016 Yafa Luria All Rights Reserved
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