Kids describe what it feels like to have ADHD

My husband shared something with me last week that was a bit unsettling. He had just gotten home from a quick business trip to North Carolina (he doesn’t usually travel) and when I asked if the process of flying and luggage and check-ins and plane delays was overwhelming, this was his response:

‘Actually, you know what went through my ADHD brain when I buckled my seatbelt? I remember thinking, if the plane goes down for any reason, I would be okay with that.’

Me: WHAAAAT?

Husband: ‘Hear me out, it’s not what you think. I’m just saying, the tornado in my brain would be over. I would no longer feel like I was always behind, always restless, always living life in reverse.‘ I was stunned.  He quickly followed up with ‘Obviously, I don’t WANT that. I would never want you or the boys to be in pain and experience that. It’s just, until you live with ADHD, one can never understand the constant mental exhaustion. The motor in your brain never turns off.

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If you’ve ever wondered what it literally feels like to have ADHD, well, there you have it. I appreciated my husband’s honesty. They were tough words to hear, yet woke me up a bit. I thought I had a good idea of what someone with ADHD endures, but the magnitude is much more than I imagined. How the thought of not having to THINK about anything (let alone 20 things) actually seemed like…a break. Some relief. It reminded me of my role in all of this: To be mindful of his journey at times when my patience grows thin. He carries a heavy load.

What about your kids? How would they describe their ADHD? I recently posed that question and received some interesting responses.

It’s like having all the tabs open on my iPad.

My thoughts get noisy.

It is too much to describe in one sentence.

My brain goes back and forth and makes me feel stupid.

I don’t know, it is just normal to me.

ADHD makes me feel tired all the time.

It means always being blamed for things I don’t really understand.

It means feeling different than others.

It means losing recess a lot.

It means I forget things all the time. I don’t like that I do that.

My brain is having a party.

The traffic controller is asleep at a busy intersection.

Honest descriptions from some innocent youth. Their attitude toward ADHD will eventually be what shapes how they view themselves, their self-worth. ADHD brings some good qualities, though they are easily overlooked due to the frustration it also creates. For parents, it means often repeating instructions, heightened emotions, possible problems in school, trouble sleeping, etc. But, the person who feels the most frustration? Your child. Chances are that he or she is often reprimanded by teachers, often losing privileges at home, maybe the last one picked for tag, you get the point. My husband’s words were a reminder to have empathy for the people we love and what they endure every hour, every day.

As they live life in reverse.

Take a moment today to observe your child closely and find the good. Be mindful of your role in their journey!

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ADHD Parenting: The Letter I Wrote My Husband

Two things I learned in the early years of raising kids with ADHD.

1) No two kids are alike.

2) It’s exhausting.

Okay, make it 3 things, because I also learned that my husband and I weren’t on the same page regarding parenting tactics. Hell, we weren’t even in the same book! Back then, it went something like this:

Kid misbehaves.

Husband raises voice and demands the behavior stop or else.

Kid continues.

Husband and kid power struggle begins while wife (that’s me!) steps in and tells husband he is being too harsh.

Husband and wife begin arguing.

Kid gets tired of waiting around and disappears from the room.

Repeat cycle all day, every day.

Not super productive. Remember those 2 things I mentioned earlier? Well, our kids also learned 2 things:

1) My parents don’t know what they’re doing; are not a united front.

2) I’m not sure what I’M supposed to be doing; getting mixed messages about my behavior.

Instead of teaching them strategies to handle emotions when they feel out of control (that’s what is really happening during a meltdown), we were either expecting them to pull themselves together or ignoring their needs altogether because we couldn’t get out of our own way to address them.

Back then, I was reading every book about ADHD that I could find, meanwhile my well-meaning husband seemed to be stuck in old-school parenting mode, saying things like ‘Because I’m in charge’ and ‘Well, I’m the Dad’ or my favorite thing he would tell me (*sarcasm*): ‘The boys just need more mental toughness.’

Cue me banging my head with the pantry door right about now.

Since our parenting differences and stress from the aspects of life with ADHD kept us from communicating effectively, I chose to write my husband a letter. Figured he may ‘hear’ my words better if they were written down as a visual. I was honest, sharing that we needed to wake up and get a grasp on our daily life. That we were drowning in chaos and could do better for our kids.

That I needed him to join me on this journey. He agreed.

It’s no wonder we were sailing in choppy waters when we first discovered ADHD. We weren’t a team, and you don’t win playing for yourself. Wins happen as a team. And a good team doesn’t just show up one day and take home a trophy. You have to practice to be successful.

So, we did.

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We began by practicing 3 simple rules when we were struggling to remain calm with our highly emotional kids.


♦Walk away: We gave each other a free pass to walk away when we could feel our patience running low. Nothing wrong with saying we need a break and letting our spouse take over. We’re human. Rely on each other when necessary.

♦Apologize: We expect our kids to apologize when a situation calls for I’m sorry, and sometimes parents need to tell kids they messed up, too. Model the behavior you want to see in your children. Did you lose it and knee-jerk react with your child? Own it. Tell them you didn’t react the way you had hoped and you’re sorry. The message? When we make a mistake, accept the blame and do better moving forward. Parenting is teaching. For kids with ADHD, getting defensive and passing the blame is common, so there is no better lesson than seeing mom and dad show some empathy for the person who ended up as their sounding board.

♦Have a code word: Remember that Walk Away rule? Well, sometimes we don’t recognize that we’re getting hot under the collar on our own. Another set of eyes and ears (your spouse) will recognize our temper flaring and give us a nudge. Rather than undermining you in front of your child, we created a code word to use.

Our code word? ‘Diet Pepsi.’


One night, my husband blurted out ‘You NEED a Diet Pepsi’ and I bit my tongue. I had been raising my voice, upset by our oldest who was being argumentative. I had wrongly engaged in a power struggle with a 12-year-old.

A minute later, our youngest ran into the room with a can of Diet Pepsi from the fridge, announcing, ‘Here, Dad said u needed a Diet Pepsi.’ Boy, did I ever! (On second thought, make your code word ‘wine.’) We both were laughing over his literal interpretation, enough that it diffused the angry environment brewing in our home.

What about YOU?

Are you and your spouse/partner using the same parenting tactics? Or are you sending your kids mixed messages? Need an ADHD Parenting cheat sheet to get back on track? Print it out! Kids with ADHD need lots of structure, clear expectations and CALM PARENTS.

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You can’t teach a child to behave better by making them feel worse.  They need, and actually WANT, parents to show them, teach them and explain to them what they want them to do. Calmly. They need the message to be clear and concise, from both of you.

Its no wonder our home was total chaos. I would parent my way, my husband would parent his way, and we hoped the two versions would magically collide and make life easier.

THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN.

We both agreed what we were doing wasn’t working and it was time to make a change. You can do this too, starting with this little nugget today!

‘Meet your kids where they are.’

Don’t hope they act like the kid who has it all together. Don’t wish they could be independent like you were at their age. Don’t nag for them to meet your unrealistic expectations.

Meet kids where they are. Your kids will learn and grow. But, it doesn’t happen overnight. Tackle one struggle at a time, not by yourself, but as a team.

Soon enough, you’ll earn that trophy.

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6 Signs an ADHD Parent Needs a Break

Love my kids. Love being a mother, especially THEIR mother.

That doesn’t mean that I’m not exhausted on an occasional everyday basis.  ADHD means there is extra energy in the household, more emotions to juggle, less sleep at night.  You get the idea.  It’s a perfect combination for doing things I’m not proud of, but surely I’m not alone.  We all have embarrassing moments, and what better way to handle them than to laugh at yourself.

So, in no particular order, here’s my list of 6 signs that I (a proud ADHD parent, and wife!) need a break:

#6 You steal brownie mix at Walmart.  Okay, it’s not what you think.  It had been a day of high emotions for our household, and I made a quick trip to Wallyworld thinking brownies would save the damn day. (Here kids, eat sugar!) I walked in, found said brownie mix, and freaking WALKED OUT.  I forgot to pay! (Who has the focus problem again?) I realized what happened when I reached my car and immediately felt like a criminal, then marched back in to fork over my $1.89. I remember thinking, Um, do I HAVE to wait in line, because technically, I was here before all of you, I just, well, stole my brownies 5 minutes ago, so…yeah.’  By the way, Walmart might wanna invest in some more security against Betty Crocker bandits like myself.

#5 You drive your kid to his game, and it’s OVER. Our life was all over the place at this time, we didn’t know if we were coming or going.  You can imagine the feeling of total mommy Loserville that set in when we showed up to the basketball gym for a 6:30 pm game only to find his teammates walking out, foreheads glistening in sweat because their game had just ended.  The look on my son’s face was a sure sign that we (Mom and Dad) needed to get our s**t together.  Like, yesterday.

#4 You offer a cash prize when playing the Quiet Game. Yeah, this might have been an all-time low for me. Mom of the Year behind the wheel here.  Surely we’ve all been there?  The talking in the car while running errands had been, well, constant. I remember the convo: My youngest asked how I met his daddy, and I gave him the brief version.  He asked 20 more questions, including how many boyfriends I dated before meeting my handsome hubby, and I answered them. Feeling like I was playing a round of Car Jeopardy (What is ‘At a wedding in Florida for $200 please’), I quickly suggested the quiet game.  In my family, the quiet game goes something like this:  ‘Ready….GO. (Crickets for about 10 seconds…and then…one of the kids: ‘WAIT! I wasn’t ready, Hey can we stop for frozen yogurt? What’s for dinner, by the way? Okay, do-over. Annnnnd, GO.’) We repeat that process about 6 times before I give up.  This time, I wasn’t caving.  So I brought out the wallet. ‘The quiet game just got serious, boys.  $20 up for grabs, who’s in?’ 

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#3 You fall asleep leaning over your cart at the grocery.  Seems like the perfect place to take a snooze, right?  Nothing like another shopper tapping you on the shoulder asking you to move because you’re blocking the canned goods.  I can’t make this stuff up, but it happened.  Why? My youngest was experiencing night terrors at the time, and I was doing my best to settle him down and get both of us back to sleep.  I was lucky to get a couple of hours, and obviously, Del Monte green beans aren’t super interesting when you’re running on fumes.

#2 You have a near-meltdown at the doctor’s office where they walked you and your child back to the exam room 40 MINUTES EARLIER, and haven’t been in since.  A child with ADHD in a room that is basically the size of a closet is a recipe for severe boredom (translation: Climbing the walls.)  I don’t mind waiting (although I could have knitted a small blanket by the time we were seen), but for the love, let us sit in the waiting room where you have a TV, books, and well, space. Don’t put us in a shoe box with shiny medical instruments that our child can’t touch and not expect a parent’s blood pressure to rise.

#1 You go to pick your kids up at school, and the receptionist informs you that students have already been dismissed for the day.  Yeah, that’s right, the bell had already rang.  The kids were on a bus, heading home, and their mother was standing at their school asking to sign them out like a freaking moron.  So, in a nutshell here, my kids’ school thinks I’m cray-cray.  I’m not, of course, but how do you explain not checking the clock and knowing when the school day ends?  I blamed it on lack of sleep and trying to put out fires at home while feeling like an Olympian if we all showered that day. (Do they give gold medals for that?) Something had to give, outside of my reputation, because I’m sure the school’s front office had a heyday with this one.

And that’s 6.

This is about the time I realized we needed some systems in place to conquer each day like a BOSS.  I was exhausted from winging it.  Waking up each day without a plan and hoping stuff falls into place isn’t the best preparation for life.  My kids (and later, my husband) were overwhelmed with juggling life with ADHD, and I was struggling to manage it all.   ADHD affects the entire family.

If you aren’t familiar with our story, you can check it out here.  And if my story sounds familiar, I would love to hear from you! We’re in this together!