Does Your Child with ADHD Need Help with Homework?

Are you looking for ways to help your child or teen handle the daily struggle with homework? The struggle (theirs and yours) is real. It may look like a lack of motivation, or defiance, forgetfulness or even a learning disability but in reality, it is probably their Executive Function skills.

The Homework Help for ADHD covers seven Executive Function skills that have the biggest impact on homework and includes information on what to look for and plenty of strategies to help compensate.

Laine Dougherty - Notebook - Homework Help for ADHD - blue #1

Due to the current circumstances and requirements for social distancing, our classes and individual services will be conducted via Zoom, Google Meet or Phone.

Hey Students! Organize Yourself for the New Learning Environment (Whether it is Remote, Hybrid, In Person, or Combined)

Back to schoolThere is so much to think about as the new school year begins. With the pandemic continuing, each town has devised its own plan for what “school” will look like this fall. For some that may include half or full days, or a combination of two days in school and three remote or every other day or every other week. So many options, I cannot begin to cover them all. However, many of the schools are starting two weeks later than usual. Don’t let that fool you. It’s time to get organized! Where to begin?

The toughest part of any hybrid learning model is going to be staying organized. There are in person assignments to organize and remote work as well. Fluctuating schedules to keep track of, technology to keep charged and log in information to organize. Then of course there is organizing oneself for this new method of learning. Whew!

Let’s start with the easy stuff. Where will you work? You want to have one place to work where you have all the supplies and space you need. It needs to be comfortable, but not too comfy. Make sure the lighting is good and that you are not working in your own shadow. Get a comfortable chair where your feet can touch the floor. Keep it distraction free – but hang photos that make you feel good. How will you keep track of everything? Do you use your phone or a paper planner, or sticky notes? The best one, is the one that works for you. Make it a habit to put everything in it though, so nothing can fall through the cracks.

Next organize your technology. Make sure you have all the log in information for the websites you need to log onto and the password information. Set up folders for each subject on your device. Create a reminder for turning assignments in as that is often a step that can easily get missed. If you have a way to track what is passed in, then if it “gets lost” you have proof. Move the chargers to your new space so that your equipment does not have to be moved to be charged. Turn notifications off by putting privacy settings on while you are doing your homework. You can spend all night working or you can get it done effectively and have some well-deserved downtime for yourself. Which would you rather do?

Now your materials will need to include hand sanitizer and masks as well as all the standard stuff. Chances are you will have less paper to keep track of this year so why not go with a small notebook or binder that has room for all your classes. If you keep it cleaned out of the completed topics you should easily be able to fit a full term’s worth of papers in a 1- or 11/2-inch notebook. That should hold between 200 and 300 pages. That does include the necessary weekly clean out of papers no longer needed. Maintaining your supplies is important too. You may need reminders to carry a spare mask or two with you or weekly refilling of your hand sanitizer and a disinfecting spray of the backpack and wipe down of your tech.

To organize yourself, may end up being the most challenging part of this school year. You have an obligation to yourself and your family to do your best to stay healthy. That requires regular health habits including sleep which can be difficult for teens. It will mean keeping your materials clean and switching out your mask daily. Students need to find time to be active, whether it is playing a sport or shooting hoops in the driveway, something that keeps those synapses happy.

You will need to realize that this is probably not the way your teacher had hoped the year would start out either. Teachers are working extra hard to juggle all the pieces of the hybrid plan and have to be flexible enough to adapt if things should change. They have families too and may not be as available as they would normally be for providing extra support. You will need to take that responsibility on yourself. Make sure that you understand the concepts that are being presented and don’t wait to discover you did poorly on the exam before looking for help. Can you explain the key points of the topic to yourself? Then spend time studying what you DON’T know. Take good notes in case you need to use them to teach yourself.

How much time do you spend doing your homework? If you allow distractions to interrupt you, you are taking away from your focus and adding about 20 minutes more to your work time to regain that level of focus. Take short breaks in between assignments and give your brain some nourishment and process time. It will thank you by working more efficiently – saving you time and energy in the end. Also take five minutes to put everything back where it belongs when you are done working.

Good luck, stay healthy and stop the spread by doing your part. This will be a year unlike any other!

5 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Stress Level

Anytime during this Covid-19 pandemic seems like the perfect time to discuss stress. On a scale of 1-10 (with 1=lowest and 10=highest) how would you rate your level of stress?

Just so we are clear, “Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand. You can experience stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts.”1

I cannot imagine all the possible variables that you and your family may be experiencing now but I hope that by providing some simple strategies you can reduce that stress and improve your health.

5 Keys to Reducing Your Stress Level

  1. Create routines
  2.  Get organized
  3. Connect with loved ones
  4. Reduce your work load
  5. Take a break
  1.  Create routines – Have you heard of decision fatigue? It’s real and neuroscience tells us that each day we start off with a set amount of decision-making power. The more we use it – the less we have as the day goes on. Have you struggled to decide what to have for dinner? It’s possible your decision-making power is at its lowest, making even the simplest decisions challenging at the end of the day.

By creating routines and limiting choices you can “save” some of that decision-making power for the more important things. A routine is something that can be done on automatic pilot and doesn’t use much decision-making power at all. Having a morning, afternoon (returning home) and evening routine that works for you and reduces the number of decisions necessary is a great way to start. Having routines around sleeping, showering and eating are great for kids too as they often don’t check in with their bodies to know what they need.

Is it really worth it to use your decision-making power on your breakfast choice, or what you will wear today or when you will exercise? It makes more sense to save it for important decisions at work, helping your child with their homework or deciding where to vacation. Having routines that work, saves the decision-making power for the important things.

  1. Get organized – Along with creating routines that work for you, getting organized can also reduce your stress level. Estimates range from 2.5 days per year to 5,000 hours a year as the amount of time Americans waste looking for misplaced items. What would it be like if you never had to search for your keys or the TV remote again? Tired of paying late fees because you missed the payment reminder in among those 1000+ other emails?

Have a place for everything and put everything in its place, is what my mother used to say. That works for many things like hooks for keys, baskets for mail, and snacks in the drawer. The other thing to watch for is if you have too much of something. De-cluttering and getting rid of excess makes it easier to find what you are looking for. Having less, means it takes less time to “take care of” things, less time to find what you need and saves money because you didn’t have to go out and buy a new one.

Find a way to keep track of important dates and set the reminders on your phone when necessary. Don’t wait for the last minute. As we have seen with shipping delays, Prime has spoiled us, we no longer want to wait for deliveries. Think ahead.

  1. Connect with loved ones – You don’t need research to show that the pandemic and its social distancing has affected our stress levels when it comes to missing our family and friends. The fear/stress of not knowing who might have Covid-19 is keeping many people housebound for safety. We are keeping away from family for fear we could bring it unknowingly to them.

Thanks to advances in technology, it is easy to connect with friends and family via video. It might not feel the same as an in-person hug but sometimes just seeing your loved one’s face and hearing their voice is enough to reduce your stress and theirs. Set reminders to connect regularly for your health and the health of your loved ones.

  1. Reduce your work load – If you’re working from home you may be putting extra pressure on yourself to get “more” work done to keep your boss happy. However, if you have kids or pets or both, it is impossible! Be realistic and set 1-3 priorities for the day. Work in short blocks of time and batch your activities putting similar things together. Stay off social media and email unless your job is dependent on it.

Spend time with your kids throughout the day. This situation is stressful for them as well. They need guidance to get their school work done (or to have some learning time) and in how to use their time for work and play. Kids are used to having others provide the activities that keep them busy (think after school care, camps, etc.) so take time to encourage their creativity and imagination.

Routines and organization are important for work too. If something isn’t working, take the time to figure out why and then fix it. No one knows how long this situation will go on, so it’s important that it “work” for you now. The same thing applies to all the home stuff too. Create a schedule that works for you and the family and keeps things running smoothly. Get everyone involved. Even a three-year-old can match socks. Working and playing together as a team benefits everyone.

  1. Take a break – Everyone needs some “downtime.” Make sure to take time for yourself and provide breaks throughout the day in order to recharge. By creating “margins” around your activities and allowing for time in between tasks you are also allowing your brain to process what you have just done. The brain uses the most energy of any organ in the body and a stressed brain cannot think. Even as little as 5-10 minutes can recharge your brain. Snacks and movement can also help your brain.

Take time for fun too. Fun helps reduce stress and builds relationships. It raises the dopamine level in the brain which makes us feel good and think better. Your kids will be happier too and that can also reduce the stress in your life.

The pandemic has provided each family the gift of togetherness I hope you take advantage of it and don’t let the added stresses of what is happening in the world effect your health, your family or your home life.

1 my.clevelandclinic.org › health › articles › 11874-stress

Coaching 101 – Are you Ready?

Ready to make a change? Are you tired of the same old situation that causes you stress or is there a challenge you would like to overcome or a dream you just can’t seem to get to? Coaching can help you become the person you know you can be by utilizing your strengths and minimizing your weaknesses.

If you are facing a challenge, then coaching is a way to help you envision the future you would have if you no longer faced this challenge. Coaching might discuss what has been getting in the way of making this change before, but also what would the impact be on you and your family if you overcame this challenge. Take a moment to just imagine what your life would feel like if you no longer faced this challenge. Imagine the possibilities!

Example of a coaching topic: Parent with a child with ADHD who wanted to learn to communicate in a more positive, loving manner and to decrease the negativity.

Coaching uses questions, not questions that require a “yes” or “no” response, but deeper level questions that we call “powerful questions.”  These powerful questions promote awareness, reflection, discovery and action.

You, the coachee, determine the agenda or topic for discussion and together we will uncover the puzzle pieces until the picture reveals itself. Together we may design “experiments” as possible strategies that you can try out and evaluate before moving forward – all while keeping your agenda in focus, with the understanding that you are naturally creative, resourceful and whole and have the answers within you – we just need to discover them. Creating experiments provides a safe, practice that focuses on the successes and provides more data for the next time, if it should fail.

Ex: Student looking to become more organized and reduce the frustration of not being able to find what they need, when they need it.

Coaching can offer accountability which can serve to motivate you to complete whatever you said you wanted to do. One thing is different here, there is no guilt if you do not complete your task. Instead, we would explore what happened and make adjustments as necessary for the next “experiment.

Ex: Parent deciding whether or not to go back to work after being home with her children.

Coaching is a process, not an event and as with any change, it takes time. Through this exploration you will discover your needs and values, your strengths and how to use them to minimize the challenges. This new learning will empower you to achieve your goals and dreams. Isn’t it time you found out what could be possible with coaching?

Add Power to Your Day – Set an Intention

sunrise over hilltopDo you start each day with an intention or do you let the day unfold as it will? An intention according to Oxford Dictionaries is, “a thing intended; an aim or plan.” Now that might sound a bit like a goal, but I see the goal as having an endpoint. An intention is more of a feeling, an awareness or a purpose rather than a specific result. With an intention set for the day, you may find that it guides how you go through your day. Remember we are talking feelings and not results.

For example, maybe you want to make a point of daily self-care, or intend to be more deliberate about taking in the experiences that only summer in New England can offer.  Or, maybe you want to be more present with your kids or, simply decide to find joy throughout your day. Whatever it is, it needs to be meaningful to you.

If that seems overwhelming (after all, the choices are unlimited) then take a tip from Joshua Becker – whose book, The Minimalist Home, I am currently reading. He uses one sentence each day:

“Today, I commit myself to ____________________.”

His blog goes on to give examples such as,

      • “Today, I commit myself to being the best mother I can be.
      • Today, I commit myself to healthy eating.
      • Today, I commit myself to this work goal.”

Of course, you can have intentions for more specific things too, like getting through the meeting, showing understanding with your kids, putting things away as you use them. It can be anything that speaks to you and your life. It is not a “to do”, it is more like an “approach” to your day. Sometimes we get so caught up in the to do’s that we lose our sense of who we want to be. Keeping an intention in mind, can keep you focused on the important aspect of your life (hint: it is not about doing more)

Now, you may find that by repeating the same intention for a week or a month, that certain things change. Simply focusing on an area, increases its presence. You’ve heard the statement that “energy flows where intention goes.” You may find that it may lead you to a deeper understanding of yourself or a change in behavior that will enhance your life.

My Intention: Today I set clear boundaries around my work and play time and respect what I accomplish. What’s your intention for today?

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“Don’t just drift through life. Live with intention and purpose.” Joshua Becker

The “Next” Normal of Learning

As if the daily struggle with homework was not enough stress, now you are being asked to help your child learn online and complete work via a screen. How are you and your children adjusting to this “online learning?”

There are only a few weeks left, but do you feel that your child has really “learned” how to learn for themselves remotely? It is not necessarily about the content but have they learned to be a self-directed learner or are you guiding them throughout each day?

All brains may struggle with this new way of doing things. However, an ADHD brain may struggle with the new way of learning, and the different “schedule”, the distractions at home, the challenge of not being able to ask the teacher whatever pops into their heads and the sitting in one place for longer periods of time. All this can make 30 minutes of work take 3 hours instead. Parents can become frustrated at the amount of time and coercing this work can take. Please remember your relationship with your child is the number one priority. Don’t let the pressure of getting the work done interfere with your relationship. This is new for them too.

Next Normal: Learning

  1. Start with making a “work” zone. A place where your child can set up the iPad or laptop and has space to work if needed. Clutter increases distraction and can interrupt their focus. Make it a calm, clear space for work that has the tools they will need within reach. Put a clock or timer nearby so they can see how much time they have to finish. (If you give them all day, it will take all day. Set a limit.) Setting kids up on their beds is NOT recommended, it gives the body the wrong idea but give them the option to stand up while they work may help some kids focus easier. See what works for your child. If they choose to sit, be sure their feet touch the floor or put a box under them so they’re legs are not dangling.
  2. Remember this is a new way of learning for your kids. They are essentially being asked to teach themselves without the same type of interaction they would have in school. It is pass/fail for this term so let them do their best and leave it at that. It does not help the teacher to know where your child might need more help, if you are making them correct all their errors before turning things in. Find ways to make it fun, and pay attention to what kinds of things seem to be difficult for your child. Work together to find other ways they can learn. The summer will be a great time to reinforce their weaker skills but for now, help them get through this new experience.
  3. Break up the “work” time into small blocks. If the kids were in school, they would be going to specialists, having snack break or recess. Encourage them to move more and get outside during these breaks. Set a timer so they know when it is time to get back to work. We don’t want them having to work all day. Create a schedule everyone can agree on.
  4. Kids need time to adjust to transitions, especially if it is from play to work. Set timers for all breaks or give a warning when they have 5 minutes left, 2 minutes or 1-minute left. Then let them know how long they have to work. For younger kids, a time timer works to show the passage of time. It gives kids the knowledge that this “torture” won’t continue for too much longer.

Lastly, take time to connect with your kids throughout the day. Yes, it is difficult to balance the responsibilities of work with family life, but we are all experiencing this together. No one is expecting you to focus 100% on your job throughout the day. Take time for yourself and your family because when this is over – things will not go back to “normal.”  However, this “next normal” can be better for you and your family if you put the time in now.

Time for the “Next Normal”

Good habits compass

Depending on where you live you may be in week 6, 7, 8 or more of this “stay home” recommendation due to the Coronavirus. You might be working from home and trying to support your kids learning online while trying to maintain some kind of “normalcy”. Or you might be on the medical front lines or part of the “essential” group that keeps the world turning. Thank you for all that you do and are doing no matter which group you are in.

Although a little more warning that this was coming would have been helpful, we are where we are and it looks like it will continue for a while. Please don’t be disheartened, this can be seen as an opportunity in many ways.

First, just a note about all that productivity stuff you’ve been seeing. Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t doing everything that someone else thinks you should be doing. No guilt here. We’ve all seen our routines and schedules gone, our self-care rituals moved to the bottom of the list and our patience replaced with overwhelm. Not to mention the disorganization that is building up due to our lack of time. It’s all okay as long as it is all temporary and is not causing you more stress.

If you or your children have ADHD or ADHD symptoms then the change in structure or schedule can be very upsetting. Home is where the distractions are, so it can be more difficult to focus. The online schedules that I have seen change every day and a struggling working memory may not be able to remember it all. Also switching things from paper and pencil to online requires the ability to think flexibly and that can be very challenging for an ADHD brain. More information can be found in last month’s newsletter here.

Let’s talk about two areas that are important to this “next normal.” Relationships and Structure.

Relationships are important – your relationship with yourself, your family, co-workers and friends. This “next normal” has freed up some responsibilities (chauffeuring to after school activities, commuting, overbooking, etc.) and made it possible to spend more time with your family. It has also added responsibilities like helping your children learn, figuring out how to do your job remotely while keeping the kids busy and making do without the support services you may depend on.

Next Normal: Relationships

  1. You’ll have to “steal” time for yourself every day to make sure you are staying healthy in mind and body since everyone is at home. Taking care of yourself is important so you can care for your family too.
  2. Pay attention to your state of mind and honor it. If things are getting too stressful or you just want to curl up on the couch, then do it. It is your mind’s way of saying, “stop, I’m feeling stressed (overwhelmed, frustrated, scared, etc.) and I need a break.
  3. Reach out to family and friends. Virtual dinner parties, birthday drivebys, or just a call to say hello can do wonders for you and the recipient.
  4. Limit your “bad news exposure.” It can wear you down and increase your stress level which can lower your immunity.

Keep some structure in your day. Sure, it was great to stay in pajamas for the first few days and catch up on Netflix, but if you are still in that stage – it is time to get back on track. You may not have noticed the subtle effect on your mood, patience or ability to get work done but it was there. Children thrive with structure as evidenced in every preschool. It helps them know what to expect and that reduces any anxiety. When there are no routines, then outbursts and meltdowns can occur. The CDC wrote an article on creating structure and rules you can find here. Adding structure back into your day can help you get more done, reduce your stress and make the kids happy. Coaching can help you clarify your direction and set benchmarks so you can see and appreciate your progress.

Next Normal: Structure

  1. Make a schedule for the week that includes the times you and your kids will need to be online for something and post it where everyone can see it. Include family time and some outside play time. Don’t over plan but focus on the top 2 or 3 things that are the highest priority or would make you feel the best if they were done.
  2. Make sure everyone is up and dressed and has time for breakfast before the day’s responsibilities start.
  3. Keep up with the laundry and the dishes.  A quick “pick-up” every night gets things back to normal so you are ready for the next day. Clutter causes stress, wastes time and eats up your energy. (Thinking about doing something uses the same amount of energy as actually doing it. Clutter causes a low grade fight or flight response in the body, lowering your ability to fight off infections.)
  4. Plan out your meals and keep mealtimes at regular times. Kids often don’t realize they are hungry or thirsty until they physically feel it, and then they will grab the first thing they see. Keep them on an even keel with meals and healthy snacks throughout the day. The brain uses the most energy of any organ in the body (up to 60% for young kids). Don’t allow yourself to skip a meal just to get something done.

Although it may be a while until things return to something that resembles our past, we have the opportunity to forge ahead and make things better rather than dwelling on missing the past. Coaching can help you move forward in a direction that serves you. Isn’t it time for you?

 “Your dreams are calling for a bigger YOU to show up.”

ADHD vs. Covid-19

The ADHD brain is quick, creative and intelligent. It has certain things it likes to do and things it doesn’t like to do. You probably have a great ability to focus on something when it is of high interest to you or is new.  Or maybe you struggle with attention or focus. Focus also includes the ability to determine the best thing to be paying attention to, as well as, when it is time to switch to something else. Focus can have a negative effect when we don’t notice how much we are focusing on something. COVID-19 is new and that can cause you to want to learn all you can about it. Some might say you could easily hyper focus on it. With frequent updates on the internet and TV you could binge watch and overload on information. All this does is to heighten any anxiety you may already be experiencing.

Enter Covid-19, the “bad guy” in this case, stealing your attention and your ability to focus on the important things. So, what can you do instead? Pick specific times to watch the news or the updates from the President or the Governor. Record them if they come on at a time that doesn’t work for you. I noticed the 5:30pm updates were moving my dinner time to 7pm or later and that didn’t work. I also noticed we were hearing the same things over and over and yet I was expecting something new or different. It used up a lot of energy, energy that could have been used to work in the garden or take a walk or work on my business. Brain energy is limited each day, so choose wisely what you want to use it on.

Covid-19 will want you to stay in your pajamas because it feels safer and more comfortable when dealing with extra stress and it will want you to eat to feel better about this situation. Which means you may gain weight and not exercise (or even move off the couch) because you can’t even remember what day of the week it is. The structure that was built into your day whether it was around getting your kids to school or yourself to work, driving here and there fulfilling your daily responsibilities is now gone or at least changed. I understand many are still working their regular or even extra shifts to keep us and others safe (including my husband) but the structure has changed for them as well. Your kids thrive on structure! The school creates the habits and routines to help them be better able to learn. Have you noticed how your child’s ability to think and entertain themselves other than with a screen is gone? Score one for Covid-19☹

Help your kids thrive during this time by creating a structure to their day. Make sure everyone gets up and gets dressed by a “normal” time and then take this opportunity to experiment with different routines that include learning time, exercise time and play time for all.

This is a great opportunity to use whatever “new” time you have whether you are still able to work or not in order to focus on something that you have been wanting to do, or need to do. Possible ideas are exercising more regularly, eating healthy meals or trying new recipes, playing with your kids more, decluttering and organizing your home or taking up a new hobby, getting the taxes done or learning to meditate. Whatever it is, this is the time to do it. Score one for ADHD.

No one knows how long this may go on but one thing is for sure – you have the chance to take advantage of this time or let it stress and overwhelm you – which will pay off in the long run? Don’t let Covid-19 knock you out!

If you are looking for support, we have moved our services and some of our group classes to online during this time.

With ADHD – Love is Not Enough

Although February is often thought of as the month of love and relationships, when it comes to ADHD and relationships, every month is important. All strong relationships are based on trust and love but also include, patience, understanding and open communication. The same things that are necessary in any relationship where there is ADHD.

Whether you are an adult with ADHD, live with an adult with ADHD, or are the parent of a child with ADHD, you need patience, understanding and open communication for everyone to thrive. Let’s take a deeper look at how these three things can make a BIG difference in your relationships.

Patience: The actions and behaviors of someone with ADHD can look intentional but weak Executive function (EF) skills and a chemical imbalance in the brain are often to blame. Executive function skills in the pre-frontal cortex are the skills that allow us to plan and execute our priorities. In kids, these EF skills don’t mature until around age 25 and in some adults, the problem is they never developed effective strategies to compensate for their weak EF skills. So, patience is important when a weak working memory makes it difficult to remember things (even if you just said it). Task initiation is a fancy way of saying they can’t get started on things – especially if they are tedious, unexciting or complicated. Which means they often don’t finish things either. But the biggest impact is often around a sense of time, especially the passage of time. Those with ADHD are often unaware of how long things take or how long they have been hyper-focused on something they enjoy.

You can help by:

  • Summarizing what you are asking in as few words as possible
  • Ask your child to repeat back what they are going to do
  • Set timers so that others are aware of the passage of time
  • Create a routine around getting started on a task

Understanding: Those with ADHD feel their emotions intensely and sometimes one little remark can cause them to spiral out of control. Odds are it had little to do with what was said but was the result of things building up over their day. Their challenge is to inhibit those emotions when they don’t match the situation. Planning and organizing their thoughts into actions is not a fluid process and can be challenging for those with ADHD. They may tend to jump around and have their “process” all out of order (in your mind) and that shouldn’t matter unless they don’t follow through. You can help by asking questions and getting them to think about some of the details they might tend to miss. Forcing them to do it “your way” will almost always fail. Getting stuck or being unable to consider other options can be a sign that they struggle to think flexibly and helping them see other perspectives or ideas can often help.

You can help by:

  • Stay calm and don’t get pulled in by their over reaction
  • Make a plan together but let them lead (Mind maps help to get all the info out)
  • Encourage them to use positive self-talk when working through a problem
  • Remember ADHD is neurobiological (chemical not intentional)

Communication: Working memory shows up here too. In communicating with someone with ADHD it is important to not put in too much “extra” information as they cannot remember all of it. They also often have difficulty “reading” facial cues and may miss important cues. It is important that you have their full attention before beginning to speak. For kids, CHADD suggests you be within arm’s reach and use their name before you begin speaking. Lead with questions that start with “what” and not “why” as why questions tend to imply guilt. Allow some “think time” so they have a chance to process what you just said. If you interrupt before they are done thinking it through, they may need to start the process all over again.

You can help by:

  • Gaining their attention before speaking
  • Use simple and concise language
  • Ask “what” questions to get them to think
  • Provide feedback to be sure you understand their message (It sounds like you were really frustrated when that happened.”)

I know it can be frustrating when someone you love has ADHD, but it is also frustrating for them. I hope these strategies/tips help but if you are still struggling check out our new classes for Moms and Dads.

 

 

 

Self-Care is a Necessity for You and Them

What does self-care mean to you? Here is a definition I found on PsychCentral.Selfcare is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.“  I thought it was grabbing a piece of chocolate? Seriously though, during this busy winter season it is important to remember to take time to recharge and renew because it is when our reserves are low that we are most susceptible to colds and stress. So, self-care is not a luxury, it is a vital and necessary part of a balanced life.

What recharges you? Researchers have discovered that as little as 15 minutes in nature is enough to recharge the brain, lower stress levels and increase feelings of well-being. Or maybe you prefer a cup of tea, a good book, a nap, a 10-minute meditation or some music. Whatever makes you happy. Find something (a few things) that give you that “recharged” feeling that you can use every day. Do you have a hobby that can be easily picked up? Whatever it is, it is important to give the brain a break to regain some of its energy. There is also reducing stress, getting a good night’s sleep (adults need 7-8 hours….not 6), being active and eating healthy. If you struggle with ADHD, it is even more important to take time to recharge daily.

Help your child with ADHD recognize what makes them feel good too and instill an understanding for the importance of eating healthy, getting enough sleep (8-11 hours), and exercise in order to recharge their ADHD brain. Cultivate their interest in something that excites them and that they are good at to rebuild the self-confidence ADHD can sometimes whittle away.

Kids are working so hard at school, especially if they have ADHD. The constant stimulus and distractions can use up their physical and emotional reserves so that by the time they get home, the tiniest thing may send them out of control (or at least be more of an outburst than would be normal if they were at their best.) The brain uses the most energy of any organ in the body and those with ADHD have lower levels of dopamine, the “feel good hormone” needed for thinking and emotional stability. As soon as they get home it is time to refuel and recharge. Do not hit the homework before taking a 30-45 minute break for some active fun, and a protein snack.

Help your child discover the little things they can do to calm and recharge in a short amount of time. Going outside, building, coloring, shooting some hoops, or drinking a hot cocoa with marshmallows (yes, a bit of sugar and caffeine calms the busy brain). Notice TV and video games did not make the list as they tend to stir up the wake-up hormone, serotonin, rather than acting to calm. We want them calm and capable of managing their emotions before they start homework. They are more likely to be able to handle the problem solving needed when their emotions are in a good place. Stress and frustrations should not be part of doing homework.

Setting aside time to take care of yourself sends a positive message to your children that it is important to take care of yourself so you can be the best parent you can be and they should do the same. What a happier world we would live in, if everyone took time to take care of themselves.

What to Do When They Won’t Change Their Mind

I once had a student that was having difficulty turning in his homework. He would do it, but when it came time to pass it in, he could not find it. He had a “homework folder” where all of his finished work was supposed to go, but his work was not there. When asked, “Where else did you look?” He was unable to answer. In his mind (we later discovered), if it wasn’t in the homework folder there was nowhere else to look. Does this sound familiar?

This is an example of cognitive inflexibility – difficulty changing or shifting your mindset when the most logical answer does not bring results. Needless to say, upon further searching, other homework papers were found at the bottom of the backpack, stuffed inside a text book and also on his desk at home. All papers exactly where he had left them, yet he had no recollection.

Cognitive inflexibility is real. It is one of the Executive Function skills that develop in the pre-cortex of the brain. It can be measured on certain IQ tests and on the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functions. It has two components: a cognitive shift and a behavioral shift. Simply put, if your child cannot change their thoughts or their behavior when they realize something is not working, then it may be from cognitive inflexibility.  You may have seen it when they get “stuck” on their math, or they don’t know what to do, but won’t accept your help because you, “don’t do it like the teacher.” Or have you ever noticed their perspective of what happened, does not quite agree with the other person’s perspective? All related to cognitive inflexibility.

As an Executive Function skill, cognitive flexibility will continue to develop but, in the meantime, it can cause some issues. Try to help your child see other people’s perspectives. You can explain how things are not always “black and white” (another sign of this underdeveloped skill and often related to ADHD), and that there are always other possibilities. They can help themselves by starting with some simple questions.  A research study indicated that there was a close relationship between cognitive flexibility and inner speech among both children and adults.  It appears as though inner speech may increase top-down control during shifting of thoughts (i.e. flexibility). https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/07/26/7-ways-to-increase-your-cognitive-flexibility/

Try having your child ask themselves these questions:

Before starting:

“What do I already know that will help me?

“What should this look like when it is done?”

“What should I do first, second and third?”

During: “How am I doing?”

“Am I on the right track?”

“Is there another or better way?”

“What do I do if I get stuck?”

After: “What strategies did I use?”

“Did I get stuck or have to change my thinking?”

“What did I learn from this?”

Developing this ability to shift thinking or shift behavior can also be improved through games and activities. Games to encourage the development of cognitive flexibility include: Set, Othello, Connect 4, Mastermind, and Gobblet. Activities include: Stroop (where color words are written in different colors and they must say the color they are printed in), optical illusions, maps with multiple ways to the destination and Tower of Hanoi. Other activities include changing up routines, learning a new skill, exercise, getting out in nature, and video games that have multiple streams of information that have to be manipulated simultaneously.

For more strategies: Check out our blog, Stuck? 12 Ways to Encourage Cognitive Flexibility