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.