In our series on ADHD, we have worked to understand ADHD as a disorder of regulation, a skill that stems from executive functioning. This new perspective helps us by increasing our empathy and compassion. This new perspective also preserves our relationship with our children by increasing opportunities for connection and decreasing stress in the household. It cannot be stressed enough that understanding ADHD from an executive functioning deficit perspective is the most important part of any ADHD treatment plan.
From this point in understanding, families can move into a support and design stage. In this stage, families can take time to understand where any executive functioning deficits are causing impairment either socially, emotionally or academically. With older children and teens, it is necessary to include them in this evaluation - asking for their feedback regarding where support may be helpful to reduce anxiety and stress. Take time as a family to look at the day and reflect on moments that are routinely the most intense - morning routine, homework, bedtime, etc. If these at-home moments are regulated, ask the teen how the day at school looks - ask about their focus, energy levels, assignment completion, and engagement with peers.
START SMALL. Choose ONE area of the day to focus on that would increase overall wellness for the child and the parent.
EXTERNALIZE. In these conversations, it is important to help the child externalize ADHD, continually reframe any distorted thoughts of character deficits as executive functioning deficits. This can look like: “I know you feel like you are lazy because it is hard to start your homework, but we know that motivation is an executive functioning skill. ADHD makes this difficult, but let's look for a strategy to help.” Pro tip: have these conversations about strategies when the child or teen is regulated and present - not in moments of frustration or conflict.
PRIORITIZE. Choose your priorities in these conversations. Remember how often children are asked to self-regulate during the day. If it is possible to remove any points of conflict over minor requests, do it.
CONNECTION BEFORE CORRECTION. Connect with your kiddo anytime it is possible. When raising a kid with ADHD, there are many opportunities for correction throughout the day. Consistent correction without a trusted connection can lead to conflict in the relationship. When possible, engage in connection with your kiddo. This can be individual outings (Starbucks!), quick and simple praise (thank you so much for helping walk the dog today!) a high-five over an assignment completed, asking about their current interest, or any other gesture that lets your kiddo know you are connected and present.
For more great applicable strategies, check out Dr Russel Barkley’s book 12 Principles For Raising a Child with ADHD. You can also reach out to KS Services to request a consultation for more resources and support.
Licensed Professional Counselor