Sometimes, I gotta admit, I get really tired of coping with ADHD. It's exhausting. It's all-consuming. It Is relentless. And yet -- I wouldn't know family life without It. To manage my own stress as life seemed to present me with one cycle of 504 meetings after another, I used these 4 keys to learn to keep smiling!
I remember when I went from one to two school-aged kids with ADHD. It started at another meeting at school. The week before was my son's 504 review, and this one was with my daughter's school psychologist. She had recently performed a complete psycho-educational evaluation, and the meeting was scheduled to share the results.
Bottom line: among other things, she suspected my daughter had ADHD. It's not surprising, given her genetics and our family's collective history. But I couldn't help but think, “Really? You have got to be kidding me! Will I ever get a break?” It was all I could do to get through the meeting. At the end, I simply sucked back the tears and looked at my calendar to schedule the next discussion. To be honest, I was already tired of coping with ADHD.
My daughter was almost through elementary school when she started struggling in Science and Social Studies: forgetting homework, not turning things in, that sort of thing. She was “supposed” to be my “typical” kid. Then suddenly, we were at it again.
Being a parent of a kid with ADHD is very demanding. Typically, we are so overwhelmed that we don't even notice it any more. Elaine calls it the “new normal.” It's exhausting.
I can totally relate to these feelings as a parent. As a coach, I want to stand up to them. I want more for us.
I believe that everyone has the right to live happy and fulfilled lives, including those of us who have been gifted with the opportunity to support kids who have special needs: they are special, they are a gift, and they need us. They need us to be as sane, present, calm, patient and consistent as we can muster on any day. But some days are easier than others…
So what do you do when you have those moments? When you want to throw in the towel and send your kids off to the circus? When you want to escape to some remote island with just a book and a bathing suit?
What are the keys to happiness when you are raising kids with ADHD?
I don't pretend to have all the answers. Still here are some helpful tips I've learned along the way:
Upsetting things happen, sometimes often. We turn them into suffering when we hang on to the pain, re-live it, analyze it to death and talk about it over and over again. It's so easy to get caught in telling painful stories that we forget: the more we tell them, the more we hear them. What we resist persists. So, as much as you can, when challenges arrive, pick up the pieces, brush yourself off, and get ready for the next amazing adventure.
Never underestimate the value of taking a break, a pause, or a breather, whether it's deep breathing, counting to 10, or walking away before (over-)reacting. “Pause” has power. It re-directs and diffuses even the most difficult circumstances.
Many of us were raised to believe that we could do anything that we put our minds to. I propose a caveat to that statement: you can't change anyone else. This is good news and bad news. If we go through life expecting other people to change so that we can have things the way we want, we will likely be disappointed. If we go through life, changing our perspective and managing how we respond in various situations, we will always come up on top.
Our kids need calm, patient, consistent, present support. Every day. They need us! At our house, by the time everyone gets home and we have time together, we are all worn out from busy days. When I'm tired, my fuse gets short and my nerves get frazzled. When I pay attention to it, I can typically shift this by taking just a few minutes for myself, “rocking out” in the car on the way home, listening to the birds in my backyard, or chatting with a good friend on the phone. For me, it's even better, if I can occasionally take an afternoon off and head to the spa or out for coffee with one of my BFFs. Do what feeds you!
In the Meantime...
I admit that I still find myself looking for someplace to ship my kids, or a ticket to some remote island retreat. That's totally fine. I'm human. It's often those moments of challenge, when I start pushing against what life is giving me, that allows me to embrace just how amazing life can be. Fulfillment is in that space in between the dramas. Meet me there for coffee sometime???