Understanding Change in ADHD

Change in ADHD

One of my favorite quotes is, “the only thing you can count on is change.” Life is full of big and little changes: job transitions, moves, deaths, new teachers. As parents of kids with ADHD, it seems that the changes are non-stop. We find a solution, and it's working great, and then all of a sudden, nope! Not anymore!

A few years ago, I went to an excellent presentation sponsored by the Resilience Alliance, an organization dedicated to helping people "thrive" in the midst of change. Their President, Dr. Linda Hoopes, talked about how it takes practice and skills to move through change in your life successfully.

Here's my spin on their list of actions to become more resilient:

  1. Positive: the ability to look for opportunities in the middle of change rather than focusing on problems and risks.
  2. Confident: knowing that you are able to find ways to succeed in a situation.
  3. Focused: having a clear vision of what you want to achieve and a sense of purpose.
  4. Flexible: being comfortable with ambiguity and willing to try creative approaches to problem solving.
  5. Connected: having a strong social network that you can call on for support.
  6. Organized: creating order to provide stability when things get rocky.
  7. Proactive: trying new things and being willing to challenge yourself.

Many of us have these skills naturally, at least on some level. But these are executive function skills, and if you have ADHD, they may be difficult. For all of us, ADHD or not, once we are in real life parenting situations, we are often just the opposite. When we are stressed out or overwhelmed or angry, our usually positive, confident, flexible, focused, organized self isn't. Knowing what tools you need (and have) to help you can be huge.

For example – when your normally smooth bedtime routine suddenly isn't working like it used to:

  • Get clear on what you want (focused)
  • Be willing to try something different (flexibility)
  • Check your mindset (confident, positive)
  • Maybe even get some support (connected)

Suppose you don't naturally have these skills. In that case, you can typically do some things to develop them, or surround yourself with people who do. For example, my husband is much more proactive and willing to take risks than I am. I rely on him to push me in that area, while I can help his ADHD brain stay organized.

In addition to developing and using these skills, practicing change is critical. It is like going to the gym. You need to do it over and over until you get really good at it. Many of us grew up in environments that were quite stable. This is very different from what we now likely experience as parents. Because we rarely experienced change growing up, our change muscles are weak. When change does occur, often, even if we have the skills, it's difficult to put them into place.

Here are some ideas:

  • Consciously change the order in which you do your own bedtime or morning routine
  • Drive a different way to work each day for a week
  • Start a daily gratitude journal to help increase your optimism
  • Try a new food

Teaching our children how to manage change is a critical life lesson. It's important that we help them develop and practice skills just like we do. Think about how to translate some of these concepts into language they will understand – and continue to support their learning.

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