No More Helicopter Parent

diver bomer

Become a Dive Bomber Parent

This week we were talking about what most parents want for their ADHD kids. Independence ranked near the top of the list. Helping your children become more independent isn’t just about teaching & coaching them on the skills they need to be self-sufficient. It’s about learning to let go, and allowing them to do things on their own.

Like most ADHD middle school kids, my son needs help with organization and structure. Homework is a challenge.  With so many steps, there are many places for the process to break down:

  • Getting the assignments written down
  • Completing the assignments
  • Completing the “right” assignments
  • Getting the assignments into the notebook
  • Getting the notebook to class
  • Turning in the assignments

Even if you are a parent of an ADHD kid, it’s likely that you haven’t thought about how complex getting homework done can be.  My son has accommodations in place to make sure that he has the support he needs.(a planner, regular check-ins, notes home, etc..)

Each year, my son’s teachers become less willing to hold his hand through the process. Each year, I find myself pushing back, trying to get him as much help as possible. I’m realizing that I need to make some changes, to let go (even a little), to allow him to be more independent. It’s hard for me.

As parents, we know that as our kids grow we need to continue to “back off.” It’s a good thing to push them to do more on their own. Typically, there are three things that get in our way:

  1. We see the little kids in them. Sometimes, all we can see is a struggling little boy (or girl), and we would do anything to help him and make his life just a little easier.
  2. We get attached. We get tricked by those voices in our head that warn us not to do anything that will make us look “bad” as parents.  If our kids get average or poor grades, or are “in trouble”, many of us tend to take it personally.
  3. We just want it done: In the short term, it feels like it’s easier to do things ourselves than it is to watch our kids struggle and figure out their own path.

These reactions are typical, normal, and …  not always helpful. It is important to see when we are making a choice that can slow down our child’s development.  Here’s the challenge: we typically don’t even know we are choosing!  Most of us do it automatically and (very) behind the scenes. 

So, it’s time to step out of the closet!  Here are some tips to help you practice Letting Go:

  • Pay attention to all the areas where you help your child. Make sure you are choosing to be involved, rather than doing things unconsciously.
  • Find one area where you know you are over-involved. Make a commitment to yourself to step back.
  • Take baby steps. It’s not critical that you pull back all at once.  It can be easier for you (and for your kid) if you back off a little, or tackle one area at a time.
  • Talk with your friends and other parents and get some insight.  Often, we don’t know what we don’t know.  Our ADHD kids are definitely behind developmentally, but what could they be doing that they aren’t already? (The ImpactADHD Facebook page could be a great place to start).
  • Create a back-up plan. You are going to feel better about being less involved if you have a way to swoop in if something unexpected happens.

For my son and me, the shift has been a gradual one, one step at a time.  The most recent step I took was to allow him to be responsible for looking at the online system once a week, and to report back to me any missing assignments he saw.  My back up is that I remind him to do it, and I look at it with him the week before the end of each progress report. That way he can be sure to have everything turned in before grades are published.

Letting go is a challenge, but seeing him jump in and take responsibility himself is a wonderful reward.

 So, where will you start to let go?

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