Quick Tip

Verbalize the Power of the Pause


There is so much value in taking a break — whether it’s deep breathing, counting to 10, or walking away before reacting. Most of us know that hitting “pause” during stressful, emotional, or intense moments has the power to diffuse even the most difficult situations, even though it can be really hard to do. In truth, Pausing helps with managing every challenging aspect of ADHD. It is particularly helpful for curbing impulsivity.

Children who struggle with impulsivity tend to be managed by the moment and often have a limited tolerance for frustration, difficulty coping with intense emotions and lag behind their peers in some aspects of maturity. They are not likely to learn self-control automatically – they need to be taught. And one key way to do that is by teaching them to consciously slow down and notice. Anything and everything.

Kids with impulsivity need to know when to act, and when not to. To develop that awareness, they need to learn to stop regularly and think things through. Classic ADHD impulsivity happens because action comes before thinking. Pausing shifts that dynamic.

We like to see this as a two-step process

  • First, practice pausing — often.
  • Second, verbalize that you’re doing and let it help you communicate clear expectations.

So, stop before you get out of the car to go into the grocery store, and help your child think through what to expect inside. Articulate what challenges your child might face in a bright story with lots of distractions (and candy!), and verbalize what behaviors you would like to encourage. Pause before you leave a place you’ve been visiting and look around. Verbalize that you want to make sure you’ve got all your belongings with you, and that you’ve cleaned up properly.

And remember, pauses don’t always have to be “productive.” You can pause to take a deep breath, to smile at your child and give a hug, or even to just take a moment before moving on to what’s next.  When you take the time to pause, and verbalize it, you’re teaching your child a lifelong skill for self-regulation and self-management.

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