messy. crazy. amazing. joyful.

We're not all officially ADHD. Dad's unofficial. Our ten-year-old twins have ADHD. Our seven-year old wants to have it because everyone is always talking about it. Our three year old has ADHD--just because she's three. And me, Mom, I think it's contagious. Who can remain untouched in a house where shoes seem to be lost every morning, instructions are routinely thrown aside, and fights erupt over which continent capybaras come from?

Monday, November 15, 2010


I am healing. I realized as I savasana’ed in yoga last week. As I lay on the floor relaxing after my yoga session, I felt happy and calm—then startled. Wow, I felt happy and calm. For the last four years, as I have savasana’ed and my yogis have told me to unwind, empty my mind, and let go of stress, I have lain on the floor struggling to pacify myself. Instead of emptying my mind, I was agonizing over the ordeals of the day, anguishing over my kids’ unruly and strange behavior, berating myself for my poor reactions and losing my temper, wondering if their constant fighting was in any way normal for siblings, pondering how I could make things better, worrying about what was going on at school, questioning whether they could ever make and keep friends. So much for meditation. I have not been able to empty my mind and relax for years.

But last week, I relaxed. I thought about how great my life is. How I love my husband and my kids. How I have an amazing extended family and wonderful friends. How the world is beautiful, and how I’ve had the chance to enjoy it in so many ways. Then I just emptied my mind and rested. Quite a miracle for me.

As I mentioned, it took me years to get to this place. I have learned patience and how to let go of those things that don’t matter. I have let go of who I thought my kids would be and who I wanted them to be and allowed them to be themselves. I have focused on the positive aspects of ADHD in my spouse and kids and been amazed by their abilities. I have set boundaries with my spouse and kids and realized that I need to take care of myself, too.  We have found medications that work, for the most part, and accepted that they cannot obliterate the symptoms of ADHD but can alleviate them. We have found fantastic teachers who understand and appreciate our kids. The kids are in a great school. They attend “Friends” class once a week for help with social skills. They meet with the school psychologists individually and together to talk through issues and work on behaviors and getting along with each other. It has been a long journey, but I have learned a lot. That seems to be how I always feel when I have reached the summit of a long, arduous trail. It is nice to have a rest at the top for a moment or two.

But I feel like what I have learned is a great blessing. My kids are helping me understand all kids. I have a soft spot in my heart for the goofballs, eccentrics, bullies, ants-in-their-pants kids. I go into my kids’ school every week and read with students. I love hearing about Sam’s vacuum fetish. Five-year-old Mackenzie cracks me up with her fashion critiques and her constant asking if I want to see her do her name in sign language. Dallas brings out my sympathy when he tells me he hits because his dad says he needs to be tougher. I also teach kids at church. When I learned I had a child in my class who could not sit still and who had difficulty communicating, I thought “Why me? I’m dealing with my own kid issues all week long.” But when I got to know this kid, I just loved him. And when he realized I loved him, he responded to me. They just need to know you love them.

Our life is still messy and crazy. That’s just the way life is. But it is also amazing and joyful. That’s the way life is, too.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Safe Place for Your Child

Jumping down a giant sand dune. A good kind of adrenaline rush.

I went to a great lecture last weekend by psychologist, Jeffrey Ford. The lecture, “How to Create a Safe Place to Talk about Dangerous Things,” focused on how to create a home and build relationships in which kids feel safe telling their parents about their problems, even the most difficult kinds. Ford talked a lot about addiction problems, including alcohol, drugs, pornography, and even gaming. Unbelievable statistics about some of those things, but I'm not going to get into that now. Since kids with ADHD tend to be more prone to addictions and risky behavior, I was very interested in what he had to say. He talked about the 5 Cs: compliment, commit, calm, composed, and connection.

Compliment: When your child has the courage to share his problems with you, start by complimenting him. Tell him you know how difficult it must be to admit the problem and talk about it. Tell him he showed great courage in bringing it up. Tell him you love him no matter what. If you react this way to smaller problems, your child will trust you with bigger issues.

Commit: Tell your child that you are committed to helping her. Tell her that she has probably tried to stop the behavior on her own, but now you are there to be a help and support. Tell your child that you will regularly ask her about the problem. You can even set up a weekly meeting.

Calm: When your child admits to a problem, it is not the time to show anger or overreact. Your expression is especially important because it shows how you feel within a split second. Practice remaining calm in all situations with your child. Remind yourself that you will love your child no matter what problems he has.  Ask yourself, Would I like to communicate with someone who would likely react in anger?

Composed: This is also not a time to cry or act as though the child’s problem is going to send you over the edge. You are the adult, your child needs to be able to depend on you, trust you, and lean on you. Do not keep the problem from one or the other parent. That sends the message that the parent will not be able to cope and will not be able to love the child who has made mistakes. For instance, if you say to your child, “I’m not going to tell Dad about this,” the child may feel that her behavior is so disgusting that her father will not want to know about it. If you catch your child in the act, tell her that you will talk to her in 15 or 20 minutes when you’ve both had time to think and calm down.

Connection: Many addictive and risky behaviors create false emotions. Kids who have real connections with real people are less likely to turn to dangerous behaviors. Kids who are afraid to fail, who feel that they will be criticized or lectured for problems, or who feel that mistakes are disastrous are more vulnerable to seeking false support. The most important factor in helping a child to avoid dangerous behaviors is the child’s own positive self-concept. A healthy relationship between parent and child is key to the child’s self-concept and internal strength.

A little maxim: “Secrets surface in safety.”

This is a lot to think about, but for me, it was a good reminder that my relationships with my kids are critical to their well-being. Solving little problems and building trust now will be a great help when the bigger problems come along. No matter how crazy things get, they need to know I love them. Don’t like the behavior; love them. We had a little chat about drugs and alcohol over dinner and it went great. We did some role plays, and they really enjoyed it.