Monday, October 29, 2012

Become Your Own Expert

Life is tough. I don't know why I would have ever thought that it should or would be easy, but the more time passes the more new and exciting challenges crop up in my path. It never really works to try to maneuver around the issue because it re-appears with a vengeance. Hence, I have started telling myself, "It is what it is. So, what am I going to do about it?" This line of thinking helps me to 1)keep from panicing or riddling myself with major anxiety and 2)give me a chance to make a choice or how I will react. I actually haven't paniced much lately (which is pretty amazing) I just sigh, alot. And sometimes wish things were different but everything always happens for a reason.

So, I met with my therapist last week really to vent. She has given me most of the tools I need to work through complicated issues and keep-it-together while doing so. It was one of those weeks though where everything was getting under my skin, and writhing - busy husband, very-busy toddler, grumpy teen, and tantrum-throwing, negative, complaining child with ADHD. Ohhhh it makes me tired just typing that - and that's just it, I'm exhausted! Preston threw a tantrum last night that started over cleaning-up his room and ended up in hysterics because his nose was plugged-up. Screaming hysterics swearing he was going to die because he'd never breathe again - seriously. This tantrum lasted for a good 30-minutes. I shut his door and told him he could come find me in my room when he calmed-down and pulled it together.

He has been so emotional this week - well, everyone has. Any coincidence that it is a full moon tonight? I'm just sayin'. It's been a re-birth for me in remembering that with ADHD comes the inability to regulate your emotions - small issues become life or death. I printed out some pictures to go on his state county report and just placed them nicely on his poster. He took one look and assumed I had glued them on and he threw his head and neck back and collapsed to his knees on the floor grabbing his head howling, "What have you done??!!! You've wrecked it!!!! I can't believe you did this!!!!" Well, as I well know, it is impossible to try to talk rationally with someone deep in the throws of anger (or their own irrationality). I took a good swipe across the poster board sending it down to the ground and the little pictures scattering in different places around it (to show him that I had not glued anything). He stopped for a moment and amidst tears simply said, "Oh." I escorted him down to his room and told him to calm down before we would talk about what just went down. This is the other piece to the 'impulsive puzzle' - kids with ADHD don't stop to figure things out; they take what they see at face-value and may or may not be able to handle the emotions that flood them based on what they've concluded in their mind (or at least, they can't process it quick enough to come out to a logical conclusion). Remember, impulsive isn't just pulling your pants down to moon the teacher or throw something at somebody. It comes from an inability to process; this was a classic example.

Anyway, with all of that being said, the biggest phrase from the therapist that stood out in my mind was this: "You have become your own expert." I have researched the disorder, diet modification, behavior modification, parenting technqiues, self-relaxation techniques, natural remedies, etc. I know what his disorder means for him and for me to navigate it effectively, despite it wearing me out often. It's just downright tiring - I don't think that will end anytime soon. I don't always know what to do, but I know a little bit about what is or isn't happening in his brain and to wait out the storm before trying to clean-up the emotional wreckage.

If something isn't right, follow your intuition and start connecting the dots - that's the only way to eventually see the whole, big picture. Then once you know, seek understanding and how to manage. Managing ADHD isn't any ONE thing, it is a culmination. I was on another ADHD Mommy blog today and she had written out a number of things she has found to help with her son, most of which I have found to be true myself. If you are just starting to figure this out, this is what I would recommend:

1) The key to survival, is taking good care of yourself. You won't be able to stand against the storm if you aren't strong enough yourself. I recommend Stanley Block's, Come to Your Senses. Map, bridge, exercise, eat well and get enough sleep. Notice when you are stronger or weaker on certain days and adjust what you do accordingly. Don't pick any big battles when you aren't strong enough to see it through. Above all else, don't panic - kids (aside from bees and dogs) smell fear. They need to know they are safe and you can get through this (even though there will be days when you are certain you won't. )

2) Learn about the disorder. There are a few really good book's out there that will help you understand better what you are up against and the fact that their behavior is not about you or your parenting (although changing the way you do a few things can definitely help) but about how their brain's function.

3) DO play with their diet to see if it helps. DO medicate if it helps.You may need to give this some time. Some people swear by going gluten and casein-free. I swear that eliminating artificial colors is key and supplementing with trace-minerals can make a huge difference. Whatever you can do to keep blood-sugar levels stable (limiting sugar) is also helpful - I think blood-sugar spikes inhibit their ability to think and increase their impulsive tendencies. For some, medication will be a god-send. Figure out what works best for your child and your family.

4) Set-them up for success. This could mean getting them a tutor to help with schoolwork, set-up an IEP at school, praise their efforts, remove temptations, give them tasks they can handle, help-them where they struggle and be sensitive to their moods (just like you would be with anyone else). Talk to your family about your kiddo with ADHD (separately) and ask them to support you and their sibling the way you would want support if you were struggling with something.

5)Consistency and routine. Outline clearly home rules, expectations, bed-time routines, homework routines; kids thrive on routine. Be consistent in your discipline as well.

6)Keep your emotions out of it and find a parenting technique that works for you. 1-2-3 Magic and Love and Logic have helped me more than anything. Preston responds well to 1-2-3 Magic but doesn't always link up the consequences to HIS actions when I use Love and Logic, but I stick it with knowing that some day he will and knowing that eventually he will have to live in the real world and the consequences of his own actions.

7) Stay positive. The best thing you can do is be a good model for your kids. Take care or yourself, respect yourself and encourage them to do the same.

8) Reach out to other parents in your position. You aren't alone and there are amazing people and resources out there - especially with the internet. Surround yourself with support.

9) Don't ever give-up. Become your own expert on your child and what their disorder means for them. It's different for everybody and you know them best. You are also your child's best advocate - be there for them.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fun Fall Foods and New Traditions

I LOVE October! I say that and hear in my head, "That's nothing novel - everybody does!" Fall is a popular time of year because people think of a chill in the air that requires cozy sweaters, fires and snuggling. At least that's what I think of. And it usually means less yard work which means more family time (and that could really swing good or bad - my kids become caged animals!). It could also mean more board game time which I like as long as I am winning. Just kidding - I can handle it so long as the winners aren't being smug and cheeky which usually doesn't happen because it is my husband that always wins and he loves being both (to me in particular).

I also love tradition (hello Friday night homemade popcorn and movie night). October seems to be the tradition 'kick-off' month as we usher in the holidays. I start pulling all my favorite scary movies (the original black and white 'The Haunting,' 'What Lies Beneath,' and 'Van Helsing' - the one with Hugh Jackman, mmmm), and getting my chili and cornbread recipes out. I also have to start planning for Thanksgiving and Christmas and what kids go where and what that encompasses. This year I'm really working on invoking some new traditions to keep the focus on the holiday and the memories and not so much the expenses and toys that they play with for a week and then forget about. My favorite Christmas tradition that I remember more than anything is our favorite Carmel Roll breakfast with German Scrapple, eggs, bacon and barnyard cocktail. I STILL love and look forward to that more than anything and I think my kids do too!

At any rate, I've gotten ahead of myself. And I don't want it to be Christmas yet. Yikes. So, Halloween! The biggest trick with Halloween is trying to figure out how to keep the magic alive without all the junk. I know I sound like such a mean mom but I can tell you that candy with colors transforms Preston into the Hulk. He gets big and crazy (although not necessarily always angry - but definitely more aggressive). Last year I made him his own homemade frosted pumpkin cake in exchange for all of his candy. This worked initially although the luster wore off and he eventually became bitter that I was a mean candy-stealing mom. I felt somewhat re-assured when one of his neighborhood friends told him that her mom made her throw her candy away after a week or so. This year I think I'll do some major label-reading and find a bag of candy that doesn't have anything terrible from the naughty list and trade his pillowcase for that bag. It just might work. Did you know that the mini Reese's peanut butter cups have TBHQ (a naughty preservative) in them but the larger cups don't? Interesting.

I'm also going to try to orchestrate the writing and production of a homemade horror movie (or just a mystery movie) leading up to the big night. I'm actually having some fun with this and making some jabs at all of our quirks - I always say the best lesson my Dad taught me was to laugh at myself. I'll post the script and the movie itself upon completion. If only it hadn't snowed quite so soon. Bah.

So here is what I have on taps for a fun-filled Halloween Night:

~My delicious homemade chili and fresh corn bread (All recipes now posted on my Recipe page)

~Spider Cookies or Pumpkin Cake

~Trick-Or-Treating and Photo Scavenger Hunt with various monsters and creatures

~ Hot Apple Cider while watching our Homemade Horror Movie

What Halloween traditions do you have? If my stupid comment box doesn't work please do email me so I can post them!


Monday, October 22, 2012

It's Not His Fault

Ah Monday. This pic was a sunset but it looked familiar this morning as it was overcast and the clouds assumed a little more color to their standard gray, white and blue. There's always a little something magical about a storm isn't there? There's also a little confinement and anxiety that comes with it - quite similar to the regular storms that come and go with a kiddo with ADHD.

So, back to Monday. A small respite of sorts but also a day of trying to get your head back in the game. Preston went on a UEA trip with his Dad for three days this last week and came home as happy as can be. They biked, and ate at fun restaurants just the two of them. I was excited when he got home and hopeful for the momentum to continue but it came to a screeching halt within an hour of waking-up the following morning. He was sarcastic, back-talking and faking tantrums and anger. At church he was downright defiant and nasty. The fellow behind me stepped outside of his comfort zone and said, "Oh I remember the spot you are in right now - our son was eerily reminiscent of yours. Those are tough days."

We started chatting and like a warm blanket on a chilly day, I felt reassured simply from hearing that someone else knows how hard it is to raise a kiddo struggling with ADHD. Validation is also something that I can't put a price on and I revel in it when I get it. The magic words, "You are doing really well with him" put me on cloud nine as I rarely give myself much props for what I do to raise my child. Most of the props I give myself are in defense of what I'm trying to do (try being the operative word) because oftentimes there isn't a whole lot to show for what I am doing which makes it all the easier for everybody that isn't me to criticize how I'm managing my kid.

In talking with a good friend today, she also said something that really resonated with me in talking about her own struggling son, "It's not his fault. It's just his lot and it is what it is. In order to be united as a family, we all have to be willing to help one another with their own individual struggles." It really isn't Preston's fault that his frontal lobe isn't developing on time nor is it his fault that he cannot process information and stimuli like other children his age; where they might have a little cry or quiet moment to themselves after something upsetting, he goes on an angry tyrade that includes explitives, banging on the door, death threats and throwing-up on the carpet.

Parenting is just tough. The frustration, confusion, concern and tiring days never end. Some days are better than others and that's all we can really hope for. "We made it through the day and everyone is still in one piece under the same roof!" That's definitely cause for celebration as is every day we stay out of the looney-bin as parents. This good friend also said something invaluable that I know, but is easy to forget in the heat of battle, "I want my son to look back on his life growing-up remembering that he was loved. I don't want him remembering that he was always in trouble and that life was contentious and a daily struggle. I want him to always know that he was loved." We love the child and dislike the behavior. I think it is important for kids with ADHD to also know that they are good people - that is their birth right. We all make mistakes - we're human. How wonderful that with every mistake we have opportunity for learning and growth. Take it! It's free!

I've spent the morning re-considering some of my parenting methods and where I have been a little lax as of late. There are some places where as the captain I need to take back control of the ship and thwart any attempts at mutiny. Even simple tactic changes like how I phrase requests, insisting on eye-contact and remembering to lower my expectations. I think it's time to re-vamp and review the household standards and expectations (even phrasing them as such; 'rules' has the connotation of 'limiting'). And I've got to find a way to make this parenting business fun and intriguing even for myself so follow-up is easier to do and that I WILL make the time for it. It's all about trial and error and being easy on yourself when the last trial wasn't terribly effective - or an outright blowout. I'm being taught patience every hour of everyday and life will certainly be a little smoother if I start to actually learn that lesson.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Holding Our Kids That Struggle With ADHD to the Same Standards as the Rest of Our Kids

So... As we know kids with ADHD struggle with linking their present actions to future consequences. This is where being a parent is challenging as we try to teach and train and consequence and re-inforce despite the fact that they don't get it like other kids will. I continue to give Preston choices that he has to live with even though most of the time it doesn't sink in. I also have to hold Preston to the same standards I hold all of my kids too; the home would fall apart if there was not a clear, set of rules and expectations that everyone has to comply with. So, if they meltdown when you ask them to clean the bathroom or take their shoes down to their room, or put a hint of a green bean on their plate, I can't back-down because I expect my other kids to clean-up and try the food on their plate. Because of their emotional erratic tendencies, you do have to go about enforcing a little different. Preston's neuropsychologist put it to me this way:

"I believe that you still need to hold kids with ADHD to the same standards, but realize that they will need extra help and support to hold them to that standard. For example, Preston should be held to the same standard as any other child to do chores, follow directions, do homework etc., however, he will likely need extra supports or modification in how to help him meet the standard (i.e., positive reinforcement, close monitoring, modification in the time to complete it etc.)  Don't let Preston get away with things or not do something because of his challenges with ADHD; help put in place the right kind of support, encouragement, positive reinforcement and appropriate consequence to help him achieve those standards."

I use humor, try to make a game of things or I have to phsycially follow and cue him with what needs to be done. These kids also need specificis - "the shoes need to go in the closet, pick the clothes up off the floor;" "put your shoes away" or "clean your room" may not be enough to go off of, especially as what you define as 'clean' will always differ from your child's (or anybody's) definition. I dangle carrots (bunny gummy's) for completing the 1-2-3's in the morning, I give him a yummy snack before he has to buckle down to do homework and then offer to play a fun game after, or allow him to then go play with a friend. There are of course times I simply offer praise for his effort - this is another key point, we need to always offer praise for the effort and not only for a perfect completion. If I can get Preston outside to clean up the doggy land mines without a meltdown, I feel that is a huge accomplishment. If he misses one or two piles, I'm not going to make a huge deal out of it. For him, it then turns into "I can never do anything right (so why should I try?)." Take baby-steps along the way. Once he gets in the mode of doing something, then I can start upping the expectation as he progresses. Teach and train, teach and train. Do your best and forget the rest.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Little Something on ADHD That Makes a Big Impact

I ran up to my bathroom this morning for just a minute. Every mom knows that despite thinking that the bathroom is a quiet, private place where it is an unsaid rule that you should never be bothered there - you always are. Today was no exception and Preston came wandering on up and started chattering in his usual, loud and un-aware that he is loud voice. The toddler was still sleeping peacefully just around the corner (which was miraculous in and of itself) and Preston knew that after several reminders already. I shook my head in exasperation of wanting my privacy but also that Preston was talking as loudly as if he had a megaphone attached to his face. I realized quite clearly that I couldn't be too upset because both issues at the moment were absolutely and un-deniably categorical ADHD.

I have to remind myself, almost daily, that kids with ADHD are different. Not always different bad, but definitely different. They see things differently, hear things differently, (if they see or hear certain things at all), understand things differently. And really, most of the time they don't understand. I read something last night that truly resonated with me and is something my husband and I often discuss with differing viewpoints:

"Children with ADHD have a hard time learning from experience, whether the experience is positive or negative. The child with ADHD, may make a mistake repeatedly before learning not to do it again. The child with ADHD has trouble applying past experiences to future problems and is unable to predict the consequences of his or her actions."

This seems like fact to me as I see it everyday. Preston rarely takes responsibility for his actions and see's everything as someone else's fault. Hence, I'm the meanest mom ever, all the time. Kids with this disorder are also totally un-aware of themselves or their surroundings - their personal space, others' space, their actions, and the fact that Disaster Clean-Up needs to be on-call 24/7 for the state of their rooms. This is why Preston chattering loudly while the baby is asleep around the corner isn't something crazy - he's just not self-aware. This is where being a parent is challenging as we try to teach and train and consequence and re-inforce because they don't get it like other kids do. I continue to give him choices that he has to live with even most of the time it doesn't sink in. It's still my fault that his lego's got taken away. Yet, I persevere because at some point it will stick. It may take years though. I'm still fighting alot of the same battles, but really as parents, that's what we do until they are moved out of the house, right?

Preston's psychologist told me once that we hold these kids to the same standards as all of our kids; it's how we go about managing them that is different. What does that mean exactly? That's my other big battle - especially with a your's, mine and ours. Talk about crazy dynamics. Oi. And that's what's coming up next. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tone It Down

I know this will sound totally crazy - maybe borderline absurd  - but I will often times ask something of one of my kids nicely the first time and then my tone changes with each subsequent request, until finally, I am close to yelling. And that is when they will finally make their move to comply. So, have you ever considered that in using that particular ‘technique’ you are training your kids that they only need to respond when your tone ‘means business?’

I have become hyper-aware of this issue with my youngest kiddo who is approaching his second birthday. He has become a ferret and is in to absolutely everything and he is constantly testing and pushing me – intentionally. He will get really quiet and I know he has found something or gotten into something that HE knows he isn’t supposed to. When I catch up to him he is either waiting for me with cupboard open or holding a spray bottle or he is already at work with his spoils. At any rate, I tell him ‘no’ more and more and he doesn’t respond until I get very firm. So I am totally training him to only react when mom loses her cool.

I realized that this is why Jim Fay of ‘Love and Logic’ has you sing the ‘Uh Oh’ song. It shows them that you are in complete control and they now get to lose out on whatever naughtiness they are in the middle of. This takes effort on our part because then we have to actually DO something about it right off the bat if we do mean business. And if you are wondering what the ‘Uh Oh’ song is, google it in connection with Love and Logic but it goes a little something like this:

Uh oh! Uh oh! A little bedroom time coming up. So sad! I’ll see you when you are sweet!

Keep your cool by using certain phrases – ‘No problem!’ or ‘Not to worry!’ for the older ones while you collect your composure and decide on a plan and use the ‘Uh Oh’ song or a pleasant tone when you time them out to their room or have them do time in a corner or simply remove them from the high chair if they are throwing food! Keep yourself chill when things get nuts so your kids know that you mean business from the get go and not just when you get mad or you start yelling.  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

ADHD Returns and Only Reason With Your Kid When You Are Both Happy

What a rollercoaster! He's up, I'm down, I'm up, he's down - and this is just between Preston and I,  not to mention the other two kids and my husband! I was really struggling last week with keeping my cool and my patience and my optimism and then I figured out the big reason why - and yes, it IS PMS. The 'P' for 'pre' is really the key here. After 30+ years I'm finally starting to understand the signals my body gives me (apparently I'm a slow learner or there really is something to the whole 'the frontal lobe doesn't get close to being fully developed until the age of 25' - so I'm just a little slow) and I noticed that for the three days prior to my period I have no tolerance. Pretty much zip, zilch, nada. I don't even have it in me to be 'mostly pleasant.' On Saturday I was downright grumpy and ready to pounce at a moment's notice! At any rate, I decided that without going into the full details of my 'ailment' with my kids, I was going to buy or make a small flag (Don't Tread On Me would be a good one, or just a white 'I Surrender' flag would work as well) to hang or place in the kitchen along with a 1, 2 and 3 number countdown to alert every one that the dreaded 'three days' has begun and to not mess with Texas (and in this case, I'm Texas). Then the household peeps might be a little more leary of picking a fight because I will actually fight back with them and it won't be pretty.

That aside, it really was an up and down week. Preston, who has been doing absolutely AMAZING at school with no missing assignments and actually completing homework did get his first 'Think Time' and I got a call from the teacher regarding an inappropriate behavior (cue ADHD impulse factor). She was very sweet and went on and on about how well Preston has been doing - especially with his Science Experiment presentation which he 'got up there and took charge' -  but he just had a lapse in judgement in which she didn't even think he was thinking; he just went on autopilot. And that is ADHD for you - not thinking from beginning to end, considering what it his actions mean and the ramifications. I had a little chat with him and told him that we were going to button down the hatches a little more firmly with this particular behavior which could result in more time-outs. Unfortunately, I'm not takin' prisoners on this one, he will go straight to his room to serve his '9.' That also means I'm going to have to up the anty with the positive to negative ratio's and make sure to get in our one- on-one time.

And with all that being said, here is the nugget of wisdom for the week:

The only time to reason with a kid is when you are happy and they are happy.

This is true even of adults. Have you ever noticed when you are bickering with your spouse that if you are upset, nothing he says makes senses? It just makes you madder? And the more I try to talk sense to my husband when he is upset, the more he rejects it. This is human nature - the rational part of brains shuts off and the irrational part takes over. When things start to get heated, I do not engage any further. If he keeps pushing, I walk away. And I readily tell him that 'my monkey is waking up' (the irrational half of my brain) and we'll have to come back to it or let it go. Well, if we can't expect adults to be rational when upset, how in the world can we expect that of kids? Anything you say when your kid is angry will fall on deaf ears. This is when you get to decide to come back to it if it is a big deal, or simply time the kid out and let it go. This one takes major effort and self-discipline and practice. But it can and should be done. Employ and enjoy.