By now you may have experienced that ADHD involves more than just difficulty with inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. For many children, it involves difficulty with managing their emotions, their ability to plan and carry out their goals, and much more. Children with ADHD often feel misunderstood, overwhelmed, and ill-equipped to manage what is expected of them. When children don’t seem to be working toward their potential or are acting defiant, it is difficult to know how to react in a way that will truly change their behavior.
Often, when children are given a diagnosis of ADHD, parents are given little more than some reading material, general advice and perhaps medication for their child. With the introduction of an ADHD diagnosis in the family, the most pressing need, particularly for parents, is to become as knowledgeable as possible about this complex and often misunderstood condition. There are several wonderful print resources available in the form of books, magazines such as this, and websites such as CHADD.org. For many people, however, nothing replaces the live contact of interacting with other individuals who can help them understand their challenges and support them through a process of growth and change. Enter the world of Parent Training and Parent Coaching.
ADHD PARENT COACHING
In addition to understanding the essential science, research, facts, and laws regarding ADHD, parents often find they need additional support. Some parents may seek out therapy to help them understand and cope with their feelings; however, for many parents, support comes in the form of ADHD Parent Coaching. An ADHD Parent Coach is a trained professional who combines the knowledge of Coaching, Parenting, and ADHD to provide parents with ADHD appropriate tips, tools, strategies and on-going support to manage the complexities of raising a child with ADHD. Once parents are educated about the impact ADHD, Executive Function skills, stress, anxiety, and pressure have on learning and behavior, the Parent Coach can help a parent set reasonable goals. By providing on-going encouragement, recommendations, feedback and support the coach can help the parent develop the tools, strategies, and confidence necessary to stay accountable to the changes they wish to make.
“Parent the child You have.” Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M., ADHD Parent Coach
Every person is born with a unique chemistry, physique, and temperament. As parents become more educated and aware of how the traits of ADHD impact their child’s life, they become more conscious of how they must adjust their parenting to match the needs of their child. This is what I call “Parent the child You have.” Family members, friends, and even well-meaning teachers and other professionals may offer advice and strategies with the intention of helping you “fix” or “teach” your child. You must learn to trust your inner voice and tailor your parenting to meet the needs of your unique child. For some, this will mean providing tighter control, for some it may mean offering more guidance and support, and for others, it may mean reducing certain obligations or expectations in the present time. These are some of the issues a Parent Coach can help you explore and resolve.
Children with ADHD, just like all children, are blessed with a range of strengths and talents. It is vital that we recognize and nurture their interests and passions even when it may seem to take time and energy away from some of their academic pursuits. One of the greatest challenges children (and adults) with ADHD face is that many of them have a slower processing speed and a less accurate sense of the passage of time. As a result of this and other challenges (distraction, organization, etc.), they often need more time to accomplish what their peers do. I refer to this as having a “disability Perspective”. No one wants to think of their child as having a disability, however, if we do not recognize the disabling aspects of our personal weaknesses, we do not make appropriate adjustments in our expectations. With limited hours afte rschool and on weekends, it is important to balance the academic pressure and expectations with the activities that bring them personal growth and satisfaction. This complex balancing act must be coordinated and supported by parents so that the child is not in a constant state of frustration and stress due to the range of demands and expectations placed on them at school.
Parent Coach Tip: Teach a child that time is a limited commodity just like money. The more effort and time they put into an activity or academic subject, the better they can do. However, their time is limited so they may not be able to do their best in every area. For example, suppose each hour of effort cost a certain amount of money. Let’s say Jonny has $10 worth of time/effort to spend on his core academic subjects. Based on his individual skill and profile, it cost Jonny $2 to get an “A” in math, $3 to get an “A” in science, $5 to get an “A” in English, and $4 to get an “A” in Social Studies. While he may be capable of getting an “A” in each subject individually, with the combined demands he will have to sacrifice some time/effort in some areas to do his best in others. Helping him understand this concept can help him make choices and also appreciate setting a realistic personal goal.
Guidance from a Parent Coaching Perspective
Below are two of the key principles and philosophies that guide the work a Parent Coach can provide in educating and supporting parents. Each of these areas can require ongoing support to help lasting change and growth in the family to occur.
1. Shift your perspective from Manager to Coach
The goal in raising a child is that by the time they reach adulthood they are ready to live and function independently. There is a lot of growing and skill development that must occur before a young adult can successfully manage their time, materials, finances, and relationships independent of regular parental input and support. Children, especially teens, often have an inaccurate sense of what is involved in truly accomplishing what they are expected or desiring to complete. Parents often describe that their children “act as if they can pull it all off at the last moment, and then find that they can’t”. This is sometimes referred to as “Magical Thinking”: that somehow everything will get done and all will work out. Parents often recognize that their child is not yet ready for certain freedoms and responsibilities, yet fear that if they leave too much room for their child’s decisions, their child might fail.
Some parents, in their love and parental anxiety, often jump in to rescue their children from experiencing the harsh reality of their actions (or lack of actions). Others resort to providing enticing incentives and harsh consequences; only to find that neither was sufficient to change their child’s behavior (except for limited time and activities). Both of these approaches often leave the child feeling frustrated or resentful of the parent as they feel not respected, trusted, or worse, controlled.
In order to help a child learn what they need to do to manage independently, they need to be taught the skills, but also have ample opportunity to experiment and learn from their own experiences. For parents to be accepted as supportive and welcomed in their child’s growth process, they need to have a deep trusting, connected relationship with their child. When parent and child are in constant conflict, it can be exasperating and detrimental to a child’s growth and well-being, not to mention stressful on the entire family unit. Parents will do a tremendous service for their growing children if they start to collaborate with their children about the role each of them plays in making sure the child carries out certain roles and responsibilities. Discussing in advance how much help, and under what conditions, a parent will assist a child – whether with homework, maintaining an orderly room, or exploring new activities – the more the child will learn to develop important life skills.
A Parent Coach can effectively facilitate conversations between parents and children, opening the door to communication and allowing each to feel empowered and truly heard by one another. As an outside observer, a Parent Coach helps a parent explore how to gradually shift the responsibility of managing all aspects of a child’s life from the parent to the child… at reasonable and appropriate times. The parent can then take on the role of coach to their child and will be able to provide encouragement, recommendations, feedback and practical techniques to help their child reach their goals – without creating resentment and resistance from the child.
2. Improve your Connection with your child
“I try to help him, but he just won’t listen.” “We are fighting more than ever.” “She is a wonderful person, but somehow I can’t get through to her.”
The very nature of having ADHD means that kids are often off-task, or emotionally deregulated. As a result, many parents find themselves spending so much time correcting or corralling their children that they feel they have lost some of the joy, love, and connection they crave to experience with their children. Parents often lose confidence, perspective, and hope when they feel they are in constant battle to just get through the day. Children, including young adults, suffer as well. What may seem on the surface to be defiance or lack of care is often a wounded child who is feeling judged, scared, misunderstood, and sometimes helpless. Without a safe, trusting relationship parents are not invited into their children’s world to help and guide.
Sometimes, it is valuable to take a step back and acknowledge that there has been deterioration in the relationship. Parents must take the steps necessary to spend quality time on a more consistent basis. Sometimes it can start with a loving statement: “I love you very much and I realize that we are spending too much of our time arguing or stressed out with one another. I miss spending carefree time just one on one. Let’s make a plan to spend time together doing something that you want to do.” The goal here is to just enjoy – not to teach or make changes in your child. It is through building this connection that important conversations can happen more easily.
One on One Time
Plan to spend One on One time with each of your children on a regular basis. Depending on the age of your child, the number of children you have, and other family obligations, aim to set aside a ½ hour a few days a week for each child. This time can be spent in a variety of ways, however, there are 3 basic guidelines:
1. Plan time with your child in advance – what a great way to say “You are important to me”
2. Make sure it is Child-Centered time – an activity of their choosing
3. Make sure it is Non-Productive time – they can teach you… but you are not in teacher mode
In conclusion, always keep in mind ADHD looks different in each child. With “Parent the child You have” as your guiding principle, you will be able to help your child thrive. The more you, and your child, can learn about how ADHD affects them specifically, the more equipped you and your child will be to face the challenges ahead. Change and growth take time, patience, and sometimes a little extra help and support from someone outside your family who can add insight and perspective. A trained Parent Coach will provide you with the support, strategies, and structure needed to make the real and sustainable changes in your family. With proper strategies and a pro-active approach, the road may still be difficult, but success and satisfaction will be well within your reach.
Appeared originally in Attention Magazine, June 2014
Written by Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M., ACAC © 2013 PTS Coaching. All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced or electronically distributed as long as attribution to PTS Coaching is maintained.