Parenting An ADHD Child In The Age of Covid
I have been working with many families on navigating the summer plans given the restrictions and challenges. Please reach out if you would like some support.
The people of CHOOSEesteem (a free emotional, mental, and behavioral health and wellness app that helps families navigate through emotional and behavioral challenges) recently interviewed me to discuss the challenges of parenting during this time period.
I hope you find it helpful.
You can read the full interview below or on CHOOSEesteem.
What are the benefits of parent coaching?
ADHD is a complex neurobiological disorder, and it can impact all areas of learning, motivation, and behavior. Typical “behavior modification” models that focus on rewards and punishments (which most parents find don’t work anyway) don’t get to the core issues creating the challenges, so transferrable skills are not learned, and systemic change is not accomplished.
Parent Coaches can help parents see how their own assumptions, expectations, and communication style may be serving to hinder rather than enhance their support for their children. Outside therapies and interventions that are child-centered may not have the strong, consistent impact on children when parents do not have the skills and insights to adjust the family dynamics. Parents need their own expertise.
Even the most loving couples don’t always see parenting through the same lens. The stress this often creates between parents can place a strain on their marriage and the family system, often risking detrimental lifelong consequences for all involved.
Why do you coach parents separately from their children?
Children’s behavior is often much more complex and nuanced than it may appear. And children are not always insightful enough or able to communicate what is getting in the way of them meeting expectations.
I have found that parents often benefit from having their own time and privacy to examine their interactions with their children. The support I am able to give parents goes beyond the momentary interactions that may happen with their children. The struggles are usually based on patterns of behaviors that we can more successfully explore and problem solve in discussion without the child present.
How do you get most of your clients?
Word of mouth, or they find me through my books. Sometimes through my workshops or public speaking.
A lot of pediatricians and psychiatrists refer me. I personally think psychiatrists and pediatricians should always refer parents to parent coaches, because there’s always room for improvement there, and it’s not something doctors are trained to help with.
My coaching was mostly online even before Covid, since people find me from all over the world. Obviously it’s all online now.
What are the main challenges that ADHD parents face now with schools being closed?
Parents want their kids to work independently and many kids can’t do that, or can’t do it very well. Most parents vastly underestimate the amount of guidance children need, and the amount of time end effort they have to put in– or they did before the schools closed, anyway.
Beyond that, they’re also not sure to what extent this need for supervision is normal and to be expected, vs a problem that can and should be improved on. They’re not sure where the bar should be set, especially if they only have the one child. And it takes an outside opinion to give them that frame of reference.
How do you think this will create difficulties next year when kids go back to school?
I actually think this will create more opportunities than problems. Socially, it’s an opportunity for kids to form new bonds with their peers. This is also an opportunity for parents to better see their kids as learners and understand their learning styles, and that can be carried over to when kids are doing their homework after they go back to school.
That said, there will be difficulties with kids being at different academic levels. Some parents will have been able to support their kids more than others, and some kids will just be better at the home school thing. So there will be more unevenness in where kids are at next year.
That’s going to create difficulties for teachers– do you teach to the kids who are the furthest behind, or to where everyone was supposed to be at before this happened? And if you’re a parent of one of the kids who’s struggling, that creates difficulties as you have to help them catch up.
Overall, what are the biggest mistakes that you see parents frequently making with ADHD children when they first come to you?
There are two big things I see. First, attributing the child’s problem to personality factors like rebelliousness or lack of motivation. Note: This is called Fundamental Attribution Error.
And on a related note, they usually focus too much on the behavior and not enough on the trigger. They tell the kid to change the behavior, but they don’t address the underlying cause of that behavior. Like, if your child keeps yelling, you need to not just tell them to stop yelling, but also dig into what causes them to start yelling in the first place.
What can parents do to keep kids from getting bored over the next few months?
Old-fashioned games. Board games, verbal games. Stuff like Scrabble, marbles, Apples to Apples, telephone, chess, etc. Things the family can do together, that are intellectually engaging.
Like I said earlier, there are opportunities present in the current situation. Acknowledge the joyful times. Appreciate them. And actively talk about how we can incorporate this into our lives going forward, even after school starts up again.
What links do you see between ADHD and sleep disorders?
25-50% of kids with ADHD have some kind of sleep disorder. This relationship is independent of whether they’re on medication. It’s because they have a harder time relaxing their brains to fall asleep, and then they have a harder time waking up because they didn’t get a full night’s sleep.
Exercise in the evening is one possible solution, but it’s hit or miss. Some kids benefit from it because it tires them out, others just get amped up by it.
Developing a consistent routine, for both falling asleep and waking up, definitely helps. Try to follow the same routine for the last half hour to an hour before bed, and the first half-hour to an hour after waking up.
Any link at all with diet?
There is no particular diet that’s better for kids with ADHD. That said, because kids with ADHD tend to have problems with emotional regulation, a healthy diet does help with that. So a healthy diet, exercise, nutrition, and sleep help with all kids.
To what degree do you think ADHD can be cured vs treated vs just needing to learn to live with it? Also, how much does it tend to get better with age?
I don’t look at ADHD as a disorder. I look at it as a difference with challenges. If you can find out what the challenges are and figure out the tools and strategies to deal with those challenges, you can succeed at whatever you want. And when parents can parent without dealing with shame, blame, or criticism, instead using tolerance, empathy, and support, they can guide their children towards success.
People with ADHD, their brain matures more slowly. Sometimes we just have to be more patient. They will grow, and life will be fine as an adult. But you just have to get through the “school” part of your life, meaning not just childhood but also the early 20’s. People with ADHD take a few years longer to become functional adults, but they get there.
More about Cindy Goldrich
Cindy has established a reputation as a gifted and compassionate Coach and Trainer. She approaches ADHD as a neurobiological difference with challenges, rather than a deficit or disorder. She and her coaches provide tools and support to address issues such as enabling vs. supporting behaviors, creating motivation, reducing defiance and non-compliance, improving time management, organization, and emotional regulation.