By: LearningRx | Published 03/20/2018


ADHD and the Modern Family

by Judith M. Glasser, PhD

So, you have cleaned up the mess made by everyone getting ready for school and work, when you get a call from the school. Your son forgot his lunch/homework/trumpet and wonders if you could bring it to him. You grab it and go, then return, only to get a call from your husband. He is wondering if you can check to see if he left his reading glasses/cell phone/iPad at home and could you look for it to make sure it is safely at home and not lost between home and work. You go look, find the lost object, reassure your husband and get yourself ready for your day. You go to work, come home, and find clothes/backpacks/instruments in a pile by the front door. You can tell where your son has been by the trail he left behind. You locate him playing video games and ask him if he has done his homework. He replies, “I don’t have any.” You remind him of the long-term project that is due in two weeks. He has not even thought about it yet.

SOUND FAMILIAR? This is the ADHD family at work. ADHD runs in families. Often a parent only receives the diagnosis after a child is diagnosed. The mom frequently serves as the frontal lobe for the entire family, doing all the planning, social programming and problem solving for everyone. What if Mom has ADHD, too? Who does the planning then? This is when getting help from people like professional organizers and coaches can be critical to help set up calendars and plans to assist with managing the family so things don’t get too chaotic.

Life with ADHD creates stress, whether in yourself, your spouse, your child or all the above. Stress is harmful for personal health and for marriages. Couples who have a child with ADHD have been found to have a higher rater of divorce than couples without such a problem. What is a family to do?

First of all, remember that the married couple is the anchor of the family. You must take care of yourself and your marriage. In the hurried society in which we live, we tend to devote ourselves to our children. However, like on an airplane, we must remember to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first so that we can be around to put it on our children. In the rush to get the lunch/homework/trumpet to the school and to locate the forgotten glasses/cell phone/iPad we may neglect to eat breakfast or to get some needed exercise.
It is also really important to have couple time. Having a date once a week can be very beneficial, even preserving a marriage. Continue to do things you enjoyed doing together before you had children, if at all possible. Don’t be afraid to seek marriage counseling if you need to.
There are also some things you can do to help improve the family’s functioning. Here are some specific suggestions:

Image  Once a week, have a family meeting. Make it fun. Serve popcorn or some other kind of treat that is fun for your family. Then have everyone take a turn and set a timer. Everyone gets five or ten minutes each to talk about anything they want to talk about, things that they feel good about or things they are upset about. The rule is that everyone else has to listen respectfully without interrupting. At the end of the first go-around, everyone can take a second turn if you want to. At the very end, everyone can talk about the coming week and what they have on their calendars.

  Image  Family meetings can also be used to improve communication and to resolve conflicts.These are very important skills for everyone to learn. Children can be taught the importance of assertiveness versus aggressiveness and the need for using “I” statements at a young age. Remember that children learn by what they see modeled by their parents and what they are rewarded for, so learn and use these techniques as well.

  Image  Encourage perspective-taking in all family members. This is a very important skill for all people to learn and use. Take the same situation and have everyone tell about what they thought and felt in that situation to see how different people react. Michelle Garcia Winner, SLC-CCC, has done some terrific thinking about teaching perspective taking to kids; for more information see her book Thinking About You Thinking About Me (Think Social Publishing, 2007).

  Image  Design places in your home where family members can go to cool off when they get upset.This is not a punishment, and is not time out. This is a place that is pleasant that each person can design to be the way he or she wants it to be. In the cooling-off place should be things that will help you to cool down when you get upset; paper and crayons for drawing, a journal and pen to write with, music to listen to, magazines to read (or rip up).

  Image  Putting some kind of organizational system in place is a good idea. Every family member should have a launch pad, a place to put their belongings that they will need to grab and go in the morning.

  Image  Keep a family calendar with important dates on it for everyone in a place that works for you. Some families keep a big calendar in the kitchen and each family member uses different color ink for their activities. That way everyone knows what the other people in the family are doing. Some families prefer using an online calendar like Google Calendar. This can be helpful because you can arrange to receive email reminders about upcoming events on your calendar.

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