Coach Carlene

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Are you a good multi-tasker?

Think you are awesome at your work because you’re doing two things at once? Nope.

You just make yourself look bad. Or worse – stand to disappoint others and yourself.

We think multitasking is good or, at best, necessary, to help us be “productive” and get as much done as possible. Multitasking makes us feel very busy, like we’ve been productive. So why are so many of us strangely panicked at the sight of our scantly completed to-do lists?

Because multitasking is a constant interruption – a constant distraction.

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There is no such thing as an unselfish gift. Have you noticed that “feel good jolt” you get when someone accepts a gift from you with excitement and energy? Unless you’re giving someone chicken pox, it’s hard to think of giving as a bad thing. And we can’t help it if it makes us feel good.

So what happens when someone gives us something and we don’t receive it with the same energy and excitement? We take that “feel good jolt” away from them.

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Who is this older gentleman feverishly taking notes, wearing a business suit at the CHADD Conference? I assumed him a physician or school administrator. WRONG! He raises his hand and asks, “How can I be there for my granddaughter to support all her interests. She has so many. I want her to know I care but it’s hard when her interests change daily.” Wow. What a lucky girl his granddaughter is to call this gentleman Grandpa.

In another session, for women with ADHD, many women stood up and shared their struggles with ADHD and what they’ve learned to do to live with more ease. Their honesty, vulnerability, and sense of humor moved me beyond words. Talking about it with each other gives us community, support and understanding. Ladies, we are all stronger when we lean on each other. I urge you to find support in your community or start your own group!

For some at the conference, they would come out of a session and say, “I thought the speaker was talking about me! He described me, my habits, my fears, my goofs, my oops, my need for speed. He even knew of my desires to do more, to do it better, to do it without reminders, to not let others down, to not let myself down. I came here for someone else I care about with ADHD and discovered my own ADHD.”

That first self-diagnosis can leave many unsettled. Not knowing how to tell others. Not wanting judgment. Not knowing what to do next.

I’m  grateful for the ADHD community of professionals who work tirelessly to reach others who could really start rocking and rolling in their lives with just a little support.

Mostly, I’m grateful for those who are already stepping up and supporting someone they love living with ADHD.

What can you do when someone shares they suspect or know they’re living with ADHD?

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Parents speak out on “what things are keeping them up at night about ADHD for their family.

  • “Will my daughter find people who can support her while she works on her social skills? Friends that can understand she can be inappropriate or come off as thoughtless. She just doesn’t have that awareness yet.
  • “Can my son learn skills he needs to take care of himself?
  • “I worry about my daughter socially more than ever. She gets bored with things…..and people very quickly.”
  • “The biggest concern I now have with my son is how to help him deal with anxiety.”
  • “I worry a lot about how my son would fit in, in the real world as an adult.”
  • “Will my daughter be able to manage on her own, get a job, hold a job, get bills paid?

Can you relate?
Worrying about how our kids will manage as adults is natural. We spend so much time worrying about algebra test scores we miss what is “missing”. Do we know our kids social intelligence score? Our kids need social muscle to achieve independence.

Those with ADHD frequently struggle with friendships. They’re often isolated and withdrawn. Some choose not to socialize. If they do, they may be rejected.

Worse, isolation and rejection may lead to other problems like depression and anxiety.

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 The most overlooked distraction is our thoughts. For those with ADHD it is often the biggest barrier to paying attention.

Efforts we make to lessen external distractions don’t work for tuning-out our own thoughts.

Music, TV, bright neon lights are distracting to most. For others, those are crucial to keeping focused. What works for the neurotypical brain does not work for the complex ADHD brain.

When you notice your kids distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds, quickly bouncing from one activity to another, or becoming bored quickly, what do you offer?

If you tell your kids, “Go study in your room where it is quiet,” you are not alone.
I did it.
I didn’t know better.

Other well-meaning parents and experts share this as an effective focusing strategy. It may be for some, but not others.

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Managing emotions is tough. For those with ADHD, self-regulation is a tremendous challenge.

Emotions, yours and your child’s, are the biggest obstacles to getting homework done.

When your kid is fired-up crying, screaming, throwing and crumpling homework, how do you react? Do you yell and threaten punishment?

Is your kid being rude, angry, hostile and disrespectful on purpose?

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You vowed this school year would be different.

You got blind-sided again when your kid became a hot mess doing homework.

You tried to help. Things got heated. You yelled. You wish you could take back the angry hurtful words.

Your kid feels like a failure at school.

You feel like a failure at parenting.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

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Are you missing something? Something important? Maybe and maybe not.

Seems our kids come home from school and either say nothing about their day or they chatter you up and down until bedtime.

It keeps parents on their toes when you got both and maybe something in between. You feel like you’re firing round after round of questions at one kid and shushing the other.

In all the after school chaos of homework, practices, carpools, dinner and if you’re really on top of things, a decent bedtime, us parents are plain ol’ worn out.

We have great intentions. We want to know what’s going on with our kiddo’s at school. We want to know if they need help.

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It’s true. The key indicator of a child becoming a successful happy adult is social intelligence, NOT academic intelligence, say some studies.

Not so shocking, we over focus on getting our kids through and less on helping them build the skills that lead to greater independence.

Interestingly, colleges have come back to our high schools with disappointing facts. Large number of freshmen college students quit after one year and some quit after only one semester.

The number one reason: Students are not ready socially or emotionally for managing their independence.

Don’t fret. There’s plenty you can do.

Set your parenting intention for this school year. Heres’ how.

First look at where you’ve spent your energy in the past.

Have you:

  • Reminded your child to do his homework?
  • Helped your child with his homework?
  • Hired a tutor for your child?
  • Set-up a 504 Plan or IEP?
  • Sent or plan to send your student to ACT & SAT prep classes?
  • Freaked out when your student brings home anything less than an “A”.
  • Only shown interest in your child when it has to do with school?

If you don’t do these things you may think your child is at risk of:

  • Failing classes.
  • Performing poorly on the ACT’s and SAT’s.
  • Not graduating high school.
  • Not going to college.
  • Never moving out.
  • Never finding a good job.

Or Have You:

  • Asked your child who he plays with on the playground at recess?
  • Discovered your child’s most stressful subject is “Lunch”?
  • Talked to the bus driver?
  • Volunteered during school hours to check out the social landscape yourself?
  • Understood what your child’s reputation is with other kids?
  • Fostered amicable relationships with the parents of your child’s friends?
  • Tapped into your child’s interests?
  • Listened with compassion and empathy, without trying to “fix it”, when your child tells you he was “left out”?
  • Learned your child is always the last one picked for teams in P.E.?
  • Built a good relationship with your child. One where you could support him through parent coaching and he would accept the support? 

If you don’t do these things your child is at increased risk of:

  • Getting bullied.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Not being able self-advocate.
  • Becoming defensive and argumentative.
  • Becoming isolated and lonely.
  • Never going to college.
  • Being co-dependent.
  • Depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

Do any of these risks and fears sound familiar? You are not alone. As parents of children with ADHD, we find ourselves, more often than not, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

We work so hard trying to keep our kids organized, manage their time and help them stay focused, that we don’t recognize we’re missing a critical piece of the puzzle.

In order for our kids to take charge of their lives, the transition of life skills has to begin sooner than later. The word “transition” implies a process that occurs over time. It’s never too early to start strengthening their social muscle.

Sure, we eventually cram a course in laundry and boiling water in before sending them off to college. But what have we done to foster their social intelligence, their social independence?

The safety of home life is a perfect environment to begin flexing the social independence muscle. For many, we have managed all of our children’s academic and social responsibilities because of our own fears and the realities of their challenges.

So, how can you start strengthening your child’s social intelligence? Let your intuition and your child’s readiness, be your guide to the “what” and “when” to transition.

For younger children:

  • Start helping them build self-awareness of how they feel in certain social situations.
  • Coach them how to “spy” other’s social cues.
  • Role-play social conversations with your child.
  • Let them order their own food in a restaurant.
  • Teach them how to answer the phone and take a message.

For older kids:

  • Role-play entering and exiting conversations.
  • Have your kid order the pizza on Friday night.
  • Let your kid try discussing an issue with the teacher first. If back-up is needed, you can step in.
  • Have your kid take part in his 504 Plan or IEP meeting.
  • Role-play interviewing for a job.

Remember, anytime there is an exchange of information, it is a social interaction. Seize them as opportunities to build your child’s social intelligence and self-esteem.

What is your parenting intention for this school year? Share in comments or drop me an email at support@coachcarlene.com.

The lazy days of summer are here. The kids are out of school, schedules are more relaxed, and you’re having fun. But if you’re starting to hear the whines of, “I’m bored, there’s nothing to do,” you can squelch the boredom blues and boost brain activity too.

Take advantage of this summer down time to set your kid up to try-out a hobby he’s been interested in but just never got around to doing.

Learning a new activity or gaining a new skill benefits our brains. Every new activity we indulge in forces our brains to adjust and change. Sometimes we are uncomfortable trying to learn new things but this discomfort is natural. It’s just our brains adjusting and learning.

Don’t worry, my friend, if your child is hesitant. A little encouragement from you can go a long way. Let your child know, it’s ok if whatever he’s learning for the first time isn’t perfect. It’s supposed to be fun and there shouldn’t be any embarrassment if it isn’t mastered immediately, or ever!
If you can join in on the learning too, go for it. You are staving off the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s and other conditions related to decreases in mental abilities.

8 Ways to nurture your noggin.

  • Sign up for a class that teaches a new skill. Doesn’t matter what it is as long as your kid is interested in it. Interest is key for those with ADD/ADHD to stick with it. Joining a class with people with common interests means your kid will be meeting new people and possibly forming new relationships. All good for the brain!
  • Learn a new language. Don’t worry about mastering another language. Have fun learning words and phrases commonly used in your household.
  • Try reading something for pleasure. How about a comic book or a “How To” book? I know one family who decided to start a family book club for the summer. Great common ground for the family and keeps the family communicating and connecting.
  • Write using your non-dominant hand on a daily basis: the more complex the better. I can tell you as a left-hander, I’ve been forced to do certain things right-handed. Funny, how when I try to use my left-hand for those things now, it’s challenging. Those right-handed things are imprinted in my brain even though I’m left-handed.
  • Learn sign language as it increases IQ and increased IQ reduces risk of dementia.
  • Travel. Travel near. Travel far. Doesn’t matter because a new environment sparks the brain.
  • Learn to knit. The eye hand coordination and repetition are great for the brain.
  • Plant a Garden. Grow some of your own brain nutrient filled food and get outdoors. Being outside and better yet, in a green environment gives the brain a healthy boost. Moderate sunlight gives you that much-needed rush of vitamin D.

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When I was a kid, my parents were always telling us to go outside and play. I thought we were driving them a little crazy and they were trying to find some peace in their day. That very well may be the case. But they were on to something. Fresh air and green time are good for our brains.

How much green time do your kids get? Green time, or the time spent playing outdoors that are more natural like, the backyard, a park, or soccer field – any area that has trees or an expansive lawn is considered greener.
Studies have shown green time is good for us, especially those with ADHD.

Here are some interesting findings:

  • Those who play regularly in the same green outdoor settings do have milder ADHD symptoms than those who play indoors or in playgrounds.
  • Children who were hyperactive had less severe symptoms playing in an open environment, such as a soccer field, rather than in a green space with lots of trees.
  • Children generally concentrated better after a walk in the park than they did after two other kinds of walks — in a “green” downtown area and in a residential neighborhood.
  • The greenest space was best at improving attention. Not sure what it is about the park — the greenness or the lack of buildings — that seems to do the trick, but a dose of nature may be as helpful, at least for a while, as a dose of stimulant medication, in increasing attention.
  • Green time won’t eliminate ADHD symptoms but may temporarily ease them. The cause-and-effect relationship between exposure to nature and improved concentration and impulse control is a low-cost, side-effect free way to help manage ADHD symptoms.

Try out some green time for yourself. When you’re noticing ADHD symptoms peaking throughout the day do as our parents did and send the kids outside!

  • Go to the park.
  • Play catch with the dog in the back yard.
  • Walk the dog.
  • Play Frisbee, soccer – anything your kid is interested in.
  • Have a picnic in the park or backyard.
  • Plant a garden and nurture it all summer long.
  • Climb a tree.

Let your kids feel the grass between their toes, you’ll be glad you did.

Watch out for “obsession.” Children with ADHD may become “hyper-focused” on electronics. The intense engagement that kids with ADHD display while playing video games is a double-edged sword, fraught with both danger and great opportunity. Goes without saying that over-use of technology, or playing inappropriate video games, can have many negative repercussions.

What’s a parent to do? Electronics in all its glorious forms of video games, laptops, tablets, smartphones, to name just a few, are part of our culture. They are our kid’s toys, just like GI Joe and Barbie’s were our toys. It’s not realistic to keep your kids off of electronics.

They can be good and bad for us at the same time. Video games and other digital media can be a powerful tool for learning in children with ADHD. For example:
• Sports-themed video games often require a child to think mathematically about player statistics in the midst of difficult distractions.
• Many video games, particularly those on mobile and handheld devices, require kids to focus on what they’re reading for extended periods of time.

But, is your kid addicted to electronics? Thinking that’s crazy? I’m telling you, many, many parents are afraid they’ve lost their kid to electronic addiction. What most parents have discovered is it’s not so much an addiction. It’s more of a deficiency in structure and boundaries around using electronics.

If the electronic footing in your family seems wobbly at best, it’s probably in need of some structure.

Signs of electronic over-use could include someone:

  • Not socializing with friends and family at all or as much as they used too.
  • Becoming highly agitated.
  • Seems more fatigued because sleep patterns are thrown out-of-wack.
  • Forgets to eat or doesn’t join the family for dinner anymore.
  • Has placed an unhealthy level of importance of winning or getting to the next level. It is the only thing that matters.
  • Neglects other responsibilities. Using electronics as a means of procrastination.
  • Complains of headaches consistently.
  • Has lost all sense of time. Time management and having a sense of time are often significant deficits for children with attention problems. They often become so absorbed with activities they find interesting, they lose track of how much time they have spent on their digital play.
  • Gaining weight because physical exercise is non-existent.

7 Strategies to build structure around electronics.

  1. Set time limits and enforce them! Use a timer if you need to limit your child with ADHD. You can use online timers such as http://www.timer-tab.com or even an everyday kitchen timer to keep your child on track.
  2. Fend off procrastination by having your child complete all homework, chores, or other responsibilities before being allowed some digital play time. Putting-off these fun activities until after other work is done, takes away electronics as the tool of choice for procrastinating.
  3. Remember last weeks structure tips on exercise? Physical exercise has been shown to improve focus and learning in children with attentional problems. Tell your child to go out and run around before and after playing video games, and to play active games such as Wii Tennis or Kinect Adventures
  4. Shut-off all electronics, including TV at least one hour before bedtime. The blue-screen tricks our brains into thinking it’s not night-time and then our brains don’t produce the melatonin chemical that regulates sleep.
  5. Set limits on the kinds of video games and activities your kids are playing on electronics. They should have some learning or educational value. Your kid may not realize it, but the only thing that matters is you know the value.
  6. Play with your kid. See what it’s all about. You’ll see your kid from a different perspective. This could help you figure out together the kinds of games that your kid likes and why. Then you can find games that are both entertaining and brain healthy.
  7. No electronics if friends are over. I use this consistently. It’s important for kids to make eye contact with each other, not the screen. You’ll be amazed what kids will find to do. I found mine climbing trees which entailed; physical exercise, problem solving, socializing, fresh air….all great brain boosting activities!

Leave a quick comment below if you would like to see more information on managing electronics for your kids. This is a huge topic and I’d love to share more if electronic overload is happening in your family.