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Coach Carlene

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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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.

Is there anything better than relief from the hum drum school routine?  You figure, let it be. Let’s enjoy the summer. Being carefree is what we all need. Uh oh. But if the carefree lazy days of summer have no structure your ADHDer is likely to spiral downward and take the rest of the family along! You can build structure into your summer and still be carefree.

Geez, “structure” sounds so rigid and formal.
Ahhh, I see what the problem is. Structure is often confused with routine. According to Mr. Webster routine is:  of a commonplace or repetitious character : ORDINARY

Ordinary. Yeah, right. And it gets worse.

Routine definition 2: habitual or mechanical performance of an established procedure

How boring and soulless is that?! Guess who routine really does NOT work for? You guessed it. Those living with ADD/ADHD.

Structure is a totally different animal. It is something you build. Kids with ADHD love to build things. Get your kids involved with building the structure in your home.  Start with a schedule.  Add some consistent rules, expectations and consequences. Enforce them in a positive way. Help your kids understand them.

Why structure is so important, especially for Kids with ADHD
Kids with ADHD struggle with self-control – be it to stop behaviors or to keep their focus. When children are easily distracted the structure you give can bring about a sense of order in a chaotic world. Kids with ADHD need more  structure to help them manage the symptoms related to self-control.

 Tips for creating structure!

1. Make a summer schedule.
Fill in the easiest blocks of time first. Family meals and bedtime are great anchor points in your schedule. Obviously, the schedule will vary tremendously for each child. The idea is to create some structure by having and adhering to a schedule. Expand the schedule from there, filling in other activities for the day.
Plan down-time into your schedule. Kids these days have no idea what do with themselves because we “schedule” everything for them. See what your kid does with a free hour. You might want have a no electronics/tv rule during this hour. You’ll be surprised what your kid finds to do.
Before bed talk to your kids about what’s on the schedule for tomorrow. Knowing what to expect is huge for kids with ADHD.

2. Be Consistent but not Rigid.
Consistent rules, expectations, and most important, consistent behavior on your part build your child’s sense of safety. She needs to trust that black won’t become white between today and tomorrow. If you say one thing and do another, she’ll lose her sense of security. This doesn’t mean you should be rigid. There is something to be said for flexibility in responding to new situations. But before a child can trust herself, she needs to feel secure in the world around her. Your consistency will foster that trust.

3. Be Predictable. Not Boring.
Since much of life is unpredictable, clear boundaries, rules, and rituals are comforting. They give your child something to count on. Something that’s dependable. This makes him feel safe. The more predictable you become, the more your child will be able to respond appropriately to the world around him. If you’re child is afraid to come to you because he’s not sure how you’ll react, he may not come to you at all.  He may lie to try to control your reaction.

Think about that person in your life who is unpredictable. I mean someone other than your adorable child with ADHD. You never know how they will respond. Do you steer clear of that person in certain situations? You do? That’s natural. The unknown or unpredictable is scary. Now imagine your child with ADHD dealing with unpredictability. There it is, the overwhelm and anxiety. That doesn’t sound like a fun summer.

4. Stay organized.
Yay summer is here. No more backpacks, lunch boxes, gym clothes, papers or books. But you still got stuff. Like, towels, swimsuits, baseball gear, clothes, piles of flip-flops and more. All these things should have a home. Work with your kids on finding the best place for them to put their stuff. The next time someone is looking for something you will all know where to find it. If an item isn’t in it’s designated home, ask why it didn’t make it there and if there is a better place for it. Organized stuff can keep that ADHD brain from getting overwhelmed and panicked when in a time crunch.

A structured, consistent, predictable environment gives kids with ADHD a sense of confidence and security. They know that there is a great deal of disarray around them. But at the very least, their home is a haven. And remember, they won’t always agree with your actions, but at least they will know what your actions will be.

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The double whammy of having ADHD yourself and raising a kid with ADHD leaves many Mom’s feeling alone, depressed, overwhelmed, and did I mention exhausted?

I talk to lots of Mom’s about their kid’s ADHD. Recently, I asked a Mom if she has ever been diagnosed with ADHD. She chuckled lightly and said she suspected she would be, if she could find the time to see a doctor. Sigh. Sigh. She’s not alone.

Moms rely heavily on the brain’s executive functions including, exercising good judgment, planning, being patient, keeping calm, time management, and organization. Moms struggling with these challenges look at their chaotic, cluttered, unorganized lives and wonder how other Mom’s keep it “all together”.

If you’ve got kids dealing with those same challenges, you’re bound to have more missed deadlines, general mishaps, emotional outbursts, and, just as often, moments that, at least in retrospect, are poignantly funny.

You don’t outgrow ADHD or get it as an adult although it’s so common for girls to discover it late in life. If you have it as an adult, you’ve lived with it as a little girl. A Missed Diagnosis. Depression, anxiety, and dangerously low self-esteem are all too common for those girls who’ve slipped under the ADHD radar.

The good news is that as awareness of the seriousness of ADHD increases, more women are getting diagnosed—an experience many describe as liberating. Many women say they’re happy they pursued a diagnosis, which has helped them make sense of their pasts while managing their lives today.

Knowing how your brain works is a big benefit! Building self-awareness around how ADHD shows up for you is super important in finding successful strategies to ease day-to-day symptoms. Some things have to be accepted, while others can be tweaked to make life go a little smoother.

Have you been putting off getting a diagnosis and/or treatment? What if your diagnosis and treatment could lead you to saving just one inattentive daydreaming girl from a lifetime of suffering? Wondering, who that could be? They are the girls and women hidden in plain sight….. a student in a classroom where you volunteer, a niece, a granddaughter, a friend, a sister, another Mom.

Helping yourself first, allows you to share your story with others. Your journey can become part of someone else’s journey – their beginning of self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-compassion.

More and more information is becoming available about women and ADHD. You don’t have to go it alone. If you would like more information or support for women and girls with ADHD please get in touch with me at support@coachcarlene.com

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