As I send my two oldest daughters off to college my fear of them sitting alone at lunch or hiding by the gym lockers have moved to fear of them locking themselves up in their dorm rooms isolated and lonely.
I think my own social anxiety is triggering these fears. In my heart, I know my girls will push through the “uncomfortable” that always accompanies new experiences. I’m also a realist and know anxiety is a heavy load to carry.
For some students, be it 6th graders, high schoolers or college students, another year of school is another year of anxiety filled moments. Academic stress, athletic competition, social pressures and personal insecurity makes the start of school overwhelming and intimidating.
So much focus is put on academics and we forget the highest anxiety moments are the social ones. Since when is lunch the highest stress point of a student’s day? Sadly, it is the reality for more students than you’d think.
For students who live with ADHD, anxiety and depression, the “back-to-school” period is especially troubling. For many the fear of the unknown – like a new teacher, new school, or new schedule – can cause or exacerbate feelings of social anxiety. For students with ADHD these fears are magnified as their over-active minds play out one potential social catastrophe after another.
As you’ve been preparing to start college, you’ve likely been thinking of the ways — both good and bad — that it is going to be different than high school.
You’re going to be living in a new place with a roommate you probably don’t know. You’re going to be around all new people and have to make an entirely new group of friends.
Your parents aren’t going to be watching over your shoulder and nagging you to clean your room, but they also won’t be there to cook for you or do your laundry.
Stay excited about this new chapter in your life but prepare for the bumps ahead. Be realistic, there will be bumps. It’s how you prepare for them and tackle them that will make all the difference for you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.