Jackson’s mother brought him to my office because he had suddenly started acting out at night and seemed preoccupied. In an attempt to unravel the puzzle, Jackson and I played some games, drew pictures, and talked about his “worry monster.”
“Well,” he said, “I’m not sure if my mom and dad are getting a divorce.” I was surprised to hear this concern, and I asked his mother how things were going in the marriage. She assured me that she and her husband were doing well.
After further discussion, she mentioned that Jackson’s best friend’s parents had recently divorced. It seemed that visits to his friend’s house, along with a rushed schedule and an argument his parents had recently had, caused Jackson to worry.
When it comes to feelings of safety and security at home, nothing is more powerful for a child than a sense that the grownups in his life are “OK.” Children can easily mistake off-handed comments and certain circumstances in their lives as forecasts of doom. And the sad reality is that ADHD can add stress to a household — stress that you must work to balance out.
Jackson’s mom and I planned ways to reassure him that everything was alright with his parents. It worked! Jackson was comforted, and he returned to his old, jovial self. This encouraged me to pass on the following ideas to other families.
Do damage control.
Snappy comments between parents can be taken out of context. Children are listening to our conversations, even when we think they’re occupied. If you have been grumpy, admit it and reassure your child that it is not about him: “I guess I feel like a bear this morning. Maybe I should try to be more patient.”
This article comes from the Spring 2009 issue of ADDitude.
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