How to Set Limits That Stick, Part 2
While growing up, children with AD/HD will often be faced with disappointments of all types - not just being refused the occasional toy. They may also need to cope with not being treated well by friends, not getting a part in a school play, realizing their sibling ate the last piece of cherry pie, or that their best friend is moving away - or the job they applied for didn't work out - any reality that confronts them on a daily basis that just feels...bad.
How to Help Your Child Cope
- Control the environment. Don't set up situations that are bound to be over-stimulating and stress-filled for your AD/HD child, such as taking them grocery shopping at 5:30 after a long day, or staying at a family party until the wee hours of the night. This is age-dependent, however, and can be adjusted over time.
- Control the outcome. Don't be afraid to leave a situation that you can see is going to be a conflict for the child. Learn to read the "writing on the wall" about the potential for disappointment. For example, a teenage cousin is probably NOT going to invite the fifth grader to join their friends when they leave grandma and grandpa's family event, so make sure to depart before the opportunity to feel "left out" arises.
- Set limits, and stand your ground. Don't argue about situations you know the child understands already, but continues to ask you about - "But why can't I (have that, do this, go there, etc.)?" State your limit, stay calm, and acknowledge their feelings: "I know you are disappointed, but your plan is not going to work for me."
- Teach patience. After a tantrum or argument has settled, talk to the child about how to wait for what they want, or how to plan for what they feel they need, or how to have alternatives that are almost what they imagined.
- Minimize frustration. Offer strategies for handling "big" feelings after disappointments, such as talking to a grownup, playing a fun game, relaxation techniques or playing with pets. Positive self-talk ("Maybe next time I'll win the game"), time and calming down can help them develop a new plan or just let go of something they wanted.
- Validate their efforts. Notice and comment on the times your child is willing to "let it go." Acknowledgment of growth in being able to deal with unfairness and disappointment goes a long way in reinforcing good patterns.