How Tweens Can Trigger Mom’s ADHD Symptoms — and How to Keep Your Cool
Being a mom with ADHD is already a precarious balancing act. But add a tween’s hormone-fueled emotions and thirst for independence to the mix, and it may be harder than ever for Mom to manage her own symptoms. Take control of your child’s behaviors — and your ADHD — with these strategies.
How many times have you been out to a restaurant for a family dinner when your tween wouldn’t put down the phone? Texting, playing games, checking to see who’s posted on Instagram — it never ends. Or maybe you’re at home and have cleaned the kitchen. You asked your child a couple of times to take out the trash and you get that look that says, “I don’t remember you asking me to do that.” You almost lose it.
Moms with ADHD have to manage their own symptoms as they try to manage their child’s behavior. Preteens and teenagers are adept at inciting our emotions and drawing us into arguments. Managing multiple schedules and disciplining children are especially taxing for moms.
Being consistent is hard, but it’s harder for moms who overreact to everyday discipline issues. Use these tips to set yourself up for success:
Be aware of your triggers. If you often lose control, look at the triggers that set you off. A trigger is an emotional reaction to something, maybe a particular situation or circumstance, that knocks you off balance. Are you hungry, tired, or did you have a long day? Are you taking on too many activities? Do you feel pressure about something? Is there a particular topic you discuss with your child that seems to provoke a reaction?
Try the following strategies to keep you focused on parenting, not on your emotions:
- Download positive mindset apps, such as SAM (sam-app.org.uk): Self-Help for Anxiety Management.
- Breathe in and out eight times, or set the timer on your phone and breathe until you feel calmer.
- Say something to yourself that helps you regulate your anger, such as “This too shall pass.”
- Take care of underlying needs, like hunger or stress.
Set up household policies that can help you and your spouse manage when your ADHD challenges make discipline hard. Policies should be posted for all family members to see. They might include: “There will be no more than one sleepover each week” or “Phones are parked in the kitchen and do not come out during dinner.” Each family will find a system that works best for them, but keep it simple and easy to manage:
- Review Love and Logic (loveandlogic.com), a program to improve discipline and parenting.
- Identify situations that affect your ability to manage. Prioritize the top three and post them in a spot where you can see them several times a day. Place a second copy in your wallet, so you can remind yourself regularly.
Focus on consistency in one area only. Don’t expect to be consistent with everything at once. Start with the way you approach a specific behavior you want to improve in your child — maybe your daughter is sassy or your son refuses to go to bed on time. Pick one behavior and work on it until it improves.
Collaborate with your child. This is not being permissive, but acknowledging that you have a problem with your child and are willing to work on a solution together. When you get your child’s perspective, you can often eliminate the stalemates that cause you to lose your temper.
Get support. Find your resources — a trusted girlfriend, a therapist, or a coach. Look for someone who listens and understands.
Prepare a response. Children with ADHD are champion negotiators — wearing you down, nagging, asking for privileges, treats, or answers. Have a prepared response ready for this kind of nagging. Discuss nagging with your child and listen to his response. Have this conversation when things are calmer, not in the heat of the moment. By doing this, you let the child know that you are not going to give him what he wants when he is in this state. At any time, you can let him know that you are going to pause and take a break. To minimize the back-and-forth banter:
- Give your tween a cue, such as, “When I say thanks for the information, we need to take a break from the discussion.”
- Suggest a replacement activity for your tween to get her off the topic she’s focused on.
Determine the seriousness of the worry. Sometimes we over-react to our child’s behavior based on societal pressures. Check in with yourself. Is this such a big deal? Why am I so worried? Could I be overreacting because of my symptoms?
- Write down your worry. Ask yourself, “What is the size of my worry, and why this is such a big deal?”
- Visit Social Thinking (socialthinking.com). It has a tool called the “Size of My Problem Poster.” It features a problem “thermometer” to help you see the “size” of your problem. It is a good tool for you and your tween.