Emotional Distance

This topic contains 25 replies, has 20 voices, and was last updated by  fuscia 1 year, 7 months ago.

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  • #82743

    eliz2112
    Participant

    So, do any parents out there ever feel the need to “emotionally disconnect,” at least temporarily from your ADHD child? I have found myself doing that lately, especially because my son has been going through a particularly rough spell, which includes screaming at his father and me, saying he hates us, wishes we were dead, etc. I just can’t take the emotional roller-coaster anymore, so lately I’ve just flipped the emotions off. I still love him of course, but to keep myself from breaking down, I just pretend this hateful human being belongs to someone else. Is that awful?

  • #82762

    shellgraphics
    Participant

    It is not awful. It is a coping strategy. I often have to separate my emotions from my parenting or we end up with two people having meltdowns…my child and then me! I am most successful with my own children if I pretend that I am working with someone’s else children because I teach special needs kids also. When I allow my children to dig into my emotional “bucket” then I am no longer an effective parent, I am another child in the family. I have to put my emotions aside sometimes I have learned or we end up saying things to each other that are hurtful or harmful that we often don’t mean. I am not always able to do this but when I can it is actually more helpful to my children I have found. You are doing what you need to do to parent! Remember that. It is hard and it is ugly sometimes but we do what we can to keep ourselves healthy so we can be a better role model for our children.

  • #82770

    Senperfect
    Blocked

    I have same problem. It’s sometimes too difficult to be always calm. I need this “emotionally disconnect” to prevent depression.

  • #82780

    Tanesgirl
    Participant

    It’s how I’ve managed to stay mostly sane during the past 20 years!

  • #82754

    parentcoachjoyce
    Participant

    It absolutely is NOT awful! Sometimes it’s the only way to save your sanity and break the vicious cycle (the roller coaster ride from hell!).

    Here’s the good news that I see out of all of this: this whole experience proves something pretty powerful that many parents don’t realize–your thoughts impact how you feel. And your feelings impact your reactions, which then impact your results. You have now seen first hand that when you think, “not my son”, it changes how you feel for the better (you don’t take things personally, you don’t get upset, you get off that roller coaster) which then allows you to react differently (in a detached way, no longer getting sucked in to the drama.) I’m betting that when you are detached like this, your son is probably more calm too in response to how you’re handling things.

    Some more good news: I don’t think you have to emotionally disconnect to feel better. It’s possible that you could change your thoughts without disowning or disconnecting–Thoughts like, “It’s the ADHD talking. I’m not going to take it personally,” or “Kids do well if they can so he must not be able to for some reason (his ADHD or Executive Function deficits)” will result in you feeling much different emotions, like empathy and understanding. And from that better-feeling place, you’ll be able to make better parenting decisions.

    One great resource to help you reframe your thoughts is the book “the Explosive Child” by Ross Greene. He really has a great way of putting things in perspective (new thoughts!) and explains new ways of handling things once you are in that better-feeling place. You might also benefit from getting some one on one support for yourself (counseling, coaching, support groups) so you can get the help and support you need through these hard times. As the saying goes, you ‘can’t pour from an empty cup’ so it’s important that you take care of yourself so you have the energy and stamina to make it through the teen years. It’s a marathon not a sprint.

    Joyce Mabe
    Parenting Coach, school counselor, mom of adult son with ADHD. http://www.parentcoachjoyce.com

    • #83229

      brigitte.flinn
      Participant

      I want to thank you for your response to the initial question being posed. I completely understand where this parent is coming from as I have a child who is exactly the same. I have come to learn that when I loose my patience and react to his explosiveness, the cycle is even harder to stop. When I detach and just nod my head, he starts to calm down. Thank you for your kind comments and supportive statements. It really helps to hear that I’m not totally screwing up this whole parenting thing :).

  • #82801

    Penny Williams
    Keymaster

    Detaching emotionally is exactly what I teach parents to do to handle outbursts and meltdowns. And it’s a good strategy. You’re not disconnecting emotionally from your child, you’re disconnecting from the hurtful things they’re saying that they don’t even mean, and you’re disconnecting from the emotional intensity. That’s important because, if you match your child’s emotional intensity, it will only escalate the situation, and prolong it.

    Remember, in these challenging situations, you’re child is having a hard time, not giving you a hard time. Reminding yourself of that helps you detach when appropriate as well.

    Again, you’re not detaching emotionally from your child, you’re detaching from his intensity at certain times.

    Penny
    ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Trainer & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

  • #83230

    brigitte.flinn
    Participant

    You are not wrong and you are NOT alone in having to deal with these situations. Until I read your post, I thought I was the only one having to deal with these emotional outbursts/explosions with my 13 year old son. I was beginning to think that there must be something terribly wrong with him, or with how I am parenting him, if he can have such hateful words come out of his mouth for no apparent reason. Reading your post and hearing the support from other parents dealing with similar situations has put a new light on my situation. I have to remember that when he is in his blow up that I need to control my reactions in order to subdue his. I need to remember that the hatefulness is not the true side of my son and that it is only temporary. I have found that his explosions are more frequent during growth spurts and his psychiatrist confirmed that it is highly possible since hormones are going crazy at this age. Hang in there!! We will survive this and our boys will be amazing in this world.

  • #83248

    meuterosa
    Participant

    Thank you for posting. We had a very rough evening last night that has left me feeling like the worst parent ever because I didn’t disconnect like I usually do. I’m feeling pretty awful about it today but this has helped me find my footing. I really appreciate this community.

    • #83332

      Penny Williams
      Keymaster

      Self-compassion is key to surviving this special brand of parenthood. We are all human and we all make mistakes. Apologize to your child for losing your temper, explain that it wasn’t the best reaction, and that everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Make it a learning opportunity.

      Penny
      ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Trainer & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

  • #83251

    Nope, not awful at all….little by little, over time, I have to keep striving to decide if I am parenting the child or parenting the ADHD….if it’s the ADHD, I have to remind myself that while some ‘strategies’ aren’t necessarily about ‘nurturing’…but rather about providing a clear expectation, about staying focused and consistent yourself (rather than just saying ‘do whatever you want’ in the face of yet another meltdown, or seeing them start to struggle and just wanting to hug them) in parenting the ADHD sometimes, you are doing them a favor….providing different strategies to deal with it, that they likely will carry with them into adulthood….these are two very different approaches….and I am not always successful. I am a single dad raising two children with the diagnosis…one is hyperactive, one hyperfocused….it can be a constant changing of gears’ some days….and it’s frustrating….but with practice it gets easier to decide whether to parent the child or the ADHD in a given situation…..good luck!

  • #83258

    Very helpful post, that a lot of parents can easily relate to. Would you please elaborate on how you “emotionally disconnect”? What strategies do you use?

    • #83335

      Penny Williams
      Keymaster

      Don’t take their behavior personally and don’t see it as a character flaw. Instead, remind yourself that your child isn’t giving you a hard time, your child is having a hard time.

      That’s my method. 😉

      Penny
      ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Trainer & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

  • #83263

    mamababymom
    Participant

    As, I sit here (at work of all places) reading your comments I started to cry.
    FINALLY!!!! someone who can relate. I needed this this week.
    This week my son has not only been rude and disrespectful but very mean and hurtful towards me .
    I finally shut down and emotionally disconnected because it was the only way to keep my self safe from his mean spirit this week.
    I am a single mother and even though I have siblings with kids with ADD and ADHD they do not talk about it.
    I try to talk with them but they cannot relate to me as they have a husband or wife they can tag team with.

    Thank you everyone for you comments.

    • #83334

      Penny Williams
      Keymaster

      I challenge you to see words like “disrespectful, rude, and mean” as signals that there’s something else going on for your child in those moments. Behavior is communication, a symptom of the real problem, so what is your child trying to tell you in those moments? 1. that he’s having a hard time. But, what else? Is he struggling with frustration tolerance, emotional regulation, self-awareness.

      Empathy and emotional validation are very powerful parenting tools. Say something like, “I see that you are really angry right now, and you’re having a hard time with your emotions. We all get angry when _________ happens. How can I help you?”

      Know that your child may not be able to respond to that in a positive way, YET, but continue to use this approach frequently and consistently and it will improve behavior drastically. You’ll see empathy start to soften outbursts pretty much right away.

      Penny
      ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Trainer & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

  • #83268

    dnsngy
    Participant

    I can completely relate and so glad I signed up for this newsletter because there are so many times my son is so hateful to me, making me cry. I finally have met someone I like but his children have no problems. I have to take this day by day.

    • #83292

      MMastery
      Participant

      So I get the “Emotional Disconnect” I have had to do that for many years. My problem is that I am only 1/2 the parenting equation, my other 1/2 relishes in being an “emotional” person. She sees what I do as “giving up.” Letting them, yes them (15 & 17 y/o boys), win, not following through, etc. Maybe I’m just rationalizing but I refuse to engage because when I do, it’s a lot of yelling and threats and I don’t see the benefit in doing so. However, I have become too good at disconnecting, from everyone (kids, spouse). Maybe to the point of being the “odd man out.” Good news is, I do recognize this, just need to find my way back before it’s too late!

      Good Topic.

  • #83271

    karenjwellman
    Participant

    It’s nice to know I am not alone. Thank you for sharing your experience. I have a lot of the same from my 10 year old ADHD dyslexic son. I just keep telling
    myself that when he says these awful things, it’s the ADHD talking. Mondays are the hardest when the medication wears off and he hasn’t eaten since breakfast.
    It’s very helpful to know that others have similar situations.

  • #83286

    williamtriggs
    Participant

    One writer wrote, “The way you talk about your son in your post is horrible.” Umm, the way the writer talked about the parent is “horrible.” We need to be compassionate with each other (and ourselves). Raising a child is tough; raising a child with learning disabilities is tougher. I have two sons with dyslexia and adhd (and a wife). I have read a lot on the subject and consider myself a patient, dedicated and loving father/husband. Still, I get discouraged and frustrated and angry all the time. It is very lonely because anybody other than therapists are uncomfortable with me sharing how hard it is without trying to talk me out of my feelings. Not helpful! I suggest that the mother that originated this post is hurting and at the end of her rope and saying she should not talk about her son negatively is equally as attacking as what she is accused of doing. Should she be talking to her son like that? No, of course not. She needs help (as do most of us reading the thread) so we should address that, not just what her son needs. Thanks for hearing me out.

  • #83294

    pmarkle
    Participant

    My son is 23 and lives on the west coast. We seem to be able to communicate better with FaceTime, phone calls and text. Holiday gatherings can still be tough and I find I HAVE to emotional disconnect to survive them. But I don’t like it. I would like a more loving relationship with him. I’ve learned a lot about my own ADD within the last year and I look forward to a quiet time where I might be able to share some of the information with him. But it is tough to hear the words an not be hurt by them.

  • #83297

    PattyS09
    Participant

    NOT awful- I live my life this way. I am a widow and am raising a 15 year old son who not only has ADHD but Reactive Attachment Disorder due to the abuse and neglect that occurred prior to his adoption. As a former tag team player and going it alone now the only way to get through some days is to remove myself emotionally. I was at the end of my rope Friday night. I don’t know why it took me so many years to not just read posts but engage. Oh wait! Yes I DO! It’s because you hit the nail on the head and made ME feel like I am not the only one. Thank you for your bravery.

  • #83350

    ADDmomma
    Participant

    I am so glad other parents are talking about this. The hardest thing I think in all this is feeling like you’re the only one going through it, and that you’re a wretched parent. Our middle child (13 yr old son) has ADD and while it has always been a challenge, it seems especially rocky and hard lately. My husband and I vary between losing it inappropriately out of complete frustration and getting emotionally involved, and keeping our distance and turning off. I agree with other posts, that it is better to distance myself for everyone’s sake. But when I feel like I am extending myself and trying to help in so many ways, and he just doesn’t seem to care or make any effort on his part, it feels hopeless in the moment. I would do well to remind myself that it is the ADHD, and that he is having a hard time. I also struggle with figuring out how much of his battles are hormones vs. ADD.

  • #83358

    Acf1969
    Participant

    Fantastic post! Here is some food for thought… Even though our 9 year old son is on medication, he just recently started having huge aggressive and disrespectful outbursts. I remembered that last year (and the year before) we went through something similar. I did the math and it hit me: it’s the beginning of allergy season!!! A quick internet search and my suspicions were confirmed.

    Not always do we get itchy eyes and runny noses. Sometimes people get brain fog, depression and aggressive emotions!!! I grabbed some children’s Zyrtec, and wouldn’t you know it, symptoms of agrression & disrespect dropped almost entirely!!!

    Don’t know if that will help everyone here, but just had to share!!! Also, LOVE “He’s having a hard time over he’s giving me a hard time”.

    • #83501

      Penny Williams
      Keymaster

      WOW! I never thought of that. Good detective work!

      Penny
      ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Trainer & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

  • #83421

    eliz2112
    Participant

    Thank you everyone, especially for the non-judgment. It’s wonderful to know there’s a place I can be open and honest about the daily struggles of being an ADHD parent. I know it could be much worse, so for that I’m thankful. It’s just so hard when your life feels like an an endless episode of Groundhog Day. My son is 9 and I just worry about his future so much. I see his anxiety and struggles, and for all the meds/therapy, etc., I still feel so helpless. I know he will grow out of some of this, but when you see crazy people in the news, you think, could that be my kid in a few years?

  • #83673

    fuscia
    Participant

    I go through this, either on my end from my ADHD/SPD or mild bi-polar, there are periods when I feel over whelmed and can’t “mom” or interact. Or if my child is struggling with anxiety and it’s coming out as being constantly angry or whiny, I just feel like this is not some one I want to be in the same room with. Even if she’s on the flip side and really happy and chatty, it’s such a difference that it can also be too much at times. I generally am always seeking solitude and quiet. So it’s hard because kids are noisy and in your face a lot. lol.
    There are studies about how parents feel towards colicky babies vs non colicky babies. Just the fact that a mom will say something like, “He’s such a good baby, he sleeps through the night, rarely cries, ect.” The fact that we naturally associate what a good baby or child is with their behavior/temperment says a lot. The study was about the difficulties in bonding with a colicky baby and how it impacts how a care giver feels about their child. Plus sometimes we are just so different than our own kids. It’s ok, it’s better to not avoid being aware of how you feel, just be honest with yourself, and find a way around your feelings to insure your child feels loved for who they are, and not how they act. But that’s tough too, because we are trying to teach our kids right from wrong, and that actions have consequences. And the truth is, people don’t want to be around angry disruptive people. So if our kids want stable friendships and relationships, they need to learn self control.

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