Positive Parenting

On the Cusp of “Too Cool:” Connecting with Your ADHD Tween

When you’re the parent of a child with ADHD, it’s natural to hope they’ll hurry up and mature. By middle school, you’re facing brand-new challenges — but also many reasons to be grateful. Here are four ways to stop and appreciate your child just as he or she is.

Family At Home In Eating Meal Together

Many years ago, I re-pinned a quote on Pinterest: “Let them be little.” Those four words jumped out at me, because they were in stark contrast to my own thinking. Back then, when parenting my differently-wired son often felt relentless, I sometimes wished he were older, willing time to speed up to when things would be easier.

Now that my son is in middle school, I wish I had savored those years a bit more, that I had lived them rather than just survived them. But regardless of how messy and challenging these years get, these days, instead of wanting him to grow up faster, I’m cherishing who he is at this moment.

With a little effort, enjoying this stage of life with our “prickly” kids is possible. And it’s worth it. Here are four ideas for appreciating your child right now.

ADHD Schedules and Routines: Create New Rituals

Those beloved rituals your family has relied on for years — Sundays at the science center or post-school library visits — may no longer be interesting to kids in sixth grade. It is tough to let go of customs that have brought your family closer, but think of this stage as an opportunity to design new ones — puzzles and podcasts, family CrossFit, binge watching classic sitcoms on Netflix, mother-daughter book clubs. Even if they only last for a few weeks, new rituals allow for new types of fun, adventure, and/or connection. Some of my favorite moments with my teenager these days happen during what I call “walk and talks” — we both walk, and he talks.

Dive into Your Tween’s Worlds of Interest

As kids grow, they may become obsessed with new interests or technology — sci-fi literature or pop music, fashion or fencing, Instagram or Snapchat. Showing interest in these new passions can give parents a great way to spend time with our kids on their terms. Don’t just ask your child about his favorite video game; see if he’ll show you how to play — and then join in when he’s gaming!

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Check out the music, movies, or books that move him. Humor his obscure interests in bowler hats or hair color or writing poetry. Genuine curiosity about the things our kids like gives us the chance to appreciate their strengths and passions with fresh eyes.

Get Philosophical with Your ADHD Teen

I love middle schoolers for their burgeoning sense of the world around them and the development of their own beliefs and value systems. Deep conversations at the dinner table about politics or social issues or philosophy are a win-win. Respectfully listening to our kids’ ideas boosts their sense of autonomy and self-worth. Witnessing their evolution as thoughtful, engaged humans, is worth savoring.

Bring Your Child into Your World

As bittersweet as it may be to embrace children’s adolescence, their maturation narrows the gap between their interests and ours. Rather than always having to “kidify” family activities, we’re now free to introduce them to a few of our favorite things — sports, movies, books, games.

I used to yawn through our weekly movie night selections, but in the past year my husband and I have happily shared favorites like Better Off Dead, The Fugitive, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. My favorite sound these days is the laughter coming from upstairs when my husband and son are reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (#CommissionsEarned) together. There’s something special about turning your nostalgia into new experiences with your kids.

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The one thing that’s constant in our lives with our children is change. The key to enjoying each new phase is to expect it to look different from the last. Find opportunities for lightness, joy, and possibility, and lean in to every one.

Deborah Reber is a New York Times bestselling author, speaker, and the founder of TiLT Parenting, a website, podcast, and global online community for parents raising differently-wired children. On her podcast, Reber interviews top leaders in parenting and education. TiLT has grown to be a top podcast in iTunes’ Kids and Family category, with more than 800,000 downloads.

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