Talking Away a Bad Day
Does your child with ADHD return home from school in a funk? Try these talking points to lift his mood.
She was in the fourth grade and the social stakes were high for my older daughter, Carlin, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). One day, she burst into tears as she climbed into the car after school. “They said I couldn’t play in their ‘pink club,’ since I wasn’t wearing anything pink.”
My heart pounded as I comforted her, “Who cares what they say? That’s ridiculous.” The mother lion in me wanted to confront the offending peer, or inform the parent that her child was power-hungry and cruel.
After I’d calmed down, I realized that “handling” my daughter’s bad day for her would not help. It could brand her as a “tattletale” and break the bond of trust with her peers. So I curbed my parental instincts to step in, and talked through the incident with Carlin.
A week later, she invited the offending youngster for a sleepover.
“What about the teasing?” I asked. “Oh, Mom, that was last week. She’s my friend now.”
Children with ADHD often misread social cues, and they may overreact to teasing or comments from teachers. Talking your child out of a bad school day — but letting her decide how she wants to handle the problem — is a parenting skill that comes in handy. Sometimes, children, like adults, need to let off some steam.
Here are some pointers I pass on to parents for creating a supportive forum:
Let your child vent.
Listen carefully, then paraphrase what your child related, to show that you understand her concern. If your child says, “Everyone laughed at me when I didn’t know the answer,” you can respond by saying, “I know it must have felt bad when the other kids laughed.”
Validate your child’s feelings.
In an attempt to “play down” the insult, some parents (myself included) are prone to say, “I’m sure it was nothing” or “You’re making too much of it.” Such comments may only encourage your child to react more dramatically the next time, to get his point across.
Sometimes, in trying to find out what happened, a parent makes negative comments like, “And what did you do to cause him to say that?” Accusations will close down the lines of communication with your child.
Help your child use positive “self talk.”
One boy came to my office upset that he was “not as smart as the other kids.” After listening to his story, it was clear to me that the teacher had merely corrected him on his class work.
We came up with some things he could say to himself, such as, “It’s OK to make a mistake, I’ll know how to do it next time” or “I have trouble with math, but I’m really good at spelling.” Remind your child of his past successes, and give him your vote of confidence that he can handle the situation.
Make a plan to have a better day tomorrow.
Brainstorm a comeback your child can use in response to teasing, or discuss a discreet way to ask the teacher for help. Remind your child of the conversation before sending her to school the next day.
Bend the routine.
Sometimes, a break in routine can distract a child from negative feelings — and let him know that you are there to support him. One mom takes her son for a frozen yogurt and some one-on-one time when he seems distraught.
You might also try ending a stressful day with an earlier bedtime, to help your child feel refreshed and ready to tackle the next day.