French Kids and ADHDI love this holistic approach. I would like to believe that we in Canada are more like the French in this way than the Americans. It always makes sense to look at root causes versus just medicating the symptoms of any issue. Factors like structure, diet, emotional health, family, and social dynamics all play a part in most issues and are definitely part of the picture and the prevention or treatment of ADHD—this does not mean that medication (for this or other issues) is irrelevant or unnecessary. I think they have a place in helping the kids cope and experience success while making them available for the deeper life changes that would be beneficial. They are also indicated where the parents can’t or won’t make the needed changes to help the child. The feeling of struggle and not fitting in can sometimes be more damaging (long-term) than the medication side-effects. Like Dr. Brent Macdonald says, a combination of proper medication, effective counseling supports, and good classroom environments does a lot of good. So I never want to throw away this tool—but I would definitely look at those other factors I mentioned earlier as part of the picture.
Kids and Summer VacationKids look forward to summer vacation all year. Some parents dread it. They feel like they have to be the social director of the family for two months. The truth is that kids don’t need to be entertained from sunup to sundown. It’s actually good for them to have some experience with boredom; this gives them the opportunity to use their creativity and imagination to figure out activities they find interesting. They also get to let their brains breathe when many of them are over-regimented during the rest of the year; it can be a time when they do some introspection and use fantasy and imagination. When you over-schedule your kids or take on the responsibility of planning every activity for them, they never learn to do it of themselves—and remember our job is to train them for life, not just to occupy their time for July and August. Sometimes it helps to do what Dr. Macdonald and Dr. Peter Nieman suggest: breaking up time during the day or a trip. This can create routine by subdividing long periods of time. You should also remember that kids are going to remember experiences and not the money you spent. So don’t feel guilty if you can’t afford Disneyland again this year. Board games, water fights in the back yard, and picnics can be just as memorable. I would suggest a couple of things to think about:
- Make sure to limit electronic time. You could even let them earn electronic time with activity time outdoors, for example, two hours of activity for every one hour of electronics.
- You could get together with friends, family, or neighbours and trade supervision duties, such as five families each taking all the kids for one day each. The kids get variety and company and you all get a break!
- Make sure you look after your own needs too or you won’t be fun to be around. When you are happy and well rested, you are able to plan and enjoy the activities with your kids (or let them enjoy them on their own) to a much greater extent.
Stop YellingEveryone feels better when there is a calm environment of patience and safety. Yelling makes everyone feel bad—the kids get scared, it hurts their self-esteem, and you feel guilty for losing it— and leads to poor decision-making. Those are the moments where you will tend to (over-the-top) punishments rather than consequences. One suggestion from Dr. Macdonald is to use quietness to establish and demonstrate control. Here are some other tips that really work:
- Intervene and remind kids of expectations in advance. Don’t let things get out-of-hand because that’s when it’s easy to lose your cool.
- Look after your own needs. You can’t be patient when you’re hungry, tired, burnt out, or feeling unfulfilled.
- Have realistic expectations of your kids. It’s their job to test the boundaries and they don’t have the discipline and emotional control that you (hopefully) do.
- Call a timeout early on. When things seem like they are going off the rails for you or your kids, call a timeout like a coach would and regroup.
- Make sure you apologize as soon as you can if you do lose it. This will help you become aware of the pattern and will help to restore the relationship with your kids. Just make sure it’s a real apology and that you’re not saying, “I’m sorry you made mommy yell.” Don’t blame them for your lack of patience.
Kids Need Risk in PlayI agree that kids need a sense of challenge. We all need to test ourselves in order to feel alive and to know our limits. Kids are no different. You can teach them to be safe and make good choices, but it’s important to let them roam a bit and figure things out for themselves. Remember your job is to train them or life—not just to keep them from hurting themselves. Little hurts now help them to learn how the world works and know when to be more mindful next time. The stats on long-term, negative health effects of keeping kids in and not getting exercise or fresh air are pretty clear. The bigger risk is staying in—not going outside to play and risk being hurt. A word of caution: kids still need a sense of parents being in control and looking out for them, so give them freedom to explore, but within defined space that you can monitor and access quickly. (Let little kids play in the playground, but know where they are and be able to get to them if they get into trouble.)
Health, Love, Happiness, SuccessDr. Ganz Ferrance
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