Supporting Parents. Fostering Change.

Monthly Archives: August 2017

There’s an old Simon and Garfunkel song with the lyric, “Slow down, you move to fast. You’ve got to make the morning last…” If you’re a parent reading this, you’re probably thinking, “Right. Making the (school) morning last is not on my agenda!” I understand. Mornings that require getting kids up, fed, dressed, and out the door with lunch in hand are not your idea of a zen activity. There’s a time deadline that you’re acutely aware of, but they don’t seem to get that the clock is ticking.

What if I told you there’s a way to work on taming the gnarly morning beast and make it a more relaxed, even pleasurable, experience for you and your kids?

I read an article recently about a doctor named Mark Bertin, a developmental pediatrician who specializes in treating kids with issues like ADHD, autism, and learning disabilities. He developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Classes for parents of kids with, and without, special challenges. He understands, for instance, that when you have a kid with ADHD you are already dealing with more stress than the average parent. Your focus is largely on helping your child; not on helping yourself. The problem is that you don’t have an unlimited supply of patience and energy.

Dr. Bertin trains parents to learn to let go of the small stuff, to step back from the situation at hand (such as a hectic morning scene at the breakfast table) and try to look at it dispassionately. Slowing down really helps. One parent in his group commented, “What’s happening right now is all there is. Why make everybody unhappy? If we’re five minutes late to preschool it doesn’t change anything. What changes things is the frustration, and the stress that builds up and then everything unravels.”

He’s written a book called, Mindful Parenting for ADHD detailing the techniques for approaching stressful parenting situations with a flexible, resilient mind.

Developing a mindful approach to parenting is like learning to ride a bike. It’s rocky at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll have the skill for life.

For a list of other useful books on parenting the ADHD child, please see the Resources tab on our website.

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Do you feel guilty about the way you parent? Do you constantly ask yourself questions like, “Why can’t I handle my child’s behavior differently?”, “What am I doing wrong that my child behaves like this?” and “What is the matter with me- no matter how I discipline my child, he/she continues to misbehave.” If this sounds familiar, take heart. You are experiencing the normal ups and downs of parenting.

All parents experience some measure of self-doubt, but parents of children with special needs especially do. Children on the autism spectrum or with learning challenges and/or attentional issues put parents into unknown territory, forcing them to confront problems both unforeseen and often times behaviors that don’t respond to typical discipline.

Research indicates that parental competency is especially taxed by these disabilities, in part because they are not detected at birth. Through the diagnostic process, parents experience profound feelings of fear, loss, and worry. They frequently feel isolated and confused about the best way forward. It’s easy to fall prey to making comparisons- a no-win scenario that compels them to compare their child to his “normal” siblings, her cousins, or classmates.

Because it’s so common for parents of kids with special needs to feel overwhelmed and exhausted, finding support is vital. It takes time to get to know their child, re-evaluate their expectations of them, and also of themselves.

Meeting and spending time with other parents who face the same challenges helps tremendously. At In Step, we ask parents to participate in their child’s counseling process not just because their child can’t make progress without their parent’s help and support, but also because parents can inspire, share resources, and provide reality checks to one another. Through exploring difficult feelings, trying out new behaviors, and embracing learning that comes from mistakes, parents find ways to navigate unfamiliar terrain.

Understood is an organization that supports millions of parents whose children struggle with learning and attention issues that provides research, expert advice and a wealth of resources. Here’s a link to a video they put out featuring parents of kids with learning and attention issues talking about their feelings of guilt and shame: https://youtube/w0HoNmlCmnQ

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