Mornings and Teenagers with ADHD – Can They Finish in “I Love You”?
There is hope for teens and tomorrow!
I just dropped my senior in high school. I’ve been doing it every day for years; but lately it feels different. Today I noticed that we were joking and laughing all the way to school. Before he got out of the car, we thought about what he had to remember for the day; And when he got out, he yelled, “I love you.” Yes, when it comes to mornings and teens with ADHD, there is hope!
My teenage mornings weren’t always like this. Not so long ago there was screaming and anger and deadly silence. Instead of looking forward to my day, all I could think of was how broken everything was. Instead of getting involved with me, he just grumbled and set off. I’m sure his days were as miserable as mine, and it wasn’t very healthy for anyone.
So when did it change? It changed when I started focusing on our relationship.
As a parent, it’s easy to put the “things” in life at the center of our attention: the grades, the assignments, the homework, the things that are left open. There is a lot of it. And don’t get me wrong, it’s important!
But if we turn our attention to these things, we end up with a list instead of a life.
Most of us had children because we wanted to be part of the family – not just to nag our kids about whether the dog was being fed or the homework was being given.
So how do you start turning it around? Here were the first 4 steps to our house.
Four steps to making your mornings with teenagers more magical
Put the relationship first:
I promised that if nothing else happened, I would enjoy the short time I have while my children are still at home and do everything in my power to help them enjoy them. A key component was constantly asking myself, “What does my child need right now?” If he wasn’t doing his homework, I would ask myself, “What could he need to do better?” If he yelled and talked disrespectfully, I would ask myself, “What does he need to be more calm about interacting?” If he was distracted and moody, I would ask myself, “What does he need to have more peace and happiness in his life?”
When your inner voice screams, “What about good performance in school? What about my needs? Are you saying that I should just be a doormat and ignore the 26 missing assignments?” Absolutely not!
But in reality, when your focus is on having a strong relationship and meeting your child’s needs, the more likely the “stuff” can happen. Added bonus: Your child has learned something about what it takes to be successful in life (and in relationships!).
Actively manage triggers:
Most of you know that I am a recovering “screaming mom”. In all fairness, on more stressful days, you may still hear some screams at my house (from me and my two teenagers). And that’s because getting triggered, angry, or frustrated is a natural response to stressful situations. Uncontrolled, triggered reactions can lead to significant breakdowns in relationships.
But what you will also see in our home are family members actively handling our own triggers and helping each other to do the same. My teens are just as likely to say, “Wow, that sounds like you just got a little triggered,” or “Let’s take a break and talk about it when things are calmer.” Conscious management of triggers doesn’t mean that You never get triggered. That means it won’t last long and no one will be negatively affected.
Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager? A “criticism” from a teacher in front of your classmates can cause you into a tailspin; a text can make you so obsessed that you can’t think of anything else for days; and a breakup can ruin an entire semester. Our children’s struggles are real – especially the ones they don’t talk about!
So take the time to listen to your children. Really listen. See life from their perspective and find ways to show compassion for your children and their experiences. Remember, when you’re a stressed, hyper-focused teen with something on your mind, it’s really hard to think logically.
Focus on what works:
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is this: What we observe grows. When we start to focus on where our children are falling short, or even where we are falling short, we tend to see more mistakes than successes. The more we turn our attention to the missed tasks, the messy room, or the disrespectful communication, the more likely we are to feel frustrated and triggered and also trigger our kids. Over time, this negativity builds up. It can be overwhelming or hinder our relationships with our teenagers.
That doesn’t mean we ignore the things that don’t work. Instead, strive for more balance in your communication. Challenge yourself to notice and appreciate what you and your children are doing well, at least as much as you are paying attention to what is missing.
This last year with my son at home is bittersweet and we’re actually having a great time together! At this point, I can’t imagine what it would be like if we hadn’t made some of these changes. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it – it was SOOO worth it.
Not sure whether the effort is worth it for you? Or that you can even achieve it? Here is the only question I would ask – what really won me over. When you think of your child talking to a future partner about what it was like for them to grow up, what to do? SHE do you want to remember?