Quick TipControl ADHD, Set Good Boundaries

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Elaine’s self care tip this week is about the importance of parents paying attention to their own happiness. Its counter to how we often behave, but is a huge help for parents and for kids. A great place to start with this is setting clear boundaries.

Boundaries are guidelines that clarify how we want people to behave around us. Needless to say, they are important for relationships, especially in a world where we are trying to manage ADHD.

Boundaries are a technique we use to keep ourselves “safe” –emotionally, mentally, and physically. They help us determine how to respond when someone steps outside our comfort zone.

It is critical to understand and be clear with our kids (or anyone else) about “ok” behaviors. This is especially true because behavior management is a key component to treatment plans for ADHD kids.

Parent boundaries cover a wide spectrum. Some of us have no boundaries, while some of us are rigid. The ideal situation is somewhere in between.

To find a good balance in setting boundaries, use flexibility & awareness.

  1. Understand and set your boundaries knowing that you will likely need to do some “work” to enforce them.
    •  For example:  it may not be realistic for your hyperfocused pre-teen to automatically leave your bedroom and go to bed when the clock strikes 10 and you want to go to sleep.  It may be more realistic for you to provide one (or two) warnings 10 minutes prior to the witching hour.
  2. Start small
    • As with everything else we do, it’s important to start with one or two things that we want to focus on rather than a long laundry list.  Pick the ones that are most important, that will give you the most comfort and support.  One boundary I distinctly remember putting in place was “Mom gets to go to the bathroom all by herself!”
  3. Choose realistic boundaries.
    • Base them on realistic expectations of  the other person. (eg. If the boundary is for our ADHD child, we need to remember that they are typically 3-5 years behind their peers developmentally.)
  4. Pick your battles
    • Try not to dig in your feet on a behavior that may not ultimately make a difference (and really only makes for more frustration on your part).
  5. Be aware that a lack of clear boundaries can cause even greater challenges.
    • As Elaine mentioned in her tip this week, it’s easy to put everyone else first.  When we don’t have clear boundaries, its easy to get worn out and overwhelmed. When that happens, no one wins!

How do you get started? Take time this week to review your personal boundaries. Which need adjusting? Which are working well? Which do you need to throw-out because they don’t quite fit? You might even want to list them out to get a clear picture of where you stand.

Now, pick one to focus on. What changes do you want to make? The goal of establishing boundaries in the first place is to make your life easier. What would make things easier in that one aspect of your life?

Still not sure where to start? Look for a place where things don’t feel easy enough – where you know it shouldn’t’ have to be this hard. What change you would make if you believed anything was possible? That’s likely to be the best place to start.

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