I just dropped off my Senior at high school. I've done it every day for years; but lately, it feels different. Today, I noticed we were joking and laughing all the way to school. Before he got out of the car, we calmly reviewed what he needed to remember for the day; and when he got out, he hollered, “I love you.”
Yes, when it comes to mornings and teens with ADHD, there's hope!
Mornings weren’t always this way. Not too long ago, there was yelling and anger and deadly silence. Instead of looking forward to my day, all I could think about was how broken everything was. Instead of engaging with me, he would just grumble and head 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 parents, it’s easy to make the “stuff” of life the center of our attention: the grades, the assignments, the chores, the things that are left undone. There’s lots of it. And don’t get me wrong, it’s important!
But when we focus our attention on these things, we end up with a list -- instead of a life.
Most of us had kids because we wanted to enjoy being part of family -- not so we could constantly nag our kids about whether the dog was fed, or the homework was turned in.
So how do you start to turn it around? Here were the first 4 steps at our house.
Four Steps to Making Mornings More Magical
Put the Relationship First: I made a commitment that if nothing else happened, I was going to enjoy the short time I have while my kids are still in the house, and do what was in my power to help them enjoy it, as well. A key component was constantly asking myself, "what does my kid need at this moment?" If he wasn’t doing his homework, I'd ask myself, "what might he need to better engage?" If he was yelling and talking disrespectfully, I'd ask myself, "what does he need to interact more calmly?" If he was distracted and moody, I'd ask myself, "what does he need to feel more peace and happiness in his life?"
If your inner voice is screaming, "What about doing well in school? What about my needs? Are you saying I should just be a door-mat and ignore the 26 missing assignments?" Absolutely not!
But in actuality, if you focus on having a strong relationship and meeting your child's needs, the “stuff” is more likely to be able to happen. Added bonus: your kid has learned something about what he needs to be successful in life (and in relationships!).
Actively Manage Triggers: Most of you know that I’m a recovering "yelling Mom." In all honesty, on more stressful days, you may still hear some yelling at my house (from me and from my two teens.) And that's because getting triggered, angry or frustrated is a natural reaction to stressful situations. Unchecked, triggered reactions can cause significant breakdowns in relationships.
But what you will also observe at our house are family members actively managing our own triggers, and helping each other to do the same. My teenagers are just as likely as I am to say, “Wow, it sounds like you’re a little triggered right now,” or “let’s take a break and talk about this when things are more calm.” Conscious management of triggers doesn’t mean that you never get triggered. It means that when you do, it doesn’t last long, and no one is negatively impacted.
Show Compassion: Do you remember what it was like to be a teen? One 'criticism' from a teacher in front of your peers can send you into a tailspin; one text can make you so obsessed you can’t think of anything else for days; and one break-up can ruin an entire semester. Our kids’ struggles are real – especially the ones they aren’t talking about!
So, take the time to listen to your kids. Really listen. See life from their perspective and find ways to show compassion for your kids and their experiences. Remember that it’s really hard to think logically if you are a stressed-out, hyper-focused teenager with something on your mind.
Focus on What’s Working: One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is this: what we pay attention to grows. When we start focusing on where our kids are falling short, or even where we are falling short, we tend to see more faults than successes. The more we focus our attention on the missed assignments, the messy room, or the disrespectful communication, the more likely we are to feel frustrated and triggered, and to trigger our kids, as well. Over time, this negativity builds. It can be overwhelming, or get in the way of our relationships with our teens.
This doesn’t mean we ignore the things that aren’t working. Instead, strive for more balance in your communication. Challenge yourself to notice and appreciate what (you and) your kids are doing well, at least as much as you pay attention to what goes missing.
This last year with my son at home is bittersweet, and we are actually having a blast together! At this point, I can’t even imagine what it would be like if we hadn’t made some of these changes. It wasn’t easy, but it has been worth it – SOOO worth it.
Not so sure if it is worth the effort for you? Or that you can even achieve it at all? Here’s the one question I would ask -- what really clinched it for me. When you think about your kid talking to a future partner about what it was like for them growing up, what do YOU want them to remember?