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How to Talk to Kids about ADHD and Other Complex Issues

Welcome to Tea & Tips, where we respond to burning questions from parents and educators — taking aim on one topic at a time, guiding you to improve communication, confidence and calm.

Here are some tips about talking to kids about ADHD and other complex challenges.

Elaine:
So parents of kids of all ages often ask this question about how do I talk to my kid about their issues? -- like particularly about ADHD, I think -- when they don't want to hear it, like, “they don't want to talk about it. The kid doesn't want to hear it. And, you know, Diane and Elaine, you're saying I need to educate them about it, but they don't want to hear it. How do I deal with that?”

Diane:
Well, and I think that part of it is just getting curious and understanding, what is it about the talking about it that makes the child uncomfortable? Is it that they don't want one more lecture, because they're getting a lecture; or is it that they don't want to feel different? You know, what's really going on for the child that is making them hard to hear; or they're feeling bad about themselves and they just, ugh, one more thing.

Elaine:
Well and part of what you said, just hit me -- sometimes it's about how are we talking to them about it, right? Have we been lecturing? Have we been, "you need to know this!" like insisting? Are we compelling them? Or are we inviting them to the conversation?

Diane:
Or we have the conversation with them when we are really frustrated. So they're sensing not just the conversation but our frustration. So part of it is about normalization. I mean everybody has something that they need support with

Elaine:
...and that they need to manage in life.

Diane:
Exactly. And so if you think about it -- I just looked at your glasses, right? So if you had a child who wore glasses, you would talk to them about wearing glasses. You would help them to understand how the glass help. At the beginning your kid might feel a little self conscious about wearing glasses and,

Elaine:
and then you find yourself going, "Where are your glasses?" "Oh, I didn't feel like wearing them today."

And you have the conversation, and you'd say, "well what is it about wearing the glasses? It's really important. Here's how it helps."

Elaine:
"It's really important, here's how it helps" is telling. And so we really want to also then shift to asking. "So what is it about wearing the glasses? How does it help you when you wear them? What's uncomfortable about it when you wear them?" So that they begin to experience -- and the same with meds or the same with with ADD -- like, "What is it about it? How does it show up for you? Getting them curious about themselves and sort of inviting them to that conversation.

Diane:
The other piece of it is that there may be things that you see that they don't. So, finding gentle kind ways to say, "Hey, I noticed that, you know, this afternoon when we were working on homework that this is different than it normally is. What did you notice?" And I think part of it is taking it in baby steps and, knowing that there is going to be resistance. Like there is with glasses. There's going to be a little bit of resistance or there's going to be times where they're going to be more sensitive than to others. And so just to pay attention and keep it in the front of mine, but not to try to get them to the place where they're like, "Yay me, I'm taking this medication."

Elaine:
Well, you know all of this -- particularly around medication, but not even just that -- it's all about helping our kids become their own medical managers. We've talked about that in other tips. And so this is another way. They can't manage it if they don't accept it and understand it. And so if they're not ready to accept it, then we have to meet them there and, and have those conversations more gently before you get to the, to the management piece.

Diane:
And the other piece specifically about ADHD is that I find a lot of parents feel more comfortable and a lot of kids feel more comfortable if they let go of the label. Challenges with executive function or how does it show up? Time being organized or, impulsivity or emotionality. Exactly.

We hope this will help when you start talking to your kids about ADHD and other complex challenges.

 

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