The ADHD Homestead

Create the life you want with the mind you have.

Month: June 2015

Don’t give up on me — or your sanity.

“I feel like you’ve given up on me,” my husband said.

The conversation about his work schedule had bubbled to the surface again. His erratic hours. His worrisome sleep hygiene. Stagnating projects around the house.

“I didn’t give up,” I rushed to clarify, “I just adjusted my expectations.”

Don't give up on me

It sounds like splitting hairs, but it’s not. Giving up is such a strong phrase, such a negative phrase. What I’d done wasn’t giving up, it was a conscious effort to eliminate excess stress from my life. Yes, I’d “given up” calling him at 10:00 p.m., then 1:00 a.m., and then sometimes even 3:00 a.m. to remind him to come home. It hadn’t worked anyway.

But our conversation raised an interesting question: what does it mean to give up on someone? To let them learn from their mistakes? To enable bad behavior? To be supportive without overextending yourself or sacrificing your own peace of mind?

Every ADHD’er has bad habits, and they drive our loved ones crazy. Here are some ways to reframe your expectations and lower your stress without giving up.

Take control of your feelings

“If our feelings control our actions,” writes Stephen Covey in his famous The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “it is because we have abdicated our responsibility and empowered them to do so.”

When I used to call my husband in the middle of the night to cajole him into leaving work, it took a toll on my well-being. Initially, I blamed this on him:

“I don’t sleep well when you’re not here.”

“You make me feel so frustrated and stressed, I can’t get back to sleep once I wake up in the middle of the night.”

In doing this, I placed my sleep habits and emotional state in someone else’s control. That needed to change.

This may be hard to accept, especially when someone else is behaving badly. However, positive change can be slow. Remember that while you can’t control others, you can control how you react.

In my case, I decided my own sleep and sanity were my priority. I stopped calling, stopped wondering when he’d come home, and stopped expecting him anytime before I went to bed. That way, anything else — even arriving home three minutes before I fell asleep — felt like a success. I also started sleeping with a pillow next to me so I wouldn’t notice the empty bed.

Take control of your own reaction. Take care of you. Don’t let another person ruin your day.

Keep tabs

20150623_153232Is your spouse’s bad habit driving you nuts? Keep a diary, and I don’t mean an ongoing rant (see above). Just because you’ve talked about the behavior and agreed it needs to change doesn’t mean you can expect a complete 180 overnight. One study showed the average person can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a new habit. I’m not sure we have any average people living in our house.

Real change happens slowly, over time, with many setbacks. Ask yourself: is there a slow trend in the right direction?

Sure, my husband still comes home from work in the middle of the night, but he a.) does it slightly less often and b.) actually realizes it’s happening. Both are small victories.

Cultivate compassion

Believe it or not, your loved one isn’t trying to drive you crazy. Bad habits make us feel out of control of ourselves, which lowers our willpower and capacity to make positive change.

In other words, they’re hurting, too. Don’t tear your partner or child down in her moment of weakness. Acknowledge any small victories to make room for solution-focused thinking.

Recently, we had some work schedule slip-ups. The week started out great and crashed and burned by Friday. On Saturday morning, we sat around the table for our family meeting and shared appreciations. I made sure to say, “thank you for being home in plenty of time for me to get to my meeting on Tuesday evening, and for being flexible enough with your schedule that you could take over with R. on Thursday morning while I went to the doctor.”

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own reactions and forget that others evaluate themselves at least as harshly. When you’re tempted to blow up, pause. Acknowledge your own feelings as valid, but imagine it from your loved one’s perspective, too. How would you want to be treated?

In families especially, we shouldn’t bail each other out or pick up slack all time time , which cultivates resentment. We must also find ways to support, rather than tear down, someone who’s having trouble. Praise the good, forgive the bad, and keep trying to find a solution.

How do you maintain sanity and compassion in the face of crazy-making ADHD behavior?

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ADHD-challenged wardrobe: my 30-year quest for great shoes

sensory sensitivities and shoes graphicI talk about products I like all the time, but today I’m going to give you a deal on a pair of shoes for people who can’t stand shoes. You may have noticed, I don’t usually do brand partnerships or product promotions. I’m honestly so in love with these shoes I wanted to make it easier for you all to try them.

To that end, let’s talk about ADHD, sensory sensitivities, and the wardrobe nightmares these things create for us. Then I’ll give you a coupon code for a pair of barefoot sandals, which I swear I forget I’m wearing half the time. For me, that’s saying a lot.

ADHD, sensory sensitivities, and wardrobe strife

Dr. Wes Crenshaw opens Chapter 10 of his book, I Always Want to Be Where I’m Notwith a charming story about a patient who yanked off her bras as soon as she walked in the door and scattered them all over the house. “It’s common for ADD kids to be sensitive,” he says, “to irritations, tags, bras, noise, [etc.]”

Though the area needs more study, sensory processing problems are more common in people with ADHD. Certain sounds — or just too much sound — may grind your gears. Or maybe you insist on the highest thread-count sheets because everything else is too scratchy.

The quest for the perfect shoe: seen and not felt

20150610_083549

I’ve always taken issue with shoes. If you mention the phrase “inappropriate footwear” to anyone in my immediate family, you’ll see what I mean.

I spent a lot of time barefoot as a kid, listened to frequent warnings from my mother about how I was going to hurt my feet if I didn’t get shoes with better support, and wore flip flops to work even as a post-college grown-up.

I eventually discovered Vibram FiveFingers, which felt more comfy than shoes that boxed in my toes.

Then I found Gladsoles. They’re barefoot sandals suited for hiking, running, yoga, walking around town, and everything in between. Every pair is unique and custom cut to your foot’s size and shape. I bought a pair before our Florida vacation this spring and haven’t worn another pair of shoes since (except to mow the lawn, when I wear my FiveFingers).

When I walk in my Gladsoles, it’s like being barefoot. I can feel every bump in the road, and — unlike flip flops — they stay secure on my feet without any toe-curling or yucky blisters.

Disclaimer: there’s been a lot of debate over whether barefoot shoes are actually good for your feet. I don’t 100% endorse barefoot shoes like Vibram FiveFingers because I’ve hurt my feet in them, though I don’t know how. GladSoles are different. I’m going to give them my biggest possible endorsement: they’re the only shoes that haven’t left me with sore feet after a day at Disney World. Not only were my feet not sore, I came home and said to myself, you know, I feel like I could take a walk.

Try GladSoles at a discount

If you don’t like the feel of shoes on your feet, give GladSoles a try. They’re a small company dedicated to making your feet happy. Men, women, and children alike can make GladSoles work for them by learning new ties and mixing and matching lace and lock colors.

I’m sensitive to the fact that many ADHD’ers struggle with money. Custom-cut sandals can feel kind of extravagant at a price point of $50 or more, so I reached out to the owner of GladSoles and asked how I could lessen the cost for my readers.

I’m super pleased to offer you 17% off your order at GladSoles.com by entering the coupon code ADHDHOMESTEAD at checkout. If your relationship with shoes has been as troubled as mine, I hope this helps you free your feet!

Update 7/6/2016: Over a year later, I still love my GladSoles. I wear my FiveFingers in the colder months, for running, and whenever I need closed-toe shoes. For everything else, the GladSoles have it. They go everywhere with me.

I found my original pair needed frequent adjustment/retying, and one of the laces eventually tore through the sole. I ordered a new pair and tried to be more careful with my foot tracing. My new GladSoles fit much more securely and have held up great.

To that end, I recommend taking extra care to trace your foot accurately. It can make the difference between an okay experience and a shoe that feels like part of your foot.

My new pair is the GladSoles Eco, made from upcycled tires. I love the idea of this, and the sandal has an excellent grip.

Have you found a favorite pair of barefoot/minimalist shoes? I’d love to hear all about them, especially if you have suggestions for the winter!

Don’t like checking for new posts? Sign up for monthly emails!

Today I’d like to introduce a brand-new feature on The ADHD Homestead: a monthly e-newsletter!

If you’ve met me before, you may know I’m a huge fan of using RSS readers like Feedly to keep track of blogs and news sites.

Many years ago, I worked in public relations and learned an important lesson: many people don’t love RSS readers. Or checking a blog periodically for new updates.

These days, I believe in only one blanket rule: do what works for you.

To that end, I’m launching a new mailing list: a once-monthly roundup of The ADHD Homestead’s most popular content. If a monthly digest of blog highlights works for you, please sign up using the form below!

Don't miss out! Get popular content in one convenient monthly email. I'll never share your info and I'll always respect your inbox.

If you’re already receiving individual posts via email, please note this is a separate list. Signing up for one doesn’t automatically sign you up for the other.

Happy reading, and please leave feedback if you have any special requests for the e-news!

Decorate with mirrors for better behavior

For ADHD adults and kids alike, better behavior at home can feel like an impossible dream. While you can’t make self-improvement easy, you can add passive support with some deceptively simple brain hacks.

One example: incorporate mirrors into your home decor.

Self-monitoring: our behavior vs. social context

To understand why mirrors might help improve our behavior, we need to understand self-monitoring, or the ability to regulate our behavior to match our current social situation. High self-monitors may feel ‘phony:’ always in character, never out of control.  On the flip side, low self-monitors wear our hearts on our sleeves, often to a fault. Our behavior provides a direct window to our internal state, regardless of social context.

If you have ADHD, this probably sounds familiar. Our mouths, facial expressions, and sometimes even our bodies love to jump ahead of our brains, sometimes with disastrous results.

Mirrors as a self-monitoring tool

Mirrors in your home add a set of watchful eyes: your own. As Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin states here and in her book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Livessome studies have shown that people behave better in the presence of a mirror. We’re literally watching over ourselves.

Why not add some attractive mirrors to your decor? If you’re living in a small home, they’ll have the added benefit of making your space feel bigger.

If you’re as interior-design-challenged as I am, check out these suggestions from HGTV, House Beautiful, Real Simple, and Elle Decor to get you started.

Have you ever tried using home decor to influence your habits and behavior? Please share!

(One reason) why I’m a worse parent when you’re watching

Social Skills 101

Photo credit: Lynde Pratt

Earlier this year, we read Vicki Hoefle’s Duct Tape Parenting as a family. Hoefle’s non-interventionist style, with an emphasis on nurturing both executive function and family connectedness, is a perfect fit for us. I suspect many other families (ADHD and not) will find the same.

And yet.

And yet, just the other day, I broke the rules — bigtime. There I stood, with my hand gripping R.’s tiny little wrist, telling him firmly, don’t grab that from her.

It was a typical spring afternoon in our neighborhood: sunny, warm, several families congregated outside for post-nap playtime.

R. stared at me and whined, but thankfully (for me) didn’t fight me when I suggested he choose another toy.

Later, I asked myself, what example am I setting here?

Am I showing my son that even though we have a system of expectations, communication, and respect that works for our family, I’m unwilling to defend it in public? That what Other People think is more important than my relationship with him?

You bet, and I’m not proud of it.

At the same time, I don’t want to be That Parent — in this case, That Parent who allows my kid to walk up and grab a toy from my neighbor’s sweet, adorable, smaller child.

For ADHD adults, a lifetime of social struggles

I suspect many ADHD adults teeter along this line. Our families are often a little different, and that’s okay. We’re used to being different.

But as parents, we don’t always want our kids to be different. Reconciling our differences with friends’ parenting norms can feel impossible for ADHD adults already lacking social confidence.

I’ve struggled with social skills since kindergarten. Elementary and middle school were tough, but by high school I’d joined what one of my teachers referred to as the “Fringe of Weirdness.” Thanks to the FoW, not fitting in became a way of fitting in.

As an adult, and especially as a parent, I feel older, more tired — mostly more tired of myself. To the chagrin of my 13-year-old self, who listened to the Sex Pistols and dyed her hair with Kool Aid, I wish I could be more like everyone else.

In a group of parents, even parents I know well, I struggle to read social cues and figure out where and how I fit in. Before play dates, I remind myself to make eye contact, ask questions, and pay attention to how long I’ve been speaking without a break. I try to observe others’ behavior to make sure I’m not too far off.

Often, I forget all of these strategies and agonize over my behavior hours later. During the preschool years, my people skills will define my child’s social life.

It’s not hard to see how, after a lifetime of social illiteracy, I feel disempowered to assert my parenting philosophies in a group.

better parent

Leading our children away from the Fringe of Weirdness

In an ecosystem where intervention and hands-on teaching — saying “you need to share,” negotiating turn-taking, mediating conflicts — are almost synonymous with good parenting, expressing dissent feels risky. Failing to follow social norms might make me appear inconsiderate, inattentive, or like I won’t teach positive social behavior (none of which are true).

I love to say “I don’t care what anyone else thinks,” but when it comes to letting others think I’m selfish, inconsiderate, irresponsible, or a poor parent, that’s a big lie.

Not to mention, similarity in parenting styles makes friends — and not just for me. R.’s and my lives are both made richer by our lovely social group and support system. I live in near-constant fear of jeopardizing that for us, especially given my lackluster friend-making skills.

The irony of wanting to look like a good parent

Many, many ADHD adults struggle to maintain close social relationships. It’s understandable not to want to rock the boat now that I’m in such a good place.

However, in trying to make a good impression as a responsible parent, I’m not being the best parent I can be for my kid. It won’t escape him. Once R. gets a little older, he’ll no doubt call me out on it. I want to teach him the confidence and conviction to do so.

Hoefle recommends in her book that we tell others, “I’m raising thinking kids.” But how are parents who already struggle with verbal communication supposed to say that without implying that other parents aren’t? Especially parents we like and respect?

In my long track record of social faux pas, I’ve offended people in conversations with far lower stakes. Our convictions as parents are so strong, our identities as “good parents” so easily challenged, it’s going to take more than “it’s okay, I’m raising a thinking kid.”

But what it will take, I have no idea. Most days, I’m not sure where to begin.

“When…” “If only…” & our quest for Somewhere Else

“I feel like you’re always waiting for something,” a high school boyfriend once told me, “and then you can be happy. But when that thing comes, you’re not happy, you’re just waiting for something else.”

Knowing me, I probably tried to argue with him.

I eventually forgot his comment, only to have it brought to the surface as I read Dr. Wes Crenshaw’s I Always Want to Be Where I’m Not“You were born with a great fondness for Somewhere Else,” Crenshaw’s words called to me, “that glorious place, person, thing, or idea that’s anywhere but here.”

Somewhere Else

Nearly 15 years post-boyfriend, as a far more self-aware ADHD adult, the words felt stark, painful, and true.

This “great fondness for Somewhere Else” really is something we’re born with, though, isn’t it? In the struggle to be content, mindful, even present in any given moment, many of us come to realize, this feeling isn’t about Here. Or You. Or Somewhere Else. Happiness, fulfillment, and love are states that we cultivate in ourselves, not feelings that come to us when we’ve finally arrived Somewhere Else.

Fred Rogers — yes, Mister Rogers — expressed his thoughts on love in a way that really speaks to me:  “Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun, like ‘struggle’. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”

What would it mean to apply this to loving ourselves, our partners, our homes, our lives?

For all the stereotypes (many of them true) about ADHD’ers questing for pleasure and instant gratification,  satisfying the now without regard for long-term consequences, some may be surprised that being happy in the moment doesn’t come naturally for us.

In fact, as ADHD expert Gina Pera writes in Is It You, Me, or Adult ADD?“ADHD often confers a degree of neurologically based irritability, moodiness, hypersensitivity, or outright anger.” In other words, we’re not as much fun as you think we are, and we’re not having as much fun, either.

That’s (in part) because learning to achieve love and happiness in the long term takes a lot of sustained focus and effort. We know others seem to have it, but we don’t know how to get it. Before I sought treatment for my ADHD, I didn’t have a clue what that sustained focus and effort even felt like.

Learning what that work feels like and strengthening the mental muscles that allow us to do it is critical to long-term well-being. Otherwise, we’re just waiting for the right circumstance to come along — or roaming the world in search of it — so we can finally sit down, take a deep breath, and be happy.

Somewhere Else is a dangerous place, mostly because if we keeping looking for it and wishing for it, we’ll never get there. Somewhere Else is Here. We just need to stick around long enough to learn to really, deeply love it.

I’ll leave you with these words from zenhabits writer Leo Babuta:

Many of us can point to external conditions that get in the way of being present (some problem on our minds), or that get in the way of being happy and content. But actually, the things that are stopping us are all inside us. We can’t let go of problems and be present. We are frustrated with ourselves, with others, with our situation, with the way the world is, and we can’t let go of wishing they were different.

The obstacles are inside us.

And so, can’t we let them go?

And can’t the time for happiness be right this moment?

Blame shifting: when someone you love puts it all on you

If you love someone with ADHD, you may know too well how blame shifting can hurt a relationship.

Blame shifting takes many forms:

“If you didn’t make me so angry all the time, I wouldn’t explode at you. Would you rather I bottled it all up?”

“I wouldn’t have gotten a speeding ticket if you hadn’t asked a bunch of questions when you knew I was trying to get out the door.”

“I never thought I’d be the type to cheat, but you made me feel so unappreciated.”

“You and Dad never modeled a healthy relationship for me. No wonder my marriage fell apart.”

Daniel Amen blame shifting quote

For the purposes of this post, let’s look at a smaller-scale example:

Suppose you’re having company over tonight. Your husband meant to take pork chops out of the freezer last night, but he forgot. He arrives home from some errands at 4:30, ready to marinate the chops so he can throw them on the grill when your guests arrive.

Upon discovering the meat still in the freezer, he blows up at you:

“Great, now dinner is ruined! You were here all day and you couldn’t have noticed the meat wasn’t in the fridge? Every time I think you have my back, you’re just thinking about your own stuff and doing your own thing. All our other married friends work together as a team. You make me feel like our relationship is just every man for himself…”

And on and on.

In describing this behavior to your friends — or searching the internet — you may learn blame shifting is often categorized as psychological abuse.

Does this mean you’re in an abusive relationship and it’s time to get out?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Why we blame others

Just like shifting blame onto others is easier to swallow than accepting your own (often overwhelming) faults, it’s easy to cast ourselves in the role of the victim. Once we’ve accepted the role, both parties learn to play their part like it’s second nature.

Before we write off a blame shifter as incurably abusive and ill-intentioned, it’s worth a closer look. The ability to see a situation from multiple angles and experience emotions without being blinded by them is a marker of strength. We can assert and protect ourselves in ways other than walking out the door.

As we seek that steady foundation, we need to remember why people people tend to mistreat others. As a child, I remember my mother telling me bullies picked on me because they felt badly about themselves.

Bullies of all ages use others to shift focus away from their own hurts. In his book Healing ADD from the Inside Out, Dr. Daniel Amen writes, “people who ruin their own lives have a strong tendency to blame other people when things go wrong.” Consider the pain, humiliation, and self-loathing weighing on the hearts of so many ADHD adults and it’s easy to see blame shifting and other emotionally abusive behaviors as the path of least resistance.

Accepting even a minor failure — like forgetting to take the meat out of the freezer — can feel like too much to bear if your self-image has already been decimated by ADHD. Allowing ourselves to own that one misstep threatens to open the floodgates, confirming our worst fears about ourselves and reinforcing our most damaging self-criticisms.

Disarm with compassion and clarity

I’m not excusing bad behavior, but rather seeking explanations beyond “he’s just a bad person.” When you’re feeling wounded by a blame shifter’s words, try to remember they’re hurting, too. This knowledge may make it easier to begin from a strong and productive place rather than simply retreating or attacking back.

And it does take strength. The best first step in a conflict is to acknowledge your own contribution, even if the other person is wrong.

Why? Because this removes the blame shifter’s weapon. You cannot assume a position of strength without making yourself vulnerable. When someone shifts the blame, that’s a good signal that they’re coming from a place of weakness and will redouble their attacks if you begin by focusing on their faults.

When acknowledging your contribution, don’t dwell on blame or get melodramatic. The idea is to communicate to the other person, “I’m not interested in discussing who’s to blame here” and move on.

In the case of the frozen meat, that means saying, “I’m sorry I didn’t notice when I went into the fridge to get my lunch. If I had, we may have been able to get the meat thawed in time.”

You may fear you’re just rewarding bad behavior. There’s inherent risk in making yourself vulnerable. But consider your options: if you argue, deny, and try to pass the buck back to the blame shifter, you’re making them feel even more threatened and thus even more prone to attack. You could just slink away, refuse to engage, and wait for it to blow over, but that makes you an ideal target: a person who won’t stand up for herself, who will allow someone to tear you down to make themselves feel better. That’s not okay.

After accepting your contribution, be firm. Make sure you’re not enabling blame shifting now or in the future. Help the blame shifter see their role in the situation by making clear, non-threatening observations about what happened.

Avoid statements that aren’t about you, like “you said you’d be in charge of the meat. I shouldn’t have needed to worry about it.”

Instead, describe only your own feelings, observations, and interpretations: “the meat wasn’t on my radar. I guess I kind of forgot about it after we decided you’d grill and I’d make the side dishes. It sounds like you’d like for us to check each other a little more intentionally to make sure nothing gets forgotten.”

This shifts focus away from finger-pointing and toward problem solving.

If the blame shifter continues to dump on you, speak up. Resist the urge to get emotional or confrontational. For example: “I feel like I’m trying to look at this from both sides. It’s not okay with me to just focus on how I messed up because that’s not what I feel really happened here. Am I making it difficult for you to have a two-sided conversation about this?”

Once a blame shifter learns that you won’t take the bait and feed the flames with more emotion, they’ll stop seeing you as a viable container for their own bad feelings and low self esteem.

You can’t do it all

Sometimes a loved one will continue behaving badly, especially if their ADHD is untreated or poorly managed. Only you can know — through experience, soul searching, and repeated attempts to open doors to effective communication — if it’s time to remove yourself from a toxic environment.

However, it’s important to remember there’s hurt on both sides, and rarely does responsibility for stopping the cycle rest with just one person.

Much of the advice in this post was gleaned from Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen’s Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. If you’re dealing with a poor communicator, the best thing you can do to make things better is to hone your own skills and lead by example. I highly recommend Difficult Conversations as a starting point for anyone seeking to heal a damaged relationship.

Have you felt victimized by a blame shifter? What did you do? Are you a recovering blame shifter? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.

Our ADHD family’s tips for better sleep

Without a doubt, our toddler is — and always has been — the best sleeper in our house. For ADHD adults, getting to bed, falling asleep, and staying asleep can all be challenging.

What’s more, effective ADHD symptom management during the day depends on good sleep habits. Adults need 7-8 hours of of sleep per night, and teens even more: around 8-10 hours. Short yourself on sleep and you’re guaranteed to worsen your symptoms — and your ability to deal with them. Averaging four hours of sleep per night for even 4-5 days creates cognitive impairments equivalent to being awake for 24 straight hours.

We all know sleep is important, but most ADHD adults still struggle to get enough of it. Changing sleep habits isn’t easy. Here are some tips that have helped our family:

Start a (sleepy) tea habit

A solid routine can help get you into bed on time. One of my husband’s and my favorite before-bed rituals is enjoying a cup of Republic of Tea’s ‘Get Some ZZZ’s’ tea together.

I don’t get any benefits from recommending that particular tea, I just wanted to share it with you because it tastes great and helps us sleep. Its magic ingredients are valerian root extract and chamomile, both mild sedatives. My husband, my two-year-old, and I have all used “sleepy tea” to help us fall asleep or stay asleep at night.

Ditch the screens & check the color of your bedroom light

Take a walk through most neighborhoods at night and you’ll see living rooms illuminated by the flickering, blue light of the television.

That blue-rich light — flooding your eyes from TV, smart phone, tablet, and other screens in your home — will disrupt your sleep hormones and make it harder to fall and stay asleep. In his lovely book The End of Night, author Paul Bogard warns of the effects screens and other blue-rich lights — think fluorescent lighting, LED street lamps, etc. — have on our brains’ ability to get adequate rest.

Check the light bulbs in your bedroom: do they cast a warm, soft light, or are they harsh and blue, like the morning sun? Do you often bring a tablet, phone, or even a laptop to bed with you? Does light from the street stream in through your bedroom window? You may be damaging your sleep more than you think.

Beware of triggers & traps

One night, after my husband stayed up until 5:00 a.m. (he gets up for work at 6:15), I said, “I knew this would happen,” and he said, “how? I didn’t even know.”

I pointed out that if he starts working on a particular kind of computer programming project later in the evening, he’s bound to stay up all night because he can’t pull himself away.

If you have an activity like this, set a time after which you will not touch it. When you’re tired and your medication has worn off, you may not have it in you to control your focus and break away at an appropriate time.

Set a cut-off for starting new tasks

Dr. Kelly McGonigal described a sleep-deprivation cycle in her book The Willpower Instinctone student, “Lisa,” told McGonigal about the “million and one things that each seemed more critically urgent the later[it] got…[she] was hooked on doing ‘one more thing’ before she went to sleep.”

Sound familiar? This happens frequently in our house.

Lisa’s story has a happy ending: she set a rule that she’d turn off the TV and computer and commit to starting no new projects after 11:00 p.m. This allowed her to stop and notice how tired she was, and she started getting to bed by midnight.

Decide when you need to be in bed to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night, then turn off the TV and computer an hour beforehand. This has the added bonus of removing sleep-defeating, blue-rich light from your eyes. Then, wrap everything up. No new tasks, no new projects, no one more thing.

This is so much harder than it sounds. It can feel impossible. If you’re struggling, ask someone for help, and accept that help. Which leads me to the most important step of all…

Ask for help, and make sure you accept it

Most sleep advice feels much easier said than done. Sometimes we all need a little help and encouragement to break a bad habit.

In our family, attempts to corral a hyperfocusing or procrastinating ADHD adult can be met with crankiness, if not outright hostility. Each situation feels unique: I know I said I was about to get ready for bed, but I really need to sit down at my computer and do this before I forget. Or, I know I’ve stayed up late doing this before, but I won’t tonight.

If you’re running in circles with sleep deprivation, enlist a helper: someone who will (gently) remind you of your goal at the right moment.

When you ask for help, be prepared to receive it with gratitude. Don’t argue, fight, or inflict your case of I don’t wanna on someone who has your best interest at heart.

Do you struggle with sleep? What have you tried, and what has worked?

Book Review: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen coverHow to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk has been called “the ultimate parenting bible,” and rightly so. Nearly everything you need to know about communicating with children — and people in general — lies within its pages.

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish preach a style of parenting that feels so different, you may just turn over to a blank page in your parenting journey. It requires a complete paradigm shift from “how do I get my kids to do what I want them to do?” to “how do I engage my kids’ cooperation?”

My parenting world also turned upside down when I read Vicki Hoefle’s Duct Tape Parenting, and both books are indispensable. Where one leaves off, the other begins. How To Talk So Kids Will Listen gives more specific examples and techniques, especially for situations when ignoring problem behavior feels like the wrong idea. Parents will come out of this book with a great toolbox not only for shaping desirable behavior, but for developing strong, lasting relationships with their kids.

In a way, this book feels like Difficult Conversations applied to parenting. It’s far more than that, but How to Talk So Kids Will Listen will teach similar skills: listening, empathizing, problem-solving, and viewing situations from your child’s perspective. As I’ve begun using Faber and Mazlish’s techniques, it’s been easier to apply the core concepts to my social interactions with everyone.

After all, children give us opportunities to practice (and start over) every single day. With each success, my son and I both gain confidence in our ability to communicate and solve problems effectively. We can apply everything we learn in our home to interactions with the world at large.

Let’s face it: ADHD adults struggle with patience, empathy, and communication. This makes parenting a particularly tough challenge. The techniques in How to Talk So Kids Will Listen haven’t just made me a better parent, they’ve made me a better person. As my toddler and I practice on each other, I feel a glimmer of hope that I’ll get better at handling tough situations with grown-ups, too.

Not only that, ADHD households aren’t peaceful by nature. We have to work at it. It’s so easy for both parents and kids to fly off the handle, and once a situation escalates, calming down is incredibly difficult — if not impossible. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen will help you prevent meltdowns (yours or theirs) from happening in the first place.

If you doubt a general parenting book can be applied to ADHD households, simply turn to the testimonials toward the end of the book. You’ll find several parents sharing the tremendous benefit Faber and Mazlish’s methods have had for their ADHD kids.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen‘s biggest weakness is its age. Where Hoefle’s Duct Tape Parenting provides an indictment of the too soft, too involved, ‘helicoptering’ parent of today, Faber and Mazlish criticize an authoritarian style that is far less prevalent now than it was when the book was published in 1980. However, if you keep in mind the pitfalls of both approaches and commit to the principles in this book, you’ll be just fine.

If you’re sick of nagging, yelling, punishing, or just plain feeling drained and frustrated at the end of every day, it’s time for a fresh approach. The road to a more peaceful, cooperative, interdependent family isn’t an easy one, but this time-tested book will show you the way.

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