The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution. -- Bertrand Russell

It’s so easy to nag, demand, berate, or give up on our ADHD loved ones. I mean, really, how hard is it to…

  • get home from work on time?
  • stay sitting at the table for dinner?
  • stop picking fights?
  • keep track of your keys?
  • take out the trash?

Before I go on, let me tell you, it’s okay to feel frustrated.

But then ask yourself this: am I trying to solve the right problem?

Is getting home from work on time really the issue? Physically sitting at the table? Or do we need to dig deeper, discovering that our true meaning is really…

  • I want to feel like you value our family as much as your job
  • I want to connect as a family
  • I want a peaceful, effective morning routine
  • I want to trust that you’ll fulfill your commitments to our household

When we consider what’s really bugging us, the conversation shifts. It becomes about us and our feelings, not others and their faults.

Next time you’re tempted to nag or criticize, pause. Challenge yourself to open up about the real issue and listen to your ADHD’ers’ suggestions.

Of course, you’ll need to prepare for the “I don’t know” answer, too. Working from honest feelings rather than accusations, assumptions, and judgments creates a safe space for you to solve the problem as a team.

These conversations require self-awareness and emotional availability — two tough spots for ADHD folks. If you struggle with communication, I suggest reading Difficult Conversations as a family.

Experiment, observe, and find what works

When troubleshooting in an ADHD household, be prepared to experiment.

In a science experiment, you don’t work from what you want or what you think should happen.

You observe what is and you work from there.

For example, we don’t do family dinner at our house. I grew up with family dinner, and everywhere I looked, someone was holding it up as the gold standard for healthy, functional, connected nuclear families.

Well, guess what — family dinner doesn’t work for us right now.

Did I fret over how I could make it happen so we could be a “real,” “normal” family?

I sure did. But did it help?

Nope.

Eventually, I realized family dinner wasn’t the problem. It was the need for a family meal.

The solution: we eat family breakfast together seven days a week. My husband gets our son out of bed and dressed, giving them extra time together in the morning. Our weekly family meeting happens after breakfast on Saturday because that’s when we know we’ll all be together.

It’s a little unconventional, but it’s what works for us.

 Forget expectations

If you’re still obsessing over how “normal” or “responsible” people solve problems and organize their lives, try to let it go. Step back, observe, and look at what really works for your family.

Make sure you’ve defined the real problem, then work on a real solution.

Don’t let external judgments and expectations define how you run your home and family.

Find what works and let go of the rest.

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