Growing Kids Means Teaching Adulting

20141227_142906I started writing this Blog with the idea that my experience could help other people. I didn’t realize it was what I needed to chronical my personal experiences for myself. Throughout my life people have suggested journaling. I have tried and I have never been consistent. Blogging is different. I am a natural “no it all” so sharing my thoughts with other people always motivates me. The wonderful side effect of this is when I look back on my old Blogs I see how far we have come. When you read my Blogs you see what I wrote, and maybe you can infer some things, but the entire story is not there. When I read my Blogs, I know all the feelings that swirled around the incidents that I am accounting. Reading old Blogs is one of the most therapeutic things I can do, if only to see all this work really is working. My kids are doing better. This is particularly helpful at times like this, when we have already had two homework meltdowns since Friday.

We have just finished week 1 of school, and it was amazingly uneventful. We were even on time everyday. (That is a big deal around here.) I have taken a different approach with my older kids this year. I really want to make sure they master organizing themselves. To achieve this goal we sat down this morning for our first group calendaring session. What is that? It means we sat down and went through the online school assignment site and pulled out all assignments due for the next week. We discussed what was completed already and what the status of everything else is right now. Then they were directed to put it in outlook or on their phones with reminders.( I made sure this was done) I wrote down what was told to me about the status of all assignments and when they left emailed the necessary teachers to verify the work they said was turned in, was actually turned in. I hope to make this process a weekly habit. My older kids are now in 8th and 7th grade. It is important they start taking responsibility for their work, and master scheduling themselves. My mindset is shifting from just teaching self-regulation to teaching them how to Adult. This is step 2, organization. Step 1 was self-care. They now washing their own clothes, prepare there own lunches and breakfast, and are responsible for making sure they have their medication. They are only 5 and 6 years away from me dropping them off at a college campus. It is important to me that they know the basics of taking care of themselves.

Part of me feels like I should have done this when my oldest hit 6th grade, but I was not in the mindset to do it myself. I just got myself back on track with keeping 3 calendars and making sure I write everything down. Step 1 for me was getting myself mentally organized. I used the entire summer to do that. Making sure I had the necessary supplies and reminders to get where I needed to be in a timely manner. We missed a few steps here and there, but overall it worked. Once I got myself back on track, I was able to sit down and devise a plan of action for my kids. First and foremost I am flexible, being too rigid will guarantee everything I plan goes to hell. Additionally, for this to be successful, it is heavily dependent on me being consistent and insisting we create this habit. In the long run it will relieve stress in our household and make sure we take some the responsibility off of me. In the short term it is one more thing to plan.

What are you doing to teach your kids how to Adult?

Kindergarten Will Have to Wait

My 5 ½ year old is repeating Pre-K this year. We decided to wait, because he was not ready to move forward. I am not talking about academically. If it were only academic needs I would have pushed to send him to Kindergarten. We can do tutoring and school work modification to handle academic shortfall. We cannot force a child to mature any faster. This can be an agonizing decision, because as a parent you feel like you are holding your child back. This is not the first time we have done this. My oldest repeated pre-k, she is now in 8th grade and I am very happy with the decision. She is mature in her grade. We have problems related to her ADHD, but her behavior has generally been fine. This experience has made it easier this time around, but starting the school year seeing his friends have moved on and he is staying behind does pull at the heart strings.

The upside is his teacher has already said she expects him to be a leader. He has the same teacher so he already knows the routine and is helping his younger classmates learn it. This year is all about establishing independence and mastering following a routine, plus making sure he is academically sound to move forward. Repeating Pre-K or Kindergarten is not the end of the world. Many parents will tell you that extra year to mature was good for their child. I want to be clear this decision is not the right one for every kid, but I firmly believe it is the right one for my kid.

I was not surprised when the teacher made the recommendation. I had worked closely with the teacher all year, discussing his progress in different programs. He had never been in daycare before and certain things were foreign to him. Additionally, his speech was still lagging and he had a really hard time writing. He started speech in April of 2016, but the other issues I did not know about. I knew he didn’t like writing at home, but I thought he just didn’t want to sit. Not wanting to sit also became an issue. Over the year he participated in several programs to get him ready for Kindergarten and they didn’t work as expected. When the teacher made the recommendation to repeat Pre-k, I discussed it with my husband and the defining point was he is not mature enough.  Although it does not seem like it, kindergarten encourages a lot of independence. I had to honestly assess whether or not my child could handle it, and at the time he could not. As a parent with older kids, I have learned maturity is a big deal. It sets the stage for social interactions, following directions and even understanding some lessons being taught. If your child’s brain development is not ready to perform at the required level, the school year can be hell.

To get him ready to excel this year, over this summer we have done two different occupational therapies for two different reasons. One is just for handwriting and the other is to help him with attention and impulse control. He has improved greatly, and will continue his therapy throughout the school year. I am confident he will be ready for Kindergarten when the time comes. When you add the additional support with the additional maturity, hopefully Kindergarten year will be enjoyable for him.

If you are faced with this decision with your child consider the reason for the delay. Listen to the teacher and consult with a mental health professional or pediatrician. Talking it out with a teacher friend will help too. Do what you need to do, so you are comfortable with the decision being made. In the long run, it can give your child much needed to room to grow at their own pace. It also means you get one more year with your child at home. The closer I get to my oldest leaving the nest, the more grateful I am for that extra year.

Pray About It!

I have learned two truths about mental health as a mom. 1. Good mental health is essential to being the best parent you can be, and 2. Most of us feel guilty when we make sure that happens. I spend a lot of time talking about the mental health of my kids, but the parenting process has been emotionally taxing for me as a parent. If I were to make a recommendation to a mom planning a pregnancy, I would tell them while you are getting the physical check-up make a stop by a psychologist too. Mothering under the best of conditions is a hard job. When you add on depression or other mental health disorders, what is hard becomes monumental.

I am telling you this from experience. I struggled with depression long before I had a child. I never sought help for it, even at its worst. I believed the mantra pray about it. You know what the answer to my prayers was, “Get help”. To say the least when I became pregnant with my daughter I was not where I needed to be emotionally. When she was born it got worse. I did go to a therapist. I got the diagnosis, but the treatment was just therapy only and that really did not work for me. By the time I was pregnant with my son it was bad. My OB looked at me and immediately put me on medication. We have had ups and downs for many reasons, but I can say parenting kids with their own mental health concerns put mine on the back burner. This is not the right thing, but it is true. We need to do better.

Writing this, admitting this has been a struggle in my life, is hard. If you think greater society looks at mental illness badly, then black people treat it like it is the plague. Depression is a sign of weakness for us. It means you don’t trust God. You are not a strong Black woman. You are choosing to be unhappy. The truth is depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is not only emotionally painful, but for many of us it causes physical pain. We often live with joint pain, headaches, and fatigue. Depressed people are also masterful at hiding when they are depressed. An inherent part of the disease is a feeling that no one cares anyway, so why talk about it? I am not saying a chatty person talking to you about being depressed isn’t. They may very well be, but many depressed people hold it in. Which is when depression is dangerous. Those negative thoughts get worse over time.

You have probably read other articles about depression so you know depression is not a fleeting experience. It stays with you. Being sad about something bad happening in your life for a few weeks is not depression. Sadness is an important and good emotion to feel and express. Sadness is a component of being depressed, but it isn’t everything. My suggestion is if you think you are depressed go get an assessment from a psychologist. Not only can they confirm whether or not you are depressed, but help you develop good coping mechanisms to relieve your depression and help prevent future episodes. Any information I am giving here is all from personal experience, not a medical explanation. I know the right terms, because I have learned about the disease. It is important that you seek professional help if you are having a hard time coping emotionally.

Right about now, you would expect some suggestions about how to deal with depression and parent. My only suggestion is seek professional help. You can google all kinds of articles and suggestions on how to deal with depression. I have, and I have found a wonderful natural way to deal with it. I am not sharing. I think the most important thing I did was talk to a therapist. I didn’t do it for long. I don’t like interacting with people in general, and I am picky about who I talk to. I had a therapist I loved, but she left and I didn’t replace her. I think any person dealing with depression should have a some therapy sessions, if only to find out a better way to deal with what is triggering your depression. Remember your ADHD kid is watching you. How you deal with your mental heath sets the stage for how they will deal with theirs as Adults.

At 41 years old I have learned I am not always strong. I am sometimes weak and vulnerable and sometimes I am unstoppable. It depends on the day. I am a human being and all human beings have a weakness. All of us feel emotions. The healthiest thing I have ever done for myself is reject the concept that I have to always be strong, and bear the world on my shoulders. My shoulders are not that broad. I carry my family and I will hold up some friends, but I need to be held up too. I wake up everyday with the idea I am going to do the best I can and if it doesn’t go right, tomorrow is a new day.

I want you know I am a woman of faith. I believe in God and the power of prayer. I believe God sends help in many ways and that includes psychologist and psychiatrist. Many of us think it is ridiculous to just sit and pray for healing of a physical disorder without seeking medical assistance, the same is true of a mental health disorder. You can pray for healing, but also pray for guidance to the right medical professional that God wants to use as a conduit to bless you.

Black ADHD Mom

Having a Teenager With ADHD Is “Interesting”

 

When you have a kids the first thing you are warned about are the newborn weeks. Sleepless nights, stressful days, and difficulty starting breastfeeding are some of the nightmare scenarios fellow parents warn you about. I found the newborns weeks to be fine. My babies were good sleepers and were generally easy to nurse. The second period they warn you about are the teen years. As of late 2016 my oldest child started her journey into the teen years and well we have had a rough start.

What new challenges am I facing that I wasn’t before? Well, to be honest, not much changed initially. My daughter has always been resistant to taking her medicine and she has always done things her way. The biggest issue is her growing independence is in conflict with her need for additional support. She recognizes being thirteen comes with additional responsibilities and she consciously wants to attack them, but that damn executive functioning deficit is kicking her butt. Add on the fact her natural personality is to be a strong, independent, “over” confident human being, and you have a recipe for academic disaster.

How am I attacking this? Well, ummm, you see…. I can only put out one fire at a time. I am demanding accountability while trying to provided “unwanted” support. Helping her is like trying to treat an injured animal. She knows she is struggling, but she thinks she will be locked in a cage if I or her teachers realize she needs help, and telling her otherwise falls on deaf ears. All of these additional concerns are accompanied by the general teenage mindset that being different is bad.

This is very different from when I started this ADHD journey. At the beginning I had no clue how to deal with ADHD at all. I did not know how to help my kids cope and I had a steep learning curve and a lot of help getting there. I still have help, but how do you support someone who does not let you know they need support, or when you give support they shut down?

This Blog is not full of solutions as I have just really started addressing the problem. We will come to a solution that will work for her, but if you are finding that all the support systems that were in place in 5th grade seem to be useless moving forward, you are not alone.

 

 

Black ADHD Mom

 

There’s  A Pill For That

This Blog is a little bit of a vent. I hate the fact that when faced with a problem the go to solution for the medical community is adding a pill. Yes, I know that is what they do, but that is not the only solution. I do not consider my stance as a contradiction to my behavior with regard to medicating my children. I do believe ADHD is a true medical condition and it is appropriately treated with medications. That being said, I also believe there are effective non-medicinal alternatives that can work for many people. Where I have a problem is when we start medicating the side effects of the medication they are already taking.

Let me explain where my frustration begins. I took my son to the doctor for a standard medication appointment. During the appointment the doctor inquired about irritability in the afternoon. I indicated, he is very irritable when the medication wears off. The doctor then said she would prescribe X medication which could help with this irritability. We were dealing with a lot of issues and although I was familiar with the medication I am very hesitant to add to my son’s already lengthy medication needs. He is asthmatic, ADHD, and other concerns. We are dealing with a lot. A little shocked an unable to clearly articulate my concerns I accepted the prescription and it was filled. As I thought about it for a few days I decided not to start it. The reason for this is my mommy senses (like Spidey senses) says this is a bad idea, and I have learned over the years to trust those mommy senses more than I trust just about anything else, when it comes to my kids.

Let me be clear I do not think this particular doctor is trying to drug my child into submission. I honestly think she is trying to be helpful. The issues is, we have different philosophies when it comes to how to address these issues. My perspective is dealing with the irritability comes with the territory when my child is taking the stimulant medication. Every medication has risk and side effects. I am looking at this from the perspective of what is the cost/benefit ratio for my kid if I add this new medicine. Benefit, I potentially reduce the side effects of the medication he is already taking. Costs, I risk additional (possibly worse) side effects, I risk potential adverse drug interactions because he takes several medications, I add a medication when he is already resistant to taking medicine, and lastly I am not comfortable with him taking it. I am sure a physician could give me very good explanations for the first three costs I listed, but the last and most important can only be dismissed by me. That one benefit is not enough for me to overlook my uneasiness about the new medication.

I guess the question remains if the side effect is enough to be notable; what am I going to do about it? The answer is I am going to do the same thing I have done in the last five years. I am going to make sure he eats a good breakfast and snack at home, has a break before starting homework, encourage him to go outside an walk, run, or ride his bike, and I remind him that even if he feels cruddy he is in control and responsible for his behavior. ADHD does not absolve a child from responsibility. If anything, it puts a greater responsibility for them to consciously exert self-control whenever possible.

 

How do you deal with medication side effects with your kids?

 

Black ADHD Mom

ADHD, Transitions and New Beginnings

This year all three of my kids will be in school. I have a 7th grader, 6th grader, and a Pre-Ker. All of my kids are making some type of transition this year. My 7th grader turns 13 in September. She is moving from childhood to teen years and I am not sure I am ready. My 6th grader is starting middle school and my Pre-Ker is going to school for the first time ever.   Oh and for the first time in 4 ½ years I do not have a child on my hip.

My 4 year old had a rough first week. His behavior was fine, but he missed me. He was really weepy and out of sorts. I see the conflict, he loves playing, but he misses being able to crawl in my lap for comfort when he is uncertain. If this were my first go round I might feel like I need to hover and maybe I would wonder if he is ready. As an experienced mom I drop off and go. I know he is ready and it is fear of the unknown and new things that creates his stress, but I know his teacher. She taught my older two. She has known me for 9 years and I know for a fact he is in great hands. I know he will be loved and cared for by the school’s teachers, staff and administration.   His discomfort is temporary. As I start this journey it occurs to me how important it is to allow our kids experience discomfort and even a reasonable amount of fear. Uncertainty is part of life. Trying new things and overcoming fear and anxiety is integral to success.

I find when dealing with my ADHD kids it is really easy to try to unnecessarily ease transitions. Yes, there is a need to make sure that transitions are particularly smooth for kids with learning differences, but they also need to stumble like any other kid. There is a sense of accomplishment and resilience when you overcome obstacles on your own. It is healthy to know when to ask for help, but is just as healthy to know if no one helps you can make it. There is also a selfish reason to help a little too much. When a kid with ADHD or other challenges gets too frustrated you may be looking at some type of meltdown or shutdown. It may not come in the form of a temper tantrum on the floor but they get quite creative as they get older. My daughter, for example, decided to take a school work vacation last year. If you have not gotten to middle school as a parent yet, or if your kids are up and grown and you do not remember, they strongly encourage parents to take a step back and let the kids sink or swim. I stepped back, she sank like a rock. Well maybe not a rock, more like a boat taking on water. It was slow, but she was on her way to the bottom. I talked to her homeroom teacher and we had a meeting with all of the teachers, and my daughter. They took the time to explain to her their concerns and discussed solutions. Her work improved greatly. She took ownership of her work and steadily improved through the rest of the year. If you are wondering, she was overwhelmed and too proud to ask me or her teachers for help. The meeting helped her to understand the teachers expected her to need help and asking was a good thing. They explained it was part of the learning process, and it worked.

I think having the kids learn how to take ownership of their specific needs and ask for help is an integral part of parenting in general, but particularly important for kids who have learning differences. The school started bringing my daughter in on her accommodation meetings at the end of last year. She can voice how she feels about the different accommodations being offered and the teachers can ask her questions about what she needs. We had a new school year meeting with all of her teachers, my daughter and myself. I sat pretty much silent as they addressed her directly and explained what she was entitled to and why they were offering what they were offering. She did not talk much, but this is a great way for her to learn how to advocate for herself.   One of my biggest fears is for her to go away to college and not advocate for what she needs. Starting the process of teaching her how to advocate now eases those fears.

Last, but not least my middle child. I saved him for last because he is often the main subject of my blogs since he has the most of challenges. He was dreading starting middle school. Much of the dread is gone. I am excited for him to start middle school. They do several things differently that I think will work great for him. Middle schoolers use surfaces for all of their work. My son does much better using electronic mediums instead of pin and paper. They take tests online and many of the books they use are electronic. I think this transition will help him a lot. Also, they change classes every 45 minutes so he does not have time to get too bored, before he is off to the next class. Learning is also much more hands on. There is less lecture and more application with a project based focus. I asked him what his favorite class was and he said science. I was confused for a minute and then I remembered their science is lab based. He will get to see many of the scientific concepts he is studying in action. He is such a visual learner that is right up his ally.

 

Overall, I am excited about all the transitions and new beginnings we are facing this year. I think this year has the potential to be phenomenal. I hope my kids enjoy every minute of it.

 

 

BLACK ADHD MOM

 

 

 

What the Black Mom of Different kids needs, but will not ask for.

In case you are unaware there is this phenomenon called the “Strong Black Woman”. I am sure many of our non-black counter parts may not have a full understanding of what that means. Let me break it down for you. It is not the loud, ratchet/ghetto, overbearing personality the media makes us out to be. Being a strong Black woman is so much more subtle than that. It is bearing everyone’s pain around you without letting on it is killing you inside. It is making sure every I is dotted and every t is crossed. It is making sure your kids, your spouse and maybe parents or siblings are cared for long before you think of yourself. It is bearing the disdain and disrespect of the media and other racial groups while still attempting to maintain whatever dignity you can muster. Being a strong Black woman means suppressing your pain, anger, and needs so your family can prosper. As a result a chip develops for many of us. We develop an edge, not because we do not want to be softer, but because we cannot afford to be. We are literally the foundation of our families. We often make sure the bills are paid, the house is clean, the kids are cared for, and everything else in the house is handled. In addition many of us work whether married or single. It also means we are in many ways resilient and unyielding. We are often times hardworking and driven to do the best we can for our families without regard to our personal needs. This is what being a strong black woman is in my opinion and honestly it is killing many of us. This cultural norm leads to a serious problem, we often will refuse to ask for assistance when needed. Many times we feel obligated to bear the brunt of the stress of caring for our kids alone, because you don’t talk about these things. Many of us feel guilty for crying, or taking a break. I want to give some insight on how you can help the mom that will not ask for help.

Give her a call. If you know a mom who is in the trenches taking care of a child/children with learning differences or other disabilities, odds are she will not have time to call you. Reach out to her. See if she can get away for coffee and if not just talk on the phone. Let her vent, without judgment. There are many times all moms have many non-politically correct thoughts and they just need to get them out. If you are not the type of person who can do this and keep the conversation to yourself, please just disregard this and keep the family in your prayers. The last thing a family needs is to have to deal with rumors and gossip about them.

Offer to provide respite care. Offer to watch the kids so her and hubby can go out to dinner or if she is a single mom so mom can catch a movie. If you do not feel comfortable being left alone show up and let her take a bath in peace while you entertain the kids. Yes, this sounds very much like what you would do for a new mother. Think about it this way, in some ways the constant attention of the new born stage does not completely go away with a special needs kid.

Keep inviting mom out. If she only accepts one out of ten times you have given her some time to just have fun. Understand that finding care for kids with any type of special need is difficult and stressful. Don’t assume she is saying no because she does not want to go. She may not be able to go.

Reassure her. This one has a high risk of coming off sappy or insincere so be careful. That being said, too often moms of kids with any type of special need spend way too much time criticizing themselves. The best way to reassure her is to note changes in the child. If you see an ADHD child sitting for longer periods of time, or in better control, or recover from a fit faster mention how well they seem to be doing. Do not say “I don’t how you do it? It would drive me crazy!” This gives more of a feeling like they are raising the spawn of the devil not a child with ADHD or some other problem. Granted, I have been guilty of that error with other issues so do not worry if you have done it, just don’t do it again.

Lastly, unless you personally have a child you are raising or have raised with ADHD or some other problem PLEASE refrain from giving unsolicited advice. Frankly, even if you have parented an ADHD kid or a child with some other problem just don’t. I do realize the irony of me writing a Blog and saying that. The difference is no one has to click on the Blog the info is out there if you want it, but in person to be polite someone will listen to your advice. That being said feel free to commensurate and exchange ideas with fellow parents, you may learn something new. If you do not have kids at all please, please, please do not pull the “my cousins, husbands, grandfather had a kid with…..” Unless you raised that kid you have not a clue. Yes, I am guilty of providing unsolicited advice, but I try not to.

Even the most stoic and resilient among us need a break and support. Do not hesitate to reach out and lend a hand. If you don’t know what they may need, ask. If they say nothing then ask at a later date. If you are unsure about how to interact with the child so you can assist with childcare educate yourself. Most parents can give you good resources to learn and will greatly appreciate your effort. No matter how much or little you can do make sure they know you are there to help, even if they are not asking for it. If for whatever reason you cannot do any of this, prayers and good thoughts are always appreciated. If you are a parent of an ADHD child or a child with other challenges what types of things would help you?