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Monday Minute: Collaborative Parenting for ADHD and Behavioral Challenges

The first time we ever used collaborative parenting strategies in our family, I was very literally near the end of my parenting rope! I had gone into parenting thinking I would have this parenting thing down ( I thought). As a teacher, I understood consistency, holding children accountable; I was the teacher they sent other teachers to in order to see how to manage a class. Surely if I could do that with more than 20 children, I could do that with 2 of my own! (LOL forever, my friend).

I will never forget the feeling of success it brought to sit down with my child and empathetically listen to his perspective and the resulting collaboration that resulted in less stress for the entire family.

Transitions were very difficult for my son, especially when it came to favorite activities. And, at the time, nothing was more of a favorite than legos. Anytime we had to transition from legos, the nightmare would ensue. I thought I knew what was going on… he loved legos, right? Of course he didn’t want to stop! I pulled out every parenting “strategy” in the book. But once I dove into that collaborative conversation with him, boy was I in for a surprise! It turns out that in his very complex mind in which he would become completely hyper-focused and absorbed, he was afraid that he might not remember where he left off! He might not remember where to start up again! Wow! I had never thought of it like that before! This insight guided our whole language we used to discuss this and eventually we came up with the agreement to have space and time to find a “stopping point.” It is a term that has served us well in many situations since, but had I not had that conversation with him, I would have probably stayed in the cycle of constant dread everytime we had to shift activities or leave the house!

Admittedly, within the world of nueroscience and education we are in the very earliest stages of truly understanding the human mind and how it develops. The more we learn about it, the more evidence there is to show that the commonly accepted reward/ consequence system does not always work, especially for brains that are differently wired.

The good news is that collaborative parenting is an approach that aligns with preparing children with behavioral challenges to learn skills for navigating adulthood. Here are some answers to commonly answered questions about the collaborative parenting approach:

Q: By using collaboration with my child, does it undermine my authority as a parent?

A: Absolutely not! In fact, there is evidence that using these strategies encourages children to listen and come to parents with their concerns when they know their parent will look through a collaborative lens. Also, there is never a question that in issues of safety and health concerns that you must act in a role of authority. If my boys find it difficult to accept and comply with a family rule put in place for their safety ( for instance with technology), we may have a discussion about why it is hard for them and get to the bottom of the unsolved problem, but that doesn’t mean we will change the rule entirely. It doesn’t mean that we won’t have to take a break from technology. Also, in the collaborative process, there is a step that involves sharing your concern with your child and why it is important to you. The modeling of communication here is extremely powerful and strengthens the relationship between parent and child.

Q: If I use collaborative structures, am I able to still provide accountability for my child?

A: Yes! Collaborative structures include reviewing the agreed upon solution to further problem solve and aligns with natural consequences of choices that children make. It overlaps with gentle parenting and viewing the child from a holistic perspective. As adults, we may have many assumptions of what is causing behavior, but once collaborative structures are used, most experience surprise that there was something else at the root of the problem from the perspective of the child. Most importantly, these structures teach important soft skills such as interpersonal relations, communication, problem solving, and reflexivity that are highly valued in both in relationships and in the work environment.

If you want more information on how to implement these parenting strategies with your child, contact me at deanna@deannawestedt.com or sign up for a consult at deannawestedt.com. You can schedule right on my oncehub link. I look forward to walking with you and your family through these impactful steps.

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The Tip of the ADHD Iceberg

This last week I’ve discussed the challenges of invisible disabilities, including ADHD. Today, I want to touch on the misconception that ADHD is simply about hyperactivity and maladaptive behaviors such as fidgeting and not completing work. These are, of course, stereotypical behaviors associated with ADHD and due to the challenges the present in parenting and teaching an ADHD child they probably garner the most attention. However, if the Titanic is any indication, it is what lies beneath the surface that can be incredibly impactful.

Although not every child who has this diagnosis experiences every single symptom or attribute, it is incredibly important for caregivers to understand the underlying challenges. Doing so can completely change the lens of the adults caring for children who have ADHD, once again changing their behaviors from being “naughty” or “incorrigible” to being part of their differently wired brain. And while we very much want to address these challenges for students ( I mean, we don’t want to say not being able to to keep a job potentially is just a symptom), understanding the the child is not trying to struggle and make life difficult can be a breath of fresh air, take out the personal feeling that the child’s behavior feels like (yes, we are human , too), and relieve the frustration.

The ability to identify the specific and lesser known ways that ADHD may affect your child or a student can help you provide scaffolding (think a step ladder) to help them build the skills they need to function successfully in a world, that will not necessarily bend to their unique challenges. Our goal is to create a human that has the skills to be healthy, happy, and successful out in the world and this is a VERY attainable goal for the child with ADHD. Not only can the child with ADHD be able to survive they can be successful in whatever pathway they choose. In fact, if tapped into properly, I would venture to say they have the chance to be incredibly successful in their chosen path because the way their brain is wired often makes them incredibly passionate about their interests, often working leaps and bound beyond their nuerotypical peers. It is our role to help them identify their passions, give them the tools, and help them develop the skills that do not come naturally to them. This IS a big ask. You will get frustrated. You won’t handle every situation textbook. But, the process of raising and educating our children is to also model resiliency and most of all communicating that they will not be given up on.

When you parent and teach, you touch the future and that is a pretty amazing place to be!

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Inclusivity for the Invisible Disability

When we think of disabilities, those that are visible on the outside are often what comes to mind. When the need is in plain view, why certain accommodations are needed is much easier to explain. But within the disability community, exists a subcategory of those who have what is known as an “invisible disability.” When the disability is not visible from the outside, the territory of making assumptions is all too often entered. For example:

  • A child with spectrum disorder or attention deficit disorder (or any other disability that affects the development of the child) displays behavior not in line with their chronological age and the Judgey Mcjudgersons of the world make sure the mom knows their disapproval, because clearly it must be the parent’s fault (it’s not).
  • A person with an invisible illness or disability that affect their mobility receives a back-handed comment from a passerby for parking in the handicap spot.

These are just two examples of the biases that are experienced by individuals with invisible disabilities and their loved ones.

Within the classroom, it is especially important to make space for children who present with developmental or medical differences due to an invisible disability. It is 100% the responsibility of the adult to make sure that the classroom is not only accessible, but is a safe place for children to learn in all ways. In some cases, depending on whether or not the disability directly affects the child’s ability to learn, they may be placed on a 504 or IEP. 504’s generally apply toward a medical disability such as a food allergy or even ADHD, if it does not affect the child’s ability to learn ( truly, there are some cases of ADHD where the issues are more behavioral and do not affect the student’s access to the curriculum, but I advise parent to really reflect on what is best for their particular child if they are diagnosed with ADHD). An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is a plan that addresses what accommodations and/ or modifications will be made for a child in order to allow them to access the learning. Both are legally binding; however, an IEP tends to be seen as more rigorous. All such diagnoses or conditions are covered by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).

For more ideas on how to make sure your classroom is accessible for all students, contact me at deanna@deannawestedt.com. I would love to walk alongside you or your staff in ensuring that all children have access to that depth of knowledge equity I am so passionate about!

When you teach, you touch the future and that is a pretty amazing place to be!