Friday, May 22, 2015

A Little Moxie, A Little Mischief: What No One Tells You About Having a Kid With ADHD

As a therapist, ADHD was never in my wheelhouse. That changed the year my then 6-year-old son was diagnosed with ADHD. This diagnosis did not come as a surprise, my husband has ADHD, but it did open my eyes as a therapist, and as a mother, to the challenges kids with the diagnosis face. Challenges that go beyond the stereotypical image of a child who is easily distracted or hyperactive. There is so much more to ADHD that I have learned along my journey. Here's some of what I have learned:

My kid says "weird" things.  Kids with ADHD are often impulsive. This impulsiveness may manifest verbally. Children may blurt out things that may not make sense, or seem strange. They may even blurt out things that seem concerning.

One day, my son, who was having a particularly challenging day, was in the midst of a meltdown. With a glint of rage in his eyes, he turned to me and shouted, "I'm going to blow up this house and everyone in it!" The mom side of me immediately got alarmed and wondered if I had a future psychopath on my hands. The therapist in me knew that this wasn't my sweet boy speaking, it was the impulsiveness speaking. The part of the brain that doesn't pause before blurting out whatever words are running around in his mind. Sometimes what comes out of my son's mouth is funny in a "Kids Say The Darnedest Things" kind of way. Sometimes it is so cringe-worthy, I want to dig a deep hole and hide.

What to Do:
Teach children to take a deep breath and count to 10 before talking. This encourages children to not blurt out first thoughts, and gives your child a chance to consider their words.

When you observe your child making impulsive statements, pull him aside and discuss why the statement was inappropriate or harmful. Encourage apologies for any hurtful words. Speak with your child privately, rather than address the statements in front of an audience.

The challenge of friendships. Many kids with ADHD may experience difficulties in making friends. This is often because children with ADHD are impulsive in nature and these impulsivities translate to off-putting behaviors on the playground, such as making unfiltered statements, interrupting others, displaying thoughtless behavior or creating disruptions.

When my son entered kindergarten, his uniqueness became more apparent to peers. Kids were starting to notice that my son was different. Nothing is more heartbreaking than to have your child come home and tell you that the other kids don't like him. Unfortunately, my son, although a sensitive soul, has a tendency to speak without thinking, often saying things that are hurtful. He will intrude on, and interrupt conversations. He will disrupt a child who is quietly playing. He will walk away mid-conversation. Things that weren't as noticeable in preschool, began to raise eyebrows in elementary. My son's tendency to miss social cues will only become more noticeable with age.

What to Do:
Social skills groups are a great way to learn how to interact with peers. Check with your school or local counseling centers for age appropriate groups.

Role-play common social situations with your child. This will help ease any social anxieties and give your child the opportunity to practice appropriate interactions.

Evel Knievel has nothing on this kid. Children with ADHD can be the ultimate risk takers. Most people expect children with ADHD to be overly energetic, but most do not expect to be witness to impulsivity-driven, dangerous acts. A child with ADHD may run into traffic, climb on top of the refrigerator, hang from the second floor banister, whack a beehive with a bat - the possibilities are endless. The bigger the kids, the more dangerous things become. Teenagers with ADHD are particularly susceptible to engaging in reckless drug and alcohol use, as well as sexual activity.

When my son was still running into traffic at age five, I knew that this was way more than just typical hyperactivity. While you expect to have to use the death grip on a 2 or 3 year old in a parking lot, you don't think of an older child needing as much reminder and supervision about the dangers of moving vehicles. Or, so I thought. My son would catch the gleam of a penny or hear the bark of a lone dog in the distance and would be consumed with one thought - the thought to run towards whatever attracted his attention. He would bolt without warning into a sea of moving cars. My heart has stopped beating more times than I can count.

What to Do:
When a child displays severely dangerous activity, it is best to consult professionals. Seek specialists in ADHD. A variety of therapies are available to help decrease impulsiveness and assist in establishing safer outlets for your child's energy.

You thought nights with a newborn were bad, you ain't seen nothing yet. Children with ADHD often experience challenges "shutting off" their brain. That little mind is constantly filled with thoughts and images, and that doesn't stop just because the little hand on the clock hits 9. You may find your child is refusing to go to bed, stating that he/she is not tired, and if they do make it to bed, they are wide-awake for the majority of the night. Many kids with ADHD - those on meds AND those not on meds - experience sleep issues. For children who are on medication, stimulants are usually the culprit and decreasing or stopping the dosage will typically eliminate sleep issues. For those children not on medication, developing healthy sleep patters requires a bit more trial and error.

My son actually slept like a baby, when he was a baby. Not a peep would be heard out of him until the morning. Then somewhere around toddler-hood, a myriad of sleep issues crept in. Getting him to sleep was an exhausting experience, but only for me as he would be wide awake hours after I would drop into bed out of defeat. I would spend hours begging and pleading with him to go to bed, only to spend the majority of my night escorting him back to his room when he would wake me in the middle of the night requesting snacks, water or "something to do" because he was "bored." We finally found a rhythm that works for us, but the journey getting there was a long one.

What to Do:
Setting a routine will help define sleep expectations for your child. Set a reasonable bedtime and have a set routine for the 2 hours leading up to bedtime. Include quiet time with no electronics or stimulating activity, a warm bath, and downtime by reading a book or listening to soothing music in the routine.  Replace bright lights with warm, soft lights to create a serene sleep space.

Low self-esteem struggles. Many kids with ADHD experience low self-esteem. Kids with ADHD tend to have more academic and social struggles. At home, the symptoms associated with ADHD may lend to a tense family dynamic. An overwhelmed parent may become easily frustrated by ADHD behaviors. Children with ADHD are used to being criticized for their lack of attention, forgetfulness, poor social skills and behavior. This criticism from others quickly turns into a nasty inner critic that takes a toll on a child's self-esteem.

Being a parent of a child with ADHD is no doubt overwhelming at times. It's easy to feel frustrated when nothing seems to work to calm your wild child. Before my son was diagnosed, he struggled with an array of social, academic and behavioral challenges. The frustration my son was feeling over his lack of self-control, combined with the frustrations my husband and I were feeling over the challenges, led to a strained home environment. In the midst of all this I noticed that my son didn't seem as eager to try new things for fear of failing and didn't seem as confident. I'll never forget the day my son came to me and said, "I know everybody hates me because I always mess up. I'm dumb and I know it." Talk about a punch to the gut.

What to Do:
Take a step back and look at what you as a parent, may unintentionally be doing to feed your child's self-esteem monster. Don't compare your child to others. Recognize what your child is doing right, and stop focusing in what your child is doing wrong.

Focus on your child's strengths and involve him/her in activities that will allow him/her to excel.

Allow your child to succeed by breaking up tasks into smaller steps, simplifying goals and directions and making accomplishments attainable rather than complicated.

ADHD looks different with every child, and every child's journey is different. With love, support and understanding each child has the ability to excel in their own way. I have learned to find the positive in my son's energetic spirit and cherish all parts of this journey we are taking together.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wear It Mama: Casual Friday

I am typically the ultimate bargain shopper, but recently I've been putting a little more money into my work wardrobe budget by incorporating versatile and unique pieces that are a bit pricier. This orange batik print top is one of my latest splurges. I couldn't resist the color and print. This top has been a great addition to my warm weather work wardrobe, and with the addition of a cardi or blazer, will easily transition to Autumn. Crisp, white, 3/4 length pants balances out the intricate print. A bright pair of blue flats lends a subtle, fun, pop to the outfit, and the white and gold grass bracelet set complements the ethic vibe of the batik print. I think it's safe to say, this look is a work day winner!

Shopping List
Batik Dot Top (Orange Multi)
3/4 Twill Pants (White)
D'Orsay Flat (Tile Blue)
Metallic Grass Bracelet Set (White and Gold)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Small Style: Mr. Hipsta'

My boy is a graphic t-shirt collector. I started him out with the witty tee trend in babyhood, and we've been building his yearly collection ever since.  We knew this grey, "Hipsta Please" tee was just waiting to call our closet home, so we of course snagged it up. My boy is no hipster, but we couldn't help having fun by pairing this with black, slim, jeans -  rolled up at the cuffs, of course - and Americana style Chucks. These shoes are going to be a summer wardrobe staple for sure. All the kid needs now is a slouchy beanie and he'll look like he walked straight outta Seattle!

Shopping List
Hipster Tee
Slim Jeans
Chuck Taylor All Stars (Americana)

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Little Moxie, A Little Mischief: Into the (Sun)Light

I've always been very sensitive to changes in nature. As someone who is very connected to nature, this was never a surprise. As a child, I grew up in Southern California, land of  perpetual summer and sunshine. Moving the the East Coast was a major shock to my system. It was hard for me to adjust to the change in seasons as a child, and became even tougher as I grew older. The winters weren't physically taxing to me, they were emotionally brutal. The gloomy darkness of winter was something was something that struck me to the core. I didn't find beauty in the snow. I didn't take comfort in the idea of thick layers. All I felt about the East Coast winter months was emptiness, loneliness and despair. It wasn't until many years later, as an adult, that I realized the intense sadness I felt during this time of the year wasn't just an extreme dislike for the winter, it was a pretty significant dip into depression.

I have often joked about having a case of the S.A.Ds (Seasonal Affective  Disorder) every winter, but apart from a handful of close friends, have never really spoken about my seasonal depression. This hasn't been intentional, it has a lot to do with not wanting to rehash negative feelings.  After experiencing a particularly brutal battle this past winter, I would love to forget that I spent the previous four months on edge, in tears and lacking in motivation and joy, but I have come to realize that is is something I should, and NEED, to talk about.

Seasonal depression mimics many of the same symptoms that you would find in clinical major depression. During the fall and winter months I can feel myself slowly slipping into a very negative head-space. The fall holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are usually distracting enough to keep me afloat during the day, with sadness creeping in towards the end of busy days. After New Year's the more powerful feelings of darkness begin to bulldoze their way through and it's all day event, no longer just contained to the bedtime hours. My usual active and energetic approach to life, slowly becomes replaced by feeling lethargic and hopeless. My lack of desire to do anything but stay in bed and cry from explainable sadness grows as the days become darker, colder and gloomier. My insomnia and anxiety kicks into high gear, and I become distracted, irritable, easily overwhelmed and hyper-sensitive. 

As a working mom with three little ones, a it's not easy to balance feelings of depression with the responsibilities of daily life. Most of the days are an internal battle between what I need to do and what I want to do. What I need to do is power through waking up early, getting the kids fed and ready for school, maintain the house, organize 5 schedules, keep up with work responsibilities and making sure life goes on without too many bumps. What I want to do is become a recluse who holes up in a dark room, sleeps until the sadness passes and has little human contact because that takes more effort than I have to exude. Without my kids and job, I could very easily go through the whole winter without feeling any sort of life. My kids and my responsibilities are my motivators, and even though most days I'm just going robotically through the motions, the alternative would be a lot worse. 

I have gotten a lot better over the years in managing my moods. I have become better at forcing myself out of the house on dreary days, just to get some fresh air and clarity. I incorporate events to look forward to. I make plans with friends. Most of the time, the "fake it until you make it" philosophy helps keep the darkness at bay, if even for only a few hours. In the meantime, I have a running mental calendar which reminds me of the (sun) light at the end of the dark, winter tunnel. 

Usually my transition from depression to normalcy is a seemingly overnight even. One day I wake up feeling lighter, freer, centered and balanced. The picture above was taken on March 21, 2015.  That picture marked my "transition" day this year. I drove down my street and was struck by the beauty of the sun shining through the end of winter's remains. The warmth of the sun melting the snow and breathing life back into nature, and me, is a feeling that lacks adequate words to explain. It is with no remorse or regret that I leave winter behind, and embrace summer. And, I certainly can't help but smile when I hear those little four words I waited months to feel, "You seem happy today!"

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wear It Mama: Retro Beach Beauty

My dresser has one too many black and white striped swim suits, but I couldn't resist adding just one more. This suit from Garnet Hill is AH-MAZE-ING! The ruched mid-section camouflages any potential tummy troubles you may have, while the plunging neckline and gentle padding adds a bit of sexiness. I love the retro-inspired silhouette so much, this may earn the title of my favorite suit of the season. This sweet, poppy printed sarong is the perfect glam cover-up and complements the swimsuit beautifully. These black, sling sandals are adorable, a bargain and fit in with the whole retro vibe. I am so in love with this whole look, I want to wear it every day, beach day or not!

Shopping List
Garnet Hill Retro Runched One Piece (Midnight Black Stripe)
Phase Eight Poppy Print Sarong
Nova Two Piece Sling (Black)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Small Style: Here, Kitty, Kitty

Do I even need to point out how cute these denim shorts with a kitty cat pocket are?  These were an instant sell as soon as I set my eyes on them. They are the perfect addition to my Kitten's summer wardrobe. These shorts are super versatile, and most days my little one wears them with a tank and sneakers for playground fun, but I love them paired with this airy, violet top, and white gladiator sandals. The open lace design of the top, trendy sandals, and striped, knotted headband kick casual up a notch and make for a perfect out-and-about outfit. Have I mentioned lately how jealous I am of Kitten's closet?

Shopping List
Denim Shorts
Cap Sleeve Blouse (Violet Villa)
Cherokee Jennifer Gladiator Sandal (White)
Sailor Knot Turban

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Wear It Mama: Lovely Lace

Once upon a time, I was a lingerie snob. I would turn my nose up at anything that wasn't lacy, frilly and pricey. Then I had kids. My pretty lingerie was placed by economical 8 packs of cotton panties. Tragic. Three kids and seven years later and I want to reclaim my pretty lingerie drawer. I'm kicking out the cotton panties - ok, maybe I'll keep a few - and replacing them with lacy, chiffon, and ruffles. Signing up for Adore Me is one step towards the return of me. Signing up for the VIP membership gives me the option to shop the "showroom" for a gorgeous set at a discount every month. The best part is, if I don't want to shop one month, I can simply skip without a charge! The showroom is a selection of bra and panty sets,  lingerie, swimsuits and sleepwear selected just for me based off my identified style. You don't have to be a VIP member to buy, but since the membership is so flexible, it's worth it for the discount. This gorgeous set is my first purchase. I've also added this chiffon robe and bobby pin set to replenish my collection, because, why not? Mama needs pretty things too!

Shopping List
Bridgette Contour
Apricot Long Sleeve Chiffon Kimono
Pearl and Crystal Bobby Pin Set