Stress…Are we setting a good example?

Stress affects everyone.

Stress interferes with our basic human needs to survive.

Stress interferes with our health and ability to live productive lives.

Stress changes our world.

Young or old, alone or part of a family, stress affects all of us. It changes how we act. It changes how we think. It changes our decision making. It affects how the world perceives us.

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How do you handle stress?   Do you let others see your stress?   Do you let your kids see your stress?  Do you make sure your kids see you dealing with stress in a healthy way? That last one is the hard one.

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When you think you have everything all under control, and it just unravels and falls apart…. Have a plan!

The past few months were pretty stressful in our house. I don’t always handle stress well. I don’t think clearly. I don’t make the best decisions. And, it’s obvious to everyone in my world that something is wrong. I wear my stress just like a new outfit. When it’s bad, it overcomes me. I get stuck. It sucks. And, what also sucks is that my kids don’t get the mom they need. None of us are able to be 100% the person we want to be when we are stressed. Fact.

Many of us don’t deal with our stress well, and the effects are profound. We have a society that is tired, less productive, irritable, gaining weight, depressed, anxious, and generally unhealthy both mentally and physically, all because of stress. Stress changes our bodies in multiple ways, hormonally, gastrointestinally, and cognitively, just to name a few.

When the brain, the gut and the hormones are messed up, guess what? Life is messed up, and things just don’t go so smoothly. Unfortunately, our immune system gets the direct assault. If you want to read more about stress and the immune relationship, I recommend  Paleo Mom’s blog posts about how leaky gut and stress affect our health. The impact of stress on our health is so profound, I encourage you to learn more about it, and hope to write another post about it soon.

Take a look at our society, 1 in 3 are sick, the majority are overweight, many are out of work or incapable of keeping a job, most self medicate with alcohol and cigarettes, and many with illegal drugs. The majority of relationships fall apart, many children don’t live with both mom and dad (some with neither), and respect for one another seems to be at an all time low.

As a society, we are not functioning well. We are not dealing with problems and they are causing stress and it has a domino effect on our society as a whole. So, back to the reason I started this post…

We need to deal with our stress, but HOW? 

Lifestyle choices. Simply put, we need to go Back to Basics:

  1. Safety and love. This is a basic human need, and many people are not loved and do not feel safe. Many things about the basic needs of our society are broken. Lack of respect & broken family systems are a central part of this problem. Everybody needs somebody.
  2. Proper Nutrition. This might be #2, but only because #1 is so primal. This is such a crucial element to one’s health both mentally and physically. Balanced nutrition can cure and prevent many of today’s “modern diseases.” Eating 3 balanced meals a day is a must. Not just our body, but especially our brain needs fuel, and food is that fuel. Too many unnatural foods (I use the word food loosely here) in our diet lead to health issues. If you’ve ever read my blog, you know how I feel about processed vs. natural foods. We will save that discussion for another post.
  3. Adequate Sleep. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, our body doesn’t have time to replenish. Simple supply and demand here. You can’t keep drinking out of a glass that you don’t refill. For more details about the importance of sleep and how much sleep we each need, check here.
  4. Exercise/Physical Activity. Our body is mechanical, it’s quite amazing actually. Our body needs to be toned and fit to perform how it was meant to, and how we expect it to. Muscles are there to support bones, if muscles are not toned and in shape, they can’t do their job. Think about all the back pain, neck pain, knee pain, and hip pain in this country. Much of it is because we don’t keep our muscles toned. And, exercise has a direct impact on good digestion. Good digestion is the key to good health! Learn yoga or pilates, just 10-15 min before bed will make a lifetime of difference in you physical and digestive health. I promise. 😉

All of the above have a huge effect on how our body functions.

Proper care = proper function, aka, we can deal with life (and it’s stressors) better when we are healthy. Fact.

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Life does this to us from time to time.

So, last month when my stress meter was in the danger zone, and my boss (Who is The Best!) asked what I was doing to take care of me, I knew what I had to do… I told her that I wasn’t doing so well the first few weeks. I even left the house for a couple hours one night because I just couldn’t take it anymore. (I’m not totally nuts though, I just went to my aunt’s house to deflate.)

So, what was I doing to help with my stress? I had been trying to eat pretty healthy (keep in mind that wine is made from grapes 😉 ). I was trying to get adequate sleep (the nights I wasn’t up late researching everything I could find to help my son). And, I was getting ready to start an exercise program (that I should get off of this computer and good do). The exercise program was something I was excited about; the “physical activity” part of my equation had fallen off my radar and I was feeling icky not being in better shape.

Another thing I support wholeheartedly, but was not doing was talking to someone professionally, as in a therapist. I am lucky to have a 2 for 1 in my massage therapist. My massage therapist is one of the best people in my world. We found each other about 12 years ago, and we’ve developed this true friendship/inner psyche kinda love. We share so many of the same philosophies about life. She knows where my muscles are the most stressed and we chat during my massages, it’s better than psychotherapy… Well, better until she gets to the painful parts, but I call that “feel good pain” because it helps decrease the daily muscle aches/pains and gets the stress toxins out of my muscles (and out of my body). She helps me survive. I can’t express the impact massage therapy has on my world. I highly recommend it. I think most alternative therapies deserve more credit than we give them. Alternative medicine works, these therapies haven’t been around for thousands of years for no reason.

We need to fulfill our basic human needs to survive and be productive.

We need to be healthy and happy to live productive lives and be prepared to deal with life’s stressors.

We need to be good role models for the next generation. We need to deal with our stress. We need to address problems, not ignore them. We need to find solutions, not complaints. We need to treat others as we want to be treated.

We need to demonstrate positive alternatives to acting out in negative ways. Our youth need to see adults dealing with life’s stressors in positive ways. This will make a huge difference in our world. This is a job that all adults are responsible for, like it or not.

Learning to deal with stress is a continuous journey for all of us. I’ve been struggling and learning for decades now. I’m still doing research, but I’m also doing a few Sun Salutations (that’s yoga for those of you that still haven’t caught on to how wonderful yoga is) along this journey to help decrease my stressed. I have tried to work through the most recent “worst” stress in my life. It’s much easier to deal with now that we are on the other side of it (well, mostly). I am proud to be able to show my kids how to deal with stress. At times, I set a good example of what not to do, but I most recently set a good example of what to do by making the lifestyle changes that help me deal with my stress. Just 2 weeks into my exercise program, I’m feeling so much better. And, my kids have the mom they need and deserve. Maybe I’ll share a little more about my exercise program in another post soon.

I hope you have outlets for your stress. If not, I hope this post encourages you to create a few. If you want a little help, just let me know. There is nothing easy about life. We all need to stick together. It takes a village, no matter what your age. The support system I had through my most recent stressful issues made all the difference.

Don’t let life dictate what you do; take control of your life and take it where you want it to go.  Learning how to deal with the stressors makes the journey much more successful and enjoyable.

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A nice vista along the way is good for the soul.

So, eat well, sleep well, exercise, surround yourself with like-minded, positive thinking people and…. Enjoy the Journey! You’ll be glad you did. 

 

 

 

 

Write his teacher a letter… A lesson I wish I learned sooner

writing_letter_12071260152646It was so well received, I knew I should have done it sooner…. Oh, well… We all live and learn.

Letting your child’s teacher know what to expect when you have a child with challenges like ADHD, Anxiety, learning disabilities, Depression, etc. can make such a difference in your child’s school year. Don’t hesitate to write a letter and tell your child’s teacher about your child’s strengths, challenges, and any other pertinent information that is important to help your child succeed.

All teachers want to help our children, that’s why they became teachers. What most parents don’t know is that teachers are given absolutely no resources about ADHD. Can you believe that? The environment where children spend the majority of their time is housed with educators that are never given the opportunity to learn about ADHD (~10% of kids), unless they find time outside of their work schedule to pursue further education on the topic. Not fair… not to the kids, not to the teachers, and not to the rest of the school population. It is up to us as parents to bring information about our child’s challenges to the school and the teachers. Don’t assume they know. If you want someone to have information about your child or their challenges, tell them directly, don’t assume the information gets shared.

I was taught very early on in my professional training that it is important NOT to label kids, so I certainly didn’t want to do it to my own child. In most of my professional situations this is an absolute, but as a parent of an ADHD child, I WAS WRONG! SO WRONG! If your child’s teacher doesn’t know his strengths and weaknesses, how can she help him grow. Yes, most good teachers figure it out, but why waste those months, there are only 9 to get the job done.

If you’ve read any of my posts about ADHD, you know that my son, Joshua has trouble sitting still and staying on task. I have found that talking to his teachers at the beginning of the school year helps Josh and his teachers be much better prepared. For years, it took the first 3-4 months for his teacher to “get to know him” all because I didn’t want to label him. You know, the whole “clean slate” philosophy. I think part of me was trying to test the teacher to see if she also thought that Joshua had ADHD. There was part of me that would doubt it on occasion, although professionally, I knew he was classic.

After writing or asking for a conference with your child’s teacher(s), there should be a plan. Joshua is given specific expectations, as all ADHD kids should. He is also given tools and accommodations to help him succeed, which all ADHD kids deserve. All of his teachers stay in frequent communication with Josh to help him stay on top of assignments that are due, projects that have deadlines coming up, homework that needs to be done, etc. Throughout elementary and most of middle school, Josh has succeeded with the help of some pretty great teachers. We chose private school during 3rd grade for Josh, and haven’t looked back since. I was a public school advocate for a long time, but that debacle is for another post.

If people do not understand how the neurological challenges alter kids behavior, it is crucial for the child’s educational and emotional well-being that they learn. I just read a post on ADDitude.org today with quotes from parents that “wish they knew…” There is always something more we wish we knew.

So, as you prepare for the school year, don’t forget to prep your child’s teacher. You don’t want months to go by this school year, and then have a conversation about what your teacher wished she had known in September. It’s as easy as writing a quick (and, sometimes, not so quick) email. ADDitude.org has a short article and sample letter with great ideas for accommodations, click here to check it out.

So, as you embark on another year of your child’s education, be sure to keep everyone on your journey informed. You’ll be glad you did. I promise! It will make your life easier and most of all make your child’s educational experience more rewarding and successful. Then, you can say, “I’m glad I wrote that letter!” instead of “I wish I had…”.  😉

As always, I hope you are Enjoying the Journey! 🙂 

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What to tell the kids when Grandpa is sick… and isn’t going to get better

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Keeping kids informed helps them understand what is going on. Kids know when things aren’t quite right in the family. So, keeping important information from them can actually be more harmful than protective.

So, what do you tell your little one when Grandpa is sick? You tell them the truth, on their level, of course. Answering any questions that your child asks will help keep them from being worried and scared. But, don’t wait for them to ask. They hear the conversations from the other room, they see daddy and mommy worried and upset; and this will make them worried and upset if they don’t have answers.

Just recently, I lost my father-in-law. There were a few weeks of doctors appointments and then a few weeks of daddy having to go to the hospital every night after work. Dinner was later than usual, things that usually got done were put aside for later, our schedules were just “off” with this sudden change.

I tried to keep my kids as informed as 9 and 13 year old grandchildren should be. Some answers were simple, and some were more difficult. But, the conversations were important no matter where they led. It was important for my kids to know that they could ask questions. They would be told the truth, and they could trust that we are honest with them about the real world and real life.

So, when you are wondering if you should tell your child about important family issues, my answer is yes. Do you have to tell them every little detail? I highly recommend NOT doing that. Too much information or information that is above their developmental level is just confusing and leads to more questions.

I’m sure some of you are wondering if my children attended the funeral? Yes, they did. I think they are old enough to understand, and want them to learn proper respect and etiquette in one of life’s most difficult situations. I want them to know it is ok to cry, to smile, to reminisce, to laugh, to be joyful for a life that was loved and will be missed. I also thought it was important for my children to be there for my husband, and for us to be there as a family. Doing things together makes us all stronger. Knowing we can lean on each other is important for all of us. It turned out well, and I got lots of compliments on my children and their behavior. I’m proud of them. Lets me know their father and I are doing something right. 😉

With all of the challenges life offers, it’s important to be able to lean on others through this journey. None of us has to do it alone. Some choose to, others can’t, most fall somewhere in the middle.

I hope that you learn to weather the storms along your journey so that you can appreciate and enjoy the rainbows.

Always Enjoy the Journey! 😉 

SnOw DaYs

Walking through my living room this morning picking up nerf bullets, I thought to myself, “Someday, I’m not going to have to pick these up.” WAIT(!!!) just a minute…. Ummm… someday… I’m not going to have to pick up nerf bullets… or any kids toys, for that matter… At that moment, I decided how grateful I was for snow days.

The first few are always so exciting. The kids are up early. They want to go outside and play. You dress them up, only to spend less time outside than it took to get ready to go outside. Then, afterwards, there’s hot chocolate. Marshmallows? Yes, please. Yum.

By the 5th or 6th snow day, they don’t even care where their snow boots are, they don’t want to go out, “it’s cold out there.” Josh told me it was just frozen water, no biggie. That was before the fun of sledding (pictures to follow). It was cold, but we eventually thawed out. 😉

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Sitting in front of the fire reading with the cat… Peaceful, leisurely, snow days.

If you don’t live in an area that gets snow, I’m sorry. I am glad I got to grow up somewhere that it snows and we had days off school for snow. It adds a few days on to the calendar in June sometimes, but, when it’s only February, you really don’t care. I remember being out over a week my Senior year of high school. Didn’t matter to me, Seniors’ last day was set no matter how many snow days there were. A little selfish of me? Sure, but, I was 17, what do you expect.

Now, I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me the benefit of staying home on snow days. Believe me though, I’ve put my time in. I’ve driven home from work on roads that were sheets of ice. One time, my husband drove me to work when I was an OB nurse, and we followed snow plows all the way down the highway from our town to the neighboring town where I worked. And, just like hospitals, most pediatric and other doctors offices don’t close unless the weather is really bad. So, it’s only been in the past couple years that I had a job with ‘snow days.’

Parenthood is about so many things, the daily meal planning, keeping track of all the schedules, getting the laundry done, keeping the house just clean enough to live in, homework, and all those other things that are so challenging and time-consuming.

Parenthood should also be about the snow days… The days that weIMG_0401 have no choice but to slow down. The days we take the time to enjoy the beauty of nature. The birds in the bird feeder with a backdrop that’s a perfect blanket of snow. The sleeping pet that enjoys having everyone home. And, the mom/dad that gets a chance to slow down, even if just for a moment between working on assignments while working at home on a snow day. 😉

Some of the best moments are the ones that are not in our plans. What is it they say about spontaneity?? All I know is that it’s a good thing. We need to take advantage of the moments that are dictated by forces beyond our control, and we make a change to our daily routines. That’s what is called “Enjoying the Journey” my friends. And, it’s essential to a good life!

Right now… Drew is sitting next to me reading Chapter 3 in her novel, Farewell, My Lunchbag, A Chet Gecko Mystery, and laughing right out loud. This is her reading assignment for today’s snow day. You see, my kids are not at a deficit for something to do. Their teachers email their assignments. 🙂  I think it’s a great alternative to the loss of instructional time. So, on this snow day, I get to experience something I would not have otherwise. Drew would usually be doing this reading in school. My opportunity to witness the joy it brings her is only possible because of this snow day.

So, today, like most snow days. I will be grateful for the time that I get to be Mom. These are the moments I’m not going to have someday. These moments of pure, innocent childhood that I am blessed enough to witness.

Snow days give us a chance to smell the proverbial roses. I hope those of you that have had a snow day or two, or more, remember how magical snow can be for a child (and an adult).

So, whether it’s your first or your umpteenth snow day… Please…  Take the time to Enjoy the Journey! 😉

My crew

My crew sledding

Hyperactive or just busy… Could your child have ADHD?? (v.2)

So many parents ask about ADHD and their child. Kids are busy and active, and they are supposed to be; so how do you know if they are “hyperactive” vs. “normoactive”… Read Hyperactive or just busy… and find out.

Even with the struggles, I hope you to take the time to Enjoy the Journey while you are figuring it out. 😉

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Can you imagine being Dennis’ mom?? Some days, I think I am…

My latest Bright idea… Screen time sign in!

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I’ve preached about screen time to clients and friends alike for years. And, right now, I’m in the middle of prime screen “time sucking” age with my 8 and 12 year old kids. Screens are involved in so much of our daily lives, that we don’t always realize how much time we spend looking at a screen. For adults, eh, not so great, but for our childrens’ developing minds, not good, NOT GOOD AT ALL!

Screen time includes computers, tablets, laptops, smartphones, iPods, iPads, video games, etc. Basically, anything that has a screen and gets plugged in. We refer to the whole bundle as “electronics” in our house.

There are studies that say kids should not have “too much” screen time, but how much is “too much?” The articles I’ve read say the national average is 7 hours a day! That’s way too much! The general consensus is 2 hours a day, but there are variations with age. For example, the AAP recommends for children less than 2 years old, little or no screen time. Not a problem when I had just Josh, he wasn’t interested in TV anyway. But when Drew Elizabeth came along, Josh was already watching TV, so she was exposed by just being in the same room.

Why does limiting screen time matter you might ask? Oh, that sweet,wonderful denial I’ve had with screen time for years. I know too much screen time is not good for your brain, I’m not one of those moms that plopped her kids down in front of the TV so that she could get something done, well, maybe on occasion, but that’s real life. I also spent plenty of time helping my kids do crafty things, and play outside, and just go be kids with unscheduled time, because that is so important! I read an article recently about how the screen and video gaming affects the neurotransmitters, like dopamine, in the brain, and not for the better. This means screen time can have an impact on every aspect of your life. Too much screen time disturbs sleep, causes attention problems, causes problems focusing, and can easily lead to obesity. There are lots of other specifics, and NIH has details about this if you are interested, click here.

I found a fascinating article about brain changes associated with increased screen time at PsychologyToday.com. This article makes me even more determine to limit the amount of screen time my kids get. Here are a few good reasons;

  • Gray matter atrophy: Multiple studies have shown atrophy (shrinkage or loss of tissue volume) in gray matter areas (where “processing” occurs) in internet/gaming addiction (Zhou 2011, Yuan 2011, Weng 2013,and Weng 2012). Areas affected included the important frontal lobe, which governs executive functions, such as planning, planning, prioritizing, organizing, and impulse control (“getting stuff done”). Volume loss was also seen in the striatum, which is involved in reward pathways and the suppression of socially unacceptable impulses. A finding of particular concern was damage to an area known is the insula, which is involved in our capacity to develop empathy and compassion for others and our ability to integrate physical signals with emotion. Aside from the obvious link to violent behavior, these skills dictate the depth and quality of personal relationships.”
  • Cravings and impaired dopamine function: Research on video games have shown dopamine (implicated in reward processing and addiction) is released during gaming (Koepp 1998 and Kuhn 2011) and that craving or urges for gaming produces brain changes that are similar to drug cravings (Ko 2009, Han 2011).”
  • “In short, excessive screen-time appears to impair brain structure and function. Much of the damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties. Frontal lobe development, in turn, largely determines success in every area of life—from sense of well-being to academic or career success to relationship skills.”

Honestly, I don’t need research to tell me kids need less screen time. My wonderful, adorable Joshua proves it. We’ve had more than one morning that has turned into complete chaos because Joshua isn’t capable of getting himself together. It didn’t take too many years before I started to put the correlation together…. Unlimited screen time the night or day before and the following morning he was disastrous. Little or limited screen time the day or night before school, and mornings were more pleasant, don’t get me wrong, they weren’t all peaches and cream, this is Joshua I’m referring to. 🙂 When I point this new revelation out to him, he is in total denial. Unfortunately, I have the research, and I live it, there is NO denying it! The hard part isn’t knowing the problem, the hard part is fixing the problem. It’s not any easier in my house than in anyone elses, these things need constant review and revamping. Which lead to my most recent “Bright idea!”

So, my Bright idea is to have a “sign in sheet” for screen time for my kids. Ha, you may be saying, but don’t laugh unless you’ve tried it and failed. If you have, bring on the strategies that work, please! I’m hopeful that this will put a stop to the “time suck” that electronics and screens can have on our day. Some of you may think this is brilliant, I have those ideas every now and again. We shall see… I think we will all sadly realize that we are way over our “screen time” limit in this house.  I’m on a mission to prove to my kids we need to cut back.

So, as soon as my daughter gets off the computer (umm humph) I’m going to make a “Screen Time Sign in ” sheet and put it on the fridge. I’ve been keeping track; so far Drew has had about 1 1/2 hours, and Josh my boy is about to hit his 2 hour limit for the day. “Damn, she’s serious”, you may be thinking. Yes, I am, but I’m also realistic… This is a long weekend, with a lot of family, food and spare time. I am going to give my kids some extra time on those days.  I know the research I just quoted gives me every reason not to, but, all in all, they are only kids once, they only have Thanksgiving break once a year, and I’m not as strict a Drill Sergeant as I portray myself sometimes. So, I’ve decided to let them have more screen time, but not unlimited screen time. 😉

This journey is a tough one, I try my best to enjoy the challenges as well as the fun stuff. I’ve decided that God has blessed me with these 2 smart, cute, crazy kids, and entrusted that I could raise them as productive members of our society. I’m doing my best, and along the way I’m Enjoying the Journey, & I hope you are too! 😉

Tagless: Great for shirts, not so much for kids…

We need to encourage children’s individual uniqueness along this journey we call life! 

children1A friend of mine is an Elementary School Vice Principal, and he recently wrote an article that has such wonderful perspective regarding the mental health of our children. After reading it, I wanted to share it with my readers here on Mom’s Daily Dose. Jon’s perspective is very intriguing and quite eye opening.

Check out Labels Are Bad, But is Tagless Better?, by Jon Harper. I have to agree 100% with his perspective. We need our children to know that being different is what makes them who they are, and they should be proud of their uniqueness. Feeling comfortable with who they are and embracing their differences leads to a healthy self image and good self esteem. I hope you appreciate Jon’s insight it as much as I did.

The mental health of our children is critical to their physical, mental and social development, and to our society as a whole. Enjoy the journey, friends! 🙂

Playtime is SO important!

Few things are more important in a child’s world than PLAY! 

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I read an article today that I want to share with as many people as I possibly can. This article discusses how terribly important play is to our children and to our society as a whole. Please take the time to read

“Give childhood back to children: if we want our offspring to have happy, productive and moral lives, we must allow more time for play, not less”.

Children’s play gives them opportunities to learn to navigate through the real world. Learning through play helps kids deal with challenges they face in their environment and their relationships. It helps to build self-esteem, helps them think through problems to overcome challenges, and helps them build relationships. Eliminating time for children to figure things out on their own, be it projects or relationships, can lead to mental health challenges such as low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression, which in turn decreases their ability to feel confident in completing a challenging task.The above article goes into more detail about all of this, so please take a moment to enlighten yourself. There is nothing more important to cultivate than the mind of a child!

I hope you and your children take time to play, and as I always say, Enjoy the Journey! 😉

ADHD: Why medication is so important!!

“Decades of research have shown us that kids with untreated ADHD (not to speak of anxiety, depression and other very treatable conditions) struggle just to become productive citizens.” -Steven M. S. Kurtz, Ph.D, Child Mind Institute.

The decision to medicate your child for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder can be a difficult one.  I have met many parents that do not want to medicate their child. These parents search in hopes of finding non-medication alternatives that may be able to help their child cope with ADHD. If you want to know more about those alternative methods, click here. For most ADHDers, treatment with non-medication options are not enough. Although non-medication alternatives are important, the best way to treat ADHD is with a combination of non-medication options, as well as medication and psychotherapy. 

Failure to treat ADHD can lead to:

  • Trouble communicating thoughts and feelings, hopelessness, poor self-esteem, and depression, increasing the risk for suicide.
  • Frustration from lack of self control
  • Increased risk for fatal accidents because of impulsive behavior and poor decision making
  • Difficult/strained relationships with family and friends
  • Increased risk for troubled relationships, leading to unemployment, job loss and divorce
  • Increased sexual promiscuity
  • Increased risk of being involved in auto accidents.
  • Increased use of smoking, drinking alcohol, and using drugs

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is becoming more recognized and more children are put on medication every day. There has been talk in the national news about whether or not we are over diagnosing and/or over treating ADHD. Some providers will medicate children without trying other non-medication options, and some are quick to diagnose ADHD without a thorough evaluation. Some kids are medicated when they should not be, but many kids are medicated because they NEED to be.

ADHD children are medicated to help them control the symptoms of ADHD that interfere with everyday life in social, recreational and school settings. A child that has trouble paying attention, trouble sitting still and can’t stop talking is going to have difficulty in school. A child that is frequently invading other people’s personal space and frequently interrupts conversation is going to have trouble with friends and other relationships. A person that can’t focus enough to complete a task or assignment is going to have trouble learning, regardless of their intellect. With all of the challenges that ADHD bring, these children will have trouble reaching their ultimate potential without the help of medication.

Let me share what can happen when ADHD kids are not medicated…

School Issues: 

  • According to the CDC (1999), 15% of children with ADHD have a math or reading disability
  • Up to 50% of children living with ADHD are suspended
  • 80-90% of students with ADHD are significantly behind in school by 4th, 5th, or 6th grade
  • A study at UC Davis Health Systems (2010) cites that 1/3 of students living with ADHD drop out of high school, and those that do not are less likely to finish on time
  • As many as 50% of ADHD student fail at least 1 grade in school (Barkley, 2000)
  • ADHD kids are 3 times more likely to fail, be suspended or be expelled (Barkley, 2000)

Relationship Issues: 

  • ADHD makes it more difficult to maintain relationships
  • Decreased ability to put thoughts and feelings into words make it more difficulty to communicate feelings
  • Making impulsive decisions and speaking before thinking create barriers to harmonious friendships and job retention
  • Frustration from school and decrease self control causes self-esteem issues
  • Impulsive and reckless behavior leads to promiscuity

Safety Issues: 

  • ADHD children have more frequent and severe injuries, hospitalizations, and ER visits than those without ADHD
  • Increased incidence of motor vehicle accidents and traffic citations
  • ADHD teens have 3 times more speeding violations
  • ADHD teen have 4 times more accidents within their first 2-5 years of driving

Substance Abuse/Use Issues: 

  • Earlier onset of substance use
  • More frequent use/abuse of drugs and alcohol
  • 75% use drugs and alcohol when non-medicated vs. 25% use when medicated (use among non-ADHD diagnosed youth is ~ 18%)

Juvenile Delinquency Issues: 

  • ADHD youth are at increased risk for engaging in delinquent and antisocial behavior, especially boys
  • 47% of youth in juvenile detention have ADHD

All facts and statistics obtained from the National Alliance on Mental Illness/NAMI.

kids silhoettes playing outside

Check out this great article, “When ADHD Goes Untreated” from a leading expert on ADHD and disruptive behaivor disorders at the Child Mind Institute.

Another encouraging article that supports medication is “Free to Enjoy the Life He Deserves”  found on a great website for ADHD, ADDitude.

So, as you can see, not treating ADHD can have devastating results. For all of you parents out there that don’t want to medicate your child with ADHD, I feel your pain. As a Mom that has been through the struggles of diagnosis and multiple treatment options, I understand your hesitation. I too resisted the diagnosis of ADHD for my son. How could this sweet little boy, that could sit for hours and read, and was so incredibly smart have ADHD. But, how could this child that ran or spun everywhere he went, was unable to sit still through a meal, and looked at everything along the road on a bike ride besides the road NOT have ADHD. After lots of educational, psychological, and other tests, my husband and I realized that our child did indeed have ADHD. The decision to medicate him was not an easy one. Just as the mom that wrote the above article “Free to Enjoy the Life He Deserves” expressed, I didn’t want Joshua’s static to interfere with the rest of the world recognizing that he is such an interesting, cool kid. When I first medicated Joshua, I didn’t know about all of the information and statistics that I have listed above. I just knew that this highly intelligent child would never meet his full potential if we didn’t help him filter out the distractions. This was going to take medication.

So, what medication works best, you may ask? Stimulants work best for ADHD.  There are some non-stimulant medications also, but they do not have a reputation for helping the symptoms as well as stimulants. There are more than half a dozen different stimulants to chose from, and each one works differently for different people. It took 4 different medications and almost 2 years before we found the right medication for Josh. Managing his ADHD is an ongoing battle, just giving him a pill every morning isn’t a quick fix. When he is off his regular schedule, his sleep schedule is altered, or we let him eat things he shouldn’t (like artificial food dyes) things are more challenging. Focusing on the alternative non-medication treatment options are just as important as the medication. And, then there is the occasional trip to the psychologist just to keep us all in check.

Parenting an ADHD child takes a lot of patience, persistence, and dedication. It is not easy, but then again, parenting isn’t easy. I’m convinced that the effort and hard work that my husband and I have put into raising our ADHD child will pay off in the long run. I keep telling myself, and Joshua, frequently, that he is destined for greatness! It’s my job as his mom to help him reach for the highest stars! Sure, we will hit a few speed bumps along the way, even a few mountains that we might have to move, but all in all, we got this!!

Parenting is a difficult job. Making the right decisions is rarely easy. Just remember, one of the most important things is to Enjoy the Journey! 😉

ADHD: Non-medication help…

ADHD kidIt seems like every day I have another parent asking me if their child has ADHD (aka Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). The answer isn’t an easy one, neither is the solution. I wrote a post trying to help answer this very question. If you want more information about how to know if your child’s behavior may or may not be ADHD, read Hyperactive or just busy…Could  your child have ADHD?

If you think your child has ADHD, but aren’t sure if they need medication or not, there are some things you can do that should help. Will these effective parenting tips keep your child from needing medication? No. If a child is in need of medication, then, I recommend medicating them. Medication alone can not help a child that is truly ADHD. The most effective treatment is medication along with therapy and effective parenting. 

I’ve talked before about effective parenting. I don’t think enough attention is paid to the importance of proper parenting. I see parents that want me to fix their child, when the problem is that the child is in need of consistency and routine. Children NEED consistent routines, especially children with ADHD.

  • Routine is unbelievably important. Doing things according to a schedule helps a child learn what to anticipate day after day. Using lists or pictures can be helpful to remind children what they are responsible for and keep them on task. Even with routine, your ADHD child will still need help getting everything done.
  • Make sure the rules are clear and followed consistently. If you have rules that are only enforced some of the time, the child will not know when they do or don’t have to follow the rules. This leads to frustration for the child and the parent. And, needless to say, inconsistent results!
  • Give the kids something to be responsible for…this could be helping to take care of pets, taking out the trash, or other chores around the house. This helps the child feel important, learn responsibility, and also builds self-esteem. You will have to remind your child to do their chores, it isn’t going to just happen. Having a list and checking off chores/responsibilities as they accomplish them can be helpful, and is a good way to reinforce good behavior.
  • Praise and Positive Reinforcement is a must for disciplining all children, especially children with ADHD. Recognize & Praise good behavior and accomplishments. Just getting homework or small chores done can be challenging for children with attention issues.
  • Limit “screen time” – This includes all screens, such as TV, video games, computer, etc. Screen time should be limited to just 2-3 hours per day, and should be turned off at least 1 hour before bedtime. This isn’t hard to enforce during the school year because there is limited free time after school. It is a little more challenging during the Summer. Being more liberal with this rule during the summer is ok, just remember, you will see a difference in the child’s behavior; and it is essential to get back into a school routine a week or 2 before school actually starts.
  • Have a good bedtime routine with an acceptable bedtime. Kids in preschool and early elementary grades should be in bed by 7:30-8:30, upper elementary should be 8:30-9, middle school 9-9:30, and high school should be between 9-10. For more information about sleep, please see my blog, Sleep is Crucial for Healthy Development. A tired child has trouble focusing, paying attention, and retaining information. For preschool aged children, there is a significant correlation between hyperactive and impulsive behavior and short sleep duration.
  • Watch what your child is eating, 3 healthy meals and snacks are important for good brain function. Adding essential fatty acids to a child’s diet helps promote good brain function. Eliminate artificial food dyes (AFDs) from the child’s diet. AFDs have been proven to increase hyperactivity in the majority of children. A study done in Great Britain in 2006 documented that 75% of children demonstrated hyperactive behavior correlated with ingestion of AFDs and Sodium Benzoate. I have recommended this intervention to many families, and received many Thank You’s because it makes such an obvious difference in the child’s behavior. I firmly believe that AFDs should be eliminated from our food supply altogether. AFDs have been outlawed in Canada, Britain, Germany and a few other countries.
  • If your child has allergies, treat allergies with a daily allergy medication. Allergies can make ADHD worse! Allergies are a hypersensitivity, ADHD is a hypersensitive state…1+1=2, it’s that simple (not really, but treatment is a must).
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise! Physical activity helps to regulate the neurotransmitters that are dysfunctional in those with ADHD. Participation in sports can be helpful and rewarding for your child. Daily outside time, even when it’s cold should be the norm. Tell your kids to run around the house a few laps before dinnertime, it gets the wiggles out.
  • Whatever your child is good at, encourage it! Whether their forte’ is math, sports, or creating, encourage it! Without our multitasking, intelligent ADHDers, we would not have telephones, airplanes, or many of the inventions and discoveries we take for granted everyday. My above mentioned ADHD post expands on this, even listing all the famous people throughout history that have/had ADHD, check it out!

These interventions take time and effort on the part of parents. They are useful for all kids of all ages, but especially necessary for kids with ADHD. Many of these interventions are just good, effective parenting. 

If a child is in need of medication, these interventions will NOT replace the need for medicating the child. There are typically side effects of medication for most kids, and this can be worrisome to parents. Some of the side effects can be decreased appetite when med is at it’s peak, headaches, stomach aches, mood swings, and sleep issues. It’s important to figure out if the medication is actually to blame, or if there is another underlying reason for the unwanted symptoms. For example, most ADHD kids will have trouble falling asleep, it may be the ADHD or too much screen time, and not the medication. It’s also important to evaluate which is worse, the side effects or the effects of untreated ADHD?? In my professional and personal opinion, the effects of untreated ADHD can be much worse than the side effects of the medication. Trust me, I’m living the ADHD thing with my son. Look for a post on untreated ADHD soon.

Having an ADHD child takes effort, patience, and frequently a little wine. 😉 ADHD children are challenging, difficult to parent, and also rewarding. Those creative ADHD minds are awesome to watch create, absolutely fascinating sometimes. So, if you are dealing with an ADHDer, don’t forget to stop and look at the positive side of this challenge. These ADHDers are going to do amazing things for society, they just need a little TLC, and A LOT of guidance to get there.

Good luck, and regardless of the challenges…. don’t forget to ENJOY THE JOURNEY!