Parenting is hard enough at the best of times. But, with the additional challenges that come with diagnoses such as ADHD, anxiety and learning challenges, it can be overwhelming. In this blog post, I share with you 7 steps you can take to support yourself on your journey. When you support yourself and meet your needs, you are better able to meet your child’s needs.
As a result, despite the very best of intentions, you can very quickly and easily run yourself into the ground. It is all too easy to lose sight of yourself in it all and forget about what you might need. Take it from Helen, whose story I share here.
When was the last time you thought about what you need and given it to yourself?
The truth is this: as much as you think it might be selfish to take care of yourself and support yourself, you need to recognize it for what it is: it is selfish not to take care of yourself. It will help you so much to start viewing it through this lens. It is selfish for children to have a mom who doesn’t honour her needs and do what she needs in order to show up as the best version of herself.
I used to feel so guilty for taking time for myself. I felt that I “shouldn’t” be doing things just for me. Not any longer. Never again will I let this happen.
Do you ever feel this way?
Looking back, it was selfish of me to believe I could do it all but I was wearing the Martyr badge, and I was wearing it well. Doing everything for everyone else and nothing for myself. What a hero!! Who was I kidding? I was running myself down, and in doing so it was having an even worse effect on my son.
WAKE UP CALL:
My son needed more from me than I was able to give.
And he didn’t need a lot. Really. What he was asking of me was not a lot, but I couldn’t give to him. He needed me to be:
Yet, I couldn’t do it. All too often this was closer to what he got:
If this resonates with you, you are not alone. You have found a safe place here. I am here. I’ll watch over you. I have your back.
It takes courage and vulnerability to admit our mistakes and our not so great parenting moments. However, it is in doing so that we can grow and evolve and become what it is that our child really needs us to be. In my story, I share the ups and the downs I faced, and in Helen’s story, the link is above, she shares hers.
Kids don’t come with a manual and being a parent is hard enough without the additional challenges of having a child with ADHD.
As I’ve shared in many of my other blogs on this subject, and again in this post here, the missing piece in supporting a child with ADHD is parent support. I recently read an article in a Scottish newspaper on just this, the fact there is little to no support for the parents.
I always ask my clients this question: What are you doing for you? What is it you need?
I recently worked with a client who did not even know what she needed! It was so far gone, in her past, that she had no idea of what it might be. She had forgotten all about herself.
Sometimes you are so lost in it all that you just don’t know where to start.
As I mentioned in my story, I got myself into a situation where I hit rock bottom. It had been so long since I had done anything for myself that I didn’t know where to start. When and if I did anything for myself, I found myself feeling guilty for it. I hired a Coach who helped bring me clarity, and through this, I found a way.
This combined with the one year intensive Parent Coaching training I underwent allowed me to put together a plan to help other moms deal with these common struggles. I have shared this successfully with many clients and I’d love to share it with you.
These 7 steps form the basis for what you need to do in order to start supporting yourself. It is only when you do this that you will be able to give your child the support they need.
Take a look:
Step 1: Look after YOU
You need to look after YOU. If you don’t, you are effectively useless to your child and your family. You need to know what it is you need and find a way to meet your needs. It is these unmet needs that cause you to react, blame and project the way you do. It is not your child.
The myth: You think that you losing your sh*t is because of what your child is doing or not doing. I’ve got news for you and I’m about to shatter that little illusion: It is not your child’s fault. Your child is doing everything he can to hold it together but you can’t help him because you don’t have enough fuel in your tank to support him and give him what he needs. You need to take a look in the mirror and give yourself the support you need.
I came to the realization that it wasn’t my kids that needed fixing. It was me. They were just being kids and I couldn’t cope with it.
When I looked in the mirror, I did not like what I saw:
A grumpy, tired, overwhelmed mom who had little patience and was frustrated and judgmental. I blamed everyone else, especially my kids and my husband…
Why had I turned into this beast of a mom?
Because I lost sight of myself and had forgotten to take care of myself. I had become the martyr extraordinaire.
Only you can meet your needs and meet them you need to do. You are useless to everyone else if you have unmet needs. This is not negotiable. This is serious business. You have to do this. You can only go so far on no to little fuel. Eventually, you just can’t go on.
To help you work out what it is that you might need and how you can find a way to meet your needs I put together this workbook which you can download here:
My advice to you is this: don’t wait till that stage. I was working with a client recently who found herself in this situation. She wrote to me and said this: “You were so right. I can’t go on like this. And being in this situation makes it worse for my kids”. Ask yourself this:
- What is it you need? Do you know?
- How are you going to give yourself what you need?
- Can you make arrangements to give yourself more of what you need?
- Schedule it
- Explain to your family why it is vital you do it
Step 2: Unravelling Toxic Patterns
To really nail this, you need to develop an understanding of the cycles and patterns that you might well be stuck in. There are three big ones:
- You have to raise your awareness for the 3 imposters that will no doubt be showing up in your interactions, and in my case, way too often: impatience, frustration, and judgment – they kill us; both our relationship with our child and our child’s developing self-esteem. You need to learn how to deconstruct these so that you have the tools on hand to deal with them as and when they arise within you
- I learned that when I wanted to control everything, thinking that it would help me and my son, it only served to have him fight against me and resist the help. It really helps for you to understand and unravel the deadly and toxic patterns of control
- You will need to work through the guilt and the shame which I now know was pivotal in it all. They are very different:
“Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it- it can’t survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy. When we bury our story, the shame metastasizes.” Brene Brown
Step 3: Coping with the overwhelm
You need to find a way to cope with the overwhelm that sometimes IS in life with a child with ADHD – this is different for everyone but has to be done. You have to find a way to reduce this in order to find calm and peace in your life. The pace of life that causes the over-whelm is just not sustainable.
Step 4: Balancing the help you give
You have to learn how to balance the amount of help you give your child: too much and you render them incapable, irresponsible and redundant (this was me…); too little and they feel like they can’t cope and feel like a loser and incapable (this was me too). I did them both. I flip-flopped between them, all the time. There’s a bit of trial and error in finding the right amount of support, but it is essential. You need to find the balance between enabling and inactivating.
Step 5: Managing expectations
You have to learn how to manage your expectations – my expectations of my son were so far out of line with his, not to mention, unrealistic. He fought me all the way on this. But I found it so hard to let go, it was so hard and so scary.
Being aware of this was so vital to me being able to move forward. I was expecting him to do things that he simply couldn’t do. His brain wasn’t wired for it. It was like saying to someone who is paralyzed from the waist down to move their foot – they can’t. He couldn’t. It was unfair of me to expect from him something he did not have the neurological wiring and capacity to do. Understanding some of the brain science behind ADHD helped me here.
Step 6: Undergo a judgment detox
You need to learn how to shift your perspective from one of judgment to one of curiosity and compassion. This is fundamentally important to you being able to handle your child’s behaviours without your potential judgment undermining him/her self-esteem any further.
I recently read The Judgment Detox by Gabrielle Bernstein. It is excellent and worth the read.
My big takeaway was this: we all judge. We do it all the time.
However, in order to try and eradicate it, we have to first become aware of just how much we do it. We have to catch ourselves in our moments of judgment and simply learn to witness and observe it. As Gabrielle Bernstein suggests in Step 1 in the book: you have to witness your judgment with no judgment. Boom.
In other words, you judged. That’s okay. Don’t then judge yourself for the fact you judged. Accept it and move on with curiosity and compassion and the judgment will dissolve.
In doing this, the perception of your child will also shift to a more healthy one, which is so vitally important to their self-esteem.
Your child knows what you think of them. They can sense it. They are brilliant at this. So best make sure they have one that helps them!
Step 7: Deal with your fear
You have to find a way to deal with your fear. According to Dr. Shefali Tsabary, fear is the number one obstacle in the parent-child relationship. It is huge. It underpins all of our emotions. And we all have it. It would be impossible to parent with no fear. However, being able to recognize when you are being run by fear is an important step towards helping your child and being able to meet his/her needs.
If you feel that you might need some more help in supporting yourself, take a look at a few of my other blog posts in this series on ADHD. And if you have any questions, you can always drop me a note, I’d love to hear from you.
I hope that this helps you understand the power of and need to support yourself in your parenting journey with a child with ADHD.
It’s much easier for us to see the negative effects of our child having unmet needs and know that in order for them to thrive they have to have their basic needs met. We are no different! When we, as moms, have unmet needs, we are not at our best, and when we are in this place of depletion and exhaustion, we cannot help our child to thrive. We have to be on top of our game in order to help our child be on top of his/hers.
I know you have the best of intentions. We all do. The problem with us moms is that we can go far too far on next to no fuel and it really does no-one any favours!
Let my words ring in your ears: don’t push yourself too far. You will crash, it’s only a matter of time.
Make sure you learn what it is you need, give it to yourself and refuel before you hit empty! And get yourself a copy of both the workbooks I mention here in this post. They will really help you!
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PPS. Did you know I have a podcast with over 300 episodes on all things parenting? You can find it HERE – The Parenting In The Thick Of It Show.
Other blog posts on ADHD that you might find helpful: