Parenting ADHD: The case of the guilt-ridden mom

mom holding upset boy

I’ve never thought of myself as the jealous type. I don’t think I’ve ever been driven by envy or jealousy. In all my 42 years, I’d never use either of those two words to describe myself, until recently.

You know that old joke, I was a great parent, until I had kids? That’s me.

Yesterday was hard. My son, who has ADHD, didn’t want to wake up for school and things escalated. Soon there was screaming (him), crying (both of us), and broken dishes all over the kitchen floor.

I never experienced anything like that before. Explosive tempers are new to me. This was a cold, hard slap in the face.

After we got everything together and made it to school, I sat in the parking lot for a while. Mostly, I was too upset to drive, but also, I replayed the morning’s events in my head. Would I have done anything differently? Replay. Replay. Replay.

No, I did it right. We’ve been going to therapy as a family and I stuck with the parenting recommendations. I kept my cool and didn’t raise my voice. I said, “I’m listening,” over and over. I gave reminders and chances; I set timers and established boundaries and expectations calmly. I deserved a medal for this skirmish.

Even though I did the best I could, these outbursts usher in guilt and envy for me because as I’m sitting there, watching the other parents bring their kids to school, I wish I was them. I wish it wasn’t so much of a relief for me to drop my child at school, that I didn’t relish the break so much. I wish picking him up from school didn’t hit me with trepidation. Can we play when we get home, or will there be meltdown after meltdown? Will we laugh at dinner, or cry?

I feel guilty because my son needs more attention than my daughter, but I want so badly to spend more time with her. Laughing, crafting and having fun. Instead, I find myself working so hard to switch my emotions to match the needs of each child, that flipping from funny mom to masking the frustration and anger is going to cause smoke to come out of my head.

I feel guilty because I get mad at him. I’m not the parent I want to be, and I blame his behavior. I love my kids with every ounce of my being, but this ADHD thing can suck it.

Parenting a kid with ADHD is hard and it affects the whole family. So many people think ADHD is a failure on mom and dad’s part to control their kid, provide discipline or even have a parental spine.

It’s not.

It’s learning how to parent a square-peg kid in a round-hole world. It’s knowing your kid’s brain is going a million miles an hour, and you just can’t keep up. It’s convincing yourself every day that you’re doing the best you can and tomorrow you’ll do better.

It’s not all bad, though. As fierce as my son is, he loves and protects just as ferociously. His creativity is a true joy to watch and his dimples still melt my heart. These are the things that keep me on track. These are the things that help me to soar.

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer, adoptive mom to twins and past Parenting Program participant. Surprisingly, she’s mostly sane.

Meet the Parenting Program staff: Cheri Warnock

Cheri Warnock is a Child Passenger Safety Technician at Beaumont, Royal Oak

Where did you grow up?

I’m a proud Detroiter who grew up near City Airport. I’m so happy to see Belle Isle and the downtown area come back to life, since that’s how I remember it as a kid. I’ll always be a city girl at heart, and I limit my time in rural or country settings!

Tell us something about your family.

I’m the oldest of three girls and a typical oldest child – I like to be in charge! All of my immediate and most of my extended family still live around Detroit, so I get to see them often. I’m the only member of the Parenting Program without children of my own, but I do have two sassy orange tabby cats to entertain me at home.

Why did you choose to be part of the Parenting Program?

After 21 years as a corporate librarian/researcher, I was laid off from the only job I’d known as an adult. I knew I didn’t want to go back to a corporate setting. I began volunteering and exploring options in different areas. My best friend has been the Car Seat Education person at Beaumont, Troy for years and she suggested I become a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician and consider joining the team. The role of teacher comes naturally to me (see “typical oldest child” above) and I love being around other people’s babies because you get all the sweet new faces without the diapers and lack of sleep!

Who or what inspires you?

People who give so much of themselves to make the world a better place. The more I volunteer, the more I see people who give countless hours every single week to help other people in so many different ways. The world would be a much different place if people didn’t donate their time in this way.

What are your hobbies or special interests?

When I’m not at Beaumont, I help people organize and enjoy their photos. As a librarian, I want to make sure people know the details of their family photos, have them properly backed up, and be able to get their hands on just the photo they want to find when they want it. Tackling my family photos and adding all the information I knew about them to the digital files helps me enjoy and appreciate the generations who came before me.

What’s your favorite family-friendly destination?

Walt Disney World! I turn into a kid again when I see the characters and the magical details all over the four parks. Being treated like a princess is a great way to spend your vacation.

What’s your favorite movie? Book?

I read about a book a week and couldn’t possibly pick a favorite; I rarely read a book more than once. It’s hard to pick a favorite movie, too, but Gene Wilder’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” is definitely near the top. Who doesn’t want to open a door to a world of edible decorations all around you?

What’s your favorite meal?

I have the tastes of a five-year-old, so pasta is always a favorite. I just figured out how to make Alfredo sauce from scratch. My grandmother’s pierogies were always a special treat, too.

What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Mint chocolate chip. Though to be honest, I could eat ice cream every day and find a dozen flavors that will do. Ice cream is my favorite treat!

Share something about you that might surprise us.

When I was laid off from my job, I thought about where I most wanted to volunteer my extra time. I signed up at The Parade Company and have worn the Big Heads (papier-mâché) at dozens of events since. When I’m not in a Big Head, I’m in some other costume making people smile at Parade Company gatherings all over town. Being in disguise helps this introvert interact with people while having lots of fun at the same time.

Eight ideas for a new year family resolution

fireworks with "Happy New Year" text

Cropped image. Free images, Flickr. CC license.

Happy new year! The ball already dropped over Times Square, but it isn’t too late to make a new year resolution. How about making a resolution as a family? Make the most of the new year and time with your children by spending time together involved in activities designed to bring you closer as a family.

As a parent of grown children, I realize that time is elusive. Time gets away from us and before we know it, our children are grown. As an educator, I see the impact on children who have strong family ties and bonds. It’s not too late. Get the kids involved in the process by gathering your family together, deciding what is important to all of you, and making a resolution – one that everyone looks forward to doing. Decide how often you plan to work on the resolution. Is it daily, weekly or monthly? Mark it on the calendar so it becomes a priority and not forgotten in your busy, daily lives.

Here are some ideas to strengthen the family bonds and bring you all closer than you have ever been.

  • Eat dinner together. Research shows that eating meals together keeps the family connected. It is a time when children can develop language skills and table manners are learned and practiced. It is a good time to reflect about the day and to make plans for tomorrow. You can share hopes and dreams at this special time.
  • Be adventure seekers. There’s nothing that brings a family closer than an adventure experience as a family. Weekends, evenings, vacations and holidays are perfect times to seek adventure. Allow everyone to have a voice in what they would like to do. Select one suggestion and enjoy the day. It doesn’t need to be expensive or far from home; maybe you’ll spend the day at a museum, cider mill, hiking or bike riding on a new trail, or camping out in the family room or backyard.
  • Read together. Research shows that parent involvement in reading is the highest predictor of academic success in children. Deep bonds are formed when we read with our children. Parents frequently stop reading to their children once their child can read independently, but my advice is not to stop reading to your child. Instead, read together, make predictions and draw conclusions together. You can talk about your favorite parts and why characters behaved how they did. Unplug the TV and free yourselves from distractions while escaping to new places and meeting new people in books.
  • Start a family game night. Playing games as a family is an excellent way to stay connected as a family. Game night is one night where you won’t be searching for the kids because they’ll be chomping at the bit in anticipation to begin the evening. Each week, allow a different member of the family to select game for everyone to play. Children love both the traditional games that have been played for years, as well as the newer games that continue to show up in the stores. Games help develop thinking skills, language skills, sportsmanship and following directions. You can check out Playtivities for ideas, too.
  • Movie night. Grab your blanket and popcorn, pick a movie that everyone will enjoy, and sit close on the sofa and watch that movie together. Movie time is intended to be spent together and free of distractions, so turn off the cell phones and computers. When parts are funny, laugh out loud. Cry at the sad parts and save time at the end of the movie to talk about it.
  • Volunteer. What better way to learn that you can make a difference in another’s life than volunteering with your family? From a young age, children learn gratitude for what they have and empathy for others. Family traditions can be formed by making volunteering a priority. Check out this list of developmentally appropriate ways to get your family involved with helping others. PBS Kids also has tips for volunteering with kids.
  • Exercise together. Encouraging family fitness should become part of a family’s routine as it has both immediate and long-term benefits to a healthy lifestyle. When parents model a healthy lifestyle, our children are more likely to see the relevance and make it part of what they do in the future. Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics has increased the amount of time that children need to exercise. So, get off the couch and go for a walk together as a family, dance to the latest songs, go for a bike ride or simply do some of your favorite exercises.
  • Cook meals together. Looking for a way to get your children to expand the foods they eat while having fun and bonding as a family? Children take pride in creating a special dish and are more likely to try new foods when they are involved in the process. Try cooking together. Plan on one day a week to plan a meal, shop, prep, cook and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
    • Purchase a cookbook with pictures or borrow one from the library that has pictures of what the meal will look like when cooked.
    • Make a list of the needed ingredients and enjoy the family experience in the grocery store.
    • Everyone in the family can find something to do the prep for the meal. Remember to give the little ones jobs that are safe; no knives or heat sources nearby.
    • Cooking the meal can also be enjoyed by everyone in the family.
    • Finally, clean up should go quickly because, as the old saying goes, “Many hands make light work.”

Happy reading and happy new year!

– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.

Coping with Christmas after loss

sad child wearing Santa hat looking out window at rain

The tree is decorated, stockings hung, twinkling lights and vibrant colors are everywhere. Your calendar is full of holiday parties, the to-do list is long, and the music of the season speaks of joy to the world and how it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yet all that fills your mind is the void of someone you loved and lost. In the past two years, the Parenting Program team of staff, students and volunteers have experienced some significant, sudden and tragic losses. The Christmas season after loss can bring a tremendous amount of grief, during a time when the general expectation is that everyone is feeling holly jolly and full of the holiday spirit. Everyone copes differently; for some people, surrounding themselves with family and their traditions is a comfort, for others it magnifies the loss.

Here are some tips for coping with grief during the holidays. Some you may love, others not so much. My hope is that you may find something here that makes this difficult season a tiny bit more tolerable, and that there are moments of joy even amid missing those who are gone.

“Someday soon, we all will be together, if the fates allow. Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.”

  • Acknowledge that the holidays will be tough and verbalize this to friends and family.
  • Consider what traditions you would like to keep, and what traditions you may want to change, even if just temporarily.
  • Create a new tradition to honor the memory of your loved one.
  • Purchase a candle and when you turn on the lights of your Christmas tree, light the candle in memory of the person you lost.
  • Think about the location of your holiday celebration. Make a conscious decision whether you want to keep it the same or make a change.
  • Keep in mind that not everyone will be grieving the same way you are.
  • Put out a memory box with small slips of paper and pens so people can write a treasured memory. Take some time to read the memories aloud, or invite guests to read them individually.
  • Prepare one of your loved one’s special recipes, or something that was a favorite of theirs.
  • Be honest about how you are feeling, and what you do and do not want to do when it comes to holiday gatherings and celebrations.
  • Participate in a service project or activity in honor of your loved one.
  • Make an appointment with a counselor or therapist. Maybe this has been something you have putting off, but with the holidays bringing grief even closer to the surface, it may be a perfect time.
  • Consider choosing a few of your loved one’s belongings and gifting them to someone else who is grieving the loss.
  • Visit your loved one’s final resting place and leave a wreath or poinsettia.
  • Ask for and accept help, whether it is assistance cooking a holiday meal, shopping or emotional support.
  • Give yourself a gift. Treat yourself to something you have had your eye on.
  • Focus on gratitude. Even if it is something tiny, make a point to write down one thing you are grateful for each day.
  • If you have children who are grieving along with you, be sure to talk to them about what they may be feeling and consider doing a memorial grief activity or craft together.
  • Say no. If a certain event or gathering just seems too much, give yourself permission to skip it.
  • Don’t feel guilty for the moments of happiness and joy you may feel throughout the season; it doesn’t mean you don’t love or miss the person who is not with you this holiday season.

– Kelly Ryan, LMSW, Beaumont Parenting Program Director

Twelve tips for holiday toy and gift giving

girl's legs surrounded by presents

How did this year go by so quickly? It’s hard to believe that the holidays are upon us already and, as parents and grandparents, we will be out searching for that perfect holiday gift for the children in our lives. With the endless ideas online, toy department aisles jam-packed nearly to the ceiling, and countless commercials playing to lure you to the store, it can be difficult to select the perfect toys for the children you love. Whether passed to your loved one during candle lighting celebrations or beautifully wrapped with ribbon and bows, let’s make this the safest holiday season ever!

December is Safe Toys and Gifts month. Shoppers are encouraged to consider if the toys suit the age and individual skills and abilities of the child who will receive them, especially for infants and children under age three. Also, be aware of a new toy safety standard under which toys are tested and certified, known as ASTM F963-17. This became mandatory for all children’s toys manufactured or imported on or after February 2018, so look for this on the item’s label.

Here are some other tips for safe gift giving.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the toys be appropriate for a child’s developmental level. Read the warning labels on the package. This helps ensure that the toy will be engaging, safe and can reduce the risk of injury.
  • To prevent choking, discard the wrapping paper and other plastic materials that could be ingested by children. Additionally, purchase toys larger than your child’s mouth. Toys with strings and ribbons are dangerous because they can choke or suffocate a child if swallowed.
  • Toys should not be made of plastic that can break easily. Sharp edges from shattered toys can easily cut or bruise your child.
  • Toddlers and babies prefer toys that are colorful, lightweight and are made with various textures. Also, toys should be washable since children put them in their mouths.
  • Skip the toys with balloons for children under 8 years old.
  • Along the same vein, toys with magnets or batteries should only be given to older children. Batteries and magnets are dangerous if swallowed.
  • Toys that build developmental skills (such as fine and gross motor, language, perceptual skills or cognitive skills) are great for babies and toddlers.
  • Avoid toys that shoot or have projectiles. This is unsafe and can cause eye injuries.
  • Children under 10 shouldn’t be given electric toys that need to be plugged in to operate. Battery operated toys will prevent electrical shock.
  • When purchasing sports equipment such as bikes, skateboards or skates, please remember to buy the appropriate head, face and mouth protection that goes along with it.
  • Avoid toys that are loud and may cause permanent damage to a developing child’s ears.
  • Purchase only toys listed as non-toxic on the label.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has various sites to obtain more information on toy safety. My go-to magazine, Parents, has a guide for purchasing the perfect age appropriate toy.

Enjoy every minute of the holidays with your child.

– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.

Tips for holiday eating

girl holding plate of food

I chose this topic because the holidays are a time for family, friends, celebrating, and of course, lots of food. Throughout the holiday season, it can be very easy for people to overindulge. The average American gains approximately 1 to 2 pounds  during the holiday season. While this may not seem like a lot, it can lead to further weight gain. Here are some tips to enjoy the holidays without falling off the wagon:

  • Do not skip meals. Skipping meals often does more harm than good. When we go too long without eating to “save up” our calories, we tend to overindulge at meal times.
  • Include foods that are high in fiber such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains with your breakfast to increase satiety before you run off to your holiday parties.
  • Grab the smaller plate (your plate should be 9 inches) at the buffet or bring your own.
  • portion control plate infographicUse this visual to help you control your portion sizes. Fill up half of your 9-inch plate with vegetables, 25 percent of your plate with turkey or your lean protein, and the remaining 25 percent of your plate with mashed potatoes or whatever starch you may be serving. Try to skip the dinner roll!
  • Try eating your salad and/or vegetables first, then eat your protein and lastly eat your starch. You may find that you start to fill up on vegetables and protein, eating less of your starch serving.
  • Eat slowly! It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to recognize that you are full, so wait it out before you go back for seconds.
  • Try going for a walk or playing games with your family or friends after dinner to make sure that you are still getting some physical activity.
  • Give away some of your leftovers to family and friends so you aren’t tempted to overindulge once the holidays are over.

– Kaylie Roberts is a dietetic intern with Beaumont Health. The Beaumont Weight Control Center offers cooking demonstrations to the community. View a list of current demonstrations here.

– Adapted from: https://www.eatright.org/health/lifestyle/holidays/stay-mindful-with-4-tips-for-holiday-eating

How music can be a key to improved children’s literacy

young girl hands on piano keys

Parents and teachers often promote learning music when it comes to encouraging children to enjoy a thorough, well-rounded education. However, did you know music can specifically influence children’s reading and writing? Here is important information for educators, moms and dads on the link between music and literacy.

How does music help?

Participating in music — whether in the form of song, dance, or playing a musical instrument — helps children learn to follow instructions and listen for comprehension. According to Science Daily, there are several studies supporting the idea that music helps children with language development, with many theories as to why. Some researchers believe the overlap of brain circuitry is at the heart of the matter, that children are learning to use a similar part of the brain for music as for language. Others believe it relates to the timing in a child’s development. No matter how or why it works, the evidence in favor of engaging children with music is overwhelmingly positive.

Home and budding musicians

Adding music to a child’s homelife can be a boon to their literacy. Any family can encourage children toward music through song, and as Scholastic points out, even parents who are not gifted in singing can participate. Children enjoy the musical aspects and interaction, and they really don’t care if family members or friends are “good” singers. Dancing is in the same category, making learning easy and fun for kids who can participate with mom, dad or siblings.

When it comes to learning a musical instrument, you might want to engage a tutor or participate in group lessons. There are also free online music lessons available for various ages and abilities. Some families decide to set up an area at home dedicated to practicing an instrument, apart from the rest of the household so your child doesn’t disturb anyone. You should expect to pay an average price of $1,757 to soundproof a room in your home.

Naturally turning to music 

Many parents naturally gravitate toward music when it comes to raising their children. They sing lullabies when it’s time for sleep and soft songs to soothe children when they are anxious or afraid. When hitting the road, songs provide entertainment on long car trips or an opportunity to learn the alphabet in anticipation of school. In addition to these traditional tools, Bright Horizons points out that music can be a specific resource to child development as well, helping children toward improved literacy and overall learning. You can use music to connect children with particular communication skills, such as learning to form and understand words, speak in sentences, and read. Teaching children tongue-twisting songs, alliterative songs, or songs with foreign words and phrases can build language skills directly.

Examples and specifics

Music naturally engages children, helping them to get excited about whatever they are doing. It is also a way to keep them connected and interested in learning. One of the many ways music helps children in their language development is the learning of rhythms, rhymes and patterns. The repeated sounds, words, and actions that are part of traditional children’s music help give better understanding of what is meaningful, and teach emotional connections to words. Songs we might describe as “sing-songy” are an example, such as “Over the River and Through the Wood.”

Musical activities such as finger plays, which is singing songs with coordinated finger movements, appear to enhance children’s vocabulary and help them learn to pronounce words more clearly. An example of a finger play is “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

Songs that incorporate dance and body movement can also reinforce understanding of words, rhythm, emotion and meaning. You can connect children with fun music and dance videos on websites like YouTube. Playing a musical instrument appears to further enhance children’s language and comprehension skills, as they learn to read notes and understand the variances in soft sounds, short sounds, loud sounds, and smooth sounds.

Every educator and parent aims to help individual youngsters become his or her best. By including music in a child’s life, you can build important language-related skills and abilities. Ensure children have access to music for improved literacy.

­– Charles Carpenter created HealingSounds.info. He believes in the power of music and sound as a healing tool. He is based in San Antonio, Texas.