5 Ways to Help Your ADHD Child Tackle Boredom

Has your child ever come up to you complaining about being bored? Boredom is a common theme for children, yet ADHD boredom can happen more frequently due to hyperactivity and inability to maintain focus. ADHD boredom is not a symptom of ADHD. The ADHD brain fires off faster than another child’s brain making it easier to fall into inattention and distractibility. This is when ADHD boredom can set in. Impulsively acting-out and using attention-seeking behaviors is your child with ADHD way of expressing their boredom. When these behaviors take over it does not mean your child is bad; they just need help tackling the boredom.

Here are five ways you can help your child with ADHD tackle boredom.

Provide structure by scheduling after school and weekend activities

A child with ADHD thrives on structure and being busy with things to do. Scheduling afterschool and weekend activities can help them tackle their go-to of being bored.

Encourage your child to be proactive

A lot of time your child with ADHD gets bored and cannot think of all the things they can or like to do. It is never a bad idea to plan in advance with your child. Make a list together of what steps they can make at home and school of things they can do when they get bored. Having a visual list of free time activities for the home will help your child feel independent and proactive in times when their brain tells them they are bored.

Don’t drop everything to rescue them from boredom

Being a parent is stressful enough, try not to take on your child’s boredom. Giving your child choices can help them feel empowered and focus their attention to overcome their boredom. If you are doing something, the child can assist in doing ask them to help or direct them an activity you know is one their activity list to do until you are free to give your child your full attention. Remember it may take your child some time to come up with something or pick from the choices you offer them so try your best to not jump in with ideas of what they can do but instead choices for them to process and figure it out on their own.

Set Strict guidelines for Screen Time

Setting healthy limits with children around screen time is difficult and more so with a child with ADHD. It is essential screen time is not the go to choice to give your child with ADHD when they are expressing boredom. Be proactive and help your child make good decisions about technology.

Allow your child to be a part of the planning process

Find one day a week or a scheduled time every day to sit down with your child. During this time map out plans for the week or day, create to-do lists to help them know what has to get done in a day, and have a family calendar as a visual reminder to help with promoting about activities coming up.

 

Remember children with ADHD thrive off of excitement and stimulation. It is difficult for them to fill their free time because they struggle with executive functioning skills. Help support your child find ways to stay busy and locate things to do when they are experiencing ADHD boredom.

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But It’s Just Weed! Teen Drug Use Today

Smoking trends are changing at a rapid pace, especially among the teen population. Even though smoking and teen drug use looks a little different these days, the risks are still there. I often work with teens who seem to think these new devices are better than smoking an actual cigarette, but is that true? “It doesn’t smell, it tastes good and smells good, it’s better for you, it’s electronic so it doesn’t go to your lungs.” Those are some of the phrases I often hear. To take this e-cigarette trend a step further, they are now being filled with marijuana. What does all of this mean? Here’s some information that may be helpful in terms of understanding “vape talk,” and knowing how to talk to your teen about this phenomenon.

Vape Talk

E-cigarettes

E-cigarettes are also often referred to as “vapes,” “vape pens,” “hookahs,” “e-cigs,” and “Juuls.” They are battery-operated devices that deliver nicotine and other additives through inhaling. There are now increased reports that teens are vaping marijuana through these devices as well. Vaping THC oil (THC is the chemical in marijuana that gives the mind-altering effects) is odorless, which is very different from smoking marijuana through a joint, pipe, or blunt.

Juuls

“Juuling” came from the Juul electronic cigarette company. Juuls look just like a USB flash drive, and there’s cartridges called pods that go into them that contain liquid nicotine. Since 2015, these have become the most popular way to vape. They can be charged like a phone or laptop, and teens are now switching out the liquid nicotine for liquid marijuana. They are often so small that they fit in the palm of your hand, so kids often hold them in their sleeves, tuck it in their backpacks, and take “bathroom breaks” at school during classes.

Liquid Juice

This refers to the liquid nicotine that can come in a variety of flavors (some of the flavors literally sound like ice cream flavors – bubble gum, chocolate, vanilla, and more!). There’s actually over 500 flavors available!

What We Know

  1. There’s been an upward trend of vaping for ages 12-17 since 2011.
  2. According to the US surgeon general, there has been a 900% increase in e-cigarette use by high school students from 2001-2015, and the numbers are continuing to rise.
  3. Nicotine is addictive and bad for your health. The earlier kids start using, the harder it is to stop.
  4. The brain is continually developing and maturing during the adolescent years, and nicotine negatively alters that development.
  5. Cravings occur almost immediately when nicotine reaches the brain and gets the pleasure and reward centers very excited, which can result in addiction.
  6. When teen drug use involves vaping marijuana, there tends to be a higher consumption of THC, especially for inexperienced smokers, so the “high” is intensified.
  7. According to the Centers for Disease Control, marijuana use interferes with brain development and can cause slower learning, short-term memory loss, and lung damage.
  8. There are aerosol components, more than forty-two chemicals reported to be found in the vaping products, which is the piece that is reported to be most harmful.
  9. Even though federal regulations make it illegal for kids under the age of 18 to be able to purchase e-cigarettes, they can be purchased online, which makes it easier for under-aged kids to get these products.
  10. Second hand smoke from vaping exists.

What We Don’t Know

  1. We still do not know the long term health effects of e-cigarettes, but there is an increase in research studies being conducted. To read about some of the recent studies that are available regarding the current trends of teen drug use and vaping, you can go the American Medical Association’s website to access online journals.
  2. When using THC in e-cigarettes, it is unknown as to how much THC is being consumed.
  3. Much of the research available on the cognitive effects of marijuana tend to focus on heavy users, so it is still unclear as to whether or not there is long-term brain damage, and if there’s a level of usage that is considered to be safe.
  4. Many people say that e-cigarettes are a safer way to smoke, and that it even helps people stop smoking cigarettes. Again, there is not enough information available to confirm or deny this, but from what’s currently available, it is said to be that they aren’t as harmful, but still harmful.

Tips for Parents

  1. Educate yourself and do the research to know and understand what information is available about vaping. Hopefully this blog will be a great start and guide you in the right direction. For more information, you can access the website mentioned above by the American Medical Association, or go to the Surgeon General’s website.
  2. Learn about the side effects of marijuana since there has been an increase in vaping THC oil in vape pens. If you suspect that your teen is using marijuana and also recognizing some of the common side effects in your teen, it may be time to have a talk.
  3. When talking to your teen about teen drug use and vaping, avoid lecturing and work towards an open dialogue where you are patient and ready to listen without criticism. Keep the lines of communication open and work towards talking “with” your teen and not “at” your teen.
  4. If you are unsure on whether or not your teen is vaping, approach them with curiosity. “What’s your take on vaping?” or “Do a lot of kids at your school vape?” or “How are teens even getting vape pens being underage?”
  5. If you are the type of parent who feels that there needs to be set rules and consequences around vaping, let them know that it is their choice, but that there will be consequences for their choices.

 

If you are concerned that your teen may be struggling with addiction, reach out for help. You can start with contacting your child’s pediatrician, or go directly to an addiction specialist. You can also contact SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357).​

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Get Rid of Screen Time for Kids and Teens and Get Moving!

Summer is in full force. Activities that teens were excited about have now become old and boring. Without structure and a schedule of activities, summer can drag on. Teens may resort back to their screens for entertainment (those never seem to get boring). There has been research about too much screen time for kids and teens. Excessive use can cause headaches, tired eyes, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Some signs of depression may be depressed mood, lack of interest in activities, isolating from friends and family (they may spend more time on social media, however), changes in sleep and eating patterns, irritability and mood fluctuations.

Anxiety may have similar symptoms, such as changes in sleep and eating, and irritability. Teens with anxiety may feel keyed up, restless, ruminating thoughts, difficulty concentrating, and somatic complaints. When screen time for kids and teens takes up the majority of their day, they may lack exercise. This can make them more prone to stress, depression, and anxiety. With schools going paperless, teens are on their screens more and more. It’s tough to avoid, but the benefits of taking a break are incredible. School is not in session, so now is a good time to focus on how you deal with screen time for kids and teens, and get them off their screens and get moving!

Here are 4 reasons to reduce screen time for kids and teens and go exercise.

Exercise Reduces Overall Stress

Getting the appropriate amount of exercise each day can help reduce the levels of the hormone Cortisol in your body resulting in lower stress. Cortisol is released when stress is high and can cause disarray in learning, memory, blood pressure, heart disease, and can increase the risk for depression and anxiety. Exercise can help you think clearer and shed the irritations from the day by pumping “feel good” chemicals in your brain like endorphins.

Exercise Can Reduce the Risk of Depression and Anxiety

As mentioned, exercise releases the endorphins, which help people feel good. It also regulates serotonin levels, which help regulate mood and sleep. Sleep is often disrupted in the summer time due to unstructured schedules and late nights. Exercise can combat some of the symptoms from depression and give you more energy, more motivation, regulate sleep and eating, and help improve mood. Exercise can improve relaxation, which can help calm the mind and body. Having a calm mind and body, can help with decreasing the racing thoughts, the tense, keyed up feeling that can come with anxiety.

Exercise Can Help Increase Self-Confidence

Physical activity can help strengthen you physically, which is a confidence booster, but it also can strengthen you mentally. It helps increase self-esteem and improves self-confidence. Regardless of weight or size, a person tends to have a more positive outlook on their self-worth when they are engaging in exercise and other healthy habits.

Exercise Can Help Increase Social Interaction

Getting into an activity with friends can help reduce screen time for kids and teens. It can be anything from an organized sport, or just going for a hike in the park. Exercising with friends can also be a good motivator! It can be difficult to get moving, but if you have a friend waiting for you, it might be easier.

What Kind of Exercise Should be Done?

Exercise can be intimidating and hard! The good thing is that research shows that no one exercise is better than others. As long as you elevate your heart rate, you will get the benefits of exercise. So, just do what you love for about 20-30 minutes 3-5 times per week. Don’t worry, you don’t have to belong to a gym to get the benefits of exercise. Get outside and go for walk, do some meditation, garden, dance, wash your car, or any other activity that gets your body moving and your heart rate up!

Here are 10 activities to get you moving in the summer months:

  1. Swimming
  2. Dancing
  3. Washing your car or your family’s car
  4. Garden
  5. Walking
  6. Running
  7. Play a sport: baseball, softball, kickball, tennis, volleyball, basketball, etc
  8. Kickboxing
  9. Rollerskating/blading
  10. Riding a bicycle

 

What are you waiting for? Get off your screens and get moving!

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Keep Calm During Finals

The summer is approaching, school is almost out, but first there are EXAMS! For many teens, this creates a lot of stress! Teens struggle with the amount of pressure they have in school, and parents struggle watching them! What can you do to help your teen through this stressful time and keep calm during finals?

Stress is a real or perceived threat that causes us to be in a state of mental tension and worry. Feeling stress is a fact of life, but there are ways to manage stress so it doesn’t interfere with our life. We may not be able to take the exams for our kids or shelter them from all of life’s stress, but we can support them and help them manage stress.  On a regular basis, teens may stress about school, relationships, family, friends, work, college applications, money, not having transportation to places, etc. When exams are added on to this stress, it makes it difficult to cope with and they may need extra support.

 Stress symptoms:what to look for

  1. Feelings: anxiety, irritability, fear, moodiness, and embarrassment.
  2. Behaviors: Crying, acting impulsively, nervous laughter, snapping at friends, teeth grinding, increased smoking, alcohol use, drug use, or vaping, increase or decrease in appetite.
  3. Thoughts: self-criticism, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, forgetfulness or mental disorganization, preoccupation with the future, fear of failure
  4. Physical: Tight muscles, cold or sweaty hands, back or neck problems, stomachaches, sleep disturbances, more colds or infections, rapid breathing or pounding heart, and fatigue.

If you notice your teen having any of these stress symptoms, bring it to their attention and have a conversation with them on ways to help reduce their stress.

Strategies to cope with stress

Help your teen identify the stress. Maybe there is more going on with them than just the exams. Help them manage their time, so they don’t feel so overwhelmed. It is difficult for some teens to execute effective time management skills, especially when they are highly stressed. Validate their feelings and offer support.

Encourage them to implement a self-care routine. Encourage them to reach out to friends, exercise, or work on a hobby.  Activities like this will allow their brain and body a break from the stress, even if it is only for a little while. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress. Exercise releases endorphins that boost your mood and make you feel good. It also allows for a distraction. Instead of focusing on your worries, focus on how your body feels while moving. Take breaks from studying and have some fun. Deep breathing is another way to help put the brakes on stress and bring the mind and body back to center.

Help your teen utilize the 4 A’s

  1. Avoid unnecessary stress. Help your teen build boundaries with people; help them say no. Give them permission to stay away from people that are negative and cause them a great deal of stress. Help them take control over their environment. Having a sense of control can help decrease stress.
  2. Alter the situation. Encourage them to talk about their feelings rather than hold them in. Help them be more assertive, while willing to compromise in some areas with them.
  3. Adapt to the stressor. Exams are not going to go away. Exams can feel like the most important things they have done all year; help them re-frame that feeling so it is less threatening. Help them look at the big picture. Negative thoughts will often lead to negative feelings and behaviors.
  4. Accept things you can’t change. Even though teens cannot change the fact that exams are coming, help them focus on what they can change. Work with them to practice gratitude and look for the upside.

Remember the basics

When we are stressed, we tend to forget about our basic needs, such as sleep and food. Make sure your teen is prioritizing sleep and eating. A healthy diet will help combat stress and help the brain function better. Reducing caffeine and sugar will help to feel more relaxed and sleep better. The National Sleep Foundation recommends teens get 8-10 hours of sleep, but they are getting on an average of 7 hours of sleep a night. During exam week, they get even less sleep. This may impact their test taking abilities.  Help your teen keep calm during finals by encouraging sleeping, healthy eating, and staying away from drugs and alcohol.

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Video Game Obsession – 3 Quick Ways to Set Healthy Limits

Remember the days when video games were a privilege and something that wasn’t as mainstreamed as a social outing? As kids, we would play outside, ride our bikes, and go to the park with friends. It seems that in today’s society, video game obsession is taking over and causing frustration for both parents and children. Children are constantly asking to play Fortnite or Call of Duty online with friends and spending money buying gear for their characters. Parents are asking their children to go play outside or do something more active. If this sounds like something you have experienced, you may struggle on knowing the appropriate ways to balance and set limits on your child’s video games.

I have often heard the frustration from parents that their children are spending too much time on video games and not enough time helping out around the house. Understanding how to balance fun and recreation with being responsible in the home is an important part of independent growth. Today, I want to provide you with 3 tips to set healthy limits that can help you manage video game obsession.

Time Limit and Routine

It’s important to sit down with your children and come up with a video game time limit. For example, during the school week (Monday-Thursday) they are allowed to play for 30 minutes after school from 3:30pm-4:00pm.  During the weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), they can play for 1-2 hours (depending on their age) in the morning, afternoon, or before dinner. These rules need to be specific and clear. Remember to tell your children about the rules when there are no distractions happening and they are fully listening. Let’s say you want to have extra video game time as a reward. That’s okay to do, but establish this with the video game rules. For example, if they get this reward it’s an extra 30 minutes. Children may ask for extended time in their games or try to guilt you into playing more times a day than you have established. Remember to hold your boundary and to not give into this request.

Size of the Problem

When children have strong reactions to turning off the video games and transitioning to the next event, remind them the size of the problem. Some children tend to have huge reactions towards this moment and as parents it can be difficult to reason with them. We want to help our children self-regulate independently. Challenging their thinking by asking if this is a small, medium, or huge problem can be effective. This can always put things in a better perspective for them in order to realize that their reaction is not matching the size of the problem. If your child struggles significantly with transitions, transition objects can be a positive replacement to use in these moments.

 Social Understanding

Video games have universally become a way for people to socialize with their friends when they are not with them. This can establish healthy social communication patterns between friends and assist with building rapport with peers. It is important to monitor who your children are playing with and making

sure their online friends are children you know. Safety first! Also, it is important to be mindful that your children may be playing online with their friends. Provide your children with the line, “Let your friends know this is the last game.” This will reduce strong reactions and maintain frustration tolerance as well as not damaging their “social” interactions. Remember what we discussed in the first tip! Talk with your children and establish these rules before using them to help you manage their video game obsession.

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5 Tips to Reduce ACT and SAT Test Anxiety

Are you preparing to apply to college, but first you need to take the ACT or SAT? Does the thought of taking a major test give you anxiety? If so, you are experiencing test anxiety. It’s normal. Taking the ACT or SAT and going to college is a big step in your life and the unknown can make our thoughts race or even make us physically feel stress in our bodies.

ACT and SAT test anxiety will present before, during, and after the exam. Usually, test anxiety will have you deal with it through avoidance. The hope is that if are not confronting the anxiety, it will go away. Of course, it does not go away. You need to confront the anxiety and prepare on how to deal with the anxiety especially with big tests such as the ACT and SAT. Here are helpful tips to prepare the exams and reduce test anxiety.

1. Be Familiar with the Test

ACT and SAT have their similarities and differences. It is important you learn all you can about the ins and outs of tests. Some examples of the ins and outs are what the format of the test is, what subjects are being covered, how much time do you have to take the test, how is the test being scored, and what some of the questions look like. Try your best not to pay attention to the myths or rumors you may hear from friends about tests because in reality they are not always very accurate. The ACT and SAT websites do a fantastic job at getting you familiar with their tests.

Also, these websites help you to know the testing locations. Usually, a testing location is at your school or a school you are familiar with. You can locate a list of what you need to bring with you on test day and what you cannot bring with you. Even though they work to make the environment conducive to taking a test, there may be little distractions that are out of your control. To help with test anxiety, try to avoid arriving too early or too late. Once in the testing room, choose a seat away from high-traffic areas like doors or aisles to help lesson distractions. Lastly, try to sit away from others you may know. They are great supports, yet sometimes test anxiety can be contagious.

2. Be Prepared

The best way to be prepared is to study. It is essential to make an organized study schedule and stick to it at least a month if not longer before you sit for the exam. This schedule should help review each section of the test, learn key terms and concepts of those sections, and practice answering questions in the format they will show up on the exam. This way you are prepared and know what to expect on test day. There are many helpful resources on the testing websites, tutors which focus on preparing you for these exams or books that focus on studying for the ACT or SAT.

3. Learn Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques should be used before, during, and after the exam. These techniques should not focus on using screens or taking naps, but instead, focus on what you can do at the moment when anxiety arises. While preparing for the exam, start to notice when you are blanking-out, freezing or having difficulty concentrating. When you start feeling the test anxiety taking over, take a couple of long, deep breaths through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Another example could be taking a few seconds during the deep breaths, close your eyes and imagine a peaceful setting or something that brings you joy, such as baby animals or a calm lake. You can also visualize someone you care about cheering you on, telling you “you got this.”

4. Reframe Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts can increase your test anxiety. They can show up while preparing for the exam or during the exam. While you are studying, write down these thoughts then rewrite them or reframe them with positive thoughts and actions. For example: “I always do poorly on the test” to “I’ve got a better study plan for this exam than I have ever had before.” Another example to change: “If I do not pass this test, I am not going to college” to “I am going to get the score I need, but if I don’t, I can retake it.” Writing the positive reframes down and saving the list can help you come back to the thoughts and remind yourself of all the positive things you have going for you.

5. Take Care of Yourself

If you are taking care of your body, it will help feed your mind. The night before the test is not the time to cram or pull an all-nighter studying. It would be more beneficial to do something calming and relaxing. Try to get a good night’s sleep (8-10 hours) and fuel up in the morning with a nutritious breakfast. Dress in layers, so you are prepared if the testing room is too cold or too hot. Also, it may not hurt to pack a water bottle and a snack or two for breaks during the exam.

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Teaching Your Child to Include Others: Halloween Advice

Shutterstock Girl left out 15807379Halloween: Help Your Child Include Others

Halloween: A time for trick-or-treating, group costumes, pictures posted on social media. Inevitably, someone is left out. Below is advice on teaching your child to include others.

We tell our kids all the time, and especially on Halloween- “Don’t leave kids out.  It’s not nice.  How would you feel if kids did this to you?”  It seems innate.  But, what about the kids who, let’s just say, aren’t very likeable?  The kid who eats glue, the kid who teases others, the kid who…I’m just going to say it..learned his bad behaviors from his mother!  Oh yeah, I said it!  I have heard this line from so many parents over the years, “Just stay away from him!”  Is this (more…)

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Your ADHD Child: Tips to Help Your Child Thrive and Behave Better

Help! My child is impulsive, argumentative, and not listening to me!

Many parents feel frustrated and exhausted at the end of each day as they try to manage their child’s behavior and cope with the challenges associated with ADHD. Parents often struggle to implement effective strategies to manage the impulsivity, emotional outbursts, and misbehavior. Not to worry!

Here are five tips to help create a more peaceful home and a thriving child.

1) Implement structure

Many children with ADHD have challenges with executive-functioning skills: organization, planning, and time-management. When you provide daily structure, you teach your child what is expected, stay focused, and thrive in a predictable environment.

  • Establish rules and routines around waking up, mealtime, homework, and bedtime that your child can stick to each day.
  • Small tasks, such as packing your child’s backpack for school or choosing tomorrow’s outfit the night before can offer a great deal of predictability and consistency.

Offering daily structure will allow your child to be more successful every day. This will ultimately build healthy self-esteem.

2) Leave room for flexibility

While the structure is fundamental to success for a child with ADHD, there must also be room for flexibility. Parents must consider how routines and schedules can be adapted to accommodate the needs of your child and family.

Be open to making compromises with your child and don’t sweat the small stuff.

You may expect your child to brush his teeth, put on pajamas, and pick out a bedtime story on his own. Then, as he starts to head to the bathroom to get his toothbrush, he forgets why he was going there! It’s OK, no harm was done!

  • Many kids with ADHD also have difficulty with working memory.
  • We must remember to adjust our expectations, prompt before transitioning to a new tasks or activity, be patient with the learning process, and most importantly: choose your battles.

3) Strive for organization and simplicity in your child’s world.

A child with ADHD often become distracted when there are too many stimuli in their environment or the task is perceived as “too big” or “too hard.”

Many kids with ADHD benefit from the use of visual reminders.

  • Calendars and chore charts can be an effective way to combat disorganization.
  • A large, white board or wall-calendar can be color-coded for after-school activities, homework, chores, birthday parties, etc. and can be useful for the entire family.

Limit distractions, such as messy or cluttered rooms, electronics or other toys that can cause your child to engage in impulsive behaviors and become emotionally dysregulated if the distraction must be removed. The use of timers can be useful to help your improve planning and time-management skills. Break larger tasks or multi-step directions into smaller, simpler instructions. Your child may not be able to keep more than one or two items in their working memory at one time.

4) Promote healthy eating, exercise, and sleeping patterns.

Healthy eating, sleeping, and exercise routines do have an impact on a child’s behavior. Research shows that regular exercise stimulates a child’s brain and can result in improvements in mood, concentration, and attention, therefore decreasing impulsive behaviors.

  • Bedtime routines are especially important to monitor for children with ADHD.
  • Fatigue will often exacerbate misbehavior, including making poor choices and engaging in angry outbursts.
  • Decrease sugar and caffeine intake, monitor screen time, and create a soothing and consistent bedtime routine.

5) Model self-control and healthy coping strategies.

When parents are able to model healthy emotional control and display positive strategies to manage frustration, children are more likely to remain calm and access self-soothing skills in challenging moments on their own. Sometimes parents believe loud, expressive behaviors (such as making demands or shouting) will create a lasting impact, but children are more likely to hear the anger and NOT the message.

If your child is pushing your buttons and is repeatedly misbehaving, take a few calming breaths or demonstrate another coping strategy for them.

You will model the importance of self-control and how to positively cope with challenging emotions.

  • Consider inviting your child to join you on a walk around the block. Other examples would be practicing deep breathing, blowing bubbles or pretending to blow out birthday candles.
  • Challenge your child to engage all five senses for a mindfulness activity. Once they have reached a calm, regulated place, you can ask your child to talk about his or her feelings. It will also help brainstorm a solution to solve the problem together.

All in all, as a parent you are in control. You, your child, and family do not have to surrender to ADHD. Remember to acknowledge the small wins. Catch your child when they are succeeding, anticipate potential triggers, and be clear and consistent with expectations. With these ideas in mind, you are more likely to have a well-adjusted child and happier home.

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Help! My Teen is a Perfectionist!

Is Your Teen a Perfectionist?

  • Is perfectionism and the pressures of daily life controlling your teen?
  • Does your teen have difficulties starting or completing a new task for fear that he or she will fail?
  • Is your teen struggling with schoolwork or participating in their after-school or athletic activities?

For many teenagers in our society, aiming for perfection and the overwhelming fear of failure is an unfortunate reality. Unlike “high-achievers,” many teens will often set lofty goals and assume complete failure if the goal isn’t met with sheer precision and perfection. These teens run the risk of constant disappointment, which can lead to the development of anxiety, depression, self-esteem issues, eating disorders, and potential family and peer conflict. In order to mitigate the potential effects of perfectionism, consider the following strategies to help your teen find more balance in their daily life:

1) Promote Hard Work Rather Than Perfectionism

Encourage your teenager to consider goals that feel realistic and manageable, while still aiming for a challenge. It can be helpful to have conversations at the start of the new school year with your teen about his or her expectations and goals they have in mind. This can be a great opportunity to help your teen modify or eliminate goals that may be too overwhelming, such as participating three honors classes. Instead, encourage your teen to participate in one advanced class so they are able to dedicate their time to a challenge while also finding time for self-care, social events, and after-school sports and activities.

2) Defeat Negative Patterns of Thinking

Perfectionism is often associated with negative and self-defeating thoughts. These irrational thoughts will only exacerbate your teen’s anxiety and make it more challenging to find small successes and confidence within themselves. Teens will often use “all of nothing” thinking (such as failure or perfection) or engage in “catastrophic thinking” (a small mistake or error on a test will predict an “F” in the class). Encourage your teen to use a basic Cognitive Behavior Therapy technique called cognitive restructuring, where he or she can reframe or challenge the irrational thoughts. Help your teen to replace the irrational thought with a more positive thought or fact that is more grounded in reality. For example, we can change “I failed my science quiz and I’m going to fail the class” to “I didn’t do my best on this quiz, but I have many opportunities to ask my teacher for and the remainder of the semester to work hard.”

 

3) Cope with Stress and Anxiety in Healthy Ways

Foster a safe space for your teen to express their emotions and talk about their stressors. Often times, having an outlet and using healthy emotional expression skills can drastically reduce the pressures and anxiety your teen is experiencing. Encourage your teen to cope in positive and healthy ways, rather than internalizing and shutting down, Avoid negative coping skills such as immersing themselves in screens and electronics or napping to avoid the stress. Validate your teen’s concerns and anxieties while also challenging him or her to cope in healthy ways. This will look different for each teenage but can include playing sports or talking with his or her peers, listening to music, going for a run, journaling, drawing or even downloading a breathing or guided mediation app on their smartphone.

Talk with your teen about how he or she can view mistakes as opportunities to learn rather than total failures. Model positive self-talk and encourage your teen to “aim high” without resorting to perfectionism and self-defeating patterns of thinking in their academic and social worlds.

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” – J. K. Rowling

 

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Relaxation Techniques for Stressed Out, Overwhelmed Teens

Feeling Stressed Out, Overwhelmed?

Are you a teenager who feels overwhelmed?  Are you stressed out about the pressures of keeping up with school, friends, sports, responsibilities at home, or your job?   If so, you’re not alone. stressed out overwhelmed teenIt’s normal for you to explore and search for your identity.  You are probably asking yourself, “Who am I?”  You may be at a point in your life where you want to be independent, but still depend on your parents (although you won’t always admit this part!). Oh, and don’t forget hormones!  So basically, there’s a lot going on in your life.

4 Relaxation Techniques to Decrease Stress When You Are Overwhelmed

1.GET ON YOUR PHONE OR IPAD TO REDUCE STRESS

Yes! Did I get your attention? I know your parents are usually telling you to get off your phone or devices. You may not believe it, but your phone actually does more than texting, posting pictures of you doing fun stuff with your friends, and sharing your “story” on social media. There are great apps for relaxation that you can use- and it only takes a couple minutes a day. You can even tell your parents that a professional told you to go on your phone to relax! How cool is that?

2.LISTEN TO MUSIC TO FIND RELAXATION

Music can help distract your mind, help you feel relaxed, and quiet down your thoughts that tend to increase when you feel stressed. Classical music, or any type of soft, slow music can have a calming effect on your brain. Even if you don’t care for the classical style, any kind of music can help you take your mind off of stress and negative thoughts. Listen to music in the shower, bedroom, the car, or while taking a walk (bonus relaxation occurs when listening to music and taking a walk!).  So go ahead, play around with different genres and see what works best for you.  Ya never know, you may develop a love for a new style of music, so have fun with it!

3. BREATHE TO FEEL LESS STRESSED OUT

There are so many different ways to use your breathing as a form of relaxation when you are stressed out or overwhelmed. One way is to inhale through your nose, and breathe out through your mouth while saying something positive. If you use positive self-talk and use positive statements while focused on your breathing, you will benefit from an overall calming effect. Use statements such as “relax” or “I can do this.” Not only does this help with relaxation, but you can also build self-esteem when implementing positive self-talk/statements in your daily routine (again, another two for one!).  Breathing techniques are great because you can practice them wherever you are.  If you are feeling stressed before a test, or before speaking in front of your class, this is a great one to use!

4. LAUGH WHEN YOU ARE OVERWHELMED

Yes, I said laugh! When you are stressed out or overwhelmed, laughing produces endorphins to help you feel more relaxed. Watch a funny t.v. show, YouTube video, or call a friend who will instantly make you laugh.  Not only will your mood shift, but the physical tension in your body from feeling stressed will begin to reduce. Pay attention to how you feel after a good laugh.  Do you feel more relaxed?  Do your muscles feel less tense?  Laughing truly is the best medicine when feeling stressed out!

 

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