“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” – Victor E. Frankl, Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist
These days, many parents with whom I work with are noticing diminishing space in between situations and responses — from their children and themselves. Stress has made these “spaces” smaller, bringing about more yelling, more door slamming, and more intense emotions in quarantine. And with another major stressor upon us – the back-to-school season – it’s even more difficult to stay measured in our reactions.
Parents hear that creating structure and a sense of normalcy is the most effective way to prepare their children for distance learning and an uncertain future. But, actually, reducing stress and fostering a positive environment in your household must come first. Follow these steps to learn how to keep stress levels down in the critical weeks and months ahead.
How to Reduce Stress in Your ADHD Household
1. Acknowledge the paradox. Recognize that the expectation to create structure and normalcy is difficult in a world turned upside down. Do what you can and ignore self-judgments and the fear that you are not doing enough. We are all doing the best we can.
2. Focus on the simple things. Identify easy-to-implement methods for creating a sense of normal in the home. Maybe that’s a consistent bedtime or a “school day breakfast” vs. a “weekend breakfast.”
3. Change what you can control and forget the rest. We cannot control whether schools are virtual, or whether they serve our children’s unique learning needs from a socially appropriate distance. What we can do is be thoughtful of our own space and our responses to situations. Let this be your guiding principle: how you want your child to see you during this time. No matter what we think should or shouldn’t be, the sooner that we accept “what is,” the better we can support our children and communicate our faith in their ability to face the task at hand.
4. Take care of yourself so that you are able to tap into the space you need. Turn off the news and watch a funny video instead. Take a walk, or savor that cup of coffee for just a few seconds before getting up to make lunches for everyone else. You cannot tap into your space if you don’t fill up your own tank from time to time.
5. Speak up and ask for help. Let your child’s school know how things are going at home, and see if they can make any adjustments to support you and your child. Let family members and friends know if you need help as well. Be clear about how your child is struggling to increase the chances that they get the help they need and deserve.
Many parents and children are feeling the same at the outset of this school year – typical jitters, along with uncertainty about how it will all go and whether they will be able to overcome these challenges. Let’s be kind to ourselves as parents, to other parents in our communities, and to our children, who are navigating a new year different from any other in our collective memory.
How to Reduce Stress: Next Steps
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Updated on September 2, 2020