This week we talking about managing the return to school.
Today’s schools demand a high level of self-management from kids. When children and teens have difficulty with ADHD or “executive functioning” – managing their emotions, attention, and time, learning to set priorities, remember, start tasks and persist with them – it can be very stressful for the whole family.
In “Smart but Scattered” by Peg Dawson Ed. D. and Richard Guare, PhD, there’s a list of questions about “executive functioning” for parents to fill out, to help them understand their own EF strengths and weaknesses. I was interested in this because I know that EF weaknesses made my life more difficult both in my birth family and with my own kids. I filled out the questionnaire, and the answers matched my experience.
I am one of those people who have weaker organizational skills and “working memory” (what helps us to remember what we need to do today). Over the years, I’ve developed coping skills for this. I have no paper records in my practice because it’s hard for me to keep paper organized. (On the computer it’s a breeze for me to organize lots of information. ) I also write down my plans and all the things that occur to me while I’m doing something else. I keep a pad and a pen by my bed in case I remember something when I wake in the night, and I’ve got a special file on my computer where I keep a “to do” list. If I don’t do this, I’ll forget something.
As a parent, I found the endless flow of permission slips and pieces of paper that needed to be kept a real challenge. Relatives often have similar difficulties, and my kids were not good at organizing and remembering either. Like every parent who wants to help their kid but isn’t good at what’s required, I found the situation very frustrating.
I also think my own mother was frustrated by my poor working memory. Since she was excellent at organizing and remembering, so she found it very difficult to be patient when I repeatedly left my field hockey bag on the bus instead of bringing it home. Each time this happened, we had to drive several miles to the public bus depot to get it back.
Dawson and Guare have some good suggestions for parents faced with having the same executive functioning weakness as their kids. Try to look at the funny side rather than getting into struggles. Work on the problems together. You manage to compensate well enough for your weakness to cope with the adult world, and you can help your kid to do it too. They describe in detail how to work on your own weaknesses at the same time as your child’s.
For parents who have strengths in the areas where their kids are weak, Dawson and Guare also have good suggestions. Try to get your child to accept your help. Find creative ways to help him or her get organized. Also, consider that your child may have strengths that you lack. This will help you feel more patient and hopeful rather than irritated and frustrated.
I highly recommend Dawson and Guare’s book for parents.
Peg Dawson and Richard Guard, “Smart but Scattered, Boost any Child’s Ability to get Organized, resist Impulses, stay Focused, use Time wisely, Plan ahead, Follow through on tasks, Learn from mistakes, stay in Control of emotions, Solve problems independently, and be Resourceful.”
Guildford Press, 2009.