Q: How Can I Stay Positive and Avoid Infecting My Kids with Negativity?

Maintaining a positive outlook seems near impossible during this pandemic. But parents can keep negativity out of the house by practicing self-care and valuing positive experiences with their children. Here’s how by CANDACE SAHM, M.A., ED/HD

Staying positive these days is tough. Parenting children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) is challenging even on a good day; the pandemic has quadrupled the pressure on ADHD families who are now faced with remote learning on top of everything else. I admire you for trying to stay positive, despite a disorganized household and a reduced income. You are dealing with a lot!

You are smart to try to stay positive. Your kids pick up on your stress and express it by bouncing around the house or refusing to cooperate. Give yourself credit for reaching out for advice and support. I like your goals of bringing order and good spirits back into your lives.

How to Stay Positive Tip #1: Take Care of Yourself First

I understand why you feel overwhelmed and stressed. It’s natural to get angry and frustrated in a “rudderless” home. But, as many of us have seen, losing one’s temper with kids creates more stress and chaos. To keep your own temper under control:

Schedule at least 30 minutes, twice a day, for your own personal time. Practice guitar or go for a run. Put these times on a family calendar for all to see.

Join a weekly Zoom meditation group. Studies show that meditation is calming, especially for families with ADHD.
Schedule daily walks or gardening time outside. Nature is key for a positive mindset, and it refreshes your senses

How to Stay Positive Tip #2: Work Together to Keep the Home Clutter-Free

Organizing an entire house can be overwhelming, so pare down the job, room by room, and set a goal for sorting and organizing tasks to be finished by a certain day.

pasted image 0How old are your children? If they are at least four years old, assign each of them tasks. Tell them this is a family fun project that you will be working on it together. Kids love contests and rewards, so you could say there will be prizes for the neatest, most creative, and most organized rooms.

Start with each child’s bedroom. Give each family member a laundry basket to collect all of his or her belongings that may be strewn around the house. Put on a timer and say, “Ready? Go!” While they’re zooming around the house collecting their things, make sure each child has shelf and closet space for their belongings. You can put things that are cluttering their closets and shelves on the bed for them to sort. Remember, this is also your time to neaten up your bedroom and workspace. Tidy up the living room and kitchen while you’re at it.

How to Stay Positive Tip #3: Structure the School Day

The home school day should be structured like a day in the classroom. Think about your kids’ classrooms — there is often a big, centrally located calendar, and expectations for the day are written on the board. There are often contests or other incentives to motivate kids to learn. You can set up an incentive system at home, so your kids know that if they complete their assignments, there will be benefits later. The rewards can be simple: working on a puzzle together or watching a movie.

How to Stay Positive Tip #4: Invest in a Family Calendar

Make or purchase a large family calendar. Write down everyone’s schedule, using a different color ink for each family member. Add jobs, such as meal planning, meal prep, and clean-up. Also, schedule “Special Time” for each child with you, even if it is just 15-30 minutes. This is important. If kids know when you will be spending quality time with them, they will be less likely to act up for your attention.

How to Stay Positive Tip #5:Encourage Family Harmony

unnamed 2Set up weekly family meetings. Use a timer and introduce a “talking stick,” which, when held, allows the holder to speak uninterrupted. Start out with each family member sharing one worry, one thing they are grateful for, and three individual goals for the week. Then give each person three minutes to share their thoughts. Using a timer keeps things consistent and manageable. Family meetings are really helpful for kids with ADHD.

How to Stay Positive Tip #6: Plan Fun Times

ADHD families need fun things to look forward to. You can schedule exercise time, but make sure to make it fun — that means dance time after dinner or jump rope contests. Whether it’s Taco Tuesday, pizza night, movie night, or charades, put them on the calendar. You’ll generate the good spirits you’ve been missing.