One Hope Filled Bedtime Chat with an ADHD Child
What if our chats looked more like this?
A Conversation between Mother and Son
She tucked her son into bed tightly but gently. His ten year old body squirmed with the ADHD thoughts that rattled relentlessly in his head. She questioned if he'd be able to fall asleep, but she deeply wanted tonight to be different. Her heart broke at the thought of having to give him yet another consequence for getting out of bed and refusing to sleep.
So, she decided to be different instead of asking him to be different. Just for the night.
“I know it's hard sometimes to deal with the ADHD, but I want you to remember you're going to do something great one day,” she said softly but with determination.
He cocked his head questioning her with a scowl. He said, “I don't understand why you would say that.”
“Well,” she questioned herself. The ADHD thoughts began to pound heavily in her own head. ‘Find something to say, find something to say.’ Pictures of related and unrelated material flashed. Different avenues and outcomes of the future conversation she would have with her son bounced as she attempted to register which response would best parent her son. Her heart started to pound. She could feel the blood rush from her face and the muscles tighten in her neck and shoulders.
Deep breathe. She dropped her shoulders and chose something different than she'd chosen before.
“Well, you know how you get in trouble for being bossy?”
He pulled the covers away from his face and curiously blinked. “Yeah,” he said. “Why?”
“When you're an adult, they call that leadership skills,” she said with questionable resolve.
“So why don't they call it that for kids?” He seemed angry, resentful, and agitated. Maybe she didn't pick the right avenue.
With a silent prayer for guidance she resumed eye contact with her son and continued, “Children are learning how to be kind and how to ask, not tell, people to do things. You, unlike a lot of people, don't have to be taught to speak up and ask people to do things, but you're learning, now, how to be kind while you lead. Healthy adults show self control, but children have to learn how to do that.”
Thump, thump, thump. Her medication obviously wore off hours ago. So did his. She reminded herself to stay present and not to rush this very important conversation.
He thought for a moment. The squirming subsided. He was skeptical and focused. With calloused determination he asked, “What else?”
“You know how you get in trouble for being nosey?”
“When you're an adult, you're considered observant.”
“Really?” He asked with absolute disbelief.
“Yes. The difference is self control. Healthy adults know how to politely insert themselves in a conversation that they overheard or they know that the conversation is none of their business, so they choose not to interrupt.” Her confidence was growing, and her focus matched his focus. Her heart began to recede back into her chest and she smiled warmly.
Her son took a moment to think again. She could see the engine in his brain working down all the avenues. Shortly, he smiled sweetly and hugged her arm. She could feel his appreciation seep into her from his hug. “One more thing?” he asked.
She laughed, smiling broadly about the connection she experienced with him. “You know how you get in trouble for asking too many questions?”
He giggled at the irony with her.
“That means you're curious. No one has to teach you how to be curious, observant, or how to speak up confidently. Our job, as your parents, is to teach you how to use those skills with self control and kindness.”
He nodded knowingly, pulled his blankets closer to his face and said, “Thanks, Mom. Goodnight.”
“I love you,” she whispered. “You're going to do something great. So let's just keep going, okay?”
“Okay. I will.”
She pet his head for a moment, finished her silent prayer of thanks and said, “Goodnight. See you in the morning.”
AUTHOR - Rachel Terry is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Texas that sees adults, couples, families, and adolescents who struggle with feeling stuck with their current circumstance. She also sees clients online to give access to those who would not otherwise receive counseling.