Any parent knows that we should encourage children to be themselves and not mold them into “Mini Me’s.” However, sometimes this is easier said than done.
Even if our kid isn’t going to be the next Serena Williams or Bill Gates, we all have SOME expectations. We might want them to excel in music or sports or be social or get straight A’s or be a master chess player. This may because this is something that we realized as a young person or because we see a spark in them and want them to develop that spark into something brighter.
In many cases our children will disappoint us at some point in our lives. It might be that they date someone we’re not crazy about or fall in with the “wrong” crowd at school. They might fail certain subjects or not have friends. If our child has a mental health challenge, this can be even more disappointing – I’ve recently read of parents who were saddened by their teen not going to prom or not going to college or university when it seems like every other teen on the planet is doing just that.
How do we separate ourselves from our children and allow them to grow and develop into the best version of themselves? Do we need to take a step back and realize that our expectations are unreasonable – or try to temper them accordingly?
With a tween and a teen, it seems that one of my kids is constantly testing me: just when I think they’ve achieved something or moved beyond a certain nagging problem, something else crops up. Honestly, it can be very hard to digest and deal with at times. For me, there are certain expectations that are non-negotiable: show up for school on time; pass all courses; get a good night’s sleep; take care of personal hygiene and chores; have a good attitude; show up for family dinner and to family events…
These are very basic things. I expect my kids to go above and beyond those basics and to achieve something more. However, sometimes even these basics are not achieved! That can be frustrating at best. Even if learning disabilities or mental health challenges get in the way, I still expect my children to try their best and not to make excuses.
Have you experienced frustration when dealing with what you think are basic expectations? Does your child’s mental health challenges get in the way? I’d love to hear what you think and how you deal with these dilemmas.
This weekend I won two tickets to a “retro 80’s” video dance party at a club downtown. My partner and I were already thinking about attending – as two friends were going. Once I won the tickets, we decided that the universe was nudging us and that we should definitely go. While we neglected to wear our best 80’s neon and preppy clothing, it was an absolute blast and we were able to forget about life’s demands for a few hours as we danced the night away.
Now, it’s not like I’m a martyr and stay home all the time to cook and clean and pay bills (though sometimes it feels like it). I go out with friends – mostly when my kids are with their dad but we do outings as a family too – and my partner and I go to the movies, to restaurants, on trips, etc. We try our best to enjoy life but, lately, the to-do list seems endless and the fun side of life gets buried in a stack of bills, report cards, and dishes.
If you work outside the home, you know that getting kids to sleep on time and then up in the morning, packing lunches and dropping them off at school prior to getting into work can use all of your energy stores – then you still have to work all day – and then do it over and over again a la Groundhog Day. If you work at home or are a stay-at-home-parent, staying on top of and/or getting out from under the clutter of lifecan be a downer.
But going out this weekend reminded me that parenting doesn’t have to be a chore. We all work hard and worry about our kidsand their mental health – but our mental health as parents is important too. In fact, I submit that when we’re happy and cheerful and feel that our needs are met, we’re not feeling resentful to our children and can be more “present” in their lives.
Going out doesn’t have to mean an expensive get-away or partying until 3 am (though I do recommend it once in a while!). It can be as simple as going to your favourite book store or library and perusing the shelves and grabbing a coffee. Or, you can hit the local gym and do a Zumba class or lift some weights – or even go for a walk – alone or with a friend while ignoring the dirty laundry and piles of dishes for an hour or two.
Parenting can absolutely take over and get overwhelming and demanding. But we owe it to ourselves and our kids to take a break every once in a while and enjoy ourselves. We are human too. I also think it’s important to show our children that we have our own lives, friends, interests, hobbies, etc. and that we can prioritize our interests at times.
So, next time a friend or neighbour asks you to grab a coffee – “get into the groove” and take her up on the offer. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Let me know about your tips for balancing life, work and parenting! You can reply in the comments or send me an email.
Recently I asked “Ashley” to share advice on my blog. Ashley is a colleague and parent to an 11-year-old girl diagnosed with Mood Disorder.
I have learned a lot about mood disorders and was blown away by her candor.
Please note that this post was originally published in 2013.
1) Can you describe “mood disorder” and its symptoms?
Last spring, my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD and we put her on a stimulant. She began having rages, getting verbally aggressive (threatening to kill people) and physically aggressive (biting, hitting, kicking) family members to the point that she left bruises and other marks. We took her off the medication and the rages decreased for a while, but returned along with ADHD symptoms that interfered with school.
We tried another stimulant and the rages increased. Her paediatrician suggested that because she was raging on stimulants that he highly suspected that she had a mood disorder. At his suggestion, I read the book The Bipolar Child and cried because the symptoms described in the book were almost a verbatim description of my daughter.
2) Why were you surprised by this revelation?
I was surprised that the way that bipolar presents in children is very different from the way it looks in adults. Some of the symptoms that resonated with me:
rapid cycling (going from giddy to irritated very quickly and back again)
carb cravings (my daughter would binge on sweets and bread)
Another trait exhibited by my daughter was that she didn’t show her rages and violence to anyone outside the family and I was her main target.
3) Please provide some insight into the relationship between ADHD and mood disorders and how they’re sometimes confused.
According to the book The Bipolar Child, one-third of the children diagnosed with ADHD actually have early onset bipolar. Many symptoms of bipolar overlap with ADHD, such as being impulsive, emotionally volatile, hyperactive and distracted. When I was reading Bipolar Child for the first time, the description in temper tantrums between children with ADHD and children with mood disorders was what finally convinced me that my daughter was bipolar.
Bipolar temper tantrums can often last for hours, can involve destruction or violence and are typically triggered by not getting what they want. The book described that ADHD tantrums typically last 20-30 minutes and are caused by sensory or emotional stimulation. I thought about the previous evening and how my daughter had spent over two hours hitting us, screaming and chasing after us and realized that my daughter was bipolar.
4) What advice can you offer parents?
My biggest advice is to find support. I found the forums and support groups at The Balanced Mindto provide me great information on both the medical side and the coping side.
At first I was really scared to tell anyone about my daughter’s diagnosis and even more about her repeatedly hurting me. I would wear long sleeves to cover the bite marks and bruises and worry that someone would see. But then I shared with trusted friends what we were going through and was very surprised that instead of judgement, I received love and support.
My other advice is to find the right team of doctors and therapists. It took several tries to find the right fit for our family and my daughter’s situation, but we finally found a neuropsychiatric that has been lifesaving for us. We also began working with a behavioural therapist to help our whole family learn strategies to deal with the bipolar symptoms.
5) How do you and your family (and your child) best cope with this mental illness?
When she is raging, we try to remind ourselves that this is the bipolar talking, not our daughter. We also make sure that every member of our family gets time to enjoy the things that make them happy and get a break from my daughter. We also all meet with a therapist to talk about our feelings of living with the disease in our family.
6) Anything else you’d like to add?
If you suspect that your child has a mood disorder, get him or her evaluated as soon as possible. Life has gotten dramatically better once we found the right medication and have begun learning to understand the disease.
Does any of this resonate with you? I thought republishing this post might help a parent or friend who has a child with a mood disorder.
Happy New Year! Can you believe it’s 2020?! Did you celebrate with family or friends last night? Have a party with neighbours or ring in the new year at home watching the ball drop in Time’s Square (if that works with your timezone)? Whatever you did, you don’t have to worry about comparing yourself to me: I did not have a Pinterest-worthy New Year’s Eve by any stretch – quite the opposite in fact; I was sick with a cold and fever and sleeping by 9 pm. Good. Times.
As bummed out as I was to not have a wild & crazy New Year’s Eve, I was happy to have celebrated the day with my partner and my children. Even though I was already starting to feel ill, my kids had been with their father for most of the holidays so I wanted to spend at least one day celebrating with all four of us. We went bowling, went out for sushi and had potato latkes in the morning – made by yours truly along with my daughter. It was a really fun day out but, by 5 pm, I was exhausted and very sick.
So, now that New Year’s Eve has come and gone: Onto the business at hand. Regardless of my cheesy headline for this post, for the past few weeks, I have been thinking about my goals and objectives for the year ahead. Have you given it much thought? Any goals – business, personal, family or otherwise?
Here are a few very basic family-oriented goals of mine for the year ahead. You are welcome to follow along with me. If you do, please let me know of your successes or any missteps. It takes a village!
2020 Family-Oriented Goals:
Listen more and talk less.
Reduce my own social media use and technology use – and encourage my kids to do the same.
Read more books – and encourage my kids to read more.
No more yelling/use silence as an alternate way to communicate.*
Enjoy the simple moments with my family.
Do any of the above goals pique your interest? I have already started implementing some of them: *I’ve started texting certain things instead of yelling up the stairs – for instance how many more minutes until the “taxi” i.e. me, leaves for school. I’ve also started talking/responding less both at home and at work – and even on text. Not in a snobby or rude way but just not responding if I don’t have anything constructive to say. It seems to be working – it’s certainly reducing my stress-level.
Whatever you and your family decide to do: I wish you all a very happy 2020 full of positive family interactions, peace, joy and success.
Here’s to positive strides in your and your children’s mental health!
Let me guess…You’re finding the holidays stressful?! Either your kid(s) are driving you nuts, you’re trying to buy gifts that you can’t afford or don’t know what to get, you forgot to pick up something for your neighbour/coworker/boss/niece/cousin/dog, or you feel like everyone’s invited to all of these fab holiday parties except for you.
Me? My kids are getting older and would rather hang out with their friends for the most part. That, coupled with the +9 Celsius weather (!) today, makes the holidays feel rather “meh” at the moment. In my family, we celebrate Hanukkah and, if I’m honest, I am just not in the latke-frying/menorah-lighting mood unfortunately.
I remember when our kiddos were little and everything seemed new and exciting. We celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas and, although that meant extra work and wrapping, travelling, and buying and baking, etc., it was still a lot of fun. This year I haven’t done a darn thing so far except buy some holiday gifts and also birthday gifts for the great many people I know whose birthdays fall in late December.
No matter what you celebrate, there is a lot of pressure on people at this time of year i.e. “What are you doing for Christmas? Have all your shopping done?!” (Um… if you’re not Christian/don’t celebrate Christmas/don’t have a big budget this can be an awkward question to answer!)
What else can feel awkward this time of year…?
Kids are happy to have two weeks off school but that may mean finding childcare alternatives or taking time off work
Your partner (if you have one) may have a different (or no!) holiday schedule then your own
Your kids may have big expectations for foods or gifts or outings that you’re not prepared for
Your children’s mental health may mean not attending certain parties (or not being invited to parties!) or leaving early before they get upset or too tired or too hyper
The weather may prevent you from doing what you planned – for instance, here the snow is melting rapidly so no tobogganing or skiing or snowshoeing will work at this point
Perhaps you or your kids want to invite someone over or get together over the holidays but you’re worried that the parent has heard something negative about your child and doesn’t want them to play together or be friends
Although intentions are usually good, this can be an arduous time for many people. So, feel free to take a break and just go for a walk or go out for a cheap & cheerful dinner or head to the movies.
I know one woman who, though she has two weeks off of work, is still sending her toddler to daycare every day. I don’t necessarily agree with her decision but perhaps that’s what she needs to do in order to feel rejuvenated, rested and refreshed. It can be hard to parent at this time of year – especially if you don’t have family around to assist you or your child experiences any form of mental health challenge.
I wish for all of us a peaceful and zen–filled holiday season – full of minimal family fighting, decent gift exchanges, a few walks in the woods and one or two nights of restful sleep.
Good morning! I apologize for the delay in posting – I was on a much-needed vacation last week. I also apologize for the font changes in this current post: I tried to do some adjustments behind the scenes but it looks like two different font styles still appear.
A few weeks ago, a fellow blogging associate, Heidi, kindly provided info on how and why parents might decide to homeschool . Until recently, this was an area of parenting/teaching/education that I had known about for some time but didn’t fully understand. Homeschooling is chosen by families for a variety of reasons. For this blog, we discuss it from a mental health/learning disabilities perspective.
Another fellow blogger, a successful business owner, parent and home-schooling expert, also agreed to answer some burning questions that may help you decide if homeschooling is right for you and your kids.
Dana is the owner of TrainUp a Child Publishing. The information on Dana’s site/blog is extremely helpful and may assist you in understanding the ins and outs of homeschooling as well as the various methods and philosophies involved.
Here are a few of her answers. I will add a second part to this post soon – she provided such important and detailed information that I can’t fit everything into one post!
Question 1: From your perspective, what’s the criteria for homeschooling? For instance, do you feel it’s best in all cases for both parent and/or child?
There are many circumstances and possible criteria for homeschooling. I don’t feel like homeschooling is best in all cases. Regardless of the criteria, if parents aren’t committed, willing to invest time and money in curriculum/supplies/and possibly tutors, and willing to make homeschooling a priority in their lives, it’s probably not a good choice.
From the parent perspective, they might feel homeschooling would be better for their child because:
They disagree philosophically/religiously with some of the content of what is taught. For example, the school policy changes you may have heard about in California that have literature that talks about many genders. Many parents that this area should remain within the realm of what parents would teach in the home, rather than in their first grader’s classroom.
Their children may have been diagnosed with epilepsy, or other medical condition that require closer medication management/health care than may be possible in the public/private school system
Their child(ren) may have been diagnosed with ADHD or are on the Autism spectrum and have or have had difficulty coping with a typical public or private classroom. Parents who homeschool these children can provide them an environment that better suits their needs:
a less distracting room for homeschooling, without every inch of wall space covered with colorful things, like many elementary classrooms, particularly
the opportunity to give children their own quiet space to learn and focus, complete with a bouncy ball or other soothing/tactile objects
hands-on and other customized lessons that appeal to their student
customized therapies and methods that parents have found to work for their child at home because their school systems aren’t able (or perhaps willing) to implement them in a classroom situation
more frequent opportunities for breaks, more easily incorporate movement into studies
can take the time and provide mentorship in teaching their child relational behaviour — one to one. I’m sure this would be impossible for most teachers because of the teacher to student ratios, even in special ed classes
They feel as though their child would be safer at home from bullying, school violence, etc.
Question 2) What would you say to a parent who is considering homeschooling due to their child’s anxiety, depression, bullying, etc.?
I would tell them what it’s like to homeschool and give them places to research it further in their state/country. I’d suggest they visit and get plugged into a local homeschool support group, ask lots of questions and maybe shadow a homeschooling family or go on a field trip or park day with a homeschooling group. If parents are strongly considering homeschooling, it would be good to bring their child into the discussion.
I’d let the parents know to look for a support group that met together regularly with activities for parents and for kids, went on field trips, provided a co-op or group classes, etc. (With ours, we had yearly school pictures, a yearbook, a prom, lots of field trips and small classes in many academic and enrichment areas, from writing classes to Taekwondo.)
Question 3) What are some characteristics of successful homeschooling parents/teachers? What are two or three things that must be in place?
Homeschooling parents must be committed to homeschooling at the start. That doesn’t mean they have to do it forever, but they need to be committed to at least a year at a time.
They have to be willing to spend money as necessary for their child’s curriculum and activities, and they have to be willing to make homeschooling a daily priority for at least one parent. That doesn’t mean the homeschooling parent can’t work parttime, but homeschooling has to happen daily in spite of the job. Sometimes homeschooling happens on the weekend or at night — it doesn’t have to look the same in all families and nor does it have to look like public school.
It works best if parents have taken the time to train their children to [listen] when they were small. Mutual respect between parents and children makes it a ton easier. And it’s easier to start with that in place, although it’s never too late to develop.
As I said, at least one parent has to assume the responsibility for homeschooling and make it a priority in their life. Also, most homeschooling parents have to be willing to take the time to learn along with the child. They have to commit to at least weekly planning time, they have to be able to grade papers or get help from someone who can do this if they need help. Sometimes moms change kids — one who did well in math might teach math to her child and mine, and maybe I teach writing to my child and hers, for example.
I was doing some further research on supports for homeschoolers: If you are in Ontario, Canada, the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents looks to be an amazing resource. I am very impressed with their site and how user-friendly it is to access.
Let me know if you find this information useful and if you have other advice or resources to share. I’d love to hear from you.
If you’re reading this blog, you probably have ADHD, anxiety, depression, autism, mental health challenges – or you care about someone who does.
And, if you or your loved one fit into any of the above categories, you have probably suffered from being shunned, isolated, “de-friended”, bullied, unsupported, or, at the very least, misunderstood.
As a parent, it’s hard not to blame other kids, adults or teachers who shun or misunderstand your child. It’s hard enough trying to parent a child or teen who has ADHD or other atypical traits without having neighbours, friends or family members question your parenting style, isolate your child or point fingers. When dealing with the daily stress of parenting, comments such as these can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
What do you do when people purposely leave your child out because they can’t deal with his or her behaviour? I’ve written about this issue before here, hereand here.
Do you speak to them about why they’re doing it?
Do you think perhaps you’re being paranoid and that’s not the case?
Do you shun them yourself?
Do you try to be even more friendly and overcompensate for your child’s behaviour/their view of your child’s behaviour?
I don’t think there’s any “right” answer here. I do know that it’s extremely troubling, stressful and heartbreaking to discover close friends are not spending time with you because they don’t like your child. I guess the most mature thing to do would be to have a heart-to-heart with the person but, that can open a can of worms because they might be embarrassed to discuss it or deflect the blame or laugh uncomfortably and not engage.
In the past, we’ve had myriad friends and family members politely decline invitations or only want to get together without kids around. One of the saddest moments was finding out that a former neighbour with whom our child was very close had a birthday party and didn’t invite our child. Of course I realize that we can’t invite everyone to every birthday party but I know why my child was not invited in this particular case.
Another neighbourhood mother who ran a home daycare pretended she wasn’t taking on new children when I inquired. But, I later saw posters everywhere advertising her daycare and promoting open spots. This type of activity can be extremely hurtful (sometimes more for the parent than the child). Luckily, for us this isn’t something we have to deal with any longer now that my children are growing up and some of those annoying traits have dissipated or disappeared.
Has this happened to you? Do you “de-friend” your friend, neighbour or family member if they don’t engage with you or your family because of your child’s condition or his/her behaviour? What’s worked best in your case? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
For some parents and guardians, having their child attend a regular public school isn’t an option. This is due to many factors: religious or cultural concerns; clashes with administration; bullying issues; physical abilities that are not or cannot be addressed by the school and mental health/neurological issues like anxiety, depression, ADHD, autism or concussion.
In these instances, some parents decide to go the homeschooling route. Even as a child I had heard about homeschooling but no one I knew/know was homeschooled and, up until quite recently, I knew very little about how one would go about setting up a home school and teaching their children. That has changed!
Through a blogging community I belong to, I have “virtually” met many wonderful people who are doing amazing work through their blogs/sites. One of these wonderful people is Heidi who runs The Unexpected Homeschooler.
Heidi has kindly agreed to answer some questions about homeschooling and about why parents or guardians of children with mental health challenges might do better learning from home. She lives in the U.S. and worked for many years as a special education teacher in a public school system.
1) From your perspective, what’s the criteria for homeschooling? For instance, do you feel it’s best in all cases for both parent and/or child?
I think homeschooling is a personal choice for every family, and sometimes even per child. It has a lot to do with their reasons. For some families, it’s a religious reason and they most likely would want all their children homeschooled. For others, it may be academics or special needs and it would depend on each child’s needs.
2) What would you say to a parent who is considering homeschooling due to their child’s anxiety, depression, bullying, etc.?
As a parent of a child with anxiety, I personally feel being at home is the best place for her. Of course it can depend on the type of anxiety a child has, but the public school system can be overwhelming for a lot of these kids and even detrimental in some cases. Being able to provide a positive, loving environment allows these children to have exposures to certain situations when they are ready for it. They can be themselves without being ridiculed, teased, or bullied. I have found that most of them blossom when homeschooled and have much more success.
3) What are some characteristics of successful homeschooling parents/teachers? What are two or three things that must be in place?
I think every parent is a homeschooler whether they realize it or not. They have been teaching their children since the day they were born. No one else is going to love or understand a child better than his parent. The best homeschool parents/teachers are the ones that understand every child learns differently and at his own pace. It is not a race and we can’t compare our children to everyone else’s.
Figuring out their child’s learning style and presenting information in that format can make a huge difference. That’s not something that can be done in a classroom of 25 students. The second factor is a combination of organization and teaching their children to become independent learners. If the parent can set up systems to teach their students to work on their own, the benefits are huge and will carry over into adulthood.
4) Obviously, each state/country/province’s rules differ, but what do parents need to know before they pull a child out of public or private school?
Any time a child is pulled out of the school system, the parent needs to realize the child may need some time to “de-school” especially if the child is coming from a negative situation. De-schooling is the adjustment period a child goes through when he leaves the school system. He may need time to explore his interests, feel safe (if he’s come from a situation where he was bullied), time to figure out how he learns best, and perhaps time to build some self-esteem.
Learning at home is different from school and parents need to realize it’s okay to take a few weeks or even a few months to let their child get used to it. It doesn’t mean academics aren’t being taught; they are just being presented in a different way. It could be in the form of field trips, projects, reading books, and many other ways.
5) Do you know of instances where homeschooling has made a positive difference in a child’s life that was previously difficult due to mental health matters?
I don’t. However, while my own daughter has always been homeschooled, I do think putting her in the school system would have had a negative effect. I think her anxiety would have gotten in the way of her learning.
I also know of a child who is autistic and was not getting the kind of education he was capable of in the school system. In fact, he wasn’t even being supervised properly. This child is now doing amazingly well and has far exceeded the educational expectations the school system had for him.
6) Do you know of instances where it hasn’t worked?
I don’t know of any particular situation where it hasn’t worked but I know it can be more difficult to pull a child out in the high school years because of the loss of friends. Homeschoolers are socialized, despite what many people think, but older teens don’t want always want to make new friends at that age.
7) What resources can you recommend?
I recommend finding a local homeschool group so families can have support and find friends to do things with. It’s not necessary, but often when a family is new to homeschooling, it’s nice to have other parents who have been through it to ask questions. Also, there are a lot of Facebook groups homeschoolers are active on and these are a great resource as well.
8) Do you feel that liaising with other parents/teachers/families in similar situations makes a big difference?
It’s always nice to have a circle of homeschoolers to bounce ideas off of and to do outside activities with. It’s very helpful, especially when you are just starting to homeschool.
Thank you, Heidi, for offering your advice and opinion. Of course, you can visit The Unexpected Homeschooler for more resources, tips, book reviews and ideas.
I also want to add that parents (regardless of your country of origin) should look into the rules and regulations for homeschooling in your state or province and what type of exams, essays and tests that children must take in order to qualify legally for homeschooling.
Hello! It’s been some time since I last posted but life has gotten in the way – again! Between Canadian Thanksgiving, travelling for work, work itself, kids, friends, chores, commuting… there sometimes just isn’t enough time to devote to this blog. But, I am still invested in this topic so, while I may not post regularly, I will be always be back.
One of the most popular posts on this blog in recent years is one about weighted blankets.Whether it’s for ourselves, our partner, parent or child, everyone is looking to get the best possible sleep. In my original post, I lamented about not having purchased a weighted blanket but wanting to. Well, I’m happy to say I purchased a 7-pound weighted blanket about two weeks ago and I think it’s working!
I won’t tell you which brand it is because I think I got ripped off quite frankly. However, it does seem to be helping me get a deeper, higher quality of sleep. What I do like about this particular blanket (which looks something like the one in the image below) is that it’s heavy but not too heavy – common consensus is that the ideal weighted blanket is 10-15% of your body weight. As well, it has a cotton-like cover that can be taken off and washed.
Special Note: Please be careful with toddlers and young children; even the lightest weighted blanket can be heavy and you don’t want them to get smothered.
As a reminder, the popularity of weighted blankets in recent years is due, in part, to the following reasons:
The steady weight calms the body and helps us to relax and sleep
The evenly distributed weight (usually in the form of pellets or ball bearings sewn into rows in the fabric/filling) is applied to the whole body, not just one portion
Those with ADHD, anxiety, insomnia, depression or restless leg syndrome often find the heavy constant pressure soothing and provides a zen-like response in many (but not all) people
Weighted blankets can even help our pets stay calm in extraordinary situations like loud parties, fireworks or thunderstorms!
Time will tell if the weighted blanket will help me get better quality sleep long-term but I am already searching for the right blanket for my kids. I think I’ll let them try mine first and then invest if they like it.
Also, I recently received a query from the owner of this site on bedding and the importance of sleep. There isn’t any affiliation on my part but I looked at some of the info about different types of mattresses and it seems worthwhile; you may find it interesting too.
If you’ve purchased or used a weighted blanket for yourself or your child or teen, please comment below or write to me and let me know. I’d love to hear your opinion and findings.
Have you heard of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD)? Many people with ADHD also have RSD which means they are more sensitive to things like smell, touch, taste and sound – even criticism.
This type of response can be both a blessing and a curse. While none of us want to be immune to the excitement of the world around us, being “extra” can be overwhelming for many people. Imagine being in a big city and being bombarded by every sound around you: Every car zooming by, every honk of the horn, every snippet of music blaring from a car window would feel heavy, stressful and suffocating. For highly sensitive people and/or those with RSD, the world can literally be unbearable at times.
What is RSD?
According to WebMD:
“When you have ADHD, your nervous system overreacts to things from the outside world. Any sense of rejection can set off your stress response and cause an emotional reaction that’s much more extreme than usual.”
Because people with ADHD often perceive ideas, situations and experiences differently, it can be frustrating for them to not “jive” with others who are in the same situation. What they perceive as reality is often not the reality of those around them. Add RSD to ADHD and life can become extremely debilitating and frustrating for someone already sensitive to criticism.
While some may be able to slough off small doses of negative feedback or criticism, those with rejection sensitivity dysphoria feel negativity more deeply and often have a very difficult time sloughing it off (if ever) or feel the presence of that criticism weighing on their shoulders for a long period of time.
The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)
I’ve written about HSPs before. While I’m not a psychologist, social worker or counselor, I have researched and written a great deal about mental health and ADHD. I can see that there are many links between the two mental health facets.
If you are interested in the life of a highly sensitive person, I’m a fan of Dr. Elaine Aron and her HSP blog/site and resources. Please check it out if you wish – there is a tremendous amount of useful information available on her site.
Of course, there are good things about being sensitive to the world around you. While others might not notice a beautiful sunset, a favourite song playing in the background, a tiny animal hiding in tree or the way someone reacts in a crowd, those who are highly sensitive are more astute and will take note.
How Can We Help Those with RSD?
For both RSD and HSP, the following things may help:
Medicine – Some children, teens and adults use pharmaceuticals which can be helpful. See an MD, psychologist or psychiatrist for more information.
Yoga – Practicing yoga and meditation are highly encouraged for everyone. Both practices can relax the body and mind and make us more serene and resilient.
Talk therapy – Speaking with a social worker or psychologist can be extremely rewarding if the right connections are made. Ask for referrals from guidance counselors, doctors, friends or neighbours. If possible, see the specialist first for an informal chat to see if you (or your child) and he or she hit it off. Even if the specialist is licensed, experienced and professional, he or she may not be the right fit for your family.
Proper sleep and rest – I may sound like broken record here but regular, sound, healthy sleep is key to managing one’s life in a productive and positive way. If you or your child is exhausted, managing stress and criticism is going to be that much harder.
Exercise – Like sleep, daily exercise (whether it’s running, ballet, yoga, hiking, biking, karate, gymnastics, dancing or something else) is critical to a healthy, happy life. We may not always feel like it, but getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day is important for our and our children’s mental and physical well-being.
Do you or your child have RSD or HSP? I’d love to hear about your stresses and successes managing these complex challenges. Feel free to write to me or comment here.