A Psychologist’s Guide To ADHD Organization: Part 2

A Psychologist’s Guide To ADHD Organization: Part 2

If you missed last week’s post, be sure to read the first part of this article by clicking here.

ADHD Organizational Skills From Psychologist Ann Marie

Organization is key for all families, but can be particularly challenging for families with ADHD children. They may have every intention of bringing their homework to school or keeping track of their backpack, but problems with focus can make even small organization tasks difficult. Here are some small ways families can improve organization:

Folders

Pick brightly-colored folders to identify outgoing homework and incoming assignments. It may help to keep a special folder in the child’s backpack so that they simply put the homework into it immediately after completion (rather than putting it in a folder and then remembering to put the folder in their backpack).

Homework Station

Create a homework station at home that your child does their work at each day in a location that is away from distractions such as the TV or younger siblings. Set a rule that the area is free of clutter and contains only the items needed to finish homework tasks. This may change per assignment, but return the homework station to its original condition each night so the area is clear for the next day.

Communication

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Parents should keep in close contact with teachers and notify them of the organizational tools that are used at home, such as color-coded folders. While it’s imperative to communicate closely with teachers in subjects a child struggles in, it’s also important to speak frequently to teachers in coursework where the child excels. This not only allows the child to have pride that their caregiver notices their successes, but those particular teachers may have innovative ways of helping the child attend successfully to the schoolwork or organize themselves!

Inventory List

Sports and other activities can present organizational chaos when children have to remember uniforms, equipment, and other items. Consider creating an inventory list that the child can check when putting items into their bag. A laminated sheet can be used, so that the child can check off each item with a dry erase marker as they put it in their bag (younger children can look at picture cues rather than words). For older children who have smartphones, the list can be made on an app such as Keep.

Alarms

External alarms can help with time management for ADHD children. An egg timer can be used for younger children to remind them when it’s time to clean up, or to remind them to check their work. For teens, alarms can be helpful in reminding them of due dates, changes in daily routine, sports events, etc.

Apps

Consider using apps or systems for older children that are all connected. For example, Google profiles can significantly increase organization and task completion as the different features can be combined and tracked in conjunction with google alarms and reminders. Tasks can be added to a google calendar that has a link to a document (e.g. book report) right on the calendar reminder. The Google documents or calendar can be opened on a computer, a phone, or a tablet so that no matter where the child is they can complete their work or check their reminders (even if they forgot their phone at home). The task can be shared with the caregiver’s own Google calendar as well.

Phone Usage

Smartphones can be a lifesaver for teens with ADHD, and can help them stay more connected with their parents. However, they can also create more distraction due to endless apps, texts, notifications from social media, links within links when researching topics, and fun distractions such as silly videos or memes. Limit phone use during homework time and ensure that children are not looking at any screens at least one hour before bedtime, as the light coming from the screens can affect the body’s ability to recognize sleep cues.

Scheduling

Be strategic about organizing the child’s schedule so that they have time to de-stress, and also are not too stimulated before bedtime. Build in time for fun! ADHD children may need to complete homework in small chunks of time, and may need to take frequent breaks. Sometimes physical activity can be helpful during these breaks to expend energy, allowing the child to return to sitting calmly for a few more minutes while completing a homework task. Parents should be careful to balance this time for each child, as some need to have a quick dance party while others may become overly silly and active with even the smallest activity (those children may benefit more from stretching or doing a quick yoga pose rather than jumping jacks). Letting your child dissolve into giggles is ok once in a while, though, because everyone needs some spontaneous fun. It just might not be on the night that a book report and science project are both due!

Success

Celebrate your child’s successes, and celebrate them often! Children with ADHD are used to constant redirection from adults. They may begin to feel that they are only noticed for the things they struggle with. Building your child’s self-esteem and noticing the ways in which they have improved or been creative can go a long way in preventing depressive symptoms, which are fairly common in children with an ADHD diagnosis due to struggles with attending to social interactions and having to work harder to maintain academic performance.

boy holding fidget spinner

Unstructured Time

Allowing children with ADHD some time that is unstructured, unmedicated, and unpressured can be liberating. Some children need structure and benefit from medication at all times, so talk to your child’s providers to see if this is a reasonable option for your child. If your providers agree, many families choose to have unstructured time on the weekends or during school breaks. It can provide time for the child to be themselves, which can build self-esteem, and can also highlight for them the ways in which their brain cues them differently in different settings or structures (self-awareness is necessary when students go to college and no longer have a parent creating the structure). It also allows caregivers to notice the unique type of creativity that their child with ADHD possesses, a gift that has allowed for some innovative solutions in science, amazing artwork, and unique inventions throughout history!

Thanks, Ann Marie!

So, there you have it: some super useful tips that you can start incorporating into your daily routines now. We hope they’re as useful for you as they were for us!

We don’t know about you, but a lot of these organization tips are helpful to those of us without ADHD children, as well. Setting up structures that will help our child (and us!) stay on task is something that certainly takes work, but always seems to pay off in the end, as long as we stick with it. (That’s always the hard part, isn’t it?!)

Do you have any tips for organization with kids who have ADHD? What works for you? Let us know in the comments!

A Note To Those Recovering From An Eating Disorder

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As a therapist, I help many people overcome challenges in their lives. There’s a common misconception among many clients I’ve treated that mental health professionals all come from a strong foundation and haven’t dealt with the thoughts and feelings they are experiencing. The truth is, though, I became a therapist because of the struggles I went through and because I know firsthand how difficult it can be to navigate life when you are dealing with challenges that seem outside your control.

One of the biggest challenges I ever faced was recovering from a severe eating disorder that plagued most of my adolescence. Overcoming my demons and eventually learning healthy coping mechanisms made me the person, the mom and the therapist I am today, but it wasn’t an easy process. I used to struggle with sharing my recovery story because it involves remembering such a dark period in my life, but then I realized opening up about my story of hitting rock bottom could help others going through something similar or simply inspire others to work through their past, which inevitably includes dark moments.

My “rock bottom” moment happened when I was working as a nanny in San Francisco and was living with my sister. I had a nervous breakdown after binging and purging for over five years. I was 21 years old, single, poor and depressed after deciding to leave my abusive and controlling boyfriend. I was working as a nanny and a tutor so that I could pay for my education.

That week I had worked for about 50 hours, in addition to being a part-time student at Golden Gate University where I studied international business. I came home on a Friday evening after I stopped at a local grocery store to stock up on food that I was going to binge on as soon as I got home. My sister was at work and I had the opportunity to eat as much as I could. I thought about the number of times that I binged and purged that day and when I counted I scared myself. It had been 15 times… my record was 30 times a day but while serving in the army I was able to reduce the binging and purging to three times a day so I was hopeful.

When I got home I knew that something was wrong but I couldn’t identify what it was. My thoughts were racing and all I could focus on was eating as much as I could and then purging. I couldn’t wait for the moment when I felt the sign of relief — which for me was lying on the bathroom floor like a drug addict and enjoying feeling high after purging everything I had eaten. All the excess noise in my head would clear for about half an hour. This relief came with a ridiculous delusion that I was somehow lighter and more powerful afterward.

I don’t want to bore you with all the details of that evening, but that night after lying on the bathroom floor for about an hour, I knew that something wasn’t right. I tried to get myself up and I wasn’t able to. My heart was racing fast and I felt like the ground was pulling me down and gravity was winning. Was this how I was going to end my life? That thought had crossed my mind many times before, but this time it felt real. I was 21 years old. I felt stupid, ugly and fat, and at that moment, I knew I had to pull myself together and write something so that I could share it with other girls who felt like me.

This moment from 21 years ago feels like it was just yesterday. I am 42 now, married to the man who I met at age 21 and I have three girls. But that moment will forever be ingrained in my mind. Somehow I pulled myself up that night and I started writing what I wanted to be my memoir. No name. Just words on a page.

I ended up writing over 100 pages that night of what I thought would be my story that would be published after I died. The beginning of my imaginary book was, “As I am writing these pages, I am dying from this horrible disease that has taken over my life for the past seven years…”

Many words followed, disclosing personal information about my family and life and horrible things that happened to me in my childhood that I had never shared with anyone. When my sister got home that night, she confronted me.

Everyone around me knew that something was terribly wrong with me. While they knew I had broken up with my boyfriend and it was a very messy breakup, no one could have imagined I was as sick as I was with bulimia and depression. I had hidden it very well.

Looking back at that time is painful, but it’s also eye-opening. This was simply the beginning of a very long process to recovery. Looking back now, I obviously see so many problems with my thoughts and behavior, but I think one of the biggest ways people can help themselves when they are nearing rock bottom is by sharing with someone you can trust. I lived with my sister and we were very close. Had I opened up to her sooner I think the recovery process would have started much sooner.

The point of me writing this note is to express to those on a similar journey that you are not alone. Everyone has a different “breaking point” so to speak, but what really helped begin to pull me out of that dark place was writing. It was the first time I was acknowledging my demons, which is the first step in any recovery efforts.

I encourage you if you are reading this and it sparks something inside you — maybe you are on a similar journey or know someone who is — to reach out and share your questions and comments.

If you would like me to connect you with one of our eating disorder specialist or dietitians, contact us or book an appointment with me. I look forward to hearing from you!

How To Tap Into Your Mommy Intuition And Why It’s So Important

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Happy Mother’s Day!

In honor of this special holiday honoring moms, I wanted to blog about something that is often uniquely associated with mothers: intuition.

As moms, we often talk about intuition and wonder what specifically that means. We know intuition is something that’s important for us to be in touch with, but when it comes to dealing with that in actuality it seems to be a very challenging task.

How can we become more aware of our intuition? How can we teach our children that when they feel something they shouldn’t ignore it?

I have a great example. I was standing in the elevator with my 7-year-old daughter. On the sixth floor, an older man walked on and my daughter looked at the guy, made a strange face and whispered to me, “He is strange…”

My first response was to scold her for being disrespectful and tell her that she needs to be nice to everyone, but then I looked at her kind, innocent face and I realized…. She felt something that wasn’t right about this strange man. Weather it was right wasn’t the point. The point is that when your child or anyone you know for that matter tells you about how he or she feels about someone else it is important to be aware of those feelings and to take them into consideration.

Especially when it comes to our children, we want to teach them to be aware of their feelings because intuition can help get them out of dangerous situations. Children are often better than adults at listening to their intuition. They tend to make decisions off how they feel and don’t worry as much about how they will be perceived.

Intuition is the ability to understand something immediately without the need for conscious reasoning. Mother’s intuition has actually been well-documented by research. It makes sense. You are the expert when it comes to your child so your “gut feelings” are going to be more accurate than someone who has only known your child for a brief time. Children, in particular, often aren’t good at expressing how they are feeling, but as a mom, you learn to read their cues. You know their faces, their moods, and their body language. Therefore, you can probably sense when your child isn’t feeling well before he or she is even showing physical symptoms of being sick.

It’s productive for mothers, and really all people, to learn to become more connected to their intuition. Of course, we have to be careful to not let fear guide our actions. There are several things you can do to become more connected with your intuition – and a big one is meditation. Taking time to sit still, breathe, and be in the moment allows all the clutter to leave our minds. The more present and focused you are, the more you will be able to listen to your heart so to speak.

Another suggestion is to pay attention to your dreams. This doesn’t mean you need to analyze every dream you have, but if you are having recurrent nightmares about something there’s a good change your subconscious is uneasy about something. Also, pay attention to your body. What is it telling you? Like my daughter in the elevator, if someone or something makes you feel uneasy you should be responsive to that feeling and take the time to identify why you are feeling that way. Most adults have learned to shut down a lot of their anxiety because they believe it’s a hindrance to their daily life. It’s important to remember that we shouldn’t ignore our feelings because they can be helpful.

For more ways to tap into your intuition, check out this list.

There Is A Genetic Component To ADHD And There Are Things You Can Do About It

With so many children (and adults) affected by ADHD today, I’ve done a lot of research on the subject. As parents, we always want to know if there’s something we could be doing to help with both the symptoms and the causes. This leads to the basic question of whether ADHD is genetic?

The short answer is yes. Something called the human genome project actually mapped out people’s genetic makeups and found a connection between mutations of the MTHFR gene and ADHD. This has led me to do a lot more research on the MTHFR gene and see what can be done once we are aware of this condition – whether it’s in ourselves or in our kids.

First of all, MTHFR stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. It’s basically an enzyme that helps break down the folate in our diets into a more useable form. Once in its usable form (5-MTHF), this enzyme is responsible for doing a lot of the basic things that keep our bodies going: cellular functions, synthesis of DNA, production of platelets and red and white blood cells, etc.

Basically, if the MTHFR gene is functioning properly, your body is eliminating toxins and heavy metals from the body. But, if you have a mutation on the gene – some defect – it can lead to everything from headaches and acne to depression and addiction. I found a great blog that breaks down the process in more detail if you are interested in all of the science behind it.

If you think you might have this mutation or want to check for it in your kids, you can order a simple blood test. Now, some will say what’s the point of knowing? Well, there are actually some things you can do about it. While you can’t repair the gene itself, there are ways to treat some of the symptoms.

Diet – and we often hear about this in conjunction with kids’ behavior and ADHD – can play a very important role. Foods containing folate (think leafy greens) become even more important for people with this mutation. Avoiding supplements and processed foods that contain folic acid is also very important.

A lot of this can seem overwhelming at first, but in truth, much of the population suffers from this genetic mutation to some degree. Some research suggests up to 40% of humans have MTHFR gene variations of some kind. The level to which the gene is mutated can vary greatly. Also, if you know you have this mutation, speaking to your doctor while you are pregnant can decrease the risk for your baby.

Overall, I think awareness is key. Talking to your doctor about things like diet and supplements and understanding that there is in fact a genetic component to some of the health and mental issues we face as both kids and adults can go a long way in helping us to avoid self-blame and get the help we need.

Check out our website to view our many professional specialists, or email or call us to chat about connecting you to someone who can help change your and your child’s life for the better.

How Exercise And All Its Positive Effects Can Be The Ultimate Solution For Busy Mothers

After I had my three girls, I went through a period where I felt sad, lonely and exhausted. I just didn’t want to do anything – especially exercise. The only thing I thought I needed was sleep. I was convinced if I could just sleep for a really long time that would solve everything because I felt so overly exhausted.

Then, a friend who is a personal trainer and a dietitian suggested I exercise 30 minutes a day. I had done a little research about exercise and the brain, and it was obvious to me, of course, that exercise affects our body and makes us look and feel better, but I really wanted to learn about what is really going on when we exercise and how exercise could help me with my mental state as well as my physical state. I decided if I was going to start exercising, I wanted to document the progress that I was making so I could see the effects of what I was doing. I knew if I could somehow quantify the evidence within myself, by actually practicing what I had even preached to other people, it would be worth it. So, I made a decision to document my mental state for one week without exercise. I did that after I researched the effects of exercise on the brain and mood. I wanted to understand exactly what hormones are being released when I’m exercising, and I wanted to make sure I was recording the specific things I was feeling before and after I worked out.

I documented my feelings for one week without exercise and realized what I obviously knew – I felt exhausted, my mood was up-and-down and my emotions fluctuated many times throughout the day. Then, the first day I exercised I spent five minutes after writing about how I felt. I did that for one week. By the end of this week of exercise, I realized that by working out for 20 minutes a day my overall mood had improved, my emotions fluctuated a lot less and the endorphins that were released during my exercise were helping me start my days in a much healthier state of mind. My mood fluctuated less and I was less tired even though I woke up 30 minutes earlier to make that extra 20 minutes in my day for exercise.

What am I trying to say here is, of course, we are busy moms and as I’m sure many of you can relate to, we often feel exhausted and like we don’t have time to do anything – especially adding 20 more minutes to our days for exercise. But what I know is that if you really take a break and think about what you have going in a given week, maybe you can find even three days or two days and document how you feel before and after adding a workout in to your routine.

I started this experiment about 10 year ago, and you are probably wondering if I’m still working out for 20 minutes a day. Sadly, the answer is a big NO, but I will tell you that when I do make the time to exercise at least two or three times a week for even 15 minutes, then I do feel the effects. I do feel better and am able to perform at work a lot more efficiently. I can see the positive effects on my social life, relationships and everything else. My point is that if we all at least make an effort to think about our bodies – particularly the connection between the brain and our physical fitness – and to understand why it’s so important for us to exercise and really know all the positive effects, then maybe we’ll make a bigger effort to exercise and to really give it the time of day. I truly believe you can make a huge difference in your life by making such a small change. The beginning of summer is the perfect time to start a new habit that you can take with you through the new season!

Looking for a fitness expert? Let us know, send us an email or call today!

Here’s How Letting Go Of Guilt Will Make You Happier

As moms, we often feel guilty about one thing or another.

When I wanted to continue my education after having my first child, I felt guilty for leaving my kids at home with a nanny. When I started working, I felt guilty for not spending enough time with my three girls. When my 11-month-old fell and had a concussion while my nanny decided to watch TV in our bedroom, I blamed myself for being selfish and putting myself first before my children.

When we ordered in food for dinner when I felt exhausted and depressed because taking care of three kids is extremely exhausting (and yes rewarding too…) I blamed myself for being a bad mom who couldn’t even make dinner for her family. I even went on to tell myself, “What would my mom think of that?” and I came up with a whole story in my head of how horrible I was because I wasn’t a full-time stay at home mom.

There are many reasons why I thought the topic of mom’s guilt and self-blame is a good topic for Mother’s Day. After I met with a mom client who was depressed and heard what she had to say about being a mom, I was convinced that this was the perfect topic to write about.

Silvia is a mom of two boys whose dream is to be able to return to work as an interior decorator. She did that for 10 years prior to having her first child, and she tried working on a few projects after having kids but her boys and her husband weren’t happy that she wasn’t home. Her guilt and self-hatred for leaving her boys with a nanny made her decide that she would not work until her boys were older. When I asked Silvia how she felt about being a stay at home mom she said, “I feel like the days just go by and I am not doing anything meaningful. All my friends work and have careers and I am one of the only 40 years old I know that does nothing. I feel like I am nothing.”
I was very sad to hear Silvia telling herself all these negative things about being a mom. I explained to Silvia how her negative talk affects how she feels and why she behaves in ways that she wants to change (sleeping a lot, bingeing and not engaging with her boys and husband).

I asked Silvia what she wanted to do and she was certain that she wanted to stay home with her boys, ages 3 and 6, for at least two more years before she was going to go back to work.I also asked Silvia to tell herself that and be secure with how she says it to herself and others.

Silvia said, “I am a proud stay at home mom and the CEO of the Klien Family.” We both laughed and Silvia’s homework for the week was to pay attention to what she was telling herself and write it down. Guilt and self-blame are very popular with moms, and once you let go of them, you enjoy motherhood a lot more.

I found a great article that talks about dealing with the guilt we have as mothers and actually paints guilt in a positive light. We can use our guilt to channel it into making changes and actually get us to do something about the feelings tugging on our conscience. However, as the article goes on to say, most of us use our guilt in negative ways and allow it to take over our lives.

I think the most important thing is that moms understand they are in control of what they are telling themselves. Guilt and blame result from moms telling themselves all kinds of stories. Even if the stories are right, we can use the feelings of guilt and self-blame as a motivator to help us change the story.

I’ve found it is SO important for moms to use each other as a support system. Talking about your feelings of guilt surrounding motherhood helps you to realize you aren’t alone. Comparing yourself to other women, on the other hand, will just breed those negative feelings. I’d love to hear about the kind of guilt you often feel as a mom! We can use my Facebook page or the comments section here to start the conversation!

Here are just a few things I hear moms blame themselves for:

Being tired

Needing “me” time

Not being able to be two places at once

Having to work

Not being able to always spend equal time with each child

Not being as “fun” as other moms

Forgetting things — it happens

Letting someone else handle the meals

Getting frustrated

LW Wellness Network provides emotional and mental help for those who are struggling from stress or depressions, don’t hesitate to ask. Contact us today for a free consultation.

What Is Mindfulness And How Can It Help Your Everyday Life?

In addition to tips for childcare and family wellness, I’m eager to share with you ways to improve your own personal mental well-being. One of the things that helped me finally overcome my eating disorder was the idea of mindfulness. People often associate mindfulness with meditation, but this doesn’t mean you need to meditate for hours every day. Being mindful is as simple as focusing on your breath and focusing on the moment, in the moment.

From reducing anxiety to lowering your blood pressure to improving your quality of sleep, doctors and researchers have proven the enormous benefits that come with a mindful approach to the way you live your life.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, has this definition: “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

Every aspect of that definition is so significant. We could all use a reminder to bring attention to our thoughts, focus on the purpose behind out thoughts, stay in the moment and not let ourselves do a million things at once and allow ourselves to just be, without judgment.

For me, writing has always been a big part of my awareness; it’s allowed me to focus on myself and see things more clearly. Many people really benefit from a mindful approach to journaling each day. I encourage you to find something – whether that’s a journal, a prayer or a breathing exercise – that allows you to bring mindfulness into your daily routine, or at least your weekly schedule.

ACTIVITY:

One simple way to try mindfulness on your own involves something that Dr. Karen O’Leary, a researcher in applied psychology, calls a 10-20 minute “body scan.” It involves sitting up straight and focusing on your breathing as you gradually bring attention to each part of your body. You can learn more about the exercise and some of the benefits of mindfulness on WebMD.

Need to learn more about mindfulness and what will it do for you? We’ll connect you to the best mindfulness coach, contact us today!

Mindfulness