Hello middle school parents!!
Welcome to this unique time for both you and your child! All parents have experienced what it is like to go through what many would call the “awkward phase” of new social interactions, unsteady growth spurts amongst peers, unpredictable hormone changes, and all that comes along with being an 11-14 year old. On top of all these challenges and changes, your middle schooler may be experiencing increased irritability, emotional despair and confusion due to symptoms of ADHD. As a parent, there are multiple ways to help your child navigate through unpleasant and intense emotions that may be disrupting their daily functioning. Here are some tips on how!
Healthy diet! Providing your middle schooler with a healthy and balanced diet will help keep blood sugar levels balanced, therefore decreasing the chance of mood swings and irritability. We have heard this time and time again, but it is extremely important for those taking ADHD medication: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! If your middle schooler is taking medication before school on an empty stomach, this will greatly impact your child’s functioning in a negative manner. Ensure your growing middle schooler has plenty healthy snacks packed in his/her backpack ready to eat when he/she feels hungry (such as whole grain crackers, yogurt, granola bars, etc.) An empty stomach will lead to irritability, lack of focus and sleepiness. Please read the previous blog post for more information on how your child's diet greatly impacts symptoms of ADHD.
When your middle schooler comes home from school in despair, the first step is to help him/her calm down. Have your child take off his/her backpack, sit down in a comfortable space, and practice deep breathing. Encourage your child to do this by joining in with them. It may help your child to visualize a large balloon in his/her stomach that is inflating and deflating with each inhale and exhale. If deep breathing is not your child’s style, try having your child jump on the trampoline, toss a ball back and forth, or anything that will help increase oxygen intake to his/her brain.
What is the problem, and what does your child wish to happen. Simply ask “What do you want?” Unfortunately a magic wand is not provided to parents during middle school orientation, but the two of you can sit down and problem solve together. If your child is upset about not making the soccer team, help brainstorm how he/she can work towards improving his/her soccer skills so that the following year he/she can try out once more.
You may have experienced your middle schooler acting inappropriate or disrespectful towards you in response to their own personal despair or emotional upset. Children with ADHD have an increased difficulty managing unpleasant emotions and may act impulsively when experiencing these feelings. It is important to remember that you, as a parent, have a teaching opportunity during these moments. Ensure your child apologizes and makes up for the hurtful words that were said. Once this has been done, have your child sit down with you to calmly discuss how the two of you can improve the situation causing an upset.
Helping your child learn how to problem solve their own dilemmas and issues will help them grow into critical thinkers and may even strengthen your relationship as well.