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Small Moments with ADHD

Many people are turning to mindfulness based practices to reduce stress and increase overall well-being.  Short mindfulness practices may be the only way for some people to practice, working parents, for example, and certainly children. Bit by bit, when we experience the difference between responding to difficulties versus reacting to them, these small moments begin to string together into a sturdy lifeline, capable of supporting us whatever we may face. Below I offer some thoughts about how parents of children with ADHD can bring  mindfulness to  daily life one moment at a time.

Mindfulness is defined as paying attention to the present moment in a particular way.  Here in the San Francisco Bay Area we are fortunate to have an array of classes, therapists, and meditation centers that teach meditation practices and techniques. The real practice happens outside of classes and groups as the awareness that is cultivated in silent meditation is brought in small moments to all of life’s experience. Meditation practiced in this way can influence how our mind and bodies respond to the difficulties of daily life, including anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and depression.

With a little distance, parents of kids with ADHD can sometimes laugh at all the ways distraction or hyper-focus operates in their home.  It can be an amusing yet highly frustrating experience; one that ultimately may lead to meltdowns on all sides.  Maybe the amusing part is that the child’s behavior reflects our multitasking world.  Often, I hear people refer to this experience as “I’m having an ADHD moment.” Unfortunately, for children and families with ADHD, these moments add up, don’t go away, and are very stressful.

It takes a special effort for parents of ADHD kids to slow down and step-out of automatic pilot, creating routines for themselves that support inner and outer well-being.  Spending time with children with ADHD and restoring a balance to family life takes patience and practice. Parents of kids with ADHD often struggle with the idea that they have to do it all and manage their child with ADHD.  Managing ADHD in a family means parents work with more and complex situations and systems whether it’s within the family or with schools, doctors, and therapists.  They are looking to find help for their child, and often their life and the family life suffers. Parents themselves can feel overwhelmed, anxious,and depressed about the state of their family and start blaming themselves.

Mindfulness can be part of the solution for both child and parent.  It may be hard to step out of the “doing of parenting” perspective, but by taking in the whole picture of what is going on in the family, meditation may help spark the realization that there is a need for more self-care.  Meditation can help gain a small space in the fast-paced world that is parenting. Stepping out of what feels automatic can also bring more kindness and compassion to the tired mom, dad, and children, and opens parent’s eyes to  new ways of relating to their child. Meanwhile, the child benefits from any time under the calming influence of the focused, unhurried mind–both their own and their parents.

Parents, here are some suggestions for bringing mindful attention to your daily life:

  • Try practicing doing one thing at a time—Doing more than one thing at a time drains energy and the output usually suffers.
  • Bring your attention to the movement of your feet as you walk outside.
  • Spend 1 minute in the car, focusing on your breathing before you enter your house.
  • Have a mindful meal with your family.
  • Take a meditation class for yourself

Parents that take time out of their busy lives and spend one on one time with their child often feel closer to them, more understanding of their difficulties, and can find new ways of helping their child. The real message about mindfulness is to remember: it’s small moments many times.

If you are interested in a family approach to mindfulness and ADHD, Anne Diedrich, LMFT and Eric Rath, MFTI (#69331, supervised by Jane Rheingold, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist)  will be starting a family group,  Pulling Together: Embracing Mindfulness and ADHD. The group is a mindfulness-based counseling series for families with young children with ADHD that will begin in the Fall of 2014. The series includes a group for children that meets on Mondays  as well as parent workshops that meet on two Saturdays. There will be a third Saturday group that includes all family members.  It will take place in my San Francisco psychotherapy office. This article is part of a series on mindfulness and ADHD. The next article will focus on mindfulness for children with ADHD.