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Mental Health Mama

Parenting a Person With ADHD: Chapter 4-Deep Breathing and Other Tools

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Holy heck it’s been awhile since my last post! Needless to say, life got rather crazy there for a little bit but that’s a story for another time 😜. Without further ado, let’s get into it and back on track!

If you haven’t read the first parts in this series here are the links:

This post is going to focus on tools/skills to be used in the heat of the moment. These are helpful for adults to learn themselves and teach to kids. These also work best when you the adult are doing these with your own emotions and stressful moments.

mindful man with crossed legs practicing yoga at home
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By far one of the most helpful skills we utilize (with ourselves and our sons) is deep breathing. We use it when the energy is too high and the kids are bouncing off the walls; when any of us are getting upset and starting to loose our patience; and we use it in both the calm down corner and time-out.

I have to say it’s extremely gratifying to hear your kiddo using their deep breathing exercises (that they used to fight you on) all on their own while they are seated in the calm down corner or on time-out. We had that success roughly a year into working with our counselor and implementing these tactics, which seems like a long time when you’re in the thick of it but looking back, that year flew by quickly.

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There’s a ton of variations on how to do deep breathing and make it fun for kids (your counselor may have some books that make it fun too! See Chapter 6 for some we used) but our kiddo likes the “snake breathing” the best. You take a slow deep belly breath in through the nose then you breath out making a “SSSSSS” sound while keeping your breath controlled and steady. Do this at least 3 times, I find 5+ is best, and see who can make the sound the longest!

We often do this right before bedtime, and it helps set the mood and mind for the next steps (usually lullabies) of the nightly routine.

red and yellow stop sticker
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The other tool we used was the S.T.O.P skill. It’s ultimately an acronym for: S-Stop what you’re doing, stop engaging, stop moving, just STOP. T-Take a step back, both mentally and physically, to pull yourself out of the situation and get out of your emotional state. O-Observe, how you are feeling, how others are feeling around you, put yourself in their shoes and try to see how they are experiencing this interaction. P-Plan what your next step is now that you have removed yourself from the heat of the moment, gotten some perspective, and seen the situation from all sides.

For our son this was some pretty advanced stuff and he worked with it like a champ. The reality is, we just introduced this skill to him to start the process of learning and practicing it. Because that’s what this is all about! We all have heard “practice makes perfect” but there is no such thing as perfection, it’s an illusion. I prefer “practice makes permanent”. The more you do something the better you know it and how to do it and are more likely to do it in the future.

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Sometimes there are outbursts that my son has where I just kinda have to to let him come down on his own. His therapist described it as “letting the train get through the tunnel” and once he’s able to see the light on the other side and rejoin the rest of us, I’m then able to use the skills above or talk about how he got to that high level of anger or whatever other feeling he was having. We usually end this discussion with a hug it out session 😊.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your kid….is nothing. And it’s not doing nothing and acting like you don’t care. You’re doing nothing while still being available; you’re giving them space (and respecting their individual needs) while keeping the boundaries in place and showing that you are consistent and can be counted on to be there once they chill out and need a hug or snugs.

What’s your go to skill for calming yourself or your little one down? Tell me about it in the comments.

Next time: Parenting a Person With ADHD: It Takes a Village

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