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.

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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.

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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

Parenting a Person With ADHD: Chapter 3-The Calm Down Corner *Plus Bonus Craft!*

This post may contain affiliate links. Please view our affiliate policy and our terms and conditions here. I am not a mental health professional, all the opinions in this post are my own and reflect what has worked for me. None is of this is given as medical or professional advice. Please seek professional advice in the matters of mental/physical health should you or a loved one need it.

This is chapter 3 of the series Parenting a Person With ADHD. If you haven’t already, please read the prologue, chapter 1, and chapter 2 so you are up to speed on the information.

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Creating a calm down corner was one of my favorite things about the changes we made. We specifically made the calm down toys ourselves so it became a craft, rather than a chore or forced activity. It put a positive spin on a calming place and set the tone for how we wanted the area to function. It was also a good bonding activity for myself and my son to do together.

Calm Down Corner Craft

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We did 2 different themed bottles: one with water and oil and glitter; the other with water, water absorbing polymer beads, and glitter. For both, the water was colored with food dye. My son picked the colors of glitter and water because it’s important to include your child throughout the process of making changes in the household. That way they feel like their voice is still being heard and they are able to exert some control. Allowing him choices in a controlled setting shows him he does have power over his choices, which is a skill in and of itself!

Directions: add your water to the bottles then color it, shake with lid on to mix. Fill the bottles with water about half way for the oil one and 3/4 for the other. Add your glitter to each bottle. We did about 2 Tbsp in each, but add as much or as little as you like. Then add your oil to the one bottle and your polymer beads to the other. For the oil bottle leave a little bit of space for air. For the polymer beads add 5 at a time and allow to fully absorb the water. We ultimately added like 20 beads and topped off the water once we were done. Then use the super glue on the inside screw threads of each lid, tighten the lids on and allow to dry per manufacturer instructions before you play with them.

We keep these bottles in the calm down corner and they are only allowed to be played with if you are there. It helps to keep them feeling “special” while you’re in the calm down corner.

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We also hung up some pages from his therapist, like a thermometer of how high your emotion was that landed you in the calm down corner and of the S.T.O.P. skill (I’ll do a post about that soon). Here’s a different emotion chart that helps kids learn what emotion they are feeling.

The other big factor about the calm down corner is that it’s chosen by the child. We offer our son the option to go to the calm down corner when we see him beginning to get upset. He chooses to go of his own free will or not. If he doesn’t go, he usually gets more upset and makes choices that land him in time-out….which is by our appointing, not his.

This little action of letting kids pick their own consequence goes a long way. Plus it teaches children how to start self regulating their own emotions (which is a challenge for most kids, let alone one’s with behavioral struggles). When they are in the calm down corner, they decide when they are ready to come back to the activity at hand.

Occasionally (and when starting out) you’ll have to send them back because they weren’t actually ready to return to the activity at hand; they’re still too wound up but that’s just part of the process-it becomes sort of a natural consequence.

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Also, time-outs are used as a last resort and a no tolerance tool. Meaning that if my child does something that is absolutely unacceptable-like hitting, spitting, back-talking, breaking or throwing things, ect-he gets put directly to time-out and I decide for how long. We keep the rule of 1 minute per year of age starting at 2 years and that seems to work fine for us.

For most kids, you can explain briefly why they are there and that you will get them when their time is done. For my child I have to say nothing, any talking with him becomes a form of engagement in his eyes. I don’t want to reinforce that he gets my attention while in time-out so he gets the silent treatment or the one phrase treatment. “Go to time-out”, I say it once. If he squawks, I go put him to the garage which is right next to our time-out area.

This works like a sort of reset button for him, similar to the calm down corner. He decides when he’s ready to come back in and finish his time-out but if he keeps making poor choices he’ll keep being sent to the garage. It then gets put on him to manage his emotions to get out of time-out. Same thing for when he used to try to leave time-out; I physically and silently go get him and put him back. For as many times as it takes…..I’m glad he doesn’t do that anymore. The garage upgrade seemed to fix that.

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Retraining kids on what is expected and tolerated is tough work. But the right tools and planning can make it a lot smoother. Giving them the opportunity to try again with a calming environment they can go to helps them to seek out space when they need it and redirect their our emotions in a positive way.

Next time on Parenting a Person With ADHD: Deep Breathing and Other Tools

6 Holistic Ways I Help My Hyperactive Child Calm Down

This post may contain affiliate links. Please view our affiliate policy and our terms and conditions here. I am not a mental health professional, all the opinions in this post are my own and reflect what has worked for me. None is of this is given as medical or professional advice. Please seek professional advice in the matters of mental/physical health should you or a loved one need it.

Evenings in ADHD households tend to be well…kind of wild. I don’t know why but there’s some sort of common phenomenon with kids who have this condition. They get a crazy second wind just as it becomes time to wind down for the day. This is very true in our household as well; roughly 5pm my little dude will start to turn rambunctious: running, jumping on the couch, trying to pillow fight EVERY body, and just generally squirreling around. All of this is simply not allowed in the house because it only escalates things with him.

I’ve had to implement some regular go-to tactics to help him ease into the evening routine. I can say that even if you only do ONE a night, it will make your life a lot easier! Check out the list below.

  • Calming tea

I’m a big fan of tea and surprisingly both my boys also really love this comforting drink! My son’s favorite so far is this Lavender Chamomile blend, it’s light and fragrant and a good way to introduce kids to tea if yours is new to it. They also have a probiotic formula too! Taking the time to sip some tea also helps to slow down and mindful practices.

  • Mindfulness

Another great way to practice mindfulness and to keep calm is by reading. We enjoy this book “Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda” quite a bit in our home. It explains how to be mindful in a very easy to understand way so it’s great for beginners (including adult beginners).

  • Aromatherapy

I invested in diffusers early on, knowing how much of a difference aromatherapy makes in health. I have one in most of the rooms of our house including both boys bedrooms. The baby has the larger one, while my big guy has this smaller one. After you fill it to the specified amount with distilled water, add a 3-5 drops of essential oils. You can do lavender or make your own blend using a few different calming kinds. I personally love the blends Serene and Solace from this oil set. I add 3 drops of each, turn on the diffuser before story-time or songs, and let it work its magic. He always says it smells so nice and I can visibly watch him start to melt into the bed. It’s GREAT! If I can’t do anything else on this list, I will always make sure to do this! It makes the biggest impact on my son’s energy levels by far.

  • Journaling

This has been mentioned in my other posts about successful skills for kids with ADHD and briefly mentioned in my son’s daily lists. It falls into a similar category as mindfulness and we usually alternate between the two through out the week, but for older kids you might be able to achieve doing both on a nightly basis. I find as they get older, the journaling becomes a great tool for getting out those inner thoughts and feelings that sometimes are difficult to verbally discuss. It helps to get those emotions in order so that they can process them, and heal if needed, before moving on. We dedicate about 15 minutes for journaling time and this is the one my kiddo is currently using. And if your child isn’t big on writing, here’s some pretty awesome coloring books to get creativity flowing out and zen vibes in.

  • Lullaby

It may seem a little old fashioned or worn down but this is the ONLY thing that guarantees my kid gets to sleep without fail every time. Everything above helps to ease his busy-ness but if he’s struggling to actually go to sleep, I sing him a few songs and he’s set until morning. It’s also a time that just he and I make for each other; it’s a nice and peaceful way to finish off the day. If you’re musically challenged (no shame) this CD by Jewel is one of our favorites. It’s played in both my boys nurseries so it’s very sentimental to me and my husband.

  • Meditation

I’ll be honest this is one we don’t do very often right now. It’s extremely difficult for him to lay down and listen to guided meditation when he’s so full of energy at the end of the day. But he DOES love meditation in book form! This book focuses on a multi-muscle relaxation technique but it feels more like a game to a kid. It’s story-time, meditation, and bodily control all in one! Also, YouTube has a ton of great free guided meditation videos for those kiddos who are ready for the challenge!

All of these items on this list are things we do at bedtime as part of our daily routine but you can (and should!) absolutely do them at any time of day when your little needs to chill out or unwind.

Are there any things you do at home that aren’t on this list?

My Son’s Daily List’s

This post may contain affiliate links. Please view our affiliate policy and our terms and conditions here. I am not a mental health professional, all the opinions in this post are my own and reflect what has worked for me. None is of this is given as medical or professional advice. Please seek professional advice in the matters of mental/physical health should you or a loved one need it.

My older son has a rough time taking direction well (you can read about why here). That being said, we’ve had to come up with some creative ways to get around this. One of the best ways we’ve found so far is making a list of the tasks he needs to accomplish. And it’s not just one list but three: morning, afterschool, and evening. I’ll get into the details of each below. Here’s some of the other tactics we use at home to help our son be successful.

Each list has the daily tasks that need to get done at that time of day written down under the corresponding time frame. So brushing teeth is under both the morning and evening columns, while cleaning out backpack is only in the afterschool column. In addition to this, I put a sort of open category in the afterschool section for an extra chore. Its important to me that my kids participate in household duties that are more than just their self-care duties. I want them to have realistic expectations of what life is like both on their own and in a family of their own or with roommates.

The additional chore is something of my choosing and is typically stuff he’s done many times and something he can confidently do solo. If it’s ever a new chore, I will do it with him a few times to help him feel comfortable. Then I yeet him to the wind because he is one who will learn best if he solves problems on his own with supervision and support as he needs it, but without interference.

Now without further ado here’s the lists in chronological order

  • MORNING
  1. Get dressed
  2. Take pill
  3. Comb/Style Hair
  4. Brush Teeth
  5. Wash Face
  6. Sunscreen/Chapstick
  7. Fill Water Bottle
  8. Gather Backpack, Lunch, & Water Bottle
  9. Eat Breakfast if not already done so
  10. Shoes & Jacket
  • AFTER SCHOOL
  1. Clean Out Car
  2. Hang Jacket/Shoes Away
  3. Empty Backpack
  4. Clean Lunch Bag
  5. Wash Hands
  6. Take Out Compost & Recycle
  7. Help Mom With Chores
  • EVENING
  1. Make Lunch
  2. Shower
  3. PJs
  4. Clothes For Tomorrow
  5. Take Pill
  6. Read/Meditate/Journal
  7. Brush Teeth
  8. Wash Face/Chapstick
  9. Go Potty
  10. Songs/Stories & Bedtime

As you can see these are really just daily living self care sort of tasks. But my son will NOT do them unless prompted and WILL throw a fit when told to do them one by one. So now all we have to say is “Go do your list” and he does. At first it was an adjustment but in less than a week he was going to do some of the tasks without me even having to say anything. It helps him (and me) stay on a routine too, which is really important for most kids but especially those who are aneurotypical.

My son is almost 7 and is able to read well. But prior to this we did a chart with hand drawn pictures, cut half the page in wide strips that could be folded over, and Velcro tabs to create an interactive type of chart that could be flapped open or closed depending on if the task was completed in the AM or the PM. If all the tabs were closed, it meant he had done everything he needed to in the AM. If they were all open it meant the same but for the PM. This worked great when he was in preschool and even into kindergarten. I also labeled all the pictures so he would learn what the words meant.

Having these lists has made our household a whole lot calmer. My son doesn’t feel like I nag at him and I don’t feel like he’s ignoring me anymore (at least when it comes to this). It’s allowed us to regain the peace in our relationship that we were so craving.

What are some of the things you use for your kiddo to help them?

My Child Also Has ODD

This post may contain affiliate links. Please view our affiliate policy and our terms and conditions here. I am not a mental health professional, all the opinions in this post are my own and reflect what has worked for me. None is of this is given as medical or professional advice. Please seek professional advice in the matters of mental/physical health should you or a loved one need it.

Because why not!? Hahahahaaaaaaa*laughing turns to crying*

I’m kidding. I’m fine, seriously. But yeah, at one point I was dreading this diagnosis. We already suspected ADHD to be a factor but it just wasn’t accounting for ALL of the push back we were receiving. When we finally got into a psychiatrist he said something along the lines of “Oh yeah it definitely looks like he’s got ODD as well” and I just….sorta felt my heart sink and my stomach drop.

I hate that even I got caught up in the stigma a diagnosis can create, but I knew from all of the reading and research I had done that ODD was what I call a heavy diagnosis. It’s typically not given easily by practitioners and usually coincides with ADHD or…conduct disorder. The latter of which can be dangerous. Thankfully, our son didn’t have conduct disorder and his counselor chalks that up to us being so involved during his early years and working with him on a constant basis to get through those really rough patches. My gray hairs would have to agree!

So he has ODD….now what?

Well there is a chance (however slim it may be) that he will outgrow the ODD symptoms. Experts say by roughly age 8, this could occur. We still have a little over a year to reach that bench mark and I have high hopes! He’s come a long way with the therapy and medication, and he seems to be calming down and handling his anger a lot more productively. Everyday I see more and more improvements in his self-regulation skills. He does a lot of it on his own too which is just so gratifying. I have to say I am very proud of all the personal growth he’s done in such a brief period of time .

So the plan is we continue medication, we continue therapies (we’re gonna give equine therapy a go next!), and we continue to build upon lifestyle improvers like mediation, self-reflection, journaling, and seeking life outside of screen-time (because screen-time makes his symptoms worse). Maybe in a year or so he’ll need less medication, or none at all, to help him manage his symptoms. Maybe he’ll need the same dose or more. Either way I’m ok with whatever comes because we will handle it together, as a family.

Are you someone who has ODD or know someone who does? What has your journey been like? Leave a comment below.