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#39: Avoiding ADHD parenting burnout

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ADHD parenting burnout is real. As parents, we want to be there for our child. Often that comes at the expense of our health and ability. By giving your child your all, you become a less effective parent.

Parents need to take precautions to avoid ADHD fatigue and to acknowledge when they are feeling overwhelmed or dealing with parenting stress. ADHD parenting coach, Siope Kinikini, shares five solutions that will help all parents avoid burnout and be the parent they want to be.

The five solutions are: set boundaries, prioritize self-care, find a support group, understand ADHD diagnosis, and establish traditions.

The most important thing a parent can do to avoid ADHD parenting burnout is to establish boundaries. Boundaries are necessary. Boundaries help us establish expectations and expectations equal happiness. Happiness is the ultimate goal as it means we are doing our job as parents and providing our kids the love and support they need.

We know it can be hard to establish boundaries with a child with ADHD because they need us more than other children. They need more reminders to do things. They need more instructions, which is exactly why they need boundaries. They need to learn how to function in the world without you. Boundaries teach them how to. Boundaries will change as they grow, and it’s okay to adjust those boundaries as this happens to prevent ADHD parenting burnout. 

Part of establishing boundaries is prioritizing your self-care. That means setting boundaries on time and things that are yours. Whether that’s exercising, taking a bath, reading a book, or eating ice cream they don’t have access to, find those things that allow you to recharge and feel fulfilled. 

Many parents feel guilty about having self-care routines. Don’t! Your capacity to care for your kid with ADHD has a direct correlation to your self-care. You can not be “on” 24/7 without eventually reaching a breaking point as always being “on” creates anxiety and frustration. 

Each parent’s self-care will look different so find what works for you. We know that finding time for self-care can be challenging. It’s okay to schedule your self-care. For some parents, it may be 30 minutes all at once. For others, that time may be broken up into small increments throughout the day. 

Third, have a support system you can turn to when you’re feeling overwhelmed or dealing with parenting stress. Being a parent of a child with ADHD can feel very isolating as not everybody can understand the challenges you and your child face. Find someone who does, whether this is a friend, family member, or a support group online. 

Sometimes our need for support may extend beyond a friend or support group, which is why we offer ADHD Parenting Coaching. During this time, ADHD Parenting Coach Siope Kinikini, can focus on the unique challenges your family is facing and provide tailored solutions that will improve your family. 

Fourth, learn about ADHD. This one may seem out of place, but the more you can understand ADHD, the better able you are to understand your child. When you can understand your child, you have greater empathy, and that allows you to put behaviors into perspective and better manage expectations as to what is realistic and what is. When we don’t have realistic expectations, it can increase levels of frustration and anger as reality doesn’t match the expectation we’ve set.

Lastly, establish traditions. Traditions build relationships and show your child that you are on their side. Traditions don’t have to be elaborate or costly. They need to work for you and your child. Having your child establish traditions allows them to have a say, which allows for greater buy-in. If a tradition isn’t working, don’t force your child to participate. Remember, the purpose of a tradition is to strengthen bonds and forcing participation doesn’t do that. Adapt and grow with traditions as your child grows. 

We want all parents of ADHD children to avoid the ADHD parenting burnout. We would love to hear the ways you prevent burnout so we can share with other parents who are feeling overwhelmed. Send your ideas to [email protected].

Episode Transcript

Today we’re talking about parenting a child with ADHD and how to avoid burnout. This is episode 39. Let’s get started.

Smarter Parenting welcomes you to our podcast series, The Parenting Coach for ADHD. Here to heal and elevate lives is your parenting coach, Siope Kinikini.

Well, hello, everyone. I hope everybody is doing super great today. Today’s topic is about helping parents avoid burnout. I want to provide some very simple things that parents can do. Now, I say simple, and I mean simple in that I can express what they are and tell you what they are. Implementation of these simple things are actually going to depend on you. But I think that they’re doable, and they have been doable with the families that I’ve worked with in helping them manage their burnout level.

Now, let’s be honest, if you have a child with ADHD and with any other issue or a special needs, you’ll know that burnout is real. It’s a real thing. There is caregiver burnout also. Where caregivers tend to run out of steam and energy in caring for somebody who needs consistent care. So it’s important for whoever’s providing the care or for parents who are working with a child with ADHD, for them to really take stock and evaluate how they’re doing, how they’re functioning, and what is in their best interests. 

Because let’s be honest, if the parent isn’t there 100%, then the child is not getting the care that they need, right? Now, that’s not a judgment on my part. What I’m saying is you cannot fill someone else’s glass if your glass is empty. You’ve got to be able to fill your own glass in order to fill someone else’s glass, right?

Now, that sounds kind of like a selfish approach, and I’ve heard it both ways. Some people have been like, “It’s about sacrifice, and it’s about giving. I just need to give, and give, and give until there’s nothing left.” Well, the problem is, is you incrementally, if you keep doing that, what you’re giving is less than what you could give if you took the time for your own self-care and your own mental health, right? 

Your mental health is just as important as the person that you’re caring for. So, if you want to do what’s best for your child who’s struggling with ADHD, be sure that you are in a mindset where you can help them and that you can be there for them in a way that’s not going to be detrimental, or emotionally draining, or judgemental, or whatever it may be.

What it boils down to, though, and I can say it all in one word, what it boils down to for parents and for children is. And this is the one word, and I want you to remember it. In fact, if you have a pen, write down or whatever. You need to remember this. In fact, if you want to get a tattoo, you should actually. You could tattoo this on your arm or wherever. The word that I want you to understand and to learn and to really implement is boundaries. I know, right? Simple word, boundaries. Now, boundaries exist in order to be sure that I’m happy and that you’re happy, and not that your happy and I’m unhappy. That’s why boundaries exist, right?

I’ve been working with a client, it’s been so fascinating to work with this family because in working with the boundaries. And I’m sharing this because they’ve allowed me to share this. In working with the boundaries, what we’re doing is we’re establishing what wasn’t there before. So instead of everyone kind of just all over the place, we’re saying, “Okay, no. This is where my focus is and what I can do. This is what your focus is and what you can do. By bringing those together, we’re more powerful than if I step into your area and you step into my area.”

Take for example a fence. Some people think of fence between two houses helps keeps people apart or divides them. When in reality, the fence can provide a lot of safety for both sides, right? The fence itself will keep one neighbor in their space and keep their animals in that space, if they have any animals or whatever it may be, and it also defines where the other neighbor’s area is and where it starts, right? So that boundary level of the fence helps to keep the peace, right? It helps to keep the peace. In many ways, if parents can establish good boundaries, then they’re going to be able to be more effective in their parenting of children, of their children who struggle with ADHD.

Now, course it’s easier said than done, right? Super easy to say, “Yeah, you just need better boundaries.” I can hear it, too. I can hear, I’m probably going to get a lot of comments about boundaries. Really? Seriously? I just want to help my kid. I just want to help my child. There are no such thing as boundaries with children who struggle with ADHD. There needs to be boundaries between the parent. When you establish good boundaries, it actually models for your children what that could look like. Where the boundary is. It allows you to be happy, and it allows them to be happy. I can’t stress that enough.

In fact, I think the majority of the problems with conflict is just understanding the boundaries between the two. If the two can come to a consensus of where the boundaries are and what needs to happen in order for both sides to be happy, then that actually is the ultimate goal. Now, sometimes that’s more difficult, right? And with a child who has ADHD, who may need you more often than another child may need you, that can be skewed and that could be more difficult to do. However, having a boundary there versus having no boundary there and letting that just exist the way it is is not helpful. It’s not helpful for you as a parent, and it’s not helpful for the child. It’s not helpful for you as a parent because you’re constantly on call.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a job where you’re on call. I have. It’s the pits. I hated it. I hated it. I’d go to bed. And this is back in the day when we had pagers. Clients could call me any time. 2:00 in the morning. I hated it. I never got good sleep because I was on call like all the time, right? Now, parents, parenting is a little different, obviously, because you are on call 24/7. However, you can establish some good boundaries in between there to help minimize some of that anxiety that may exist or that pressure to always respond whenever everything happens. You can set things in place to address them beforehand.

In fact, there’s a very helpful skill on the Smarter Parenting website called Preventive Teaching. The skill itself helps you address the issues before they occur and give your child what they should do in those situations in order for them to help resolve it themselves. It’s a wonderful, wonderful skill. I highly recommend it. 

The video is not very long. I think it’s like five minutes long. It explains it, and you actually will see examples of parents with younger children and older children using the skill. So yeah, definitely jump over to the Smarter Parenting website after this, and you can see how Preventive Teaching, that’s the name of the skill, Preventive Teaching, can be very helpful in establishing some of those boundaries, okay?

Now, we’ve talked about ADHD fatigue. We’ve talked about parenting stress, feelings of being overwhelmed, and ADHD parenting burnout, which are very, very real things. So in establishing boundaries, I want you to think of a couple of things that you can implement in your own life as a parent to help you along this path. Now, the first thing I want you to do as a parent is I need you to prioritize your own self-care because no one else is going to do it for you. And if no one else does it for you, then it allows all the other things in the world to come into your life. Then you are like a boat without a sail. You’re kind of just going wherever it rocks you, right?

If you prioritize your self-care, you take the time to prioritize your self-care, you’re going to be able to establish some boundaries that say, “Okay, I need, ” and this is just for me, “I need 30 minutes to eat my Ben & Jerry’s at night because that’s what I do for self-care.” Not really healthy, but hey, right? So I don’t know if anybody else likes Ben & Jerry’s. I don’t know. But there are times when I need that at the end of the day, and so I will. I will. That’s part of me setting some boundaries. I do not share this with anyone. What is mine, Ben & Jerry’s. I’m sorry, that’s mine, right? So I’ve set some boundaries around that. Am I going to share that? Yeah, if I want to, but it’s mine. It’s off-limits. It’s setting that up. I know, I sound so rude, right?

Anyways, you need to prioritize your self-care. Now, whether that be taking a run in the morning, or taking the dogs for a walk. Listening to calm music. Taking a bath. I mean, I’ve heard it all. You can do these things. Now, for parents with a really tight schedule, and that’s every parent, let’s be honest, sometimes you got to sneak that in in certain times of the day that will work better for you. 

For example, I like to be accessible to my daughter when she comes home from school. So I’ve blocked out that and set the boundary to say, “Okay, I’m going to be here when she gets back in order for us to talk about her day, and figure out what’s going on, and get some feedback and build our relationship.” So that’s what I will do during that time. I have allotted another time or a different time to prioritize my own self-care, right? So prioritize your own self-care.

That can also come in the form of working on projects that you’re passionate about. I, for one, love genealogy. I just like reading about history and about people. I read biographies. Love them. Love them to death. I think there’s so much to learn from people who’ve come before us. So I will prioritize time in order to do some genealogical work or to read maybe a chapter here or there of something that I really, really enjoy, to do research. That stuff actually fuels me and gives me energy. It’s disconnected from my life, and it’s something that I can do for myself. So find out what it is to prioritize some self-care. It could be even a short amount of time. Doesn’t have to be super long. But you do have to prioritize self-care.

Now, the next thing is to teach kids tools. I’ve already mentioned using Preventive Teaching to help your child understand if this situation arises, this is exactly what I should do and how I should behave. You provide those tools for your kids so they can learn. Now, will they respond to the tool immediately? Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes it’ll take two, or three, or four times for them to finally get it, and that’s okay. Because remember, we’re dealing with children who are still navigating the world and trying to figure things out.

So you want to provide them with very concrete and very specific tools on how to become more independent. The reason being is because you want to raise an independent child who will be able to function in society as an adult. Our goal as parents is actually to prepare these children to become adults. Responsible, respectful, and effective adults, so teach them tools. These are behavioral tools that you can find in the Smarter Parenting website. You can find a ton there. There’s how to communicate. How to correct behaviors. I mean, there’s things that you can do as parents, but there’s also tools that you can teach your child.

The one that usually I recommend for all teenage kids is teaching them how to do a Decision Making skill called SODAS. It’s on the Smarter Parenting website. There’s a fun video on how to do it and explains how to do it. Now if my child comes to me with a dilemma, like they need to solve a problem, I can say, “Well, I want you to do with SODAS on it so you can figure it out.” What it does is it helps them determine what are the options, disadvantages and advantages of those options, and then to come up with a solution. It’s actually a really good tool because now I don’t have to sit down and labor through working through decisions. She can actually make decisions, come to me, and then we collaborate on whether or not that’s a great decision or not. And if it’s not, then we send her back to do another SODAS until we can find something that aligns with her values and what it is that she needs to do. You want to provide your kids with tools, right? Again, we don’t want to be the boat that just goes wherever the wind is blowing. We want to be very intentional and specific in the way that we work with our kids.

Now, another thing that I would recommend for parents to avoid burnout who have children with ADHD is to get together with somebody who understands you. So a friend who understands the dilemmas and the struggles that you’re going through, support groups. I’ve been super impressed with the offerings on Facebook. There are quite a few ADHD groups out there of parents who support each other. Jump in there. You can actually join the Smarter Parenting ADHD club also to gain this sense of community because you’re not alone in what you’re working through. A lot of parents have struggled with the same things or similar things, and they’re continually working through them.

So when you feel isolated, that could be a very dangerous place because isolation, for me anyway, is a dangerous place for anybody. For teenagers, if they begin to isolate, I’m worried because they should be social. And adults need to do that, too. So reach out to a friend. Make a friend. Make a friend online. Join a group online. Join the Smarter Parenting club. Then, you can get that sense of community and you can share. That sharing actually will be beneficial and helpful because you’ll get more information on other people and how they’ve been able to deal with it, okay?

So we’ve gone to three things so far. Prioritize your self-care. Teach your kids tools so that they can use towards greater independence. And support group. So three things, but there’s more. I kind of feel like that salesman. But there’s more. There’s plenty more.

You want to spend some time learning more about ADHD. Now, you probably read a ton of stuff, but really integrating that so you can understand what your child is going through. In a previous podcast, I was talking about the issue of my inability to focus in watching a video. I had to watch it like a lot. And I still didn’t get it. Learning about what that’s like for your child will give you greater empathy when you’re dealing with your child. So instead of snapping at them and saying, “Why didn’t you get it? I’ve already told you. How many times do I have to tell you?” You’ll understand that, yeah, you did, but their inability to focus has prevented them from really integrating what information you’ve been providing for them.

So take some time to learn more about ADHD. Find out what’s trending in the community. Find out if there are new treatment options. I mean, those things are continually being updated. Continued research is happening out there. Look up medications and understand if your child’s on medication. Find alternative things that you can try to help your child. This learning actually will give you greater empathy and provide you with a lot more, a sense of resourcefulness, in working with your child.

Now, one of the other things that you can do to avoid burnout is accept what is happening, but look for the positive. It’s like trying to find the silver lining on what is happening around you. So if your child is defiant, defiant is one way of looking at it, right? The other part is, well, they’re expressing their independence. That’s a positive way to look at it. Okay. And do I want a child who’s independent in the future? Absolutely. I do. Do I want a child that has their own mindset and can speak what they think and what they want? Absolutely. That’s absolutely what I want. So it’s taking our perceptions and flipping them and looking at the other side of it.

Now, that sounds like a weird thing to do because when you’re upset, you don’t want to see the positive. When your child’s acting out, you don’t want to see the positive. And yet there is a positive side to it, to everything, right? Everything has a good and a bad, and it depends on what you focus on. So accept and look for the positive is a good way for you to reframe things. That’s what they call it in the therapeutic world. You reframe things, and it gives you a better understanding of your child, but it also calms you down so you can understand that it’s not just one way of looking at things, right?

Another thing that you can do is document improvement. I always think it’s amazing because if I like work with a family for one week and then we implement all these tools and things that they can try and they’ve tried them, they usually come back the next week and they say nothing’s changed. Everything’s the same. When I’ve given them the assignment to document where they are at that moment, and then they come the next week, and then they say nothing’s worked. And then I asked them the same questions and we work through it, 98% of the time there have been small changes that have happened that the parents are unaware of.

Now, I’ve used the analogy of the boat, right? To not be rocked back and forth. The same could be said that if you just shift a boat just one degree and it continues to sail, pretty soon your boat’s going to veer off into completely different place, right? Just one degree. Making a small shift in where the boat is going is going to affect where it ends up, right? So sometimes when we’re working with our children day in and day out, it is hard, and sometimes impossible, to notice that they’ve shifted a degree or to notice that a parent has shifted one degree. But that one degree over time is going to make a huge difference in where they end up, right? So document. Document improvements. Get a baseline and say, “Okay, this is where we are. This is what we’re going to work on.” Then, implement the tools that you’ve been teaching your child, and then have them move forward from there, right?

Now, the last thing I’m going to recommend is for you to slow down. Which is hard. I know. Slow down and create traditions. Create a tradition for your family and your child. The reason that I say that is because it’s reinforcing for the relationship between you and your child. Now, a tradition, I don’t mean something elaborate, or huge, or whatever. I will say that for me and my daughter, when she does something at school, like she tried out for a play or she auditioned for a choir thing. I usually will pick her up or we’ll pick her up and we will go for a treat. That’s kind of our tradition. We go to the exact same place. We all get the exact same thing. But that place is kind of a tradition in our family. It doesn’t take very long to do. But we’re able to talk about what happened, and how she felt, and anything else that may have occurred during that time. It’s a good way to continually build a relationship.

You can do this at home by having your child do something. Like if they like to cook, you can actually create a meal together once a week where they help prep the food or help make the food. You can do it as in having a movie night. We’re going to have our movie night, and you do have some very specific rituals. And by rituals, I mean you have some very specific things that you consistently do that define that time with your child. Movie night’s great. Going for a walk together, like Friday nights or let’s say Wednesday night. You choose Wednesday night. It’s like, “Okay, we’re all going to go for a walk,” and do something. Bike ride would be great. But setting up some very specific traditions and following through with those every week will help to reinforce the relationship and help you step out of this whole contentiousness that may be involved with you and your child and actually feeling burned out. It also helps you reconnect with your child in a different light other than the conflict, okay?

Now, if you and your child have conflict about the tradition, then find a different tradition. Don’t force your child into tradition that you’ve decided needs to happen if your child does not want to do that tradition. You want to find something that you can both mutually enjoy together, okay?

So we’ve covered a lot of different things that you can try, but I do want to go over give you an overlay of the very specific things that you need to do. The first thing is just remember we’re just establishing boundaries because boundaries are super, super important for parents to have. Now, the way that you can do this is to prioritize your self-care. Take the time to prioritize that. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself so you can help your child. You need to teach your kids tools. That’s number two. Find a friend or support group online or in person that can sit there and talk to you and understand what’s going on. Learn more about ADHD and all of the facets that are involved with it to develop greater empathy. You can accept what is happening, but look on the flip side and make it positive. You can document improvement over time, and then slow down. Slow down and create traditions for you and your child.

All of these things are meant to help you avoid burnout, right? Your child does not need you burned out. In fact, the world does not need you burned out. So take the time to implement some of these things. And I’d love to hear exactly how it worked for you. Or if you have questions, I mean, send them over to Smarter Parenting so we can answer them.

We definitely are working towards a better future when we are able to help our children develop into responsible adults. That’s my goal. It’s always been my goal here. If you’re looking for some tools that you want to provide for your children, you can visit the Smarter Parenting website. The materials are free. We made it that way because we want to help you be the best version of you because we know you and your child deserve to have a happy life.

That’s it for me this week. Leave us a rating if you can. And if you are interested in actually focusing in on very specific things for your child, Smarter Parenting does provide Parenting Coaching. So you can receive coaching on very specific topics. You’ll have to sign up for that. There’s a fee, actually, to join that, all centered around your needs and what you need to be done. We can answer those questions that are very, very specific because each child is a little bit different and each parent is a little bit different so we can hone everything in that way.

Anyways, that’s it for me. Please do not get burned out, and have a great day. I’m excited, actually, to present some of the newer things that are coming down the pipe. So again, subscribe to our YouTube channel. Visit our website. Share this podcast if it’s been helpful. And we obviously will have some free downloads for you. That’s it for me. See you next week. Bye.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Behavior skill Preventive Teaching

Behavior skill Decision Making (SODAS Method)

Ep #21: ADHD and caretaker fatigue

Ep #23: Setting daily intentions

Ep #36: Relationships–the why of the Teaching-Family Model

5 awesome family traditions your family can start

Free 15-minute ADHD coaching mini-session

Podcast Transcript

The transcript text is below. You can also download the PDF file of the transcript here.