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Problems With Son Who Has ADHD

Advice to woman whose 11 year-old son has ADHD.  She can't afford his medication and he's getting harder to handle. 

On a daily basis, your son struggles with his particular way of judging and trying to cope in the world around him.  It is extremely difficult, as you well know, for a child with ADHD to listen and ponder when his mind and body are geared to do something else.  It seems you have pretty much run the gamut on trying to figure out how to bring some peace and sanity to this situation, but have encountered many roadblocks.  These are a few suggestions that may help: 

Although a structured regimen is the standard way of dealing with a child with ADHD, here is another similar approach you might consider and, hopefully, get a better result.

 Include him in the schedule planning, be it homework, social events or chores.  Use a daily calendar to put it in writing.  Now you have let him in on some negotiating, and it sneaks in structure but not in your face structure. The daily calendar is accessible, but not blatant.  If he is made to feel that his intelligence and reasoning will be taken into consideration in the planning stages, it will give him the opportunity to feel in charge of his life and take pride in the decisions he makes, and his completed tasks.  A lot of praise is paramount for self-esteem when projects are completed well, or he does anything that shows initiative.  "Now that's what I love to see.  A guy who takes charge!" 

If homework is hard to complete in one session, consider asking him if he thinks small breaks are the answer.  Spanking is not the solution for an 11 year-old -- he's beyond that stage.  At his physical and emotional level, it's not only a demeaning form of punishment,  it also propagates internal anger. You want to avoid this, at all costs, because it opens the floodgates for physically acting out during the teen years.

Make sure that when you spend quality time with your son, you are completely engaged in the activity.  Let him know, as an adult, you have commitments, but when you do take time to relax and have some fun with your family, it's going to be with a freedom devoid of the stress you experience from your own hectic life. Kids know these are economically difficult times, but it need not be the focus of family time together.  A board game takes no more than time, and cost next to nothing.  

A go in the backdoor method of engagement is a good approach.  By that I mean, avoid accusations and knee-jerk reaction to his rebellious behavior.  Instead, let him know that you are human and have feelings too.  Don't evoke any type of pity, but tell him that you know how he feels because you've been there.  Relate it to a childhood experience of yours, as long as it relates to the subject at hand and how you handled it, or should have handled it. Non-judgmental conversations can also lead to pearls of wisdom, and valuable advice.

Frequently ask him about his feelings on a subject, and you'd like his opinion on the world around him and how he relates to it.  Share ideas, no matter how inconsequential.  Remain as calm as humanly possible, and show him you are in his corner when it comes to making life work for him, not against him. 

He may not be able to have the father figure he needs in his life, but if you accept that as an unfortunate fact, you will fulfill your role in his life with great honor.  The effort you put into these formative years will not only serve him well, but you avoid years of potential conflict with him. 

And finally, get him involved in music!  The best way to start is with a group like the Beatles, if he's not already into them.  There is a new, resurgence of popularity because of a recent release of a compilation of their albums. Start with "Meet the Beatles" and go from there.  Music allows an active brain to find a positive escape from everyday stress  -- as long as the subject matter is relatively benign for a boy his age. Play it in the car, to start, and reward him with CDs for good behavior. 

And finally, remind him, when he gets frustrated, that disappointments can be nothing more than a blip on a large radar screen.  Life is full of problems. But they only last as long as the time it takes to solve them. 

Family Matters

Dear Miss Emily:

My 9 year-old son, my boyfriend and I live in my boyfriend’s mother’s basement.  My boyfriend thinks my son hates him, although it’s never been a statement. The two never say much to each other.  Who should approach the situation?
Concerned Parent

---------------------Miss Emily’s advice------------------

Dear Concerned:

You should approach the situation.  First off, three in a basement leaves little room for privacy, and your son is, more than likely, feeling resentful.  I would guess he had little choice in this arrangement, and now he’s sharing his mother with a man you picked to be his friend/surrogate father, but it isn’t working out the way you had hoped.  Your boyfriend might feel resentful, as well, but he has no right.  He’s providing (through his mommy) a home, no matter how meager and, maybe, he feels that’s enough to garner your son's respect and admiration.  But again, he would be wrong.  I’m not sure either one of them would be honest with you about their feelings for the other, but I would ask my boyfriend to try and engage your son in something that would interest him and they could share together.  Kids usually respond when someone pays attention to them and genuinely likes them.  If your boyfriend is not up for the task, your son comes first and his comfort level is your responsibility.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that you should find other living arrangements if the situation does not improve.  If you were the child in this case, what would you want your parent to do?    

Trouble With Girlfriend's Dad

Dear Miss Emily:

My girlfriend and I have been off and on since about 7 months ago. About 3 months back, we had a huge falling out and I just recently started talking to her again. It was all fine until yesterday, when she told me that she was going to call me back and she never did. Now with some people you know that’s just how they are, but not with her. The only time she doesn't call back is if she’s mad or upset. So I then went crazy and called her phone so many times I lost count. She never answered, so the next day I went over to her house and her dad came outside and started cussing me out and told me to never talk to his daughter again.  But the thing is that she loves me, and I love her. She is somewhat mad at me but its nothing that we couldn't work through. So our only problem would be her dad. What should I do?  I know that this is the girl I want to spend my life with, but I don't want to start any trouble.
Parent Trapped

---------------------Miss Emily’s advice-------------------

Dear Parent Trapped:

I would think that if this girl is in total disagreement with her dad, she’d find some way to contact you – unless she lives in fear of him.  I see that you two are young enough where parent intervention holds a lot of sway.  This relationship has had a lot of trouble, it would seem, and her dad has been privy to it.  I think he perceives you as a controlling drama king, and he’s fed up with the situation.  You need to get straight with why you two had your falling out periods.  What motivates you to disagree and fight, and what could you have done differently?  It’s premature for you to think this is the girl you want to spend the rest of your life with, because it’s rare, at your age, to find and follow through on making that person your life’s mate. You’re off to a lousy start, anyway!  Back off, and get some perspective. You’ll never win this battle if you don’t get in touch with why this girl’s dad sees you as a pariah.  You'll make a mistake if you let your fragile ego be your guide.  Time and wisdom are the only things that can help you through this sticky situation, because making a pest of yourself will only serve to perpetuate ill feelings toward you, and you can’t afford any more negatives.     

My Son and "That Girl"

Hi Miss Emily,

I'm in a bind here not knowing what to do, and I really am in need of your advice. My son was in a relationship with this girl  for 2 and a half years. They went to the same college and graduated this past spring. The day after graduation she broke up with him. I have to mention that she lived with us. I used to cook for her, wash and fold her clothes, buy her anything she needed from pads to foot powder! She never shared with expenses.  My son took care of all of that. He paid for her membership at the gym, and even got her a personal trainer.  He deposited money in her account when she was running low or over-drafted.  I could go on and on about how good he was to her.  She had to move to another city after they graduated, so she just decided it wasn’t going to work out. But the way she went about it, she sent him an e-mail telling him that she stopped loving him 6 months prior to them graduating, and was really mean, He tried so hard to get back with her but she wouldn’t even take his calls. He was devastated! Apparently, she got into a relationship with this other guy (2 weeks after they broke up), and had pictures of her tagged on Facebook.  They were hugging and very lovey-dovey, so I decided to save the images just in case. Well, she called him a week ago and told him that she missed him and wants to get back with him, and she swore up and down that she hasn’t been with anyone.  I know otherwise.  My question is should I show him the pictures? I feel that she wants to use him again.  She did mention that she was broke. I don’t know what to do.  I don’t want to hurt my kid, but I believe she's using him again until she finds something better.  Please advice me as  I  don’t know what to do.  I don’t want to be one of those evil mothers, but I do want what’s best for my son. Oh, and I forgot to mention that she was in a 2 year relationship with this other guy before she met my son, and I heard she did the same to him. He was also broken up. (she is big time ADD btw).  Thank you.
Only Wants What’s Best

-------------------------------Miss Emily’s advice--------------------

Dear Only:

This girl took advantage of you and your son, and you and your son let it happen.  I know how easy it is to cater to the young. You wait on them hand and foot, and it ends up to be a thankless job. Some of them have they heads so firmly lodged up their rear end, they don’t even know how ungrateful they are, even when those around them seem happy to accommodate their every need.  Somewhere in your mind, you thought this girl needed your help, your maid services and your money.  Why?  I don’t know.  The right circumstance would have been to expect this girl to pull some of her own weight and be a responsible human being.  But neither you nor your son asked for it, and she wasn’t going to let go of a good thing.  If it were me?  I’d feel a slight pang of guilt but, then, I’m not 20 something, and my “it’s all about me days” are over.  I would sit down with your son and have a frank discussion with him concerning this girl and her new intentions.  Don’t belittle him by making him feel foolish if he’d take her back, but let him know how you feel about mistakes you had made by enabling her inability to be self-sufficient.  Tell him that if he lets her back into his life, it’s his business, but you cannot be expected to welcome her back unless she has proven that she is not seeking a safe financial harbor, after being exposed to the cruelties of the real world. Set new ground rules in your home, and expect your son to honor them.  By being firm, but kind, you are showing by example and, hopefully, your son will appreciate your strength and honesty.  If your son is so terribly weak when it comes to this girl, showing him pictures of her cuddling with another guy will not deter him.  Rationalizing is our way of doing what we want, even when all the signs point to failure. Again, build him up by telling him that you trust he will make the right decision concerning this girl – a decision that reflects his intelligence and worthiness of respect.  It that doesn’t work, your son is setting himself up to learn the hard way, and there is little you can do about it.             

The Neighbor's Kid

Dear Miss Emily:

 I have a neighbor directly next door to me and she has a son the same age as my son (7).  They tend to argue more than get along these days.  I think it is that my son has a younger brother and has had to learn to share, where the neighbor boy doesn't like to share and is very jealous of my son and tries to get others against him for some reason.  His mom doesn't see this so ignores my thoughts.  My son's feeling get hurt and it bothers me that we have to live right next door, so I can't prevent the neighbor boy from being around outdoors  playing with others that my son plays with too.  What do you suggest to help me with this matter
Worried Mom

-----------------Miss Emily’s advice----------------

Dear Worried:

I have always been led to believe that children must work out these problems on their own – that’s learning how to live in the big world, and they had better get used to this aspect of socialization sooner rather than later.  But I’m not so sure about this as a hard and fast rule.  No child should be forced to tolerate bullying and undisciplined behavior.  Now how do you put a stop to this?  I suggest you reinforce to your son that it is important for him to stand up for himself and not allow this boy to take charge. Follow it by explaining to him that this child has no more rights than he, and stress the rules of fair play.  Continue to monitor the interaction between them, and intercede if you see a problem.  Let this boy know that you will not allow him to behave aggressively toward your son.  Do it in a firm but kindly manner, and suggest reasonable solutions. Your son will see that you are intolerant of bad behavior, and he will learn from you.  Keep an open communication with your son concerning his interaction with this boy and give advice as you see fit.  Again, emphasize what is fair rather than defame or lower yourself to this boy's level.  Your children will easily accept your willingness to help them if you present yourself in a rational, nonjudgmental manner.  And finally, if your son’s playtime with this boy becomes too difficult for him, tell him to grab his brother and come home. Reward him for his good judgment in knowing that he need not be a part of activities that turn into a chapter of Lord of the Flies (boys behaving badly!).  If your neighbor doesn’t like your apprach, too bad. Your children come first.              

Teaching Children A Moral Code

Dear Miss Emily:

What important morals can a parent share with their child?

------------------Miss Emily’s advice----------------

In terms of morality, no one is in complete agreement but, when it comes to raising children, caring, wise and loving parents pretty much agree on these moral imperatives:  Honesty, Respect and Responsibility.  How do you share these with your children?  By setting an example.  If you teach your child that stealing is wrong, do not rip-off packets of sugar in a restaurant.  If you tell your child to respect others, do not defame or make ethnic slurs to anyone.  If you preach to your child that lying is wrong, do not tell whoppers and then expect them not to behave in kind.  If your children are told that humans are responsible for keeping the planet clean, do not litter, or be wasteful. Remember, what is right or wrong does not have to be taught by religious or legal authority.  Teaching a child to be responsible for his/her actions is a matter of cause and effect.  We are all in this together, and we benefit by understanding that compassion is the best defense against our baser, primitive instincts.               

Should Parents Be Too Strict On Their Teenagers?

Dear Miss Emily:

Do you think that parents should be too strict on their teenagers?  Why or why not?  Is it yes or no? Why or why not?
Want Answers

------------------------Miss Emily’s advice---------------------

Dear Want Answers:

The words you use “too strict” implies excessive, overkill, or beyond reasonable.  Parents parent from the way they view life, and children rarely see it as fair.  “Too strict,” in this case, is somewhat subjective; meaning, through one person’s eyes only.  If you are a parent asking this question, it tells me that you might be having doubts about whether you are being fair or not.  If you are a teenager who wrote this, well, you’re seeing it pretty much the same way; it’s just that you are the recipient of the restrictions placed on your life rather than the authority figure making the rules.  A parent should dole out discipline when it is justified and, in the process, protects their teen against lapses of good judgment.  A teenager would be a lot less angry if she/he realized that they really don’t know everything and that a parent may be wiser than perceived.  That said, unreasonable can truly be unreasonable, and too much can legitimately be too much. Take a look at the whole picture.  Only then will you be able to back your opinion as to what you think is “too much” or "not too much" of anything.       

Should Daughter Get Nose Job?

Dear Miss Emily:

My daughter is 18.  She is model-beautiful.  Everyone tells her so. She thinks she needs a nose job because her nose  is asymmetrical and it is a tiny bit wide at the bottom.  I think she has body dysmorphic disorder, because I have OCD and it is related. The flaw is imperceptible to others.  She saved her money and made a surgery appointment.  She still resides in my home.  She wants me to drive her to her appointment.  I am so against this surgery, even though I had breast implants and a deviated septum fixed at 39.  I was not 18!  I am worried it is more of a psychological issue, and we are all sending mixed messages to our girls.  Her father was not in the picture much and this may be part of the problem. So what do I do?  Refuse to drive her to her appointment?  Or do I figure she is an adult, can join the Marines, vote and get a tattoo. What if the surgery goes awry?  Will she blame me?   I can't sleep over this.  Pleas help us come to an understanding before I go crazy.
Mom Who Wants Sanity

------------------------Miss Emily’s advice------------------------

Dear Mom:

Sending mixed messages are the messy part of parenting.  We usually teach by example.  In other words, it’s hard to tell a child not to do something when the parent did it.  I’m not saying that you don’t have a valid reason for opposing this surgery, but I think you’re going overboard in explaining why your daughter wants it.  Society does dictate perfection, although unattainable, and all of us are under pressure to try to measure up.  Kudos to those who rise above it, accept their uniqueness, as well, realize that inner-beauty is the ultimate asset.  That said, shift gears and drive her to the surgery.  It sounds like a minor procedure, in that you have said there is just a small imperfection. Stop losing sleep over this.  I suspect with your over-analysis concerning this matter, that you worry about a lot of things.  She is eighteen.  Allow her to learn about life from living it, and not through your battle-weary interpretations.   

My Partner's Child

Dear Miss Emily:

How do you not let your partner’s child, from a different woman, not bug you?

----------------------------Miss Emily’s advice-------------------------

Dear Struggling:

It’s difficult, but not impossible.  Difficult, because it seems to be a big problem in our society.  Numerous divorces – the changing of partners – creating blended families. And lots of new families screwing things up, because no one is getting along, and everyone blames the other party or parties.  Sounds like a good reason to join a convent, doesn’t it?  But the children suffer the most.  They do not choose their parents, and are often forced into situations they cannot control. Now, why it’s not impossible, however, to make it work.  Realize that your attitude has to change.  Start viewing the child as an individual.  See what you can offer this person that no one else can give.  If you are smart, you will create a bond with this child, so that the time you spend together is not done with gritted teeth or, worse, overt rejection.  A child is like a pet, it senses when you don’t like it.  I know that taking the high road is not always easy.  It’s often something we wish we had done after the dust settles, and it’s too late to repair the damage.  If you are a caring person, you will demand of yourself an attitude adjustment concerning this child.  Do it before things gets out of hand.                 

Disrespectful Teen Daughter

Dear Miss Emily:

What can I do with my disrespectful teenage daughter?
Parent Trapped

---------------------------Miss Emily’s advice-------------------------

Dear Parent:

It depends on the degree of disrespect.  If it’s not brutal, but never-the-less challenging, patience, understanding, and heart-to-heart talks can work wonders.  Know that many factors come into play:  Hormones are at a fever-pitch and toy mercilessly with a teenager’s moods.  A teenager faces this with a growing intellect that tells them, somehow, they know more than the parents.  Don’t fly off the handle and put yourself on the same level as your daughter.  Give her some space to figure out some of her problems; offering guidance, but do not be judgmental.  Set boundaries, but don’t make them come from your insecurities; that is to say, be rational and fair.  Never lie to her to get your way. Rebellion is a normal process of growing up, but if it gets out of hand, you must seek professional help.  And finally, make her a part of your life.  Include her in outings that enrich her life and yours.               

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