Are nuclear meltdowns familiar in your household? Did you get another call from your child's teacher, and it wasn't the good kind? Here's what you need to know about emotional regulation and ADHD.
"I hate you. You always do that!" "Oh my god, oh my god, Fruity Pebbles are my favorite! You're the best. Mom. Ever." Feels like an emotional storm? That's because it can be. Children and teens with ADHD tend to have difficulties with hot executive functioning.
Hot executive functioning refers to making decisions that require regulating emotions, resisting temptation, or delaying gratification. Children and teens with ADHD may feel things more intensely and have difficulty in those areas. The result? Frustration, anger, overwhelming feelings, or outbursts. It's not that your child is not aware these are undesired behaviors. They literally have a hard time helping it.
So how can you, as a parent, avoid the next nuclear meltdown?
Minimize the events causing frustration
Provide helpful ADHD guideposts
One of the best ways to curb heightened emotions is to forecast the issues that cause frustration and try to reduce them. The goal is to work towards increased tolerance gradually.
For example, children with ADHD often have difficulty with unplanned schedule changes. To avoid frustration:
Stick to general daily routines
Provide 5-minute prompts as reminders before transitioning activities
Draw a calendar documenting upcoming events
Mentally walk your child through unscheduled, last-minute changes and discuss any anxiety that arises
As you reduce the number of challenging ADHD scenarios for your child, the negative behaviors should gradually decrease.
Provide ADHD guideposts
Another tactic to avoid rising frustrations is to provide behavioral tools to help your child navigate the trickier parts of their day before they end in a frustrated blow up.
For example, if your child has difficulty initiating unpleasant tasks such as completing homework, address the difficulty by providing helpful parental structure, tools, and support.
Create a clear schedule of afternoon leisure and work time
Limit screen time if it's getting in the way
Provide a structure of accountability (have a grown-up check in on them)
Create a rewards structure to improve task motivation
Providing them with tools and coping mechanisms to manage their ADHD-challenged areas makes them less likely to feel bottled-up frustration. Instead, they'll gradually learn how to compensate for problem areas.
ADHD children and teens are prone to emotional outbursts due to increased emotional sensitivity.
As a parent, you can help minimize the outbursts by reducing situations that may trigger an explosion and by teaching emotional flexibility.
Regulating emotions is a process. It will gradually improve over time, but it requires patience and modeling of how to cope with ADHD stressful situations.