Our child is diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, and disruptive mood disorder (DMDD). When things are tough, symptoms of all of his diagnoses can flare up—e.g., regression and sleep disturbances. When I see these red flags, I know I need to get us back to the basics.
Keeping his routine helps to maintain balance. We eat at the same times, we sleep at the same times, we play at the same times. Each night, we play games, like UNO (which has been the favorite for months). Giving him a bath each night signals his brain that the day is ending and it’s time to sleep. We read, we turn off the light, we rest.
He gets up at the same time every morning, whether school day or a weekend. We limit visits with others. We limit sugar. We limit screen time. We encourage outdoor physical activity.
Until we get back on an even keel and can tolerate these brain “challenges” again, we keep it really simple.
The other big piece for encouraging calm is staying calm ourselves. I take lots of time outs with brain-calming activities, such as coloring or doing crossword puzzles. Since our kids tend to sync up with our neuro system, we have to bring them into our calm instead of joining their chaos.
That is my ongoing personal challenge, and finding ways to make sure I’m not reacting to his outbursts is my Achilles heel. It’s so easy to get caught up in what’s wrong rather than making things right within myself so that I may help my child as well. In finding appropriate ways to self-soothe, I’m setting an example for him. Taking a bath is great way for me to calm myself too, physically and emotionally.
The main thing I try to remember as we go through challenging times is that they will pass. “This, too, shall pass.” My mantra - things always get better. And they do.
Knowing how to manage your child’s behaviors can help make things easier for you and them.
After making the difficult decision to medicate your child, with time and on occasions, old symptoms return or new ones appear. Once again, you’re faced with what felt like an already-made decision - to medicate higher or more, or not.