Welcome to a new series on collaborative parenting for families with ADHD or autism. This is the method we use at home. It's also the number 1 question I'm asked by parent friends: "How have your kids learned to work together so well?" It's not just luck! It's a lot of hard work, but it's work anybody can do. Let's get started!
Screaming, head-banging tantrums that sometimes last for hours. Crouching in a corner, frantically trying to calm your child down, hoping the neighbors can’t hear and the police won’t show up at your door. Tip-toeing around your baby panicked that any little thing will set them off. Giving into demands that you know you shouldn’t to avoid the tantrums. Being in a state of constant hypervigilance, anxiety, and stress, just waiting for the next meltdown.
This was my experience with my 3 year-old, now diagnosed with ADHD combined type. Does it sound familiar to you? I loved my child, but some days, I felt like I was caged in with a tiger, just waiting for them to attack me. Those feelings of constant stress and anxiety make it impossible to connect with your child, to build trust, to be there with each other - to build the cornerstones of a functional, trusting, life-long relationship. And it makes you feel helpless, like you are not the right parent for your baby, like you will never be the parent you imagined when they were born, like you just can’t do this anymore.
It can be hard, friends. It can be hard for you as a parent, and it’s hard for your baby too. Kids want to do their best, they want to love you, they want to trust you. But sometimes severe anxiety, sensory overload, impulsivity, and strong emotions are just too much for a little kid to regulate on their own.
A child with these symptoms won’t respond to most traditional parenting methods. I have read over 40 books on parenting at this point in my life, and almost none of them were applicable to my life and my kids. (The ones that were are over on my resources page, if you need some support.)
Until you can reduce those symptoms AND demonstrate your trustworthiness to your kid, you will not make any headway on working together. To a child with ADHD or autism, the world is a scary place, and they need to know you have their back.
So, how do you get from feeling afraid of your child all the way to the other side, to building a trusting, loving, respectful relationship together?
Two words, my friend: Collaborative Parenting.
Collaborative parenting is a style of parenting that puts you, your child, and any parenting partners on the same team. You are in this together, as a family. You will work together to solve everybody's problems, without automatically putting the parents' priorities first.
If you want your child's respect and trust, you can't treat your child as though their opinions and ideas are worth less than yours are. Collaborative parenting is about communicating together, compromising so more of you are happier, and making decisions as a family. If you want children to be open to you and your influence, you need to show them what that looks like. Be open to them, too.
Let me upfront: collaborative parenting is probably not your natural approach, and it takes time to learn. It also takes time for your kid to start responding to the new way of parenting - it's not going to be a magic wand. But, if you stick with it, over time, you will see that the quality of your relationship with your child, and the sense of wellbeing that extends over the entire family when your child trusts you, is so worth the effort for everyone involved.
Okay, you're on board! So, what do you actually have to do to start collaborative parenting today? Don't worry, I got you! In the next couple of days, I'll be adding the next post to this series, giving you a 3 part guide on how to start collaborative parenting at home. So please check back soon, or sign up to my mailing list if you want to be notified.