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  • Sam B.

Executive Functioning and Struggles at Home

One thing that we hear a lot at Star Tutoring is the family struggles when one (or more) of the family members have ADHD (or Executive Functioning deficits). We try to provide free advice to both parents and students on the nature of Executive Functioning deficits and why they can be so frustrating. That frustration can naturally cause rifts amongst family members. Here are some things to keep in mind:

1) As Dr. Ari Tuckman says: ADHD is not a disorder of knowing with to do; it's a disorder of doing what you know. Consistency is a big problem - you don't just have to be on time once - the expectations are that you are on time every time. But, that is the wrong expectation to hold for someone with ADHD. The intermittency of executive deficits can be really frustrating.

2) The best thing someone with ADHD can do is to pause and override their Automatic Response with an Executive Response. Unfortunately, pausing is one of the hardest things for us to do. Children can use reminders and encouragement to pause and consider their response options (as opposed to harsh reactions from parents).

3) Family members and spouses can make ADHD challenges worse sometimes. Consider the downward spiral: the child will forget something, the parent will explode, the child will argue, and this makes matters worse. Emotional regulation is needed NOT ONLY by the person with ADHD, but also by the family members - they need to practice restraint from lashouts and negative responses. All people in an argument can take time to pause and turn the discussion to a productive nature.

4) As ADHD Jeff Copper says: managing ADHD is incredibly effortful, and effort is difficult. Yesterday may have been a tough day - running late, forgetting things - and it can be demoralizing when there is a lot of negative outcomes. It takes a lot of effort to try to think positively about the future and making progress. Because yesterday was difficult, it doesn't mean that you need to give up on tomorrow.

5) Family members should try to set reasonable expectations. Don't strive for perfection. Strive for good enough. That might mean that you are late twice per week instead of late 5 times per week. That might be good enough. That might mean turning in your paper for a B instead of NOT turning in a paper because it wasn't an A. The discussion around expectations needs to be in a positive nature.

6) You can't expect to solve all of your issues - that day will NEVER come. So, the goal for families with ADHD is not to strive for a perfection - the goal is to find ways to live with it and accept the strengths and weaknesses that come with it.

7) Understand what works for you. Change your environment to maximize your successes.

Remember, there are a lot of forces working against people with ADHD. They don't need family and relationships to cut these wounds more deeply. Find positive and productive ways to set goals and interact. For more on this, check out this podcast with Dr. Ari Tuckman.

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