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  • May 09, 2024 12:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The concept of a gap year makes perfect sense: Your stressed-out teen with ADHD takes a year off to mature, gain independence, build skills, and find direction before entering college or starting a career. But isn’t it risky to step off the hamster wheel? Here, an education expert explains why the answer is, “No.”

    What IS a Gap Year?

    A gap year is, essentially, a temporary break from formal education. And some of the students who take that sabbatical desperately need the time off. They’ve endured high-stress academic environments in high school or college, they're searching for direction, and they feel jumping back in to school could do more harm than good. This is the case for many students with ADHD. Others simply don't feel ready for college or a job. Maybe they are less mature than their peers. Or not independent enough to live alone. A gap year provides the opportunity to travel, volunteer, study, intern, work, perform research, and generally take some time to grow — mindfully.

    What a Gap Year IS NOT

    A gap year is not a full year to hang out, play video games, hit the European party circuit, lounge on the couch, or sit passively by waiting for something to happen.

    If you decide a gap year is right for your family, use the following advice to make sure the time off is worthwhile.


    Gap year programs help young adults clarify their career goals, and discover new interests and passions. If the gap year involves travel, it can broaden perspectives and provide insight into other cultures – a more globally aware teen is a more conscientious teen.

    A gap year can help renew your child's passion for academics — something commonly lost along the way to commencement day. It can help them appreciate the opportunities that learning brings, and give teens a sense of maturity and self-confidence, along with improved organizational life skills. (Yes, we're talking about doing their own laundry, cooking their own meals, and paying their own bills.)

    Students who spend their gap year wisely, do something extraordinary and gain practical life experience from it — an asset valuable to any future employer or professor.

    Why a Gap Year?

    Young adults with ADHD tend to be somewhat impulsive and reactive. They're also easily distracted, disorganized, and unable to finish what they start. Does that person sound ready for college? Or could she benefit from another year of seasoning, maturity, and growth? Research done by the Frostig Center, called Life Success Attributes, sought to identify predictors of future success by studying the attributes shared by successful adults with attention challenges and learning disabilities. These attributes included self-awareness, the ability to be proactive, perseverance, the ability to use effective support systems, and good emotional coping skills.

    A gap year can help develop all of these qualities, namely a strong sense of personal responsibility and heightened resilience. It’s a year of self-reflection to figure out what really matters, what really motivates them, and how to move forward with conviction.

    Designing a Gap Year

    A good gap year is structured, goal-oriented, and adventurous. Make plans with an eye toward, “What’s next?” It should combine:

    • Travel (foreign, domestic, or local – within 3 hours of home)
    • Work/internships
    • Volunteer opportunities
    • Specialty classes

    The idea is to help your child stretch beyond her comfort zone, because that is where growth occurs.

    Where to Start

    Organizations like and can help your teen find work opportunities within the larger community. In addition, no shortage of volunteer opportunities exist with youth organizations, animal shelters, and organizations like Habitat for Humanity.

    Mini-courses and certifications can expose teens to interesting career opportunities. For example a SCUBA certification could trigger an interest in marine biology. Learning CPR or advanced first aid could lead to a career as a wilderness first-responder or an EMT. Community colleges and online programs offer all kinds of how-to courses that build life skills — for example, how to work on a car, how to change your oil, or how to manage your personal finances.

    The larger role your teen takes in designing his gap year, the more powerful (and educational) the exercise becomes. Planning should start midterm of the teen's junior year (at the latest). It takes time to conduct research, investigate opportunities, and stitch together a year-long plan, especially for a teen with executive function deficits.

    How Do I Find a Gap Year Program?

    Seek out additional information from these experts in gap years:

    • Judy Bass with Educational Services (
    • Holly Bull the  preeminent expert on the U.S. programs (
    • Doré Frances with Horizon Family solutions (

    We also recommend these two websites:

    • USA Gap Year Fairs: Nationwide events afford teens the opportunity to speak with organizations that host gap year programs to learn the similarities and differences
    • American Gap Association: Information about gap year programs and research opportunities

    The more varied — and independent — the experience is, the better. It’s important for your child to experience new environments, and learn how to deal
    with the anxious and uncomfortable emotions that come along with that.

    4 Recommended Programs

    Dynamy Internship: A great residential internship program with a strong reputation, this resource offers individuals aged 17-22 an opportunity to do a semester internship

    Rustic Pathways: Programs include community service, experiential education, and international adventures for young adults

    Where There Be Dragons: This is the most well-known program. It operates in 17 different countries in Europe, Central, and South America. It offers summer semester programs for high school and college students, with a focus on cultivating global citizenship, leadership, and self-awareness.

    SOAR: The only gap year program specifically designed to meet the needs of young adults diagnosed with ADHD, it includes a residential component, an adventure travel component, and an international component. Some of the programs offer the opportunity to take college courses for credit. The program focuses on developing life skills – like basic vehicle maintenance, cooking and nutrition, how to resolve conflicts with peers – and has a fiscal management component along with community involvement – volunteering at local things that matter to kids. It straddles the college and the adventure expedition world

    What's After a Gap Year?

    If you receive an acceptance letter from Harvard, it reads, "Welcome to Harvard. Now consider taking a gap year." Research out of UNC indicates that individuals who take advantage of a gap year are more likely than other students to graduate in 4 years, have a higher GPA, and move into leadership situations more quickly than students who don’t.

    In short, teens who take a gap year tend to learn more about themselves, what matters to them, and how to approach the world. It's fairly commonplace now to apply to college during your senior year of high school, then choose to defer enrollment for a year. It's also possible (though perhaps more scary) to wait and apply with the gap year on your child's resume.

    But college is not for everyone. Part of the gap year is figuring out your child's ideal direction, what that might look like

    Is a Gap Year Right for Us?

    The two biggest factors for parents to weigh are money and time. Can your teen stay at home? What programs can you afford to pay for?

    A gap year can cost between $15,000 and $50,000. But often, it's a huge cost savings. A teen without direction or drive is not going to graduate college within four years. Taking a year to focus on what's next can prevent her from dragging out graduation for 6 or 7 years.

    In addition, a teen who struggles and flounders their first year of college should consider taking a gap year as well. Some colleges will let a failing student be reinstated after meeting some academic or other criteria.

    Finally, students are not less likely to go to college if they wait a year. Some students even take a gap year after graduating college or before grad school with programs like AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps.

  • April 28, 2024 3:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Parenting has changed dramatically over the last century or so. It has evolved from raising obedient children — often using harsh, authoritarian techniques — to raising happy, well-adjusted, resilient kids whose emotional and cognitive development is a priority. That’s a big shift, considering that psychologists only began widely using the term “parenting” to describe the behaviors of mothers and fathers in the 1950s.

    Many parents today are raising their children differently than they themselves were raised. In a recent ADDitude poll, about 70% of respondents said they were using a “very different” or “somewhat different” parenting style from the one their parents used with them.

    The generational divide is deepened by our evolving understanding of neurodivergence — brain-based differences that affect how someone behaves, thinks, and learns. ADHD, autismlearning differences, and other conditions that tend to be identified in childhood all fall under the umbrella of neurodivergence. Many of these now-commonplace diagnoses were not always recognized and effectively treated in prior generations.

    Neurodivergence: Then and Now

    Like parenting, societal views of differently wired individuals have also changed significantly. Historically, people whose brains work differently were not celebrated for their neurodivergence; instead, educators and caregivers focused solely on remediating their apparent deficits. Today, we know that our families and communities are made richer by our individual differences. And we understand that leveraging strengths — while also providing constructive support — is critical for neurodivergent children.

    Today, we know a lot more about the science of various brain-based conditions. We know that these conditions are not characterological, meaning an aspect of one’s personality, or caused by “bad” parenting. Advocacy from organizations and individuals has helped reduce stigma around neurodivergence and encouraged more schools and institutions to adopt diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Meanwhile, technological advances — like autocorrect or text-to-speech capabilities — have helped reduce the strain of day-to-day functioning for neurodivergent individuals, who can sometimes feel like a square peg in a round hole. And we can’t overlook the role of social media, which has allowed many neurodivergent people and their families to find community and belonging.

    The Best Parenting Style for Your Neurodivergent Child

    Parenting styles of the past emphasized obedience through harsh discipline and strict enforcement of the rules. This style of parenting is generally known as authoritarian parenting and its techniques, we now know, can cause distress and are linked to maladaptive behaviors. Children, especially neurodivergent children, do not respond well to this form of parenting.

    On the other hand, permissive parenting, characterized by high levels of warmth and little to no limit setting, isn’t what our children need either, as this can also lead to negative outcomes. The parenting style with the greatest benefit is in the middle; authoritative parenting combines warmth and limit setting. It’s a dynamic that fosters the parent-child relationship while also providing children with the structure they need for positive development.

    From establishing routines to reinforcing positive behaviors and providing appropriate consequences for misbehavior, authoritative parenting offers various strategies to meet your child’s unique needs. Use this parenting guide to look up the most effective strategies for neurodivergent children. You may need to apply these strategies more frequently, over longer periods, and with the help of a mental health professional to best meet your child’s needs.

  • February 03, 2024 12:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) who struggle in school get lots of negative feedback. As a result, their self-esteem is battered as early as second grade. Adding insult to injury, many parents may get caught up pushing their children to work harder to make top grades. This adds another layer of negativity at home.

    I lost my perspective when my son was struggling in high school. At times, I found myself thinking that he was lazy and just didn’t care. I was focused on monitoring his homework, hoping he would make better grades. I met him at the front door every day when he came home from school and asked, “Did you bring home your books and assignments?” I never bothered to ask him how his day went.

    When he started avoiding me at the front door, by going in through the basement, a light bulb went on. I had lost sight of my most important duties as a parent: loving my son and building his self-esteem.

    We should all be investing in our children’s emotional bank account. Your job as a parent is to keep the most important things in mind: nurturing your child’s self-esteem and maintaining a strong relationship with him or her. Your loving relationship may one day save your child’s life.

    Investing In and Nurturing Our Children

    Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (#CommissionsEarned) and other best-selling books, coined the phrase “emotional bank account,” and Russell Barkley, Ph.D., recently used it in one of his top 10 tips for grandparents of children with ADHD. Just as we make regular deposits into our savings account, so we have money when times get tough, adding to our children’s emotional bank account serves the same purpose. Are you making deposits, or emptying his account?

    Offer lots of positive statements and fun activities. Catch your child being good. When you do, say, “Great job. You put all your dirty clothes in the hamper.” “You’re getting better at making up your bed.” “Thank you for taking out the garbage!” “You make me proud. You’ve been reading that book for a long time, and you didn’t give up when there were words you didn’t know!” Find joy again in spending time with your child. Enjoy a special meal, just the two of you, with no nagging. Attend a concert or sporting event together. Let your child teach you a video game.

    Reframe negative thoughts about your child. When your child struggles, stop and look at her in a new light, focusing on her strengths and talents. Remember that your child’s traits, which may not be valued in school, may be useful in the work world. Here are a few examples of reframing: Bossiness may be an indication of potential leadership skills. Hyperactivity may mean that your child can approach workplace projects with high energy and the ability to work longer on more projects. A strong-willed child brings tenacity to his job and career. And who knows? Maybe an argumentative child will one day be a great lawyer.

    Recruit others to help you. Parents alone can’t fill this bank account, so enlist willing siblings, grandparents, relatives, friends, co-workers, coaches, teachers, or members of your religious group. If parents are lucky, grandparents can be their strongest and most helpful allies. By calling weekly via “FaceTime,” grandparents can be active in the child’s life when distance separates them.

    Believe in the goodness of your child, encourage her, and show affection. Hugs, pats on the back, or holding her on your lap gives the child a sense of self worth. Take photos of your child when she is engaged in happy activities, and hang them on the refrigerator.

    Identify and facilitate your child’s interests and talents. If your son is interested in sports, music, dance, drama, or debate, make certain he has a chance to participate in those joyful activities. The successes he will achieve doing something he loves put deposits in his emotional bank account.

    Ensure your child’s school success. If your child is struggling and stressed by school, be a persistent detective and advocate. Work with the school to figure out what is causing the struggles. Up to 50 percent of our children with ADHD also have learning disabilities that are overlooked

  • January 27, 2024 1:41 PM | Linda Zanieski (Administrator)

    SENGYouth programs are a new opportunity for the younger SENG Family Members to participate in curated online classes from SENG Partners and engage with other gifted and 2e kids from around the world. The first class, taking place on February 13, is full, but you can sign up for the waitlist. Click here for details. Additional classes will be coming later in the year.

  • January 24, 2024 6:52 PM | Linda Zanieski (Administrator)

    Applications are open now to be a Teen Fellow for the spring 2024 - winter 2025 session at the CAC (Chicago Architecture Center). This three-semester program is offered at no cost to selected participants, and gives incoming sophomores, juniors and seniors the chance to explore architecture and design careers, earn college credit and work alongside industry professionals.

    Click here for complete details and application information.

  • January 24, 2024 1:16 PM | Linda Zanieski (Administrator)

    The following is from the SENG - Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted - 1/24/24 email newsletter. SENG offers a wide variety of resources on its website, webinars, mini-conferences, and its annual conference. See their website for complete details on the call for proposals.

    Ahoy, SENG Community!

    Get ready to ride the waves of knowledge and adventure at our upcoming 2024 Annual Conference, happening July 11-13, 2024, in the vibrant city of Berkeley, California! With the theme "Sailing into the Future: Community, Advocacy & Adventure," we're charting a course into an ocean of opportunities.

    • Keynote Speakers: We're beyond excited to welcome Paula Prober and Dr. Frank C. Worrell to steer our ship as our esteemed keynote speakers. They're like the captains of our yacht, guiding us through the sea of knowledge with their incredible insights.
    • Call for Proposals: Are you an educator, parent, clinician, gifted adult, advocate, entrepreneur, researcher, or practitioner with a knack for navigating the waters of gifted communities, advocacy and adventures? We want you aboard! Submit your proposal for a 75-minute breakout session or a 2-hour workshop by January 31st, 2024. Remember, spots are as coveted as a sunny day at sea, so make sure your proposal shines like the sun!
    • Why Present? This is your chance to share your compass – your ideas and experiences – with a diverse and engaged community. Let's make waves together in the realms of our gifted community.
    • Conference Highlights: Besides our captivating sessions and workshops, expect networking opportunities as vast as the ocean. Mingle with fellow enthusiasts, learn from the best, and enjoy the beautiful Berkeley breeze.

    Don't miss this chance to dock your ideas at SENG's 2024 Annual Conference. Let's set sail together into a future filled with community, advocacy, and adventure. We can't wait to see what treasures you'll bring on board!

    Smooth Sailing,

    SENG Conference Committee

    P.S. Got questions or need help navigating the proposal process? Drop us a line, and we'll be your lighthouse guiding you through!

    Key Points to Remember:

    • Submit your proposal by January 31st, 2024.
    • Join us in Berkeley, July 11-13, 2024.
    • Let's sail into the future together!

  • January 16, 2024 8:58 AM | Katherine Peterson (Administrator)

    From the IAGC newsletter . . . 

    Are you a newer teacher or PLC?  

    Trying to differentiate for advanced learners on-the-go?    

    Let the IAGC help you and your PLC get set for your next lesson or unit! 

    2 Hours PD credit

    Please sign up for:

    Educator PD Hour: Curriculum Extension Workshop for New(er) Teachers

    When: 01/29/2024  4pm-6pm  CST
    Where: virtual -- join us from school or home!


    Educator PD Hour: Curriculum Extension Workshop for New(er) Teachers

    Monday January 29, 2024

    4:00pm -6:00pm


    Work smarter, not harder!

    Join IAGC Board Members and Gifted Coordinators Denise Kuchta, Deanna Markos, and Lindsay Sudol for an afternoon workshop of ELA and MATH Lesson Planning for your Advanced Students.  

    If you are new(er) to the classroom, new to teaching gifted, or new to differentiation, or if you are struggling with what to offer your advanced students when they say they have "finished", then this workshop is for you!

    We will spend time together reviewing best practice strategies and then divide into breakout rooms according to your selected content area to tier your next lesson. 

    Invite your PLC so you can collaborate, share resources and ideas, and apply new strategies to your current unit.  Finish the workshop with a new extension of your  curriculum that you can use tomorrow!

    2 PD hours 

    Click here for complete details and registration.

  • December 20, 2023 10:35 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Caregiver Blog -

    “Throughout the college application process, I learned the importance of surrounding myself with people and environments that set me up for success.”

    My senior year in high school was one of my life’s most joyful, exciting — but stressful — periods. I am a huge planner and pride myself on working hard to achieve my goals. While these qualities are often beneficial, they can make tasks like narrowing down a college list and filling out applications challenging. On top of this, I have ADHD and dyslexia. Though I am very confident in my abilities, adapting to new environments, people, and expectations often requires a steep learning curve and involves a few mishaps.

    Throughout the college application process, I learned the importance of surrounding myself with people and environments that set me up for success. Here’s more advice for neurodivergent students evaluating and applying to colleges.

    1. Plan Ahead

    My first piece of advice is to plan as far ahead as possible! My college search began sophomore year when I set up a meeting with my college admissions counselor. No major plans were made, but I gained a basic understanding of when and how I would apply to schools.

    2. Take Standardized Tests Early

    I took the ACT for the first time the summer before my junior year. I highly recommend doing this. This gives you time to practice and make room for improvement. It also ensures you have testing accommodations in place. Fortunately, I am a good (albeit slow) test taker and eligible for extra time because of my ADHD. Alternatively, you may opt to apply to test-optional colleges and use the time to focus on other application parts.

    3. Gather Research

    Beyond taking the ACT, most of my prep work before senior year comprised attending college information sessions, researching schools, and brainstorming essay ideas. I gathered as much information as possible on the universities’ academics, costs, and accommodation programs. However, finding a strong and collaborative student community was my most important job. By the spring of junior year, I had compiled my list of colleges and ranked the University of Notre Dame as my top choice.

    4. Brainstorm Essay Ideas

    I began drafting a Common App essay the summer before senior year. Give yourself plenty of time to brainstorm ideas before you start writing. Great ideas do not happen overnight.

    5. Get Feedback

    Ask others to read your essays and offer feedback. I love storytelling, but my grammar is never great. One friend had the opposite problem, so we helped each other; I brainstormed ideas for him, and he fixed all my comma errors. Trading also prevented me from procrastinating.

    6. Pick a Writing Strategy

    Find a writing strategy for your college essay that works with how your brain thinks. If you are unsure, take a creative writing class. My essay was closer to poetry than an academic essay. I tried to have a strong narrative and told unique stories from my life, such as hanging a wagon in a Magnolia tree, traveling to see a solar eclipse, learning life lessons at summer camp, and being admitted into a secret theater society.

    7. Give Yourself Grace

    Be sure to give yourself grace. I am very grateful to attend Notre Dame. However, I’ve learned that no matter how hard I work, some things don’t end up as I imagined. During my recent search for a summer internship, I didn’t receive interviews for several large companies I absolutely loved and had networked with for months. The waiting game was so tough. Though I was disappointed, I kept putting myself out there, talked to other companies, and applied for jobs. I eventually did receive an amazing offer unexpectedly from one conversation at a career fair with a small boutique consulting firm. The company completely changed my perspective on the industry, and I made a very different decision than I initially thought I would.

    8. Keep An Open Mind

    Good can be found in all places. I imagined myself at Notre Dame and have loved my college years. At the same time, my summer internship completely took me by surprise, and yet, I know it will be a fantastic experience. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of openness and perseverance. Remember that, as a student with learning differences and ADHD you have had to work especially hard to find your place in the world. I am fully confident that by prioritizing a supportive community, planning, and having an open mind, you will find yourself surrounded by amazing opportunities and people better than you can imagine.

    Meaghan Northup grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and is a junior at the University of Notre Dame, where she is studying Business Analytics and French.

  • December 16, 2023 8:47 AM | Katherine Peterson (Administrator)

    Are you a teacher or know someone in education who is interested in improving teaching strategies for gifted education, advanced learning strategies, and high level differentiation?  The Illinois Association for Gifted Children (IAGC) is offering Foundations for Teaching Advanced Learners in Todays Classroom starting January 17, 2024.  PD and SH hours offered.  Here are the details: 

  • December 12, 2023 11:36 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Every holiday season, we face a persistent challenge: how to respond to family members who don’t understand ADHD and yet feel compelled to share their discipline and parenting advice (often loudly). While every family dynamic is unique, here are some general strategies plus scripts for handling a wide range of common problems with obtuse relatives.

    “Ugh, there he goes again with his tantrums.”

    “Why can’t your child just sit still?”

    “You’re just making excuses for her bad behavior.”

    “This wouldn’t be happening if you actually disciplined your kid.”

    Ever, in the history of parenting, has a family member’s unwelcome advice or unsympathetic judgment made life easier for a child or their caregivers? Nope. For many of us, rampant misunderstandings, fear of being judged, short tempers, and even unspoken disapproval make spending time with some relatives stressful and frustrating. And bitter family disputes over ADHD are typically the last thing on Earth you want yourself or your child to endure during the holidays — or ever. Yet here you are, facing the possibility once again.

    For many families, cutting off contact is not a viable solution. The fact is that we don’t get to pick our family members, and many of us value and relish family customs and traditions that we hope to preserve for our kids. That necessitates positive (or at least tolerable) relationships with far-flung relatives.

    If you anticipate biting comments and unhelpful feedback from these family members, here are several strategies — from practicing self-advocacy to educating others about ADHD — that can help you and leave your child feeling buoyed rather than bullied by family members.

    Family Dynamics: ADHD and the Extended Family Experience

    Though no two families are alike, these problems, feelings, and concerns often come up when dealing with unsupportive relatives who don’t understand ADHD:

    • Misunderstanding and misinterpretations: Family members may perceive your child’s ADHD symptoms and traits, like distractibility and hyperactivity, as misbehavior and bad manners. They may not understand (or may refuse to accept) that these are characteristics of ADHD, a neurological disorder.
    • Judgement and embarrassment: You might be blamed — directly or indirectly — for your child’s behaviors at a family gathering, which only fans the flames of stress if your child is having a particularly hard time.
    • ShameChallenging family settings and judgement from relatives may leave you feeling like your child is flawed. Your child might also start to feel ashamed — a core experience for individuals with ADHD.
    • Guilt: Relatives might guilt-trip you over how you’re raising your child, but you might also lay the guilt on yourself for “failing” to control your child.
    • Behavioral dysregulation: Meltdowns and tantrums are never fun, especially when they creep up during family gatherings, subjecting you and your child to disapproving stares and worse.
    • Emotional dysregulation and anxiety: Negative experiences with relatives can make it difficult to think about family events without feeling overwhelmed or hopeless.
    • Denial and magical thinking: Assuming that family problems will sort themselves out rarely works and often leads to frustration.

    Dealing with Difficult Family Members

    How should parents respond when one or more of these challenges disrupts a family gathering or relationship? And how can we fortify our family relationships when ADHD is in the picture?

    1.  Educate the family about ADHD

    • Give concrete information. Emphasize that ADHD is a neurological condition that impacts functioning. While treatments are used to help manage symptoms and behavioral challenges, ADHD can’t be overcome with sheer willpower, corporal punishments, or a specific parenting style. Explain how ADHD manifests in your child with specific examples (e.g. he has trouble sitting still during meals). It might help to share an ADHD information pamphlet and to direct your family to other authoritative resources.
    • Engage in productive discussions. Stay positive and inviting as you talk to your relatives about ADHD. Say, “Uncle Mark, I know it’s frustrating for you when my daughter looks away as you’re talking to her, but that behavior stems from her ADHD. Her mind wanders off. Please just gently remind her to stay with you. That’s how ADHD is for some people.”
    • Emphasize the importance of support. Remind your family that negative reactions seldom help your child, especially in the middle of a meltdown or tantrum. Support goes a long way toward defusing situations and helping ADHD families feel welcome and valued.

    2. Defuse conflicts and behavioral disruptions

    • Focus on the goal. Remember that you want to get along with your family. When tempers flare, stay calm and speak in a neutral voice. Say, “This is our family dinner. Can we change the subject or hit the reset button? Let’s take a deep breath.”
    • Find allies. Align yourself with family members who support you and can help you in difficult family situations. They may be able to help calm your child down if they’re having a tough time.
    • Cope ahead. If you know you’ll be facing a challenging situation, prepare tools and strategies in advance. For example, if it’s a 3-hour car ride to grandma’s, think about taking breaks on the road, packing snacks and toys in the car, and other ways to keep everyone calm. Call grandma ahead of time and let her know that your kids (and you) will need a break when you arrive.

    3.  Practice self-advocacy
    • Find opportune moments to take the lead and communicate with family members about your concerns. Gently discuss better ways to handle challenging situations. You can say, “Aunt Betsy, do you have a moment to talk? I want you to know that when you judge my child, it makes him feel bad, and it makes me feel bad. My child has ADHD, and he’s doing his best. What may be more helpful is if you ignore the behavior or discuss it with me privately.”
    • Collaborate by inviting rather than demanding. Try to meet your family members where they are. Say, “Uncle Pedro, I know you like to dine quietly at the dinner table, but my children are rather noisy. They’re not that way because of my parenting style; they’re just bubbly. What would help? Can the kids get up from their seats earlier? Can all of the children be seated somewhere else?”

    4. Develop self-awareness

    • Practice mindfulnessPay attention to your thoughts and feelings, especially in tough family situations. Acknowledging your feelings can help you avoid getting swept up in the moment and determine appropriate, productive ways to respond.
    • Practice self-careTake care of your physical, mental, and emotional health — key factors in building resilience against life’s stressors (like family problems). With ADHD, that might mean seeking a therapist for yourself and your child.

    5. Don’t take interactions too personally

    Easier said than done, but the more you practice this (along with mindfulness) the sooner you’ll recognize that a family member’s reactions have more to do with them than they do with you or your child. This realization will make it easier to brush off passive-aggressive comments, eye-rolls, sighs, and other reactions from family members. A sense of humor also helps.

    Approaches and Example Scripts for Common Scenarios

    • Well-meaning but unsolicited parenting advice offered in front of your child: Invite your family member to have a conversation. Calmly share your observations and try not to put them on the defensive. “I would love to run something by you — I know that you love me and my child. It’s so clear that you want the best for us. But in those moments when you say X in front of my son, it’s not helpful to us. I do appreciate your ideas, but I would prefer if you brought them to me privately.”
    • “You’re pulling the ADHD card as an excuse for bad behavior:” It’s possible that your family member might not realize how judgmental and hurtful their comments sound. Talk to them about how their comments make you feel and do your best to explain your child’s ADHD symptoms. Remind them that your child is doing their best. This may also be a good time to practice not taking comments personally. In and out of the family, there always will be people who pass judgement — and you aren’t obligated to engage with them!
    • Your child picks up on differential treatment. Validate your child’s feelings and offer your presence. Talk through some ways your child can practice self-advocacy and self-care after being with family. If there’s a particularly problematic family member, find a time to talk to them about their actions.
    • “I struggled, too, but I turned out OK without any help:” It’s doubtful that you’ll be able to get through to family members who make these types of comments. But shifting tactics can work. Focus on the family member’s concern over the ADHD label. They might be able to relate, for example, to difficulties with getting started on homework or procrastinating until the last minute.
    • “Why can’t you just go with the flow?” Not all family members appreciate and respect the importance of your child’s reliable routine, and understand that departing from it can lead to serious consequences. Everyone has the right to their own lifestyle, and while explanations are not necessary, they can help defuse tough situations in the heat of the moment. Prior to a family gathering, for example, tell the host that you’ll be leaving at a certain time and that you’ll be taking breaks with your child throughout. “We know that you have different expectations, but this is important to us. It’s how our family functions best.”
    Mold these guidelines to your family and its circumstances, and remember that it will take lots of patience and persistence to see results. Stay positive in the process and try reframing difficult family moments as opportunities to use your coping skills and strategies to solve problems and create a healthy family dynamic.

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The Chicago Gifted Community Center (CGCC) is a member-driven 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created by parents to support the intellectual and emotional growth of gifted children and their families. 

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