The One Question Your Child Secretly Wants You To Answer

Unless you tell your children what you believe about them— what you think their talents are, what their character is like, what you expect of them—you might be surprised what they think.

I was giving Quinn a check-up for kindergarten. He said his dad was overseas fighting in a war and that he missed him terribly, and couldn’t wait for him to come home. He was proud of his dad and tried to describe his uniform for me.

“My Dad really misses me,” he said. “He’s proud of me and says I need to be the man of the house while he’s gone. My mom says I don’t, but I believe my Dad. He’s tough, you know, and when he comes home he’s gonna take me hunting. But I have to be twelve to shoot a gun, he says, because I’m too young now.” Quinn talked rapidly and his voice seemed strained.

“Yup. My dad told me that I’m the smartest kid he’s ever known. He’s right, you know. I am smart. I read every day because I know that when my dad gets home he’s going to want me to read with him.”

I asked Quinn to get a book from the waiting room to show me how well he could read. When he stepped out, I asked his mother about his dad. “He’s in jail,” she started. Then she broke down crying. “He never calls. He doesn’t write either. He got busted for drunk driving and was so humiliated he couldn’t bear to tell Quinn where he went. We told him that dad had work to do far away. Quinn turned that into he was overseas fighting a war. I just didn’t have the heart to correct him.”

Children have vivid imaginations and at six, which was Quinn’s age, it’s not unusual for them to create an imaginary friend. In Quinn’s case he was creating an imaginary father to make up for the absence of a real one. It was okay for the moment, but eventually he would, gently, have to be told the truth. Neither his mom nor I looked forward to that moment.

father and son communicate with child

Quinn imagined what his father believed about him—and maybe he was right, maybe his father did think he was the smartest boy on the planet; maybe he had told Quinn so earlier. The important thing was that Quinn was sustained by his belief that his father was proud of him, and believed him to be strong and smart.

Quinn’s father was set to be released from jail in the next few months. My hope was that he would reaffirm his son’s faith in what his dad believed about him. That would make the transition much easier.

The academic research has shown us that kids who have good communication with their fathers are much less likely to have trouble with drugs, alcohol, or depression. It seems as though dads have a unique power to boost their children’s sense of self-worth, of being grounded, and of belonging, which acts as a shield not just against drugs, alcohol, and depression, but, what is often related, teenage sexual activity.

Here’s how you can help fill that need.

1. Communicate simple truth.

Kids see right through platitudes and hype. It’s no good getting C’s in school and having your father boast that you are one of the smartest kids in the class, if you still can’t get your grades up, no matter how much you apply yourself. So praise needs to be honest. If your child is getting C’s and that’s the best he can do, tell him that’s fine, that you admire his tenacity for working so hard, and help him discover the subjects or practical skills at which he can excel, while he hammers out his C’s in Calculus or English.

As a parent you should be positive—and never talk critically of your children to other people—but you also want to be truthful. Your kids will appreciate that—and appreciate that C’s in math don’t spell the end of your affection for them or mean that they’re mediocre in everything, or for that matter that with enough effort and time they can’t improve in math!

2. Praise their Character not the stuff they do.

Kids want to know what you think they’re made of deep down. So tell them, “I believe that you are courageous, strong, patient, committed, hard- working, chivalrous,” or whatever the case may be.

child parent communication

3. Let them catch you talking about them.

When I was rejected from every medical school I applied to at twenty-one, I thought my life was over. I thought I was too stupid to go and that’s why I was rejected. One day I overheard my father talking on the phone to a friend and telling him that I would be going to medical school in the very near future. I was stunned. In that moment, my life changed. I was filled with the deep knowledge that my dad believed I could succeed in medical school. That was it. I was going. Period. That overheard conversation meant nothing to my father; it meant everything to me.
When you really believe in your kids, they’ll hear it in your voice. If they hear you talking about your belief in their goodness, perseverance, or courage, they will believe it—and it might just change their lives.

4. Take advantage of their failure.

The very best time to communicate sincere belief in your son or daughter is during a time when they feel they have failed. Then, their self-esteem is low, they are thinking that they are worthless, dumb, incapable. That is the perfect time for you to step in with a smile and say, “I don’t care what just happened on the field, I don’t care that you just flunked your exam, I know what you are made of and I believe in you. So stand up again and get back at it.” These are words that change your kids’ lives.

*This is excerpt from Meg Meeker’s brand new book Amazon Best Selling book HERO: Being the strong father your children need.

 

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Meg Meeker is a New York Times bestselling author who writes with the know-how of a pediatrician and the big heart of a mother because she has spent the last 30 years practicing pediatric and adolescent medicine. Her work with the NFL, the United Nations, and countless families over the years has served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books: Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know and Strong Mothers, Strong Sons: Lessons Mothers Need to Raise Extraordinary Men. You can pick up your copies on Amazon or at MegMeekerMD.com

Dr. Meg is a parent and has spoken nationally on parenting issues, including personal appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and television programs including The Today Show, Dateline with Katie Couric, Fox and Friends, The Dave Ramsey Show, The Laura Ingraham Show, NPR, Oprah Radio, The World Over with Raymond Arroyo and more.

Parenting ADHD: 6 Things I Wish I Had Known

My oldest has ADHD.  We hit eight years old and man did I need help parenting a child with ADHD.  I reached out to other moms but all shared a resounding “I’m just trying to survive” mentality. Parenting ADHD is difficult. Four years later, here are six things (from one struggling mom to another) that I wish I had known when parenting a child with ADHD.

Parenting ADHD Success

1. ENGAGE WITH THE SCHOOL

My hubby and I did not communicate with the school too much about our son and his ADHD. Conversations started to become more frequent than one would like in 2nd grade and by the time he was officially diagnosed in 3rd grade, we didn’t want to give teachers a pre-set idea of who/what he was. Bad idea. Before I knew better, I shared my concern about telling them he was ADHD with my close friend; their reply was, “Either they have the stigma of ADHD, or the stigma of the bad kid.”  Ugh! They were right.  

I became forced myself to be brave. I started the conversation with my son’s educators right from the start, sharing behaviors I knew would be distracting, my expectations of him in the classroom and concerns about his education and abilities.  You would be surprised what lines of communications this opens; and with parenting ADHD, communication is vital. This quickly places you and the educators on the same page and teaches them that you are open and an ally.  If this doesn’t happen — find a new teacher! Educators will make or break your child’s success in school.

2. SPEAK POSITIVELY ABOUT YOUR CHILD TO OTHERS

As we sat in our teacher’s meeting with two teachers, two counselors, one special education teacher, the hubs and me — totally not overwhelming, right? [Super Huge Eyeroll] I listened to an obviously frustrated teacher tell me all the things my son was doing that he shouldn’t be doing. Umm…yeah…I know. I get it. No, really. I super get this.  Uh-huh…yeah…right…yes, he does that…and that…and that…STOP TALKING! It was new to her and it is frustrating. However, she just kept rehashing everything he did wrong, repeatedly. We tried to give them some insight into our son but I could tell the frustrations were too raw. It’s important to realize that parenting ADHD includes including others in the process. 

By the next meeting my husband and I consciously chose to make sure the team we were meeting with knew all the amazing cool things about my son. He is a whiz in science, he loves helping people, he is hilarious, he is amusingly sarcastic, and so much more! We watched their conversations about our real-life-son, not just the frustrating student, change before our eyes. This frustrated teacher started complimenting my son at school on his science scores and laughing with him.  Don’t forget: they see hundreds of kids a day. Chances are your ADHD child is getting under their skin. Change their mindset from obnoxious pupil to a real human-child that has feelings and is amazing.  Make. Them. See.

Parenting ADHD Help

 

SEE MORE:  4 Ways to Measure Kids’ Success That Have NOTHING To Do With Grades

 

3. EMOTIONS RUN DEEP

ADHD kids feel. They feel emotion deep in their soul and sometimes you would never know.  Understood.org says, “Kids with ADHD don’t have different emotions from most of their peers. They feel hurt, anger, sadness, discouragement, laziness and worry just like everyone else does. What is different for many kids with ADHD is that these feelings seem to be more frequent and intense. They also seem to last longer. And they get in the way of everyday life.”

Take the time to ask your child about their feelings, with open-ended questions. Pay attention to their body language and demeanor. Once their emotions overflow, sometimes it is hard to have a logical conversation with them. Have patience and understanding; acknowledge their feelings and try to redirect the negative emotions when possible. Parenting ADHD is about listening and engaging with your child.

4. SHAMING: DON’T DO IT

Most of us in the trenches of ADHD never intend to shame our child. We are overwhelmed and frustrated; our tongues drip a little looser than we’d like.  Shaming can be as innocent as saying, “Your 5-year-old little brother has his shoes on, why on earth don’t you?”. This makes them feel less than and you are essentially comparing their behaviors. Comparison brings nothing but hurt feelings and resentment.

We also had to engage a strict hand with the non-ADHD siblings. We started noticing them saying things like, “You’re being so crazy!! Go take your pill!”. This will not fly in our house and we put our foot down hard when we hear it. Shaming is never a useful tool in parenting, but when it involves a child with ADHD, it can make a child already prone to depression and anxiety feel more shamed and inadequate. Parenting ADHD is about awareness of everyone involved: parent, child and siblings.

5. LYING WILL HAPPEN

It is going to happen…a lot. You cannot realistically punish them every single time they lie (yes, it happens that much). Prepare yourself for this quirk and decide how it will be handled.  If the lie is significant (depending on any number of factors) a consequence follows. However, if it is a little thing here or there, we express our disappointment that they lied and it is not acceptable and move on. We finally hit a stride where a lie comes out and is quickly followed up with the truth and an apology. It’s only taken 4+ years of pulling my hair out. [insert more patience here]

 

SEE MORE:  How It Really Feels Being The Mom Of A Bullied Kid

 

Parenting ADHD Advice

6. GIVE THEM OPPORTUNITIES TO SUCCEED

This is huge!! ADHD kids are insanely intelligent, smart, creative, funny, loveable and the list goes on. Sometimes their impulses get the better of them. If you think you’re frustrated, just imagine being them. Take EVERY SINGLE CHANCE to point out their successes and moments that make you proud. Did they hang their backpack up right after school? Make sure you say “Hey…thanks for getting your backpack put away. That was super helpful.” The small thank-you will do wonders for their self-esteem and remind you how fantastic your child is. Know they are a great pancake chef? Ask them to make the family breakfast! School and life are hard. They have a lot more hurdles than the average child; give them a chance to do things right and be rewarded.

Parenting ADHD comes with extra trials, but we learn so much if we take the time to understand our ADHD child and how to help them be successful. These six things are the first items I think of when people ask me about parenting ADHD. I wish I would have known these from the start, but I’m learning and still making mistakes too. Hopefully my mistakes can give you a leg up when parenting your child with ADHD. They’re some of the raddest people I know.


Looking for additional resources? A few of my favorite ADHD websites are:

http://www.additudemag.com

http://www.understood.org

https://add.org/

Parenting ADHD with Love

 

 See more at TodaysMama.com!

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I’m Adopted: 5 Things My Parents Did Right

“I didn’t know you were adopted!”

This is my favorite thing people say to me when they find out I was adopted.  It’s not really something that comes up in everyday conversation and I currently don’t own any shirts that say “I’m adopted!” although, now I think I need to.  I’m an open book when it comes to adoption.  I even went as far as allowing a TV crew to come with me when I met my biological family for the first time (I still have mixed feelings about this).  As my friends and I have grown up and are having children of our own, I’ve occasionally been asked about parenting adopted children.

I think my parents will be very excited to read this article because in the past I’ve mostly told them all the things they did wrong. When it comes to the fact that I was adopted-I feel like they did a really good job.  One of my most furious pet peeves is when I hear about adopted children that are mistreated specifically because they were adopted.  I’ve met families that have specific limitations ONLY on their adopted children or that refer to their adopted children as “not their real child, their adopted child” and it makes my stomach turn.  One of the best indications I’ve found is how the siblings treat each other and their attitude towards their adopted siblings-if the parents have had the wrong attitude towards their adopted children, the siblings are usually much worse.

I'm Adopted: 5 THings My Parents Did Right

I think the reason I’ve always had a healthy attitude about my adoption is because of a few key things my parents did right:

1.They Told Me From the Beginning

I’m a huge advocate for children knowing how they came to be.  If my parents would have sprung on me that I was adopted when I turned 12, 16, or 18 we would have had PROBLEMS (and we already had problems so this would have been REALLY bad).  Also, I want to believe I would have caught on because I was 6 when my Mother brought my sisters home from Romania and they look pretty Romanian.  There is never a time in my life I didn’t know I was adopted.  We talked about it regularly and my questions were answered as I came up with them.  Adoption was shown as the most logical way for my parents to acquire the children they wanted since they couldn’t have kids themselves.  They were always very straightforward and never acted weird about it…so I didn’t either.

2.They Made it Normal

It wasn’t until I was older and better able to understand that I realized there was a stigma around adoption.  I remember once I had a cousin ask if it was weird that I didn’t look like the rest of the family and I wasn’t sure how to even answer that (my extended family looks pretty diverse on both sides).  I had never dawned on my that this was weird that my mom hadn’t given birth to me.  As I got older when friends would ask I would ask them if it was weird that they came out of their mom.  It’s not-that’s just how it is.  My normal is very different because I literally don’t know anything else!  I think normalization happened because we talked about it like it was no big deal-very logically and it just made sense to me.

3.They Told Me Everything They Knew

I came from a closed adoption.  I was in foster care for 3 months and then adopted through LDS Social Services.  My Mom always told me that my foster mom was very sweet and that my biological mother cared very much for me and placed me out of love, because that is all that she knew about my background.  I knew where I was born, I knew the whole story of my parents picking me up and I was filled in on all of the information my parents had.  I’m very grateful for this and glad that this was also presented very matter-of-fact.  When I was a teenager my Mom pulled out my adoption paperwork and showed me the limited information they had about my biological parents-their eye color, height, my birth weight, etc. and I was glad to have even limited knowledge about it.

4.My Parents Supported Me Meeting My Biological Family

As I grew up I realized that I had a very large family that I felt very much connected to.  Finding my biological family was never a high priority for me-I always wanted to leave myself available to be found, but pursuing it myself seemed like a large task and not entirely necessary.  I always felt that if I never met them here on earth, I would meet them in heaven.  I also knew that there is a reason people place children for adoption and it’s usually pretty serious-I didn’t want to jump in to opening a huge can of worms and disrupting other people’s lives if I was a painful memory they wanted to forget (especially after having my own children and realized just how difficult that would be).

That changed very quickly on a random Wednesday a few years ago.  I received a phone call from LDS Social Services asking if I would like to talk to my biological mother-she was trying to get in touch with me and Georgia’s laws had changed in terms of closed adoptions and could I sign and fax over some documents?  I said yes, faxed it all over and was talking to my biological mother that afternoon.  Crazy.  I called my parents in the midst of all of this and was given lots of support from them, which I am very grateful for.  My parents always told us growing up that if we wanted to search for our biological families they would support us and they did.

5.Being Adopted Was Never Used Against Me

Not once did my parents bring up the fact that I was adopted during my very difficult teenage years.  We fought often and had many ups and downs and they never brought this up.  It would have been extremely damaging for me if they had and I’m grateful.  I always felt so connected to my family-they are my crazies and I love them as such.  Even now as I know my biological family I just feel like my circle has grown-no one has been replaced.

Adoption has been a huge blessing in my life.  I’m an open book and I’d be happy to answer any questions you have, feel free to comment below!

See more at TodaysMama.com!

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