Figuring out how to get my ADHD child to sleep

Lexie has always had a problem falling asleep. I am jealous of those parents who report that their children are in bed and asleep by 7 p.m. Heck, I am even jealous of the ones who get them asleep by 8 p.m.or even 9 p.m.

Lexie, on the other hand, is usually up until 10 p.m. or later even though her bedtime is 9 p.m. My husband originally dismissed it as her taking after him. He has always had trouble falling asleep. But now we know he is right. Her sleep problem is related to her ADHD (which my husband was recently diagnosed with too so it is something she inherited from him.) The problem is that she can’t stop her racing mind long enough to fall asleep.

Actually, the diagnosis of ADHD for both Lexie and my husband explained a lot. And while medication helps both of them in the daytime to focus and be productive, that medicine has run out by bedtime.

Originally, we thought her medication might be keeping her awake, and even her doctor suggested giving it to earlier to make sure it has worn off by bedtime. But even the best extended release medicine is not going to last the 14 to 16 hours of a typical waking day, and I can typically see when her medication is worn off. She becomes hungrier and just a little wild. Since the meds have worn off, she has no way to calm down to go to sleep. (Once asleep, she is out so no worries about that at least.)

While doing some research online, I found several medical sites that said many adult ADHD patients take an additional dose of their medication so that they can quiet their mind enough to sleep. Of course, that sounds odd as ADHD medication is a stimulant which you would think would have the opposite effect and keep them awake rather than going to sleep.

A good night’s sleep is vital to your child’s mood and brain function. Not getting enough sleep can worsen the symptoms of ADHD. With the recommendation of 9 to 11 hours of sleep at night for a nine-year-old,  I definitely want Lexie to get more sleep.

But rather than dose Lexie with more medication, we have decided to try some of the other suggestions for getting her to sleep.

Here are some suggestions gathered from the internet:

  • Use a white-noise machine, ear plugs, or play soothing music to distract from any other night time sounds
  • Cut down screen time before bed (in other words, no TV, computer or iPads for the 30 minutes or an hour before bed)
  • Ensure she gets one hour of exercise a day
  • Sticking to a schedule is very important for someone with ADHD so establish a clear bedtime routine
  • Make the hour before bed calm, low lights
  • If light sensitive, use blackout curtains, turn bed away from door or use a sleep mask
  • Avoid large meals or snacks before bed
  • Try aroma therapy with lavender, chamomile, sandalwood or vanilla.
  • Use a weighted blanket
  • Practice relaxation techniques – focus on breathing or visualize yourself in a calm place
  • Taking melatonin (available OTC) or other prescription medication for sleep

Now, I will admit when I first saw this list of suggestions I didn’t feel confident that they are going to do anything. But I was tired of the nightly battle. We decided to try cutting the before-bed screen time last week. We had them go to their rooms 20 minutes before bedtime and not use any electronics.

OMG! It worked! They were asleep before 10! The next night was the same. Eureka! We have found the cure! Well, it didn’t work on two nights but we were not consistent with the timing of getting them into bed. Lexie still gets up a few times in her procrastinating manner but we have seen a drastic change in how quickly she falls asleep when we stopped the screen time and had them read or draw instead.

The problem of telling little white lies in front of your child

I’m busy that day.

I already donated to your organization.

The meal was delicious.

Thank you. I love it.

Many of us tell these little white lies without a thought believing these “harmless” fibs spare feelings. We say these things to make our lives easier and to avoid conflict.

_hurt-feelings-clipart-hurt-feelings-clipart_1152-648We tell them to avoid hurting someone’s feelings (I love this gift.) as well as excuse our own behavior (Sorry, I’m late. Traffic was terrible.) And many adults don’t even consider these little white lies to be lies at all. But they are. And how are young kids to understand the difference?

How do they differentiate a “fib” to grandma about liking a present and a lie to their parents about breaking a dish? In both instances they do not want to hurt someone’s feeling or have someone mad at them.

And research suggests that when kids hear adults lying, they are more likely to do it themselves. A study from the University of California found that 5 to 7 year olds who were told a lie by an adult were more likely to cheat and then lie about it afterward.

Research also shows that kids lie more as they get older. When you have a toddler, they are very honest (sometimes embarrassingly so). Preschools often lie to avoid getting in trouble. (I didn’t do it.) By the time they are 5, 72% of kids would tell a white lie. It is up to 80% for 8 year olds and up to 84% for 11 year olds.

We tell kids we want them to be honest but then they see us lying or we encourage them to lie to spare someone’s feelings, and they get confused on which one we want. They learn that honesty creates conflict while lying is an easy way to avoid that conflict.

So can you teach your kids to be kind and honest? I think you can. Much as we look at the drawing our kids bring us and not tell them it is horrible but point out something we like, we can teach our kids to do the same. So instead of saying they don’t like the sweater Grandma bought them, they can point out something positive (It is a pretty color, or it is so soft.)

The truth is this is not easy either and can still lead to conflict. Instead of the white lie, “Traffic was terrible,” you would have to admit you left late or misgauged your timing. And if you tell your friend that you don’t want to meet on Friday night (instead of telling them your busy) and suggest another date, you still risk the chance of hurting their feelings. But the truthfulness of your statement won’t be lost on your child. Instead of teaching them to lie, you will be teaching them to be honest. And that is after all what we want, isn’t it?

A Pokemon Birthday party for my 9-year-old daughter 

Though she may love pink and puppies and spends her time singing songs from Disney’s Moana, Lexie rarely chooses a “girly” theme for her birthday parties. Last year, she chose Minecraft. This year it was Pokemon.

Like last year, we decided to have this party at the house. A quick look at Pinterest brought a slew of ideas. But after a few years of going all out on the kids’ parties, we toned it back a little this year.

Invitation – I always design the kids’ invitations. Since Lexie loves pink and Pikachu, I combined them for this card. We printed them at Wal-Mart. She invited her whole class plus three other friends. Thankfully, everyone didn’t show up. We had eight kids (not counting Jase, who decided to introduce/explain all the games instead of participating.)

Decorations – We kept this pretty simple – mostly white and red crepe paper. This included hanging the crepe paper from the ceiling to make a giant Pokeball design. We also printed out some Pokeballs to affix to the walls.

Our Pokemon table covering was pretty easy. You just take one red tablecloth and one white tablecloth and attach them in the middle with black duct tape. Throw in a white plate in the middle (outlined with black tape) and ta da, you have a Pokemon tablecloth.

I used red plates for the cupcakes and then bought some Pokemon plates and napkins for the pizza. Our goodie bags were white Kraft bags with red and black paper glued on them to make them look like Pokeballs.

Food – We decided to keep it simple this year. We just served pizza, water and Rootbeer for lunch followed by cupcakes. Each cupcake had a different Pikachu on it.

Games/Activities – Again, we kept it pretty simple. The biggest challenge was that it rained on her birthday, and we had to move all outdoor activities inside.

Decorating Masks – I traced two different masks onto light yellow paper. The first was a Pikachu design, and then I did a generic mask for those kids who might not be into Pokemon. We put out different color markers for them to decorate them.

Pin the Fire on the Charizard – As a version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, I printed out a Charizard with the flame on its tail missing. The kids then had to land a cutout of the fire on the spot.

Water Balloon Target Practice – I printed out various Pokemon characters – assigning each a point value based on how big I printed the character. We originally were going to attach them to the fence, but since we had to move the game inside, we taped them to the inside of the garage door. The kids used water balloon to throw and accumulate points. Since this was a water game, I laminated the Pokemon cutouts.

Pokeball hunt – I saw this version of an Easter Egg hunt on Pinterest. You decorate ping-pong balls to look like Pokeballs and then hide them throughout the yard for the kids to find. This would have been great in our big backyard. Instead, I had to go hide them while the kids were doing the piñata in the garage. I hid them around the living and dining room. I missed seeing how well this game worked as I was out picking up the pizza while they played.

Pikachu Says – To fill in time while I was getting the pizza (it took longer than planned), the kids played this version of “Simon Says.” They liked it so much that they did it again after pizza and cupcakes.

Pinata –
The last few years I have made the piñata for the kids. But since Lexie didn’t want a Pokeball piñata which would have been easy to make, I bought a piñata at Wal-mart and simply added pictures of four different Pokemon to the outside.

Lexie declared the party was great. All of her friends seemed to have a good time too.

Sticking with my No TV or computer in my kids’ bedroom

Ever since Jase was young and would easily fall asleep in front of the TV, my husband has occasionally brought up the idea of putting a TV in his room. And as Jase uses a computer more and more (mostly for play instead of homework), my husband has also suggested we give him his own computer for his room.

On both these accounts, I am firmly against it. I don’t see any reason Jase or Lexie need to be holed up in their room watching TV or glued to the Internet without any contact from the rest of us.

large-cartoon-tv-0-12713There are two TVs in the house. They have free use of them, and each child has their own profile set up on Netflix. We can clearly check to see what they have been watching. (My kids pretty much have never watched regular cable TV. It has always been iTunes or Netflix.)

One report I read said 71% of American kids between 8 and 18 had a TV in their room. (By the way, more boys than girls have TVs in their room. I can only speculate that has something to do with gaming systems.) Researchers followed up with those in the study two and four years later. They found that those with TVs in their room tended to be overweight and continued to gain weight.

0bb52e4a68920cf04dd0017cbaa3be5e_laptop14-cartoon-clipart-for-laptop_1600-1200Jase and Lexie have a computer to use. It is in our office right next to mine. They have even come up with their own schedule for using the computer. And since the computer is in the office, my husband and I can monitor what they watch or play.

They are both really into watching YouTube videos and while their YouTube apps on their iPads have restrictions, I don’t believe there is any on the computer. Occasionally we tell them that what they are watching is inappropriate (usually because of bad language).

If they are in their room, I would not be able to monitor their Internet usage. I would have to rely soley on security settings and monitoring their web browser history. And at this point, they don’t NEED a computer for school work. It would only be for entertainment, and I feel much better having them use the computer out where I can monitor them.

apple-ipadUnfortunately, since the kids do have iPads with internet access, it is almost the same thing as having a computer in their room. And yes, we do allow them to watch it in their room. Jase sometimes hides what he is watching, but it is more for fear that we will tell him that he shouldn’t be watching something rather than him chatting online. (And he always lets us see what he is watching when we ask.)

We do have age restrictions on their iPads. All their purchases have to go through us, and we have to know all passwords. Their email accounts automatically copies my husband. Yes, I realize as they get older we will need to do more monitoring, and at some point we may not allow them to charge their devices in their rooms in an effort to stop them from texting or playing online when they should be sleeping.

But it is unrealistic to think that not having a computer in the bedroom will keep them totally safe. They can access the Internet from a friend’s house or at school. And no amount of filters will ever keep all the bad things away from them. So it is up to us as parents to keep talking to them about their online usage and monitoring it the best we can. It is about us teaching them proper usage of technology – whether it is in the terms of Internet safety or in the moderation of its use.

AP Classes, magnet schools, electives…so many middle school decisions

It started with a flyer back in October for an information night about the area magnet schools. And just last month Jase came home with a pink paper listing the classes he could take next year in middle school.

mtmAs the parent of a fifth grader, it feels way too soon to be thinking about the next school year. But I am sure it will be here before we know it. It certainly feels too early to expect kids to be thinking about what they want to do beyond middle school, but that is definitely the feeling I get from the school district and other parents. I know as a fifth or sixth grader I couldn’t tell you what I wanted to do in high school, college or beyond.

Before we got the paperwork on magnet schools, I had not even considered that Jase would go anywhere but the middle school across the street from us. I was surprised to find one of my friends was looking into a charter school for her son.

Magnet schools? Charter schools? I really knew nothing about these choices or why I might want to choose one for Jase instead of the public school across the street.

A magnet school is public school with specialized courses. There are three in our district that accept 6th graders: DATA – Design and Technology Academy, KSAT – Krueger School of Applied Technologies and STEM -Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Yes, they are all technology and science-based schools. Jase’s best friend wants to go to DATA because he wants to be a computer programmer. Now I know that he can of course change his mind later, but I am still amazed that he is thinking far enough ahead to choose a different school to attend now.

A charter school is typically a private-owned school that receives government funding but operates independently from the school district. The school my friend wants to send her son is called BASIS. It is listed as a top school in our area. (Her son is currently on the waiting list for next year.) There is no tuition for either a magnet or charter school.

Jase hasn’t shown any interest in a technology or science field. He heard about the magnet schools in a presentation to the fifth graders. When I asked him if he wanted to go to the additional presentation that parents can attend, he said no. He wanted to go to the middle school in our neighborhood.

At the time, I didn’t argue. But as I hear about all the students from his school who were accepted to other schools (including his best friend), I wonder if I shouldn’t have pushed him more to at least looking into the other schools. Who knows – upon further review one of them could have piqued his interest.

I am of course fine with him attending our neighborhood middle school. As with our neighborhood elementary, it is one of the best in the city. But you want your child to have the best education, so I can’t help but wonder if we aren’t trying as hard as these other parents.

Last month, the middle school course elective sheet came home. The following week the middle school put on a presentation of the electives he can choose from. He gets two electives, and one must be a fine art. Since Jase is in the fifth-grade strings program (a precursor to orchestra) we knew what his fine art class would be.

The teachers at both his school and the middle school suggest that sixth graders take Academic & Individual Motivation (AIM), an enhanced study-hall that in addition to time to complete homework also teaches time management and organizational skills. I did a quick survey of some parents I knew with middle schoolers to find out if AIM was worth it. The resounding answer was YES! That took care of his second elective.

His required classes are math, English, reading, science, social studies and a health/physical education class. Now those first five are also offered as Pre-Advance Placement classes. There was a form to sign if you wanted to sign up for Pre-AP classes. You had to commit to them for the full year. Jase is a solid A/B student. He works hard to get the grades he does, but he doesn’t excel at any of these subjects. We signed him up for the non-AP classes.

Of course after I do this, I hear all these other parents who say they made their kids sign up for the Pre AP classes because they wanted to challenge them with harder work. One parent even said there would be better benefits taking AP courses when looking into college later. Ugh. I don’t want to be thinking about college now when he is still in fifth grade. He has a lot of growing, learning and maturing to do before that should be a concern. I guess I should just stop worrying and stop listening to other parents. I am sure what we have chosen for Jase will be just fine.

Dealing with tween behavior

It has already started. I see hints of it here and there. Jase is 11-years-old. In just three months he will be 12. Yes, the tween behavior has begun to emerge. There is a hint of defiance sometimes in his voice when we tell him it is time to get off his iPad or that we need to go somewhere. He questions why he must do something or even openly says he won’t do something like try a new food.

whateverIt isn’t that I don’t want him to find his own way, which is part of growing up. I like watching him grow and change. My husband and I are all for giving him room to grow and room to make mistakes. It is our desire to have him behave decently while doing that. No eye rolling. No mellow dramatic sighs or “Whatever” or the dreaded “duh.” (Heck, I have even seen some of these behaviors in Lexie, and she turns nine next month.)

Even though I know he will soon be in Middle School, and the attitude and changes will just keep coming, I am thankful we aren’t fully there yet. But it did make me want me to do a little research on the Internet to see what to expect and some tips on how to handle it.

Tips for handling the Tween years

  • Maintain your Parental Status – Now is not the time to become your child’s close friend. He is looking to you to help him through this confusing stage.
  • Pick your battles/Draw a clear line in the sand – As always, you need to decide what is important. Focus on the behaviors you want or those you won’t tolerate and let the other issues fall to the wayside. So ignore the eye rolls and sighs but enforce the no raised voices or walking off in the middle of the conversation. And of course, be consistent in following through with punishments.
  • Reciprocate Respect – Dealing with emotional tweens or teens can be trying to say the least but remember you need to treat them as an individual with their own thoughts and feelings just as they should treat you as such.
  • Explain what you want – As always, you need to deliver a clear message about how you want your child to behave. And when you think they are behaving disrespectful, take the time to make sure they know what they are doing that is wrong. You can’t assume they know what they said or how they said it was wrong. Remember they are still learning. Tell them what they are doing is wrong and offer suggestions of how to say it more respectfully.

I did find a particularly good blog by a fellow mom. She listed five things pre-teen boys want from their moms. (And her own tween approved the list as being accurate.)

1.) They want us to be there for them but not to talk all the time. (She noted that tweens seemed to tune out adults after about 10 words when given advice.)

2.) They want to be silly.

3.) They want us to set the rules but also want some say in them. (She said when she asked her son about punishments for his misbehavior, he almost always suggested a harsher punishment.)

4.) They want to be loved, even if they don’t act like it.

5.) They want us to have their back.

I am not sure any of these tips will help, but it was interesting reading up on others’ experiences and what worked for them or what the experts recommended. I guess we will take this as with everything else that comes with raising a child, you just deal with it as it happens and expect to make mistakes.



My plan to spend less time volunteering has failed

It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution. Maybe it was just a nice passing thought but with the New Year, I wanted to spend less time volunteering at my kids’ school and more time writing.

For the past two years, I have been an officer in the parent-teacher association (PTA) at their school. With that volunteer position comes a big time commitment. It means helping out at PTA functions as well as doing my officer position as Treasurer.

prez_volunteer_awardlogo_april_09_flat_customI volunteered enough hours in the past two years to receive the Silver Presidential Volunteer Service Award. This is a national award given to those who volunteer between 250 and 400 hours a year. (I received a certificate and a lapel pin each year.)

This year I am the first vice-president in charge of parent education and PTA programs. This position isn’t as time intensive as keeping the books for the PTA, but I do still volunteer a lot of my time helping with our programs.

So at the beginning of the year we had a PTA board meeting. I took myself off the scholarship committee announcing that I was trying to cut back my volunteering. I didn’t raise my hand when they were forming the budget committee.

When they talked about things that need to be done for our upcoming festival, I agreed to do the flyers and signs because that is something I love to do, and since I did them last year, I have many of the files already done.

Then came the news that the woman in charge of the fifth-grade pool party (an end of the year celebration for those leaving elementary school to attend middle school) had to step down. They were looking for those who would chair the committee or at least help out. Since I have a fifth-grader, I couldn’t say no to helping.

I bet you can see where this is going. Yep, by the time we had our first committee meeting, I had begun talking to people about last year’s party. And since I was treasurer the past two years, I had access to the party expenses. And before I knew it, I seemed to be in charge of the committee even though I haven’t officially taken on the chair position.

Ok. The party isn’t until the end of May and tons of parents usually want to be involved so I think I should be fine with this additional responsibility. And then…

The PTA needs to form a nominating committee to elect officers for the next school year. When the PTA President announced this at our general meeting last week, there was dead silence from the audience. No one wants to be on the committee, and we need five members. Finally a few of us dedicated PTA board members raised their hands. (Yes, you know I was one of them.)

After the meeting, the five of us on the committee were supposed to meet and pick a chair. Somehow three of the others met without me and said while they didn’t mind being on the committee that they didn’t want to chair it. I bet you can guess what happened next. Yep, I am chairing the nomination committee.

The good news is the nominating committee is a short term commitment. We will be done by next month.

So I had good intentions to volunteer less. I do want to spend more time writing. I guess now I will just have to find a way to do it all.