Are You a Helicopter College Parent?

image via Flickr, J.K. Califf

image via Flickr, J.K. Califf

For many college students, going away to school represents the first real opportunity to be on their own…some relish it, some fear it!  For many parents, this is a time when they may struggle to let go and allow their child to demonstrate self mastery, to show responsibility in meeting multiple new expectations, and to dig down deep to grow, achieve and, ultimately, graduate!

The Difference Between Encouraging Dependency and Facilitating Independence

Large numbers of parents can’t negotiate the difficult transition from encouraging dependency to facilitating independence.

As a result, they become “helicopter parents,” hovering over every aspect of their college student’s life…daily “how are you doing” phone calls, repeated text reminders, wake-up calls, go to bed admonitions, daily grade checks on the college website, over the phone sobriety checks, tightly managing the bank account, and not so subtle threats about what will happen if he or she messes up!

It never ceases to amaze us how far co-dependent parents will go to protect their child from the reality of college life challenges.

One young man who recently came to us for help because he was struggling to meet expectations (i.e., submitting monthly reports, generating narratives to describe sales calls, etc.) in a job he secured with a Fortune 500 Technology Company after graduation.  As it turns out, these were demands he never really had to face at college.  “I never wrote one paper at college.  I would send the syllabus or the rubric for an assignment to my Mom who would do the whole thing and send it back to me to give to my professor!”

Co-Dependency Starts Young

Most parents sense that this degree of co-dependency is wrong but persist because the pattern is deeply ingrained.

Oftentimes, it developed years earlier in elementary or middle school.  Nagging about homework.  Making flash cards for their child to use to study for exams.  Obsessive editing of papers and essays.  Doing the homework.  Eliminating chores.  Tolerating underage drinking or drug use.  Minimizing problems.  Blaming the teachers.  Providing rewards for doing the basics.

Once this pattern is established, it can grow ugly in high school.  The child oftentimes is dependent upon a nag or a reminder to get things done, yet becomes resentful, disrespectful, and manipulative when they get one:  “Quit nagging me!  I’ll get it done!  Why don’t you trust me?”

Such interchanges can put parents back on their heels:  “Damned if they do” (having to tolerate an “attitude” brimming with anger, intensity and negativity” or “Damned if they don’t” (fear of their child failing, losing opportunities, and not experiencing success).

Co-Dependency at College

image via Flickr, Jose Kevo

image via Flickr, Jose Kevo

When college comes along, it all gets magnified.  Parents can justify their enabling behaviors because they are only “rightfully” protecting their financial investment!

As parents, the forces behind enabling/co-dependent behavior are particularly powerful…love, protection, empathy, fear, sensitivity, sacrifice, and guilt.  So powerful, in fact, that they can sabotage all the positive things parents can do to promote their child’s independence and chances for success.

Here are some of the things they can do to trip parents up:

  • — Interfere with their ability to take an honest look at their child’s strengths and weaknesses
  • — Make them feel defensive when their child fails to meet an expectation
  • — Blind them to their child’s role in his difficulties
  • — Lead them to do for their child rather than support him to do for himself
  • — Inhibit them from imposing necessary and appropriate consequences
  • — Encourage them to blame others when things do not go smoothly
  • — Act as a barrier that prevents them from allowing their child to take on ever increasing responsibilities for himself

Because co-dependency is so common (particularly in parents of children with ADD/ADHD) and it can be a critical barrier to success at college, we encourage parents to examine their enabling tendencies before and during their child’s college years.  In our new book, Accommodations for Success we have a simple survey called “First Things First” that can help parents assess their enabling tendencies.  Check it out!  Be honest and see where you stand!  “What’s you enabling quotient?”

How to Facilitate Independence

image via Flickr, MeganLynnette

image via Flickr, MeganLynnette

Sometimes, just being more aware of enabling tendencies helps parents reduce or control them.  However, when enabling tendencies interfere with a parent’s ability to develop and /or follow through with doing the right things to promote their child’s success parents may need to reach out for help.

This may be as simple as requesting a significant other to be a source of feedback when one demonstrates thinking and behavior that is enabling in nature.  Of course, inherent in this strategy is the need to be committed to being non-defensive and accepting of the feedback!

Some parents find that it is important to develop a support network or a buddy to regularly meet with to discuss some of these difficult issues.

Some find it most helpful to meet individually with knowledgeable professionals to help find a pathway to healthy thinking and behaving when it comes to promoting their child’s growth and development.

If you need some extra support with your co-dependent tendencies, give us a call at the Being Well Center…we’ve helped thousands of parents get their act together.

Step Out of the Way to Let Your Child Move Forward

Failure to get these enabling behaviors under control can be a major barrier to independence and success.

Sometimes parents have to step out of the way in order to allow their child/student to move forward and reach his/her full potential.

If this is hard for you, then it is important to reach out to a spouse, a co-worker, or a professional for support to meet this most difficult challenge!  Stay on guard and work to avoid allowing these tendencies to interfere with your child’s success at college.

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Meet Dr. Liden, Part II

[continued from Part I]

Dr. Liden | The Being Well CenterIf I hadn’t had to live with the ramifications of Attention Deficit Disorder in my own home, I probably would have stayed with the approach [referring the management of ADD back to medical professionals with little training in ADD treatment] for a long time, thinking I was really making a difference in people’s lives.

Instead, as I faced the problem daily, I became aware of the pervasive, chronic nature of ADD and the need for a much more systematic and comprehensive treatment approach.

As a result, I left Children’s Hospital and organized a team of professionals including teachers, speech-language pathologists, psychologists, counselors, nurses, and others to begin TRANSACT Health Systems, now known as The Being Well Center.

Located near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, The Being Well Center provides diagnostic and treatment services for individuals with a variety of developmental, learning, and behavior problems — again, the most common being ADD.

At The Being Well Center, our initial focus was children and adolescents with these problems. However, it has become more and more apparent to us that there are large numbers of adults who continue to struggle with problems like ADD. Many of them are the parents and grandparents of the children we see. We have expanded our services to meet their needs as well.

Dr. Craig Liden | The Being Well CenterAs Senior Medical Director of The Being Well Center, I have counseled thousands of patients with ADD. I have worked with their family members. I have talked to hundreds of PTA groups and community organizations. I have conducted many in-service sessions about ADD for medical and educational professionals have supervised the expansion of our TRANSACT program to the other parts of Pennsylvania and the Eastern United States.

Through my involvement in all of these endeavors, I have become impressed with how little most people know about the common problem of ADD. Even though the same questions keep coming up, no one has provided a good resource that patients, parents, teachers, and others can use to better understand ADD. That is the rationale for my books, this blog, and our online communities on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn: to provide practical, down-to-earth answers to the common questions about ADD, its assessment, and its treatment.

In putting together the answers, I have tried to combine the scientific knowledge I have gained as a researcher and teacher, the insights I have developed in working with professionals from other fields, the practical experience I have acquired in caring for more than 10,000 patients with ADD, and the hopes and fears I have experienced as a parent of a child with ADD.


Read Part I of Dr. Liden’s personal and professional 30-year journey in treating more than 10,000 individuals with ADD/ADHD.

 

Succeed in the Workplace in Spite of ADD

Are there jobs that are particularly good for the ADD adult?

image via Flickr, Nana B Agyei

image via Flickr, Nana B Agyei

It may seem that the presence of certain ADD traits make the ADD adult better suited for some jobs than others. However, we can find successful ADD adults in almost all jobs and all kinds of work.

Each person with ADD has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses that work together in a complex way to create ‘fits’ in world of work.

It is simplistic to think that an individual’s attentional characteristics, in isolation, should influence his career choice over the careful consideration of all parts of who he is.

What can an adult with ADD do in the workplace when ADD is interfering with job performance?

ADD can interfere with job performance in countless ways. Productivity problems, poor performance reviews, or probationary status may be indications that attention weaknesses are negatively impacting in the workplace.

When this occurs, the adult with ADD may invoke the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under this law, employers may be required to make accommodations that allow the person with a disability to be successful on the job.

In my experience, calling upon the ADA should be done cautiously and only when employment is at risk. When, upon considering the risks involved in sharing personal medical information with an employer, the adult with ADD chooses to invoke the ADA, he may begin by discussing with his employer, his disability, its impact upon job performance, and his request for accommodations.

When the request for accommodations are “reasonable” and will not cause the employer “undue hardship” or alter the job basic requirements, the employer is required to make those or similar accommodations.


Don’t miss our prior discussion about when and how much to share with your employer about ADD!

9 Traits You Should Know About Your Temperament

Temperament refers to our in-born (not learned) behavioral style. We all come into the world with a unique set of temperamental characteristics that remain stable throughout our lifetime. These characteristics modulate how we respond to every situation in our lives. Understanding our own temperament as individuals and the temperament of our children is incredibly helpful in being the best we can be and in bringing out the best in our children.

In our experience, understanding the concept of temperament and applying that knowledge to ourselves as parents and spouses and to those around us helps us to better understand behavior…struggles, failures, and successes. In fact, failure to understand a child’s temperament and the role it plays in his behavior and performance can be a major source of frustration for parents.

add treatment, family, the being well centerIn our model, there are nine dimensions of temperament and we all fall somewhere along a continuum for each one. The ranges for these continuums are presented in the next section for each temperamental trait. It is important to know that where an individual falls along this continuum for any given temperamental trait is neither good nor bad…it just is! In fact, the same temperamental trait (e.g., being very intense) that is helpful to us in one situation may interfere with our behavior or performance in another.

A key goal should be to understand our temperament and the temperament of the children we live and work with. We need to critically consider how any extreme temperamental traits might be contributing to problems in performance, behavior, or social interaction. When temperamental extremes do interfere with performance, behavior or social interaction, we need to learn how best to work around or control these extremes.

Therefore, when we suspect that an ADD/ADHD child’s or adult’s temperamental characteristics play a role in his failure to meet an expectation at school or work, we know we must develop some type of accommodation to address this contribution.

1. Activity Level refers to the amount of activity from high to low that we engage in throughout our day. Some of us are always moving and physically active; others of us are more sedentary and spend most of our time engaged in quiet activities. The child with a high activity level is likely to be in his element in gym class and playing tag during recess and to have more difficulty staying settled during quiet seated activities; on the other hand, the child with a low activity level might prefer sitting and drawing or reading during free time rather than going outside to play an active game.

2. Rhythmicity refers to the predictability of our daily bodily routines for sleeping, eating and going to the bathroom. It ranges from highly regular to highly irregular. Those of us who are highly rhythmic are hungry, have a bowel movement, and feel sleepy at about the same times every day. Others of us, who are highly irregular do not have a schedule or rhythm at all…our wake-up time varies from day to day; we feel ready for bed at different times and need to go to the bathroom at various, unpredictable times throughout our day. This unpredictability can present a challenge for the child who is asked to adhere to a rigid school schedule where everyone eats and takes bathroom breaks at the same time every day.

3. Threshold of Response refers to the amount of stimulation, ranging from high to low, we require before responding. Those of us with a low threshold require very little to make us happy, sad, angry, etc. Others of us with a high threshold require a lot before we react. The child with a very high threshold may be injured and not seem to notice his pain. At the other extreme, the child with a very low threshold may be bothered by the slightest noise, the frown from the teacher, the tags in clothing, the buzz of the fluorescent lights, the seams in socks, and the taste, texture or smell of food.

4. Frustration Tolerance refers to the level of difficulty we are able to experience before we become frustrated. Frustration tolerance ranges from high to low. Those of us who have a high frustration tolerance are able experience an awful lot of difficulty before we feel frustration. Others of us who have a low frustration tolerance become frustrated very easily. The child with a high frustration tolerance may be able to deal with repeated struggles and failures in the classroom without experiencing significant frustration. The child with a very low frustration tolerance, however, can be quick to experience frustration when asked to perform tasks of only moderate difficulty. This, in turn, sets him up for repeated struggles and can turn into negativity towards school and other learning situations.

5. Intensity of Response refers to the strength of our responses ranging from high tolow. These responses can be demonstrated outwardly or experienced inwardly. So it is not always easy to judge someone’s intensity of response by what we see. Our intensity is independent of the quality (negative or positive) of our response and the immediacy of our response (threshold).

add in school children | the being well centerThose of us with a high intensity of response experience or show strong responses. When we are happy we are very, very happy; when we are sad, we are very, very sad; when we are angry, we are very, very angry. Others of us who have a low intensity of response barely show a blip on the screen when our emotions are set off. A child with high intensity may become overly silly at birthday celebrations, rageful during a conflict on the playground, and immobilized with nervousness on math time-tests. On the other hand, the child with low intensity of response may not seem to react at all; she does not experience extreme excitement over a special event or intense disappointment over a failure. In fact, we may find it difficult to read the reactions of a child with low intensity, often misjudging low intensity for not caring.

It is important to remember that when observing for intensity of response, we can’t always judge the book by looking at the cover; some very intense people experience all their intensity internally; nail-biting, skin-picking, complaints of a tightness in one’s chest, stomachaches, jaw aches, or headaches, etc., may be our only clues to what is going on inside.

High intensity of response (externally or internally) is a very powerful temperamental trait. When present, it can rule over everything: good thinking, paying attention, proper self-control, and appropriate social skills to name a few. Failure to identify a high intensity response pattern and appropriately accommodate for it can, inadvertently, set a child up for turning to a variety of other dysfunctional behaviors in an attempt to cope with her strong reactions including such things as over-eating, drug use, and developing an “I don’t care” attitude.

6. Mood refers to the overall quality of emotion throughout the day ranging from very positive to very negative. Those of us with positive mood spend the greater portion of our day in a pleasant mood; we are likely to put a positive spin on everything; problems are challenges. Others of us with a negative mood may seem more critical throughout our day; we are likely to see the glass as half empty. A child with positive mood is generally pleasant in the classroom and may even struggle to recognize when difficulties are present or percolating. The child with negative mood is likely to respond with frown, a headshake, or critical comment to most anyone or anything.

7. Approach-Withdrawal refers to our initial response to new persons, places, events, and ideas ranging from highly approach to highly withdrawal. Those of us who are highly approach readily jump into attempting new tasks, meeting new people, and trying new foods. Others of us who are highly withdrawal resist trying a new activity, avoid attending a party with strangers, and step back from a different kind of food. The child who is highly approach will not hesitate to start a conversation with a new student or teacher, jump into new activities and embrace new concepts and academic challenges. The child who is highly withdrawal may struggle with new students, avoid new playground activities, and step back from an unfamiliar concept in the classroom.

8. Adaptability refers to the amount of time and effort it takes to adapt or accommodate to a new person, situation, or concept after our initial approach or withdrawal response. This can range from easy (highly adaptable) to very slow (non-adaptable). Those of us who are highly adaptable easily integrate new routines, expectations, and concepts into our life. Those of us who are slow to adapt struggle tremendously with these same changes. In the classroom, the child who is highly adaptable readily goes with the flow regardless of the changes in his day, such as routines, class structures, and rules. The child who is slow to adapt may require an extended time to get into the flow at the beginning of each school year, struggle with changing expectations, buck new rules, and resist changes in routines. This same child may seem slow to understand and integrate new concepts that are presented even when they are in sync with his ability level.

9. Persistence refers to how long we stick with tasks regardless of their difficulty ranging from very long to very short. Some of us are highly persistent even in the face of tremendous difficulty; we keep going and going and going. Others of us spend only a short time on a challenging task before giving up and moving on to something else. The child with long persistence resists giving up and will practice a task repeatedly until he has mastered it. This same child may struggle to stop an activity when it is time to move on if he has not yet mastered or completed it. The child with short persistence may stop practice before mastery, struggle to stick with longer, more complex tasks, and be ready to put down a challenging book long before the last page.

A Final Word about Temperament

9 Temperament Traits | The Being Well CenterEach of our temperamental traits is important and plays a significant role in shaping who we are, how we behave, and how we experience and respond to the world around us. While we have defined and discussed these traits individually, it is important to remember that in the real world these traits do not exist in isolation; they interact with each other to influence our behavior in a complex way. Subtle differences in temperamental profiles can result in dramatic differences in how they present themselves in our homes and classrooms.

For example, a child with a negative mood, long persistence, slow adaptability, low frustration tolerance, and high intensity of reaction may be very difficult to work with when this set of characteristics interact with each other to result in frequent, very big negative reactions that last a long time in response to the inevitable changes and challenges that occur every day in the classroom.

On the other hand, a different child with a very similar profile including a negative mood, long persistence, slow adaptability, low frustration tolerance, but a low intensity of reaction may be much less difficult to work with. This is because his low intensity of reaction means his frequent, negative reactions to the changes and challenges in the classroom will be milder and, even if they do persist, their small magnitude may not register on anyone’s radar.

Therefore, as we examine a child’s temperamental profile, it is important to look closely at each trait separately and then consider how each of these individual traits may interact with the others to shape the behavior and personality we are observing.

We’d like to share a quick worksheet to help you apply the 9 Temperament Traits to yourself or a loved one.  Download: 9 TEMPERAMENT TRAITS WORKSHEET.  Where do you fall on the spectrum?  Your spouse?  Your children?

Sharing ADD/ADHD in the Workplace

What should the ADD adult share with his coworkers and employer?

When adults are first diagnosed and beginning treatment for ADD, often, they are excited to finally have an answer to a lifetime of frustration and struggle. In their excitement, they frequently want to share their experience with everyone who will listen. Unfortunately, this invariably leads to problems, particularly at work.

add_workplace_being_well_centerCoworkers and employers, who do not have a good understanding of ADD or the effects of medication, commonly put the ADD adult under the microscope looking for immediate positive changes and assuming any new unproductive behaviors are negative effects of medication use.

Because the newly diagnosed adult needs time to learn strategies for improved work skills, organization, interpersonal skills, and problem solving, this microscopic observation sets everyone up for disappointment.

Except when employment is already at serious risk, in my experience, it is wisest for the newly diagnosed adult to keep his personal medical affairs to himself, immediate family members and close friends.

 


The Being Well Center supports the whole person through all of life’s demands. We specialize in accurate diagnosis of ADD at any age, and we have extensive experience guiding adults with ADD through expectations across the lifespan.


Our current blog series is excerpted from Dr. Liden’s best-selling book, Pay Attention!: Answers to Common Questions About the Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder.

Brain Power Only Goes So Far

When I was first learning about ADHD, the common wisdom was that most kids outgrew “hyperactivity” once they passed through puberty.  Once our focus shifted away from activity level toward “Attention Deficit Disorder” we started to recognize that our patients could carry their attentional weaknesses beyond adolescence.  Recognition of a possible underlying genetic basis for ADHD reinforced our clinical experience that this problem can have an impact on an individual across the life span.

Now, the most common new patient intakes at our clinical program in Pittsburgh are for college students who failed or wound up on academic probation often after doing fairly well in high school.  We also have a substantial number of professionals (doctors, lawyers, teachers, businessmen, etc.) who show up on our doorstep at 30, 40, 50, 60, and even at 70 questioning if ADHD might be contributing to struggles in their lives.  You might wonder, “If it’s ADHD, how did they ever make it that far?”

Well, if you look back it’s not too hard to understand.  Many of these individuals were smart kids and everything came easy early on.  They could be staring out the window daydreaming while the teacher was talking but have the “brain power” to answer the question correctly when called upon.  Homework was rarely an issue because they got all the work done before the end of class and never really had to study for tests.  Because their parents and teachers used grades as the marker of success, everyone felt that things were OK.

When rough edges emerged, their parents stepped in with reminders or constant nagging and never let the natural consequences unfold.  Procrastination became an “art form” that resulted in an adrenalin rushes that allowed them to hyper-focus their “brain power” to produce high quality products at the 11th hour.  High SAT scores obscured signs of underachievement.

For many, the new demands that college presented uncovered inadequate life skills that had been lurking below the surface all along: poor time management and scheduling, ineffective planning and task management, struggles with money management, bad social decision making, poor problem solving, and an inability to self advocate.

When you think about it, it’s not surprising that only 25% of ADHD students graduate from college.  Some have the ”brain power” to make it, but that’s not the end of the story.

The demands of graduate school are even greater, but the carrot at the end is even bigger: M.D., MBA, Esq., etc!  This has been a powerful motivator for some to squeeze out every ounce of “brain power” to successfully reach the coveted goal and many do.  But this is still not the end of the line.

The demands of the real world keep on coming…see 40 patients a day, keep up with charts, manage a staff, pay the bills, be a marital partner, parent a child, take care of your health…where’s “brain power” when you really need it?!!

As the demands of life enfold, there can be ever increasing needs for efficient attention and self-regulation skills…sooner or later “brain power” is simply not enough.

So remember, whenever you, your child, your student, your spouse, your partner, or some other significant person in your life struggles to meet a new demand or expectation, think about ADHD!  It’s one of the most common reasons people fail to make the transition to the next stage of life.

Dr. Craig B. Liden is an internationally recognized expert in the diagnosis and treatment of ADD/ADHD. He is a board certified physician who completed his pediatric training and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard University Medical School/Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Dr. Liden has served on the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine where he started the Child Development Unit.  Since the 1980’s, Dr. Liden has been in private practice evaluating and treating behavioral and developmental issues in more than 9,000 patients with ADD/ADHD and related co-morbidities.  He currently treats patients across the life span at The Being Well Center in Pittsburgh, PA.