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.

Six Steps To Promote Self-Esteem in College Students

Self-Esteem at College | The Being Well Center

image via Flickr, CollegeDegrees360

Life has taught most of us that thinking you can accomplish a task or reach a goal is half the battle.   There is little doubt that a strong self esteem and realistic self confidence can be a key to success in many of life’s endeavors.  Success at college is no exception.

The new demands that college presents to our kids require a significant degree of self confidence to successfully meet.  Academic challenges that are far beyond anything they have experienced before, meeting and establishing relationships with all types of new people from roommates to professors, advocating for themselves, remaining resolute and acting on their values, and being honest with themselves and us about how they are really doing  are a few of the biggies that require a strong self esteem.

It’s no wonder that as parents, we often go to great lengths to boost our child’s self esteem when it comes to college.  Encouraging her to “reach” for a prestigious school that will look good on the resume even though it stretches her capabilities or our finances too far.  Outfitting our child’s wardrobe and room with only the best in an attempt to ensure that he will fit in when he  arrives on campus.  Setting up bank accounts so that she always has plenty of spending money without ever establishing a budget.  Subtly promoting permissive attitudes about indulging in drinking so he fits in socially (i.e., “we know you’re going to do it so . . .”)

During the high school years ramping up to college, we (and teachers) may cut our kids breaks through easy grading or opportunities for “extra credit” to cover up an inadequate performance.  As a result, our child never has to face failure and come to grips with her strengths and weaknesses, thereby, limiting her ability to develop coping and compensating strategies.  The lack of coping strategies is compounded by many of us excessively structuring our child’s life, providing repeated reminders and hovering over them to foster success.  Accountability and its rewards are replaced with endless pep talks . . . “You’re the greatest… you can do it if you put your mind to it!”

These kinds of parental efforts provide short-term “feel goods” at best.  They fail to recognize self esteem and self confidence don’t come from pats on the back and external circumstances but are cultivated from within . . . when our child independently works hard, faces and overcomes barriers, meets a realistic expectation, and is able to proclaim, “I did it!”

Six Simple Steps to Promote Self-Esteem in College Students

So how can we promote the development of self esteem and self confidence in our college student?  Here are six simple steps:

  1. As early as possible, help your child to truly understand himself…to know his strengths as well as his weaknesses.  This involves staying tuned into our child’s academic and social life, and communicating regularly and honestly.
  2. Based upon an understanding of who your child is, help her to set realistic expectations academically, socially, and behaviorally.  This means setting expectations that are not too high or too low, but “just right” . . . ones that stretch her, maybe even involve taking a bit of a risk, but in the end are attainable with effort and hard work.
  3. Ensure that your child has a plan to meet the realistic expectations including the structure and unique supports he needs to succeed.
  4. Don’t expect perfection from the start.  Let go and allow for “practice” that might involve stumbling and falling some.  Be there to help her get back on her feet.  Debrief what happened and what went wrong.  We all learn the most about ourselves and what it takes to succeed when we are picking ourselves back up as compared to when we are cruising along smoothly.
  5. Brainstorm compensatory strategies by asking our child what he could have done, said, or thought differently to have the performance or situation turn out more successfully.  By taking the time to help him generate his own solutions rather than lecturing or dictating what he should do, we promote the development of effective problem solving skills…a cornerstone of self esteem and self confidence.
  6. To close the loop and help our child become accountable, we need to set limits and provide effective consequences when she fails to meet realistic expectations when she has the tools (i.e., plan) to do so.  Appropriate, short-term, negative consequences promote self reflection while threats, lectures, and name calling only stir up intensity, anger, resentment, self pity and fear; all barriers to success and the development of strong self esteem and self confidence.

For more of the “How To’s” check Accommodations for Success guidebook and workbook. If you need more guidance and support, call our office and set up an appointment.  We’ll walk along with you and help make sure you’re helping your child to be an independent, self esteem grower!

Catch up on other blog posts in our series:

Self-Esteem at College | The Being Well Center

ADHD Medication is Key to College Success

image via Flickr, CollegeDegrees360

image via Flickr, CollegeDegrees360

When students arrive on campus, the demands for efficient attention and self management skills (that is executive functioning) immediately soar . . . challenging academics, consistent study habits, maintenance of healthy daily routines for sleep, eating and exercise, money management, and more complex social decision making.

Meeting college demands is particularly challenging for students with ADD/ADHD and for the overwhelming majority of them, this means having the aid of a medication regimen that provides benefits throughout the whole day.

An all-day medication regimen is a key to college success

We’ve learned from our experience in our Confidence@College program that college is a bad time to try to “fly on my own” and go without medication treatment.

In fact, in our C@C patient population, we have found that acceptance of the need for medication and compliance with an appropriate all-day medication regimen is near the top of the list of factors that contribute our 81% success rate.

For some ADD/ADHD individuals who have been able to get by without medication in the past, entrance into college with its increased demands means having to seriously consider the use of medication for the first time.

For others who have been able to get by with a medication regimen geared to get them through the school day, it means revising their regimen to provide coverage into the evening hours.  And for others, it means committing to taking the medication 7 days a week!

Don’t let an improper use or lack of medication keep you or your student from success at college!

A specific, individualized success plan leads to college success

At The Being Well Center, patients who enroll in our Confidence@College program always start with a Discovery Session where we identify the key problem areas and survey the whole person so we can pinpoint the barriers to success and uncover strengths we can mobilize to meet these new challenges.

We then develop an individualized Success Plan.  When medication is a part of the success plan we conduct systematic medication trial testing using objective testing procedures to find the right medication and a treatment regimen that provides efficient attention throughout the waking day.

Before students arrive on campus we brainstorm with them and their parents how they are going to get their medication and how to securely store it.  We go over the logistics of when they will take the medication based upon their weekly schedule.  In addition, we review the dangers of diversion of the medication and make sure we have a mechanism in place to closely track the quantity of medication we provide them.

Follow-up support at school leads to college success

Once students are on campus, we use innovative technologies and support from our staff through our GuideU video counseling sessions to ensure the student complies with the medication regimen and maintains healthy daily routines, the foundation for a successful medication experience.  We identify signs of sub-therapeutic treatment and possible side effects quickly and our medical staff fine tunes the treatment regimen as needed.

We’re there to ensure success during the whole college experience not just in the classroom, library or study carrel.  We make sure our patients are aware of the importance of taking the medication during evening hours and weekends where social activities provide high risk challenges for un-medicated ADD/ADHD students.

Avoid “unmedicated” fun consequences

Impulsivity, poor self awareness, weak self monitoring and ineffective problem solving can lead to social decisions that can be disastrous . . . alcohol intoxication, substance abuse, unprotected sex leading to unplanned pregnancy or STD, or illegal activities.  One night of un-medicated “fun” can lead to expulsion from school and life-long consequences.

Compliance with the right medication regime leads to college success

If you’re at the top of your game, college can be an exciting and enriching experience intellectually, developmentally, and socially, and can provide you with what it takes to independently fulfill your dreams and aspirations through life.  Compliance with the right medication regimen helps this become a reality for students with ADD/ADHD!


Be confident with your child’s success at college . . . call us at the BWC and set up an appointment to participate in our Confidence@College program.  We’ll make sure your child has all the tools, including an optimal medication regimen if needed, to succeed at college.

Confidence@College | The Being Well Center

The Greatest Challenge of Being an ADD Doctor

Dr. Craig Liden | The Being Well CenterThere are many things that clinicians, healthcare professionals, and educators can do to help the individual with ADD and his family to improve the quality of their lives. The satisfaction of participating in this process is unbelievable.

However, the biggest challenge of working with Attention Deficit Disorder is that it is so unpredictable. Just when we think that, together, we have made it over the hump–that now it’s licked–invariably (maybe it’s next week, maybe it’s next month, or maybe it is in a year or so) the bottom falls out again. A new expectation comes along and the road for the person with ADD gets bumpy again.

While we all can intellectually appreciate that ADD is a chronic, biologically-based difference that results in recurrent dysfunction, it is a whole different thing for professionals to accept this emotionally.

It is common for professionals to experience a sense of failure and feel disappointed when significant problems resurface in a patient after a sustained period of apparent normal functioning.

In addition to grappling with his own emotions, the clinician must face the challenge of supporting the ADD individual and his family in their coming to grips with the chronic nature of ADD. This can be particularly difficult when what everyone really wants is a simple, easy answer.

Finally, with the persistence of the problem, inevitably comes the guilt on the part of parents, teachers, and clinicians who think, “if only I had…”


Are you a doctor, clinician, educator or parent who has thought, “If only I had…”?  

Want the inside scoop and honest answers about other ADD topics?  Start here for some of our most popular posts, or go right ahead and buy a copy of Dr. Liden’s bestseller, Pay Attention!

 

How a Teacher makes a difference with an ADD Student

image via Flickr, Ilmicrofono Oggiono

image via Flickr, Ilmicrofono Oggiono

The educator’s role is similar to the role parents assume in treating ADD.

It begins by learning to understand and accept the problem, rather than making superficial judgments about the child such as “bad,” “lazy,” or “underachieving.”

A primary responsibility of school personnel and childcare workers is to function as team members in treating ADD. This involves setting appropriate expectations, clearly stating limits for behavior, giving feedback, providing effective consequences, reinforcing self-awareness and self-control, and communicating regularly with parents.

In addition, professionals in schools and childcare settings can help to develop and implement compensatory strategies and to identify and remediate associated learning problems.

As team members situated in the structured school environment, teachers and other educational personnel are in an ideal position to monitor the effectiveness of the other treatments (e.g., medical therapy, counseling, etc).

It is also possible for professionals in a childcare setting to provide help with the monitoring of various treatments.

While educators are essential team members, it is never appropriate for them to diagnose ADD or to recommend or modify medical therapies. These are medical decisions that must be made by an experienced physician in consultation with others.


Dr. Liden examines the vital roles parents and teachers play in his book, Accommodations for Success.  The 10-Step book gives parents power to create a highly personalized, effective IEP or 504 Plan.

Friends Should Tell Friends About ADD/ADHD

While scientific research has only begun to demonstrate it, my observation and experience suggest that ADD may be everywhere in contemporary society. My bet is that ADD is an important biological contributor that interacts with life circumstances to cause some of the more significant health, educational, social, and economic dilemmas that we face.

In fact, by putting ADD into the mix and addressing its role, we may find that some of these perplexing problems are far more solvable than we thought.

Friends Should Tell Friends

image via Flickr, coolio-claire

image via Flickr, coolio-claire

It is imperative in addressing these perplexing societal problems that we increase society’s awareness of this important, but hidden, biological difference. All of us need to be more aware of the critical role that paying attention plays. We need to recognize that difference of weakness in attention places an individual at risk for problems in almost every area of life — problems which, at first glance, hardly seem to be related to a difference in brain chemistry.

Responsibly written and produced articles, books, and media presentations can play a significant role in enhancing awareness about ADD. Too often, ADD is presented in a cursory, negative, and sensational way in the media. Such a simplistic approach to a complex problem like ADD only confuses the picture and heightens parents’ and teachers’ fears.

Professionals Need Informed Training

Another key step in increasing awareness of ADD involves improving and expanding the training that professionals who work with ADD receive.

Too often professionals who are in the position to work with ADD individuals have a poor understanding of ADD. In fact, many professionals continue to be unaware of the fact that ADD is not just a school problem. It is a life problem whose basis is biological. Effective assessment and treatment is impossible without a comprehensive team approach.

Professionals who lack appropriate training and experience with ADD have an obligation to make a concerted effort to match up the ADD individual and his family with the best resources available.

Schools Should Put Some Muscle Behind ADD/ADHD Support

image via Flickr, alamosbasement

image via Flickr, alamosbasement

We also need to break down the barriers that limit access to appropriate comprehensive services. Schools should do more than pay lip service to providing multidisciplinary services to ADD children. The team cannot consist solely of a school psychologist and teachers and other educational personnel.

Since ADD is a biologically-based problem, the team must include a physician who is knowledgeable in this area.

And, because the impact of ADD goes beyond the schoolyard, dedicated school personnel need to feel comfortable encouraging parents to seek appropriate help from other nonschool professionals for management of the problem in other life arenas.

ADD is NOT a “Mental” Problem

To make this possible, insurance companies and government health financing systems need to evaluate critically policies and reimbursement mechanisms that unfairly discriminate against individuals with ADD. At a most basic level, they need to accept that ADD is not a “mental problem,” but that its physical basis is as real as diabetes and coronary artery disease. These health care financiers would be wise to consider the cost efficiency of early intervention, health education, and comprehensive team treatment of ADD.

Give ADD the Middle Ground

Finally, as a society, we need to find the middle ground. We need to strike a balance between emphasis on skill acquisition and on learning how to live, between permissiveness and firm discipline, between reliance on technology and humanistic intuition, and between manipulation of the brain and counseling the mind.

It is in this middle ground that true quality of life is found.

5 Reasons We Know ADD is Real

I’ve heard some professionals say, “ADD is just a cover-up label for suburban parents who cannot deal with their emotionally-disturbed kids.” Some write it off as “being in vogue–the problem for this decade.” Others wonder, “If ADD is a result of an inborn physical difference, then why wasn’t it around when we were kids?

I respond strongly to this skepticism. ADD is a very real problem!

Because we are more knowledgeable, we are able to identify ADD more frequently and, thereby, it appears to be in vogue. But ADD was around when we were kids. We just weren’t aware of it.

Biologically-based attention differences are probably no more common in 2014 than they were in 1950. However, dysfunction resulting from these differences is more common because societal expectations have significantly changed over the past several decades. Many of these new demands put a high premium on the individual having efficient attentional skills in a way that was never demanded before. As a result, just as with ADD in an individual, these new societal expectations have uncovered an underlying societal problem that has probably always been there.

1.  New opportunities for our children highlight the existence of ADD

In the ‘40’s and ‘50’s, most parents worried about the basics. Nutritious food on the table and a roof overhead. Reading, writing and arithmetic. Basic health. In fact, my parents worried about whether I would survive polio or die like several of my best playmates. Thanks to amazing technological advances, today we, as parents, take these basics for granted and want much more for our children. We want our children to achieve at school, to go to college, and to get a job that is better than the one we have.

I am constantly impressed how far we will go to provide enriching opportunities and to push our children in the name of wanting them to have the chances we did not have. Often, these “chances” backfire because they require proficiency in areas, like paying attention, that some children just don’t have.

image via Flickr, woodleywonderworks

image via Flickr, woodleywonderworks

In our schools, the demand for high achievement and independent learning has filtered down to earlier and earlier grades. Curriculum content has expanded so that many teachers are overwhelmed and unprepared to introduce a wealth of new material, let alone to teach the basics to children who require some extra help.  Support services in most school districts are shrinking rather than expanding. Access to extra help is often contingent upon student failure rather than being viewed as a preventative response to minor difficulties.

It is easy to see why regular classroom teachers get frustrated when they are placed in the bind of producing high group achievement test scores to please the school board while watching 20% of their class struggle to just get by.  Without support to address these children’s needs, most teachers either become guilty or get burned-out, both of which reduce their effectiveness further.

 2.  Modern parenting styles highlight the existence of ADD

Societal attitudes about discipline and behavior management have changed radically as well. These changes have also contributed to our increased awareness of ADD–the problem that has always been there. The pendulum has swung from the rigid, authoritarian, and, frequently, punitive approach of the ’50’s to a more permissive and democratic approach in the ’70’s and ’80’s.

Today’s parents are more likely to provide a detailed answer to the child’s proverbial question “Why?” than to end the discussion with “Because I said so!” In an attempt to promote self-esteem and foster creativity, many parents hesitate to set firm limits on children’s behavior or to structure their lives. Many parents are afraid to say “No.” They walk on eggshells instead. They try to control their child’s behavior with rewards rather than meaningful consequences. Many children can go with the flow and adapt to whatever management style is used.

However, the more democratic, laid-back approach places demands for self-awareness and self-control on ADD children that they are rarely equipped to meet. The resulting behavior problems in the home or school bring the ADD children into the spotlight and allow us to identify them.

 3.  Modern family units highlight the existence of ADD

image via Flickr, Marco Antonio Torres

image via Flickr, Marco Antonio Torres

The nature of the family unit has significantly changed in the past 50 years. Again, this change has forced us to become aware of the ADD population. More children are being raised in single parent homes. More and more, both parents need to hold full-time jobs outside the home. In our mobile society, Grandma no longer lives two houses away but more commonly, two hundred miles away.

All this means that the support system that previously was there to structure and bail out the child with ADD is no longer present.

Moreover, this prop has been pulled out at a time when society has placed increasing demands on children without creating increasing levels of support.

There is, for example, a shocking lack of affordable, quality childcare services across the country. As a result, many children spend countless hours alone or in the care of people who have not received basic training in child development, let alone training in working with difficult children.

In a permissive society, without supportive props, the ADD child is a set-up to misuse the increased amount of unstructured time available to him. Truancy, vandalism, and delinquency are often the outcome. And each time an individual commits such a “crime,” we have another opportunity to identify ADD.

The pace of growing up has quickened and, as a result, children are faced with increasing expectations to exercise mature social judgment. Adolescent children are placed in the position of having to make independent, adult decisions about sex, drinking, and drugs. These demands put the impulsive ADD child with poor problem-solving skills at an even greater risk for alcoholism, drug addiction, and teenage pregnancy and provide him with another chance to be in the spotlight.

4.  Our technological society highlights the existence of ADD

image via Flickr, Mervi Eskelinen

image via Flickr, Mervi Eskelinen

As our society has moved from an industrially-based to a technologically-based economy, a new set of skills and abilities are now required to make it on the job.

The highly structured, physically demanding, manual labor jobs have been replaced by white-collar positions demanding good organizational skills, effective problem-solving abilities, and independent self-monitoring.

Once again, the individual with ADD is at a disadvantage and at risk for being identified. It would not be surprising to find that individuals with ADD have a disproportionately high representation in the ranks of the unemployed.

5.  Increased stress levels highlight the existence of ADD

Finally, because of these and numerous other reasons, life’s stresses appear to be more complex and challenging than they have ever been. And if there is anything that requires us to be reflective, focused, vigilant monitors, and efficient problem-solvers, it is stress management. Without the prerequisites to meet the challenge, the individual with ADD enters into a devastating downward spiral. Marital difficulties. Money problems. Mounting anxiety and depression. Tranquilizers. Just getting by. Social isolation. Back pain. Sick days. Weight gain. Hypertension. Constant fear. Alcohol abuse. Traffic accidents. Hospitalization. Bankruptcy. Immobilization. Giving up.

ADD is Real, and We Know It.

For all these reasons and probably many more, ADD now plays a more significant and very real role in people’s lives. And, as a result, we all have the opportunity to see its impact.  When people are skeptical about the significance or even the existence of ADD, they create a barrier to overcoming a very serious, but very addressable, health disorder.  Don’t let skepticism rob you of progress toward a better, and easier, life.  ADD is a very real problem.  But it’s a problem with very real solutions.


More answers and information about ADD/ADHD can be found in Dr. Liden’s book, Pay Attention!: Answers to Common Questions About the Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder.


10,000 people living with ADD have found hope and help navigating the challenges of ADD at The Being Well Center.  No matter where you are in life, we can help, starting today.