Q: “I have an 8-year-old son and he has ADHD and anxiety. My husband and I have worked hard to help him cope and to teach him to focus a little better. He gets very frustrated sometimes and it comes out in the form of yelling, acting out and acting like a toddler. Do you have any suggestions for ways to help with his frustrations?”
A: I think you described what your son experiences really well and this does sound like it would be very frustrating to anyone. The first piece of advice I always give is to make sure and speak with your medical professional about the best course of treatment. A child with ADHD has differences in brain activity that can alter attention, being able to sit still and impulse control just to name a few examples. You add anxiety on top of that and this can produce symptoms that we cannot see sometimes. Kids might feel nervous, worried or feel afraid. When you look at this, it is easy to see where he might feel frustrated.
Some ideas that work well for kids with ADHD are using visual reminders and timers. Their brains can become so involved in what they are doing and that is where you may see a lack of focus on things around them or being unable to multitask. The good thing about how their brains work is when they are intense and working hard, their minds are so smart and brilliant. The best thing you can do for your son is to help him harness that energy and with time, he will not get as frustrated.
Another tip that I have had success with is helping the child become organized. Children with ADHD struggle with organization, so the more that you can help them in this area could help reduce frustration levels.
I use a technique called “grounding” with children who can get upset and I am trying to calm down to get back to a state that we can talk. This technique can help with anxiety too. Being grounded can bring us back to what is going on with our bodies and help us feel connected. There is a strategy called the Rainbow Walk. You can do it inside or go outside. The point is try and find something that represents every color of the rainbow. By doing this activity, it brings us back and connects us to the environment around us. Grounding can help clear our minds, recharge us and calm our emotions. Another grounding technique is to involve the five senses. You have to write down five things you see, four things you feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. This is a calming technique that can help get through frustrating moments and tough times.
I hope some of these techniques can help when there are times that your son gets frustrated.