Lived Experience: Helping a child’s ADHD brain get unstuck

My beautiful boy feels things very intensely. Strong emotions often make his brain get stuck in a loop of the same thoughts stopping him from having fun.

We went camping last week in a beautiful place surrounded by trees, wild animals and beaches. This is my kid’s happy place! The ADHD brain just seems to tune into nature and be completely enthralled with all the sounds and sights.

A campsite without people is amazing, but there were other families there with different dynamics and other neurodivergent kids. From the moment we woke up until bedtime there were dozens of kids laughing, making noises, singing, moving – in essence kids just being kids, and in other words OVERSTIMULATION!

Although my child had everything to keep regulated, I didn’t realise until we got back home that he couldn’t do it. He didn’t have enough opportunities to balance out the high levels of stimulation with regulation. Not only did we take him away from his room, books and toys, we put him in an environment where he was always surrounded by people. 

My beautiful boy feels things very intensely. Strong emotions often make his brain get stuck in a loop of the same thoughts. This means that he finds it difficult to let go of real or perceived offences by friends, family and strangers. There are hints of RSD (rejection sensitive dysphoria) in my dear boy, and I can see myself in him… 

We have been working on calling out a stuck brain for a while now. It often starts with me saying something like “I think your brain is stuck in a loop.” and him saying “No it’s not!”. I then spend time making observations and asking him questions. “We spoke a few times already about not eating the ice creams until tonight. I know they are very hard to resist, but what do you think will happen, if you wait a few more hours?”. Getting unstuck can take a long time! I believe that with enough repetition, my voice will become part of his inner monologue as he grows up – can you hear your parents voices in your head saying “I’m going to count to three!”.

The real breakthrough though, was not talking about the stuck brain, it was helping him let go of the grudges he holds. These offences that he clutches on to so tightly have the power to ruin relationships, but above all they make him sad and unhappy. After another “But she did it first!”, we spoke about letting go of these “minor offences” and starting fresh. To do this we first need to ask ourselves a few questions:

  • Has the person apologised?
  • Did they do it on purpose?
  • Did they understand how much it would hurt you?
  • What would it take for you to move on and start fresh?
  • Is retaliating going to make things better or worse?

Unexpectedly and thankfully, I was tired of adjudicating, it was the phrase “start fresh” that helped him let go. There were still disagreements between the kids, especially siblings (of course!), but I was able to pull my boy back from the slippery slide into grudge land!

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