Build Strong Connection with Loved Ones in Three Genuine Ways Living with ADHD

Living with ADHD can be intense, and life with those we love, with its infinite distractions and commitments, can sometimes feel strained. When we stop prioritizing the rush of our own agendas and take a moment to connect, this adds more warmth and closeness with the relationships that are most precious to us.  

Connection and ADHD  

Connection reminds us that our loved ones are doing the best they can, even when we wish they would act differently. Our connection reaffirms our hope and vision of what’s possible until our loved ones can ultimately hold that vision for themselves.  Connection also means we are being responsive and receptive so that our loved ones believe they are valuable and loved.   

When children feel disconnected, they don’t feel safe. For many adults, connection is a primary need, and when they don’t have connection, they don’t feel safe, acknowledged, or valued.

 

When kids or adults with ADHD experience strong emotions, they tend to react more intensely than others. It can be tough to identify or express what they’re feeling. They may act out with angry, resistant behavior, which could mean they’re reacting to threats of fear, grief, loneliness, and/or their need to feel safe, connect, and be heard.  

 

While no relationship is connected all the time, it’s important to build loving and strong connections into your life to wire the ADHD brain with confidence, trust, and a sense of feeling valued

Here are three genuine ways to build a strong connection with those you love when you live with ADHD. 

 

Get Comfortable with Your Own Needs  

It’s helpful to understand your loved ones' emotional needs by understanding your own needs so you can be more responsive. This is because if we are uncomfortable with our own needs, we can pass that discomfort onto our children, and that discomfort can also bleed into our other relationships. 

Mismatches in temperament can make it difficult to connect between parents and kids and also between partners, especially when ADHD is involved. A highly – sensitive child may not always mesh with an energetic, hyperactive parent, and that parent may have trouble harmonizing with a partner who needs more quiet downtime. 

Quick Tips:
Reflect on your past. What needs are showing up that may be similar to that of your child’s/partner’s? What needs may be different? What needs are uncomfortable?
As you reflect on your past childhood experiences, what thoughts are coming up for you? What's true about you as a child? What's true about you now?
What can you think of that may give you permission to meet your loved one's needs while strengthening your relationship? 
 

Use Empathy

Empathy helps your child or partner feel understood and work through a medley of powerful emotions.  Giving and receiving empathy is thought to release a neurotransmitter called oxytocin, which inspires trust, positive social triggers, and the release of dopamine (pleasure and reward) and serotonin (mood and memory). This becomes a cycle. (The Moral Molecule: How Trust Works, Paul J Zak, 2012)

 

In the ADHD brain, neurotransmitters aren’t released as effectively, which is why kids and adults with ADHD experience passionate thoughts and reactions more intensely. Their highs are higher and their lows are lower which means they can experience happiness and criticism more powerfully than others. Receiving empathy allows for warmth and connection, (oxytocin release), trust (serotonin mood lift and memory of the mood lift), and connection (dopamine reinforces the brain reward), all inspired by empathy. 

 

Still, using empathy to connect can be difficult, especially when you're distracted, or irritated yourself. 
 
Quick Tips:
Let go of your own agenda and center yourself on your loved one. It’s almost impossible to read an emotionally charged situation when you’re focused on your own agenda. Take a few moments to slow down and stop what you’re doing and focus on what’s happening in the moment. It will save you time and aggravation later and the rewards will be compounded
Try to step inside their shoes. Notice the feeling behind what your child or partner is trying to communicate. Listen for the emotion behind their words
•  Express your understanding of the situation. It’s Ok to also express how you feel related to their situation. “Oh, Max. That’s so frustrating that you didn’t beat your lap time today. You worked so hard. I’m so sorry. 
Don’t feel like you have to solve the problem. “Jane, I see you haven’t finished your paper tonight. I’m sorry it’s late now but it’s time to pack it in.”
Restate what you heard and ask open-ended questions, beginning with “what.” Restating clarifies that you understand the situation. At the same time, your loved one feels heard and understood, which will help them talk further about the situation and come to their own decisions if needed. “It sounds like you were waiting for a while to get dinner started. That must have been so irritating, especially when you were hungry. I can understand that. What can we do about this going forward?” 
 

Create Special Time

It’s important to create rituals in your day to connect with your loved ones. Living with ADHD, distraction, and disorganization can make it difficult to let go of the short-term complications, so that you make room to build the long-term connections that make life so much easier and more meaningful. When our relationships are connected, that's when our loved ones will feel safe to come to us when they need us. 

Quick Tips:

 Roughhousing releases tension in families and builds self-esteem. Physical play with laughter helps kids manage the pent-up feelings they build up during the day. These roughhousing games can therefore involve something that scares them such as chase games, pillow fights or 
wrestling or escape games.

Agree on safety rules. The idea is for children to be able to break free from a struggle and break into laughter. If it gets too serious, stop, empathize, and/or move to a different setting. 

Match Special Time with mood, time, and temperament. Five minutes of quiet time is wonderful and is better than no time at all. It's also helpful to label this time as "special."

Apply Special Time to connect with your partner. Try for three consistent “categories” of connections in a week: one “logistical” for planning, chores, finances, etc; one to connect about your relationship; and one “date night” to have some fun together. 

 

Living with ADHD can be intense, with all the distractions and commitments. To build more connection with those you love: 

 

• Get Comfortable with Your Own Needs 

• Use Empathy

• Create Special Time 

Try these and let me know how they work out for you!

 

Warmly,

 

 PS. Need more support with connection so you can have more peace and calm in your family? 

Contact me for an ADHD Strategy Assessment and we can talk about some practical steps you can put into place now!

 

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