Mindfulness and Caring for the Caregiver


Introduction by Duane Gordon, based on an excerpt from Dr. Mark Bertin’s Mindful Parenting for ADHD: A Guide to Cultivating Calm, Reducing Stress, and Helping Children Thrive.

ADHD is stressful. Whether you have ADHD or you live with someone with ADHD, you probably feel stressed on occasion. In this issue, the ADDA Insider is pleased to bring you an excerpt from Dr. Mark Bertin’s excellent new book, Mindful Parenting for ADHD: A Guide to Cultivating Calm, Reducing Stress, and Helping Children Thrive. I know what you’re thinking. “What’s up with an article about parenting for ADHD from ADDA? Isn’t ADDA about supporting adults with ADHD?” And you’re right. ADDA is definitely about adults.

Dr. Bertin is a recognized expert in the practice of mindfulness for ADHD, and ADDA members loved Dr. Bertin’s Webinar on dealing with stress for adults with ADHD. We’ve been focused on mindfulness and emotional self-care this month, and so I wanted to include an excerpt from Mindful Parenting about “caring for the caregiver.” When caring for your own ADHD, you feel the same pressures as parents of children with ADHD. (My wife always teased that I was her first child. I wonder if that’s what she meant?!)

In Chapter Three of Mindful Parenting, Dr. Bertin addresses the impact of ADHD on parents of a child with ADHD. Even in his section titles, I was struck by how easy, and applicable, it is to replace “your child” with “yourself”:

  • Parenting a child who’s struggling is stressful. Managing your own ADHD, and the ensuing struggles, at home and at work, are definitely stressful.
  • A child’s ADHD can affect all family routines. When you have ADHD, coping with the challenges is a family affair.
  • Helping a child with ADHD can feel all‑consuming. Managing your ADHD is all-consuming and at times, completely overwhelming.
  • A child’s ADHD can stress a marriage. We all know how much stress your ADHD can put on relationships.
  • Stress undermines ADHD care, but ADHD increases stress. In essence, ADHD itself gets in the way of your efforts to manage it.
  • Parents of children with ADHD may feel judged by others. You feel judged, often believing you should be able to do something to make ADHD go away.

Dr. Bertin goes on to explain why you need to make time to take care of yourself, and presents a plan for doing so. Read it. Enjoy it. Apply it.

Make Time for Self Care

It’s common for people to feel that they don’t have even a moment for themselves. Here’s a mental game for playing with this perception: If someone offered you $10,000 for each time you took fifteen minutes to meditate, go for a run, or hang out with a friend, could you make it happen? How about $10,000 to leap over your own house? That last one is impossible, but making time for yourself is a surmountable challenge.

Proactively pick a time and place to get started with self care. Remind yourself that taking time for yourself benefits your family. Don’t wait for the hour, week, month, or year when things feel quiet. It may never happen. Also, don’t get attached to an ideal, such as that only a long run (not a short one) is worthwhile, or only a full vacation (not a half hour in the park) will have value. Taking even just a few minutes for a cup of tea or a quiet moment will be beneficial on a busy day.

Parenting can be a humbling and overwhelming experience. We plan and predict and laugh with and love our children, but there are countless unexpected events we can’t avoid. However, we can aim to teach our children the basic skills for handling life’s ups and downs with equanimity and wisdom. To that end, we need to cultivate these traits in ourselves first.

Action Plan: Caring for the Caregiver

Getting started on a new approach to managing ADHD may feel overwhelming. Your busy, stressful life continues while you attempt to develop and maintain an effective strategy. You can’t put aside all of life and focus solely on managing ADHD. But you can, at any moment in time, try something new and start yourself – or your family – down a different path. Attending to your own self care is an essential part of the journey.

  • Identify something that helps keep you sane. Write it down (in fact, print this page, fill in the blank and follow the instructions!), and be vigilant about making time for it: ______________________________________________
  • Create & schedule time for important personal relationships.
  • Simplify life whenever possible and avoid overscheduling.
  • Keep working on managing ADHD. Deal with the big issues first, then explore and address all of the nuanced ways ADHD affects everyday life.
  • Set short term, realistic goals for change around ADHD and wherever else in life you choose.
  • Take a moment to settle yourself several times each day, using the STOP practice to help you make a deliberate choice about what to do next. Stop what you are doing; Take a few breaths; Observe whatever is going on in your mind and around you; Pick how to Proceed
  • Pay more attention to enjoyable experiences when they happen – our minds have a tendency to focus on whatever isn’t going well or seems off, so make a proactive effort to notice more enjoyable, successful moments also.
  • Schedule a daily guided mindfulness practice.

Adapted from Mindful Parenting for ADHD by Mark Bertin, MD, published by New Harbinger in 2015.


Dr. Mark Bertin is a developmental pediatrician and author of Mindful Parenting for ADHD and The Family ADHD Solution, which integrate mindfulness into the rest of evidence-based ADHD care. His blog is available through Huffington Post, Mindful.org and Psychology Today. For more information visit his website at www.developmentaldoctor.com.

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