Front Loading

No, I’m not referring to a washing machine and dryer (although I do love laundry!)!   

I’m referring to the importance of front-loading our children when we know they will be subjected to a situation where you (and they) know it may not set up well for them.   Where you know they will be anxious, nervous, shut down, clingy or just flat out have a meltdown…specifically social situations.

I work with parents who need assistance with social situations and their child with ADHD.  Situations where there are a lot of people, noise, tons of friends around, babysitters coming over when parents have a date night, going to a new school, or just knowing a certain situation will not bode well for your loved one.  

My older son reminded me of the importance of this parenting strategy.  Our family is in the midst of a move to a small town just under 2 hours from our current home.  He recently shared how uncomfortable it is to make new friends (at least for him as he is my not-so-social- guy-who-really-wants-to-be).  That led me to realize how we have been dealing with our imminent move: I’ve been front-loading our boys for the past 6 months.

What I mean by this is simple…I know we have an uncomfortable situation quickly approaching and I have been talking through scenarios with them:  new home, new school, new church, new routine, sharing a room, new schedules, etc.

And, it hasn’t happened all at once either.  We’ve known about this move for a little under a year and we have gradually introduced certain scenarios that may or may not be favorable when we move.  They’ve been involved in choosing their school (they both decided on the same school, phew!), participating in reconstructing their room and space where we are moving.  We’ve walked through beginning at a new church and establishing new friends (this is their biggest fear). You get the point. We have been engaging in how things will be different and we’ve also allowed and asked the really hard questions:  

  • “What will be hardest about moving?”       

  • “What would make this an easy move and transition for you?”    

  • “What do you need to happen before we leave?”  

By giving them a chance to put words to their feelings, it validates, calms, acknowledges and accepts where they are.  

Friends, this strategy can and should be used in every situation you know could be uncomfortable for your ADHD child.

It’s a simple four step process:

  1. Talk through the scenario
  2. Ask what they need
  3. Remind them of a time when they handled it well
  4. Give them time to process and adjust their thinking around the event that is not favorable to them

..walk through it all (as many times as needed within reason!) so there are no obstacles until they are in a better place and not fearful or in shut down mode.  It is a critical step in their self-advocacy when they can verbalize what they need to be more comfortable. This is what you ultimately want for them: self-control, independence and self-awareness to handle the situations that may not set up well for them.  

Who knows, just talking through and front-loading may turn out to be the absolute best situation where they are able to participate in the event that once caused great stress and angst!

With Much GrADDitude,