2421 parenting with ADHD

Parenting Teens with ADHD 

If you’re parenting a teen, you know the challenges we’re talking about today. And whether you live with ADHD yourself or not, those challenges are made even more real if your kiddo is living with ADHD. Today on the show, we’re sharing our own lessons learned when it comes to navigating the universe of parenting teens with ADHD.

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If you’re parenting a teen, you know the challenges we’re talking about today. And whether you live with ADHD yourself or not, those challenges are made even more real if your kiddo is living with ADHD. Today on the show, we’re sharing our own lessons learned when it comes to navigating the universe of parenting teens with ADHD.

The biggest lessons revolve around communication, awareness, and balance. But what are the major milestones that stand before you as a parent of a teen when it comes to getting the ADHD assessment? Preparing for college? Confronting life skills and deadlines? And, perhaps most important as a parent, how do you avoid letting your experience with school, ADHD, anxiety and more to color their experience and expectations with ADHD?

Episode Transcript

Brought to you by The ADHD Podcast Community on Patreon

Pete Wright: Hello everybody, and welcome to Taking Control, the ADHD podcast on TruStory FM. I’m Pete Wright and I’m here with Nikki Kinzer. Parents, Nikki Kinzer. Hello.

Nikki Kinzer: Hello, parent Pete.

Pete Wright: Parent Pete.

Nikki Kinzer: That has a ring to it.

Pete Wright: Lock in the alliteration. Today we’re talking about parenting our teens. Our teens, or our teens with the ADHD, and leaning in on some of the best parent jokes. I’m not sure, are we talking about parenting teens who have ADHD themselves, or parenting teens while we have ADHD, or all of the above?

Nikki Kinzer: Everything. All of the above, because we have both here.

Pete Wright: Yeah, that’s right.

Nikki Kinzer: Right? We have both scenarios.

Pete Wright: That’s actually out grammatically outstanding that we can cover the bases with little to no editorial influence.

Nikki Kinzer: Really, it’s true.

Pete Wright: That’s really great. Why are we doing this today? Usually when you and I come together for a podcast and we don’t have a guest and it’s a topic like this, it’s usually because one of us must be dealing with something.

Nikki Kinzer: Aren’t we always? With teenagers you’re dealing with something every day. Come on, let’s be honest.

Pete Wright: Yeah. That’s the truth. That’s the truth. Well, as we record this, at least for me, it is the challenging season of closing out the dorm. And so dealing with my older teen who also next week won’t be a teen anymore, which blows my mind.

Nikki Kinzer: Yeah, that’s crazy.

Pete Wright: So, we’re all dealing with the navigating complex schedules and understanding behaviors and all of those things that don’t ever seem to go completely away. Have you noticed that?

Nikki Kinzer: Yes.

Pete Wright: ADHD is always there, always watching.

Nikki Kinzer: Oh yes.

Pete Wright: Always watching.

Nikki Kinzer: It is.

Pete Wright: That’s what we’re talking about today. Before we do that, head over to takecontroladhd.com and get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show right there on the website or subscribe to the mailing list and we’ll send you an email each time a new episode is released. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest at Take Control ADHD. But if you really, really want to connect with us, join us at the ADHD discord community. It is super easy to jump into the general community chat channel. You just visit takecontroladhd.com/discord and it’ll whisk you over to the actual invite for discord so that you can log in. But if you are looking for a little bit more, particularly if this show has ever touched you or helped you understand your relationship with ADHD in a new way, we invite you to support the show directly through Patreon. Patreon is listener supported podcasting for us. With a few dollars a month, you can help guarantee that we continue to grow this show, add new features and invest more heavily in our community. Just visit patreon.com/theadhdpodcast to learn more. Thank you to new members. As we record this, it is June first and we’re heading into our summer season. Is it officially summer?

Nikki Kinzer: For a lot of people it is. Yes.

Pete Wright: It’s official, [inaudible 00:03:13].

Nikki Kinzer: Because a lot of people… school ends in May, and here over in the Pacific Northwest, it will end in a couple weeks.

Pete Wright: Yeah, we got a couple more weeks. So, we’re heading into our summer season and we’re just excited about all the new things that are coming. Do you have any news or announcements yourself?

Nikki Kinzer: Not yet.

Pete Wright: Not yet. Okay.

Nikki Kinzer: But it’s coming.

Pete Wright: So, they’re coming. If you were a patron, you would have just recently received episode four of our patron only podcast placeholder in which I talked to one of our fantastic community members about his use of technology and his tech stack in academics. And it’s a fantastic conversation with a truly awesome, awesome guy. And so I’m just having a ball with that podcast and I’m gratified that people at least seem to be listening to it and appreciating some of the insights that we’re all sharing on that show. And I would love to introduce it to more future patrons. So, head over to patreon.com/theadhdpodcast to learn more. We are talking about parenting today, parenting kids with ADHD, and where do we even begin with this, Nikki?

Nikki Kinzer: I have no idea.

Pete Wright: I’m looking at our notes, and we’ve got some-

Nikki Kinzer: We have so many notes. So, all people out there that are parenting teens with ADHD, we feel you.

Pete Wright: Oh yeah.

Nikki Kinzer: It’s hard. I brought this topic up because it’s something that you and I both are a part of. I have a teenage daughter who has ADHD. You have two kids who have ADHD. And my older son doesn’t have ADHD, but he has other issues with anxiety and depression and some other things. I think COVID certainly has not helped these kids in the three years that they’ve had to be teenagers and deal with the chaos of the world. So, I just think there’s a lot that we can talk about. And this is not a conversation where really Pete and I are not expert parenting people, we’re just two parents in the world trying to survive. So, I thought we have a focus a little bit on parenting in this kind of themed, or what do I want to call it? The kind of-

Pete Wright: Series.

Nikki Kinzer: … the series. Thank you. That’s the word I was forgetting. And I thought it might be interesting to hear what Pete has to say and talk a little bit about my experience as well.

Pete Wright: Because Lord knows, my kids aren’t interested in what I have to say. So, I need an outlet.

Nikki Kinzer: Yeah, mine aren’t either. So, there you go. That’s the moral. Go ahead.

Pete Wright: I think you should start, because I’m really interested in your perspective and reflection on your teens now, especially now that we’re wrapping up, one of their freshman year and the other is wrapping up what?

Nikki Kinzer: She’s a sophomore.

Pete Wright: She’s wrapping up her sophomore year.

Nikki Kinzer: Yeah. Freshman year in college and sophomore in high school.

Pete Wright: It’s been a while since we’ve talked about our kids from the perspective of parenting, and I’m curious what reflections you have on your experience over the last year, as they weirdly continue to grow and mature.

Nikki Kinzer: Right. It’s like a roller coaster. There’s moments where I am so proud and I love them so much, and that doesn’t ever change, but I see them as becoming adult. So, we’re having different kinds of conversations than we did before, especially with my son, because he’s not living with us all the time. So, there’s moments where I’m like, "Yeah, I did this right." Like my husband and I, we did okay. These kids are amazing. And then there’s times where I’m just really frustrated, because I forget that they are young adults and they don’t know a lot. And what we kind of assume that they should know, they don’t necessarily know. And so that gets to be frustrating. And there’s been a little bit of a difference. I mean every kid is always different, right? I mean that’s, I think, true for most families. You never see two siblings that are the same. But with my son, he doesn’t talk a lot. And so when he does want to talk, oh, we listen. Like we drop everything and listen, because he just doesn’t open up that much. My daughter talks a lot, and so she will kind of give us insights of what’s going on in her life and what she’s dealing with. And I got to tell you, when we’re talking about sort of like strategies and tips when it comes to parenting, one of the things that has helped us the most, especially with her, is when she wants to talk, we listen and we ask questions, but we avoid telling her what to do at all costs. Because if we try to fix it, she absolutely hates that. She hates it and she’ll get defensive and she’ll shut down almost immediately.

Pete Wright: Interesting. And so you think that is, I mean that’s just an indicator of where she is emotionally right now, chronologically, hormonally, all of the monallies?

Nikki Kinzer: I’m going to guess it is, because you’re in this middle ground of I’m a teenager, she’s 16, almost 17 and she’s going to be a junior next year. So, she’s a little bit older than most of the kids in her class. And so here she is still depending on mom and dad, still lives with us, still goes to high school. But yet she has also a lot of freedom in trying to kind of learn who she is. Because she works, she has her own car, she’s very independent in a lot of ways. And so I think it’s this emotional roller coaster for her too, that I want independence, but yet I don’t, because I’m not quite ready for it. But if mom and dad step in, it feels too controlling.

Pete Wright: Sure.

Nikki Kinzer: So, then she’s defensive. And when I explained to her what RSD was, she just was like, "Oh my gosh. Yes. I feel that way all the time." So, I also have to take into account that, that she feels things really heavily. So, if she thinks we’re trying to fix something because she’s not doing it or if she feels like she’s being criticized at all, then she really shuts down and gets mad at us. And it is so hard not to take it personally.

Pete Wright: Yeah, I believe it.

Nikki Kinzer: Because I can see what’s happening, but I can’t necessarily explain it to her. And it hurts my feelings, even though it’s… we had a conversation just the other day and we’re talking about her school, and my husband and I are completely doing this out of love and trying to figure out where she is and what she wants to do, because she is doing online school now. And does she continue doing that or not? And the whole conversation just ended up being really quite sad, because she kind of felt like we were ganging up on her and that she felt like we weren’t thinking she was doing the best that she can. And I’m sorry, I’m not good enough. I mean there were all these like back and forth where when we take a step back as parents, that’s not where we were standing at all. We just wanted to gather information from her and try to figure out where she’s at and is this the best thing for her. And it’s all coming from love from us and concern, but she sees it as us being against her.

Pete Wright: Yeah. Well, and some of that is, like if I think back to my own teenage years, it’s pretty easy to remember the times when I believed my parents were disappointed, or judging, or ready to punish me. It’s just easy to put myself in that head space. I remember it really clearly. And now looking back on it as a parent myself, I’m realizing what was probably true then, that they didn’t care half as much about the thing itself as they wanted me to care about it for myself. If I was not doing well in history class, they were less upset that I got a D on the last paper that I turned in, than that I was only worried about that D, because I thought everybody was mad at me. They wanted me to worry about the D because they wanted me to want to learn and all of that. It’s like that misappropriated intention. And so I try to remember that when I’m talking to my kids. And I don’t know, I mean everything that I’m hearing right there, I can put myself in her shoes.

Nikki Kinzer: Totally.

Pete Wright: And just think about, "Oh my God, I’m sure my parents are thinking X, and they’re not right." Largely the kids are not right about what I’m really thinking. And they’ve just misappropriated that intention. And I think from my perspective, all of these tips really fall into the same kind of parent category, which is beware of letting my experience with ADHD run headlong into conflict with my instinct as a parent. And I’ll tell you what I mean just with one example, like I know for me that it takes me some time to rev up my brain, and I know I need to start by doing something fun. We’ve talked about this all the time. I need to establish some momentum in my productivity before I do something hard. We don’t eat the frog with ADHD, right?

Nikki Kinzer: Nope.

Pete Wright: We work up to the frog. And so as somebody living with ADHD, that’s very real for me personally. Then why as a parent does that should step into my inner voice when I see my son doing exactly the same thing, right?

Nikki Kinzer: When you see your son doing the same thing, are you thinking that’s okay?

Pete Wright: No, I’m not. I’m thinking you should be-

Nikki Kinzer: Or, no, you’re thinking no, you should be doing this.

Pete Wright: Put away that thing and do this other thing, because you got to get it out of the way. As the words are coming out of my mouth, I know that they are misguided, but it is so hard. It is a constant vigilance to keep my parent language from running headlong into my ADHD language. And I don’t know if I’m alone.

Nikki Kinzer: No, you’re not.

Pete Wright: My hunch is I am not.

Nikki Kinzer: You’re not, because even from my perspective, and it’s interesting that you bring this up because I think that from our last conversation, when she was saying that she wasn’t good enough, me as an ADHD coach, that crushed me. And so it is really hard, I think, to balance that. And I don’t know where the balance is between I really understand how what she’s saying and I understand how she’s feeling with this. But at the same time, like you’re saying, I am still her parent and I still need to help her and guide her. And what she thinks is the best thing for her, I want to hear it, but I also need to be your parent and not just say, "Okay, it’s okay." I don’t know. I mean it’s very complicated, but it’s hard. It’s a hard thing to do, because I don’t want her to have those feelings, but at the same time, I don’t know what the best thing is for her right now, either. So, does that make sense?

Pete Wright: Well, it does make sense. I think it leads into one of my other lessons, which is the overestimation of traditional achievement as a measure of success when parenting a kiddo with ADHD. I’m proud of my kids when they get A’s and B’s.

Nikki Kinzer: Absolutely.

Pete Wright: I have to be equally proud of them when they get C’s, right? I have to be equally proud of them when they figure out how to actually finish their homework and turn it in, that the traditional I’m only proud of you when you get A’s and B’s, or you will be rewarded with your license, or we’ll get you a car, we’ll pay your insurance, whatever, those kinds of traditional rewards are, are not useful.

Nikki Kinzer: Right. Right.

Pete Wright: That framework is not useful with my kiddo with ADHD. And I run into this one all the time, this was especially true with my daughter when she was still living here, was you have something that you have to do and you need to get it done. And it’s not because of me, it’s an assignment, it’s a paper, it’s a test, whatever it is. And it would just naturally slip into a model of, as soon as you finish that thing, we can go do this other thing. We can go out to eat. We can go to a movie, we can do this thing. And maybe I wasn’t even intentionally using it as a reward, it just became that way because of the schedule, or the time the movie started, or whatever. And she would go into this space of just complete doom, that as soon as she knew there was a reward tied to her performance, she just said, "Okay, I’m not going to the movie. I guess I’m done. I guess I’m done and I’ll probably fail this thing." And so I think that we have talked extensively in and around the show on black and white thinking, that binary thinking. And I think that’s where we’re going with it. I’m curious your thoughts, because-

Nikki Kinzer: You’re right.

Pete Wright: … it really is.

Nikki Kinzer: It is.

Pete Wright: If there’s an if then statement in there that if this exists as a reward, I have such a low opinion of myself, then I’ll never get that reward so I might as well just not do it at all. And I see the same kind of things start to happen with my son as he now has more opportunity for doing fun things now that he and his friends are gathering again. And those opportunities are tied to his own implicit shame about not having a high opinion of himself to be able to do stuff. So, what are your thoughts?

Nikki Kinzer: Yeah, it’s interesting. Because I can totally see the all or nothing thinking in the example that you just gave, but I can also see it with the example that I was talking about with our conversation around school, is that it is probably in her mind, you either go or you don’t go. And if I don’t go, I have to go back here. Or like she is really going black and white. There is no discussion to be made, which is where we were trying to head. And so I can see that, definitely. And actually I’m glad you bring it up, because I think it’s something that we need to be aware of as parents. That that’s probably what’s happening and why it feels so dramatic. Paige is dramatic, and I have to be really careful to not fall into that same drama and be able to take a step back and just listen. And I see this with her friends, like she’ll sometimes talk about social situations. And as everyone knows and remembers being a teenager, social relationships are really important. And I have to be careful to not really say much, because next week that person that she’s upset with could be her best friend again. So, I need to like, okay, just listen. And if it’s something that really goes over the top, then I might have a couple of things to say, but it is interesting. I think that thinking we have to really definitely be a part of, or be aware of I mean.

Pete Wright: Yeah. Right. Well, my next observation was don’t let my ADHD color my impression of their ADHD. I usually loathe in speaking for you, but I think I can probably say, don’t let my anxiety color my impression of their anxiety. Like it’s the same thing. Don’t let the stuff I’m living with, color my expectations of the stuff they’re living with, because it is very different. Every time I turn around, it’s different. I’m learning something new. Sometimes I’m learning something new about my own ADHD by observing their experience with ADHD. Sometimes I’m just learning something new about them. And so I think when I started freelancing, I was given this guideline on estimating time, and in this case it’s about billable time, which is take how much time you think it will take you to do a thing, a long project or something, then double it and then double it again, and that’s what you should submit as your estimate, right?

Nikki Kinzer: Totally. Yes.

Pete Wright: You just never know. And I think that holds for my expectations of their ability to do a thing, living with their own experience of ADHD. Take the time I need to get ready to do that thing, or to change context between events, or get ready for school or whatever, and then double it from my expectation of them. So that I give them a cushion in my mental model of their experience with life. And I mean you could redefine that as just grace. Give them grace, give them the same grace that I want my inner head voice, anxiety ridden, imposter syndrome head voice to give me, and start there. And that sometimes gives me a break against that ADHD experience versus parenting should talk.

Nikki Kinzer: Right. Well, and I know the should talk, even keeping in mind when her room is messy, which is quite often, you can’t just say, "Oh, you need to go clean your room," because that is overwhelming. And so it’s something to remember like, okay, give her very clear instructions, sort of teaching her how to do it so that when she is on her own… I mean we’re teaching them how to be adults, right? So, you’re hoping that she’ll get the skills that, "Okay, well, I’ll take out the trash first, take down the dirty dishes, sort the laundry. Okay." GIving her the skills of where to start in the room and kind of going through that with her, while she’s still home, I think is really beneficial. And one of the things she does because she’s vegan, is she does her own grocery shopping. And I noticed when I cleaned out the refrigerator the other day, she has like four bottles of vegan ranch dressing.

Pete Wright: Oh yeah. She likes to pound those when you’re not looking.

Nikki Kinzer: Yeah. None of them are opened yet.

Pete Wright: She would down a bottle of vegan ranch dressing.

Nikki Kinzer: Yeah. But it was kind of that teachable moment of, "Hey, this is what I noticed and before you go grocery shopping, it’s a good idea to do kind of a quick inventory of what you already have and write down what you need." And you try to make it a teachable moment. This is something you need to learn, because it’s not something that comes naturally. I mean you don’t remember if you have ranch dressing and you really want it, so you’re going to buy it. And now you have four of them.

Pete Wright: I had this funny experience just this weekend as an aside where my wife, Kira, she has just moved her desk around and she has a lot of stuff just kind of on the floor in piles. And she’s like, "I need to put it on some shelves, or some sort of bins, or something like that." And she said, "I was at target getting something else and I saw these bins and I thought I’m going to go buy a bunch of bins," and she said, "Then my head voice kicked in and it was like, ‘Wait a minute, Nikki told you to always do an inventory before you go to Storables and buy the bins.’"

Nikki Kinzer: That’s true.

Pete Wright: And that was from our early organizing podcast days. And this is the same thing, right? Always do the inventory before you go shopping for the stuff. And I looked at her and I was like, "I can’t believe that lesson is still with you in Nikki’s voice. That was 12 years ago. At least I have a better sense of where your specific damage is right now."

Nikki Kinzer: Yes. No kidding.

Pete Wright: Because she has not really internalized that lesson. I thought that was really funny.

Nikki Kinzer: That’s great.

Pete Wright: But I mean it is so true. It’s countering that impulsivity vibe that’s like, "I go shopping, I shop vegan, I see vegan ranch dressing, I buy it, because that equation solves itself," right?

Nikki Kinzer: Right. Yes.

Pete Wright: Okay. How are you at tackling big transitions with your kids? And I’m asking that just because I know you also just went through it with your son who is wrapping up his freshman year, right? As he was an older teen, what was his experience going through the college prep process?

Nikki Kinzer: Well, he told us a couple weeks ago, we went out of town for a wedding and so we were all four together, and he told us a couple weeks ago at this wedding that he admits now that he wasn’t quite ready. College was a little bit more than he expected it to be and it was harder than he thought. And he thought he was going to have everything under control, and he realized that it’s a lot harder when you’re on your own to make sure you get up and go to class and all of those things. And so he does see that there was a learning curve obviously during that time. It’s tough. I think it’s really hard. Those transitions are difficult, and there are things that I know that my husband and I sort of assumed that he should know, but I don’t think he did know. And then there were things that he did know, but he had to learn the hard way, because there wasn’t anything that we could do to help him. For example, in his first semester or trimester, because they go through trimesters, he failed a class. Well, he thought he had time to withdraw from the class so that it wouldn’t go into his GPA. Well, he didn’t. I mean he had missed the deadline, and that’s something that he should be on top of. I’m not looking at when you can withdraw, or pass, or drop classes. He’s in college and I’m thinking he’s doing it. He’s getting that information. He really didn’t know. Okay, well, you don’t know, but the consequence is now you have an F that’s going to decrease your GPA, and you’re going to have to take that class again and you’re going to have to pay for it, because I’m not paying for it twice. That’s not fair to me. And so he had to learn that the hard way. And you know what? The lesson didn’t exactly get into his head, because then now going into the third trimester, he’s failing another class, didn’t withdraw from it, and is going to have to take that again in the summer. There are hard lessons here, people.

Pete Wright: Hard lessons.

Nikki Kinzer: Like this is not an easy thing. And trying to navigate all of that, it’s tough.

Pete Wright: Really tough. And I ask that knowing that your son doesn’t have a ADHD diagnosis and the process looks different than it will likely look for your daughter. Has that influenced the way you talk about or think about going into the college search for your daughter?

Nikki Kinzer: Well, it does to an extent. I think that she’s going to let me be more a part of her experience, where my son was very standoffish. "I’m an adult. I can do this. I don’t need your help." So, you can only offer so much help before you just stand back and say, "Okay, we’re here if you need us." But I think with her, she’s going to be a lot more accepting to, "I don’t get this. Can you help me figure it out?" So, it is going to be, I think, a different experience, although she’s still going to stumble and fall too, because it’s life. We all do. And that transition from going from high school to college, especially with somebody with ADHD, is really hard. But I’ve also told her that I’m not going to make her take 16 credits, she only needs to take 12. And I said the same thing to my son too. "I would rather you have less classes and do well and feel comfortable with your load, than to try to make up these classes at the end. You can go to summer school, we can go into a fifth year if we need to." I’m not pressuring them to get it done in four years. And we offered a gap year too. We’ve told both kids, "If you’re not ready to go to school," and I’ve said this tons of times, so many times with my son, especially after COVID because he didn’t have a senior year. Everything was online. And so I’m like, "If you want to take a gap year and just wait and see how things play out with COVID and if you go back to school in person or whatever." No, he wanted to go back. So, that was the decision he made. So, it’s just hard because it’s like you want them to make these decisions and you want them to fly. And it’s really difficult to sit back and when do you step in and when don’t you?

Pete Wright: Right. Right. Well, and I think just in terms of that process in particular, we were in a similar space though when COVID hit and everything shut down, my daughter was in her senior year. So, after March, she didn’t have a graduation, she didn’t have a prom. She’s one of the kids that lost the end of her senior year.

Nikki Kinzer: Everything, yeah.

Pete Wright: But the process I thought was interesting, because we really struggled to get her to engage in that. It was too out of sight, out of mind. Too far in advance for her to even imagine college. She was just wrapping her head around, "I have a summer job that I’m going to go. I need to figure that out."

Nikki Kinzer: That’s what I need to focus on.

Pete Wright: And so we had to really create some Pomp and Circumstance around it. And that was a process that really worked for us, that there was a hard thing, we created meetings where the three of us, my wife and my daughter and I sat down and we had an official agenda. My wife was the agenda keeper, because it’s who she is.

Nikki Kinzer: It’s what she does.

Pete Wright: My daughter would take attendance and we would all say, "Aye, here, present," and we would have checklists and things. And I was usually responsible for bringing snacks, because my daughter thought that my wife would bring healthy snacks and I would always bring ice cream. And so we each had a role, but that role softened the blow into the hard things, which was, "Let’s look at our schedule and figure out when we’re going to be able to hit the road and tour some colleges." "Let’s look at the application deadlines and figure out when we need to sit down and actually break down the essay writing process and the common app and do all of the things and break them down into very small pieces, their atomic components, so that we can get them done." But we had to create the show of the board meeting in order to soften the blow of the actual work that needed to get done. And I think for both my daughter and me who were struggling with that transition from different sides, that was really useful. So, being able to create a mechanism of theatrics that actually demonstrated how we were going to do this hard thing, how we were going to eat this particular elephant, was incredibly helpful for us. And it took a long time to get there, but you can be sure that we are prepping the binder for my son who is going into his junior year, and figure that out.

Nikki Kinzer: Well, it’s helpful to know that you’re doing it. Once you get the first one done, it feels a little less scary for the second one, because now we know the process. Where with the first one everything’s changed so much since we’ve been in school, that it was all very new and foreign and lots of due dates and lots of things to keep track of. And so I feel a little just more prepared myself going in than before.

Pete Wright: Let’s take a step back, because this is just our experience with big transitions, that’s really big. You put your coach hat on a little bit and you take a step back to the earlier teenage years, and I guess your coach/parent hat, how did you know it was time, or what did you watch out for? What did you find in your daughter that recognized it was time for an assessment? That your kiddo would benefit from an assessment-

Nikki Kinzer: For ADHD?

Pete Wright: … for ADHD. Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer: Well, it was right at the beginning of eighth grade. And if you think about it, that is right at the time eighth grade, here in Oregon anyway, eighth grade is still middle school, and then you’re going into high school, right? So, in eighth grade they’re prepping you to go into high school. So, the academic responsibility as an eighth grader is a little bit more difficult, because they’re trying to prep you and get you ready. So, it’s not so easy. And you have all the social things that are happening at that time too. But she was the one that actually came downstairs one day and said, "I took an ADHD test and I think I have ADHD."

Pete Wright: Okay. She led the way.

Nikki Kinzer: Yeah. So, she led the way.

Pete Wright: I wonder how normal that is. Do you ever get a sense for how often it is that the kiddo is coming to you and saying, "I think I’ve got something going on?"

Nikki Kinzer: I don’t think it’s very common. I think it’s probably because he has been around ADHD so much with me in my business and has heard me talk about it and has listened to the podcast before. And I think she just… I don’t know what it was inside of her that realized that something wasn’t quite right. I can tell you what happened that made her take that test, and that was when she was studying with a friend and they were doing a homework assignment and the assignment only took her friend 20 minutes to do, and she was still working on it. And she’s like, "It would’ve taken me at least two hours to do." And so that was sort of the first thing that she noticed that something wasn’t quite right. Now, I, with this information and you start digging and I ask her "Well, how do you organize your papers at school? What does your binder look like?" And I see this binder with just a bunch of papers shoved into it. She’s not using the dividers that we bought at the beginning of the year. There is no, this is homework. Everything is just shoved in there. And I’m like, "Huh. Okay. Red flag."

Pete Wright: I got an idea. I got some ideas.

Nikki Kinzer: Yeah. So, it all came together. I don’t think it’s very common, but I do think if you’re a parent, if you have ADHD yourself, it’s not going to be a big surprise if one of your kids have it. So, it is something to be aware of. If you start noticing red flags and you start seeing these things, and they’re just a little too familiar, then there might be something more to it than that.

Pete Wright: I think this is one of the angles I was kind of going at here that just sort of hits me, that you and I both might be predisposed to either hyper diagnose or under diagnose in our own heads, the relationship with our kids and ADHD. That me, because there is such a huge part of me that no matter what is constantly saying, "God, please, I hope they don’t have to deal with their brains the way I have to deal with my brain. I hope everything is easier for them than it was for me." And you, because you live in this world where you’re coaching and working with people every day who are living with ADHD, that maybe we might be incented to either not see those traits, or only see those traits in our own kids. And I’ve always worried about that on my end, that I would be either too ignorant of their experience or too focused on it. And both of those are dangerous, right? The too focused on it can really damage my relationship with my kids, right? It’s just like all I see is the hard stuff if I go into that place. All I see is late assignments, is homework that’s not turned in, is late for school, is late getting out of bed, is like all of the things that I know I struggle with, they’re all just so easy for me to project onto my kids. And then under diagnosing, I miss the fact that they are late for school, late to turn assignments in, late getting out of bed, all of those things. And then I’m not in a place to help. So, that’s a constant struggle.

Nikki Kinzer: Yes. I think it is interesting, because I think that one of the things that I wrote in my notes about this was to recognize when you notice that they’re doing something that you know would be hard. So, if I notice her doing her own laundry, I want to praise her and I want to say, "Hey, that’s awesome. You’re getting your clothes cleaned. You’re getting this done." That’s a chore that many people don’t like to do, right? And so I think that there’s a balance between you don’t want to always see just the symptoms. But it’s interesting because the doctor, when she originally went to get diagnosed, we went to our primary care doctor and they dismissed the diagnosis because they thought I was too close to the situation because of what I did for a living.

Pete Wright: There you go.

Nikki Kinzer: And I didn’t think that was fair. I was very angry about that, because why would I want this for her? I’m not going to make this stuff up. I mean let’s just look at the facts. The facts are these are the things that she’s struggling with. It fits into ADHD regardless of what I do or don’t do. And so I didn’t accept that, because I knew there was more to it. And that’s when we decided, okay, well, we’re going to a psychologist who specializes in ADHD, who specifically tests for ADHD, not just a questionnaire that I’m filling out and their teacher is filling out. And of course it did come back what we suspected it to come back. But I think that there’s a lot of understanding too. So, you can always tell when she has come through the kitchen. And I chuckle because it’s like that’s all you can really do is just sort of make light of it. It’s like, "Yep, Paige was here, she made her dinner, you know, she made her lunch, whatever, like she had breakfast this morning. That’s fantastic." But you know what’s so interesting is that I have Mel Robbins one of my Instagram things, I follow her and she’s an inspirational speaker and she’s just really, I think, cool. And she has ADHD, and she wrote a little post this morning that said, "This is what ADHD looks like." And she walks out into her driveway and she has both car doors open and her trunk door open. And she said, "It’s been like this for two hours. I totally forgot that I didn’t shut the doors of my car." So, she goes and she shuts the first door and she said, "Oh, the second door is open because I was unloading groceries." She shuts that door. She shuts the trunk and she’s like, "Yep, that’s what it’s like." But then she says, "It’s okay. It’s okay that our brain is different. It’s okay that this happens. You have to just accept it." And in this situation you’re light with it, right?" And that’s kind of how I look at that. It’s like, "Yeah, she was here." Now, if it’s a bigger problem, like she’s left the stove on before, and that’s a bigger problem. And so that’s definitely something to say, "Hey, just make sure the stove is off. You’ve got to do that."

Pete Wright: Just one thing, make sure it’s this thing.

Nikki Kinzer: Yeah.

Pete Wright: Well, the last thing I have as we kind of get to wrap everything up. And the last thing that I had on my notes was just talking a little bit about some things that I got from Casey that we’ve talked about before, but you inspired me with the car door story, that in my case cleanliness is not a moral judgment and neither really is forgetfulness, right?

Nikki Kinzer: No. I agree 100%.

Pete Wright: All of those things, they’re not moral judgment. They don’t make the kiddo a bad person. They are also not an indicator of their trajectory in life at all. And so it’s easy to project and see the doom and gloom that could happen if the only thing your kid does is leave stoves on in every kitchen they ever go into for the rest of their lives. It’s so easy to say that, and equally ridiculous. They’re going to be okay.

Nikki Kinzer: Right. Yes. Yes, absolutely.

Pete Wright: You got anything else hot on your list?

Nikki Kinzer: No, I mean it’s a roller coaster, like I said, right? There’s ups and downs and we’re all trying to get through it together.

Pete Wright: That’s right. That’s right. I think the more you say that, the better off you’ll be, right? The more you say "We’re in it together. This is a thing we’re in together."

Nikki Kinzer: We’re in it together. And they’re in it with us.

Pete Wright: Yeah, they’re in it too.

Nikki Kinzer: This is not easy for them.

Pete Wright: We don’t all have to agree at any given point, right?

Nikki Kinzer: No.

Pete Wright: There are three different opinions about these things, and we just have to make the case for strategies, for support. Yeah. When it is warranted, when it is welcome and when it is not. So

Nikki Kinzer: Exactly.

Pete Wright: Well, thanks for this, a little bit of a departure from our recent episode, but I always appreciate these more thoughtful discussions with you, Nikki. Thank you.

Nikki Kinzer: Thank you.

Pete Wright: And thank you everybody for downloading and listening to this very show, we sure appreciate it. Welcome to June. Welcome to summer and thank you for your time and your attention. And don’t forget if you have something to contribute to this conversation, we’re heading over to the show talk channel in our Discord server, and you can join us right there by becoming a supporting member at the deluxe level. On behalf of Nikki Kinzer, I’m Pete Wright. And we’ll see you right back here next week on Taking Control. The ADHD podcast.

Through Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast, Nikki Kinzer and Pete Wright strive to help listeners with support, life management strategies, and time and technology tips, dedicated to anyone looking to take control of their lives in the face ADHD.