Discovering How Your Child Thinks and Feels
with Dawn K. Brown, MD
When you don’t have ADHD yourself, it’s really how to know how your child with ADHD thinks and feels. Even if you do have ADHD too, the experience is different for each individual with ADHD, meaning it’s different for your child than it was and is for you. Yet, it’s important for parents to know what life is like for your kids so we can help them thrive. In this episode of the Parenting ADHD Podcast, I’m talking with Dr. Dawn Brown of the ADHD wellness center about how to discover how your child thinks and feels. We cover a variety of perspectives and topics including development, intense feelings and big emotions, sensitivity and rejection sensitive dysphoria, dysregulation, meeting your child where they are, and more…
DR. DAWN K. BROWN, MD
Dr. Dawn Kamilah Brown (Dr. Dawn Psych MD), America’s favorite ADHD Expert, also known as “The MD with ADHD”, is a double- board certified child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist. She is the owner, CEO and sole practitioner at ADHD Wellness Center and has two private practice locations in Texas; she also has a growing virtual presence, offering online appointments. She serves as a contract physician for five clinics where she has a medical license: Texas, Illinois and South Carolina and supervises nurse practitioners in two states.
Dr. Brown is a pioneer of the Mental Health Movement, a keynote speaker, an internationally recognized ADHD expert and coach, a two-time best-selling author, podcaster (“From ADHD to Amaze-Ability™”), on-air/media-influencer, and professional mentor. Dr. Brown is also a mental wellness provider for elite/professional athletes and a mental wellness strategist for “Supermoms” who parent children with ADHD. Her proprietary programs under her ADHD Amaze-Ability™ Academy help families “Position their children to win” and function optimally.
Thanks for joining me!
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Dr. Dawn: 00:02 The thing about kids with ADHD is that a lot of them don't have the same capacity to manage their emotions as other kids their age who don't have ADHD. And I hope that hits home. That's just like saying, if I don't have it, how do you expect me to do it? How you expect me to respond to what you're asking me to do? It's like I can't win.
Penny Williams: 00:30 Do you ever question how your child thinks and feels how they come to these big emotions, why they struggle with communicating with us? Sometimes the dysregulation, the rejection sensitivity. There's so many intense moments and challenges and big emotions and in this episode of the podcast I am diving into this topic with Dr.. Dawn Brown. We are going to cover how you can figure out how your child thinks and feels, how to meet them, where they are, which is so crucial. If you're a listener of this podcast regularly, you know how important meeting your child where they are is Dr.. Dawn also is going to give you permission to take care of yourself and to really understand the importance of self care and the importance of our mindset and our attitude and how that interacts with our kids and really creates what happens. You know what is feeding all of this behavior from underneath all of these struggles. They all have reasons and we can affect so much positive change and Dr. Dawn is going to lead you a little bit into that right now on this episode.
Penny Williams: 01:56 Welcome to the parenting ADHD podcast where I share insights and strategies on raising kids with ADHD straight from the trenches. I'm your host, penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, ADHD, alcoholic and mindset Mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your atypical kid. Let's get started.
Penny Williams: 02:32 Welcome back to the parenting ADHD podcast. I'm super excited to have Dr.. Dawn Brown with me. On this episode we're going to talk about discovering how your child thinks and feels. And this is so, so important for parents of kids with ADHD because when we understand our kids, then we have the knowledge and the insight to be more helpful to them and to empower them. Thanks for being here, Dr.. Brown. Will you start by introducing yourself for everyone listening?
Dr. Dawn: 02:55 Yes. And thanks so much Penny for having me. I'm so honored to be a part of what you're producing. So my name is Dr. Dawn Brown. I'm a child LS and an adult psychiatrist. I'm a two time best-selling author, public speaker, podcaster and media influencer. And that's part in ADHD. I have a private practice in Houston, Texas as well as our three or four clinics. And manage helped me manage nurse practitioners, manage their patients who have mental health conditions. I also work closely with a group of individuals, special individuals who I call my supermoms and these are moms who are caregivers or children who have ADHD. And I also work closely with elite athletes and in providing mental wellness for their way of living as well. So
Penny Williams: 03:43 You are so busy, so busy. Yes, you're doing such good work. But so much of it. Yeah, it's so awesome. And I always enjoy our conversations because you have the most fantastic energy and excitement about helping kids and adults. And I think it's just fantastic. I always get great vibes and inspiration from you. So I'm excited to stop this. Yeah. So we're talking about discovering how your child thinks and feels, where do we start with this? What do we talk about first?
Dr. Dawn: 04:20 Well, I would like to start by just saying, when parents look at their children unintentionally or intentionally, you know, you may have two or three children or you may have a child and a niece and nephew are just looking at your child in comparison to their peers. We often compare. And so what I like to start with by saying is that, you know, kids with ADHD don't necessarily have different thoughts or emotions and other kids who don't have ADHD, you know, they feel the same type of emotions or experience, same type of emotions that kids without ADHD have. So hurting, sadness, frustration, disarmament, they were just as much as kids without ADHD. So the difference, however, with kids with ADHD is that these feelings may seem to be more frequent and more intense and they also may last longer.
Dr. Dawn: 05:18 So you start to see these differences and then you start to also observe how they may impact their child's relationships, their self esteem, you know, just kind of their everyday life. So, you know, emotions play a huge role when we think about the daily difficulties that kids may face who have ADHD. The bottom line is that a lot of kids with ADHD have trouble managing their emotions, but it's a very common symptom of ADHD. So to understand this, I as a psychiatrist, I always like to visualize the brain in this case. And talk a little bit about biology. So I want to talk about it in terms of I can make it portable to your listeners and not necessarily bore them with the medical terminology that they have to go look up. But you know, our brain is so intricate and so when we're born, you know the brain is actually growing by leaps and bounds.
Dr. Dawn: 06:18 And actually the first six years of life are so important because a lot goes on in our child's body, but especially our child's brain. There's so many cells, cell development connections, what we call synapses and the brain chemicals are being made. The different aspects or parts of the brain are maturing so rapidly. So you know, if that is naturally happening in a healthy manner, then that's a good outcome and it's actually, you know, something that we look at to see how behavior is correlated with that development. How, you know, kids start to think how they respond, actions move and so on and so forth. The interesting part about the brain when we talk about ADHD or any other functioning condition is that there's particular part of the brain called the frontal lobe. And if you touch your forehead, that's kind of the area that I'm referring to. So the frontal lobe, if you can think of it, is kind of like our brain's brain.
Dr. Dawn: 07:25 I like to think of it that way because it's very important aspect of the brain that helps regulate other parts of the brain. It's our executive function area. It's, it's how we think, how we learn, how we first receive and understand and process information. It's also the area where our impulse control center starts as well as our activities center starts. Okay. So when you're talking about executive functioning, you're talking about just learning overall and, and processing information and memory and things of that nature. Now it gets more intricate than that. And different parts of the brain are involved in this eventually as well. But with ADHD, some parts of the brain, we have enough research to look at the brain on imaging and find that sometimes with ADHD this part of the brain is underdeveloped or under active.
Dr. Dawn: 08:27 Okay, so it's saying it's nothing wrong per se with your child's brain, it's just that if it's under active or underdeveloped, for example, if I'm able to process information and I do have ADHD myself, I may not get that information as a rapid rate or efficient rate than someone without ADHD, if that makes sense. So I want to, you know, just keep these types of examples in mind now, not just structurally but also chemically. There's different chemicals that are formed in this part of the brain that work well to help process information and connect these cells by creating electrical, electrical impulses to send information from cell to cell. And so again, this area of the brain may not be making enough cells or enough, excuse me, enough chemicals and it never did. So I'm never liked to refer to ADHD as a deficiency because it's not, I actually coined the term, it's an amazing ability, once you understand what it is and learn how to manage it right.
Dr. Dawn: 09:27 But I'm, I'm willing to admit that it's an insufficiency. Because we never made enough of these chemicals. If you have ADHD when you were born and you're never gonna make enough as you grow older and become an adult. And so that's why I like to start there because I'm hoping that that leaves the foundation two way. We're talking about how your, you know, your ADHD child thinks how they feel and also how that reflects in their behavior because you can't necessarily say, 'Oh, my child has the capacity to be able to respond to these thoughts and these feelings and these emotions and behaviors like a child who doesn't have ADHD because their brain structure and chemical makeup is different.'
Penny Williams: 10:17 Yeah. I always like talking about the fact that ADHD is neurological and physiological. It's lumped into your mental health — and I think it is certainly impactful in that area — but I think for the general public, when we talk about it as mental health, it takes on this perception that it's somehow within the individual's control. That it's not this actual physiological difference that just makes the frontal lobe work differently or not as well, and all these other aspects that I'm sure we'll get into as well, like emotions and feelings and executive functioning. But I feel like when we talk about this physiology as you just explained, that really does help us to in those moments that are so hard as parents to be mindful of the fact that our kids' brains work differently than probably ours. Some of us at least, they work differently than their neurotypical peers. They work differently than your other child potentially. Right. And that just really lays that foundation then to be much more empathetic and understanding with our kids, which only helps them instead of kind of flaming the fire of struggle and big emotions that sometimes happens.
Dr. Dawn: 11:41 That's exactly right Penny. And the other point that I want to point out is that even within the ADHD group of kids, everyone's brain is different.
Penny Williams: 11:51 Oh, so different. So different.
Dr. Dawn: 11:54 You're exactly right. So, even though it's very important that we're were aware and cautious of how we engage when our kids are not responding the way we expect them to or want them to or how society, you know, expects them to and so on and so forth. Because you know, we have to meet them where they are and meeting them where they are. And like you're saying, is having an understanding and empathy to know what's the right way to respond to that particular child, nurturing them and not necessarily ridiculing them and they're internalizing that differently.
Penny Williams: 12:33 And even when we don't intend any harm as parents, as caregivers, as teachers other adults in their lives. So often the intention is not to harm. The intention is great, but the lack of understanding then creates some harm, some negative impact on our kids.
Dr. Dawn: 12:54 That's right. And that's also interesting with kids with ADHD because when we talked about certain conditions that relate to ADHD, one in mind, called rejection sensitive dysphoria, 99.9% of people who have ADHD have this, it's actually not even in the DSM. It's actually a new condition that we're still trying to gain enough information and research on. But what it basically states is how a person can be very sensitive and receive criticism a little bit differently
Penny Williams: 13:34 Or even perceive it. Yeah. Even perceive it when it's not there.
Dr. Dawn: 13:39 Exactly. You're exactly right. And so your intent is to nurture and to provide supportive empathy, but how they're receiving it is a little different, you know, and it can be like you're saying much, you know, it can be in the realm of intensity how they perceive it different so can mean something different to them. It can be based on a trigger that has nothing to do with you. They're relating it or associating it. So, yes, I mean it can be very complex. But the bottom line is that there are ways to make sure that our intentions are received in the most appropriate way and there's wyas to help parents and teachers and adult figures communicate to where they're confirming that the child is receiving it as well. And we can talk about that as well.
Penny Williams: 14:30 Let's first touch on how we figure out what our child is thinking and feeling because I remember when my son was diagnosed, he was six years old, which is 11 years ago now, but all I wanted in the world was to figure out what was going on in his head to figure out what it was like to walk through the world with his brain and his emotions and his perspective of things. Because I felt like that was the missing piece that I needed to truly help him. And over the years I've consumed a lot of information and you know, really dug deep into it and have figured out a lot of that on my own. I even wrote a book called the 'Insider's Guide to ADHD" where I surveyed 100 adults with ADHD. And I said, 'what was it about your childhood that was either super not helpful or was very helpful? What did your parents and teachers do for you and not do for you?' Because I was so desperate to get inside and understand.
Dr. Dawn: 15:30 Yes. So what's interesting about emotions is that when kids have trouble managing their emotions, it can show up in different ways. I mean, adults too, right? But we leave the focus on our children. Some of our kids may have trouble, managing or putting the brakes on their feelings when they're angry or when they're stressed about something. And others may struggle with getting them to talk about their emotions, right? Or getting them to talk about how they're feeling or they may be bored. So, you know, it kind of like a two way street here. And so kids with ADHD can get quick to anger with minor annoyances, for example. Or over worry about the small things they take offense about. Someone who's trying to carefully provide general criticism to them or fill a sense of even urgency to get to something they want right now.
Dr. Dawn: 16:34 Okay. Or do you have trouble calming down when they feel angry. So this is one of the things that I work with kids and in my ADHD coaching courses because in order for us to talk about how to organize and do time management, you know, a part of this is understanding where their child is so that I can meet them where they are and see what their abilities and their capacities are. The thing about kids with ADHD is that a lot of them don't have the same capacity to manage their emotions as other kids their age who don't have ADHD. And I hope that hits home. That's just like saying, if I don't have it, how do you expect me to do it? How do you expect me to respond to what you're asking me to do? It's like I can't win. Right?
Penny Williams: 17:20 Yeah. Yeah. I was just going to say that reminds me, physiologically, of amygdala hijack and the fact that when our kids are super intensely emotional, it has cut off access to the frontal lobe that you were describing before. And so now they can't rationalize out of it. They can't really even process what we're saying when trying to help them sometimes.
Dr. Dawn: 17:44 That's right. And they have less ability to react to their own emotions using their brain's own reasoning ability, rationalization.
Penny Williams: 17:54 That was a huge aha for me.
Dr. Dawn: 17:56 Me as well. And even understanding my own ADHD and me feeling guilty about what was asked of me and thinking back when I was a child, when I, didn't know I had ADHD until I became an adult. But even as an adult it hits home. And so the other point that I want to make about kids and I find with working with kids is they also have trouble with working memory. And I talk about this in my book, you know, the ADC lifestyle series. When I focus on foods and exercise, part of the exercise that we often forget about is the mental exercise. It's all important. Our kids are active and heart-healthy, and get that energy out. But it's just as equally as important that they meditate, that they may do yoga, that they, they're, they're focusing on mindfulness.
Dr. Dawn: 18:44 And we, I think we talked about this in your seminar and kids with ADHD typically have trouble with working memory. And so that makes it very hard for them to keep the bigger vision in mind. They tend to get stuck and whatever they're feeling at any particular moment, and imagine you sitting right there being stuck so when you're stuck, it doesn't feel good. It's uncomfortable for kids with ADHD tends to intensify, especially when I'm angry and it can go on longer, becomes more difficult to manage or even regulate. And then all of a sudden it builds up and it's very difficult to even think because now you're focused more on your emotion. Okay. And so these kids, kids with ADHD, are often referred to being emotionally sensitive. Or sometimes they don't know what to, how to manage these feelings so they may become bad thoughts or even unhealthy behavior.
Penny Williams: 19:43 Yeah. When you said bad thoughts, that really reminded me of something I hear from parents so often — self-deprecating comments from their kids and even kind of scary comments, "I'm stupid", but also "I might as well be dead." I know when my own son was little, that was what he would say when he didn't have the language yet., and the awareness yet to really communicate much more effectively what he was actually feeling. It was kind of this all or nothing, it was very black and white. And so if he was angry, he was fully 100% angry and that meant he might as well be dead or somebody might be hurt, and so I talk to parents about this all the time — we have to start working on that communication piece for our kids and that awareness emotionally because it does trigger so much of the behavior and the other challenges that we as parents really focus on.
Dr. Dawn: 20:43 Exactly. Right. And I can go into giving some ideas and how to manage that. Before I do, I definitely want to support what you're saying, that it's going from zero to 10, and they speak in absolutes, their emotions and part of ADHD, one of the symptoms is impulse, lacking impulse control, right? Having all of these emotions, all these thoughts going on at once, which create more emotions for us to manage. And it's hard for a kid, even adult for that matter, to do with all of that, when it's every emotional and runs on 10. So the behavior, the actual action as a result of those thoughts and those feelings become, "Mom, I just want to die," or "I just to give up," or "No one likes me and everyone hates me." And so the intensity of the words that they choose to the degree of them saying extreme things, it's a reflection of what they're feeling and what they're thinking.
Penny Williams: 21:38 Yeah. I love the phrase 'Your child is having a hard time, they are not giving you a hard time.' And I use that kind of as my parenting mantra because sometimes it's really hard to remember that they're not just trying to give us a hard time. It's difficult. But that just clarifies all that so much. If we can just remember in all of these moments and big emotions and intense outbursts and any challenge, that their intention is not to be problematic for us or to upset us or even to be disrespectful or rude, which we often quantify behavior with.
Dr. Dawn: 22:16 That's right. You're exactly right. And again, before we talk about how, as parents, we can be there for our children to help them with these emotions and help regulate them, I do want to share one final piece about executive functioning. Part of executive functioning is about self reasoning and so kids without ADHD, and I hate to compare it but I think it brings the point home is that usually a child without ADHD, they tend to calm down. They can chill out, they see the minor details and it's not a huge ordeal for them. Okay. They may actually reason to say, "I'll try again," or "let me try to find a better way" or be receptive to instructions on how to go about those techniques. But kids with ADHD, what's interesting about the brain is that it's slower to develop on that front.
Dr. Dawn: 23:11 It's going to take longer for that child to gain the ability to calm down and even get perspective. So they're more likely to get caught up in their own emotions. And as a result, this can look like anxiety could look like discouragement. It can look like them giving up too quickly or being reluctant to even get started on something. Because remember it's hard to calm their emotions and sometimes it's hard to also rev up though the gear to get these one right. They avoid interacting with others. So this is a kid that would just want to, you know, maybe say something impulsive and then kind of go in the corner and not say anything else. For the rest of the night. And so therefore their emotion in the moment can take over their thinking process. So yeah, it's important for us to understand how all of these things play a role in how we connect them.
Dr. Dawn: 24:10 This is my child, and this is the concern that I've been having for quite some time. And, for a lot of caregivers — I work with moms closely, so dads, I know you're out there — you're probably experiencing these things and grandparents as well, when working with moms because that's the group I work closely with, sometimes this becomes feelings of shame and guilt because you see your child as an extension of you and there are certain expectations and there are certain behaviors that they're supposed to be presenting in public and that becomes more conflicted in your own relationship with your child.
Dr. Dawn: 24:59 And what do you do with that? How do you manage that? So one of the things that I do recommend is first, as a parent, I always tell this to my moms, first of all, this is not your fault that your child has ADHD. So let's recognize the condition. You know this, this is a condition that is most common in kids. It's one of the most common, the research is still out to understand the causes of ADHD. We do know that genetics and environment impact it . So if you are a mom who has ADHD, it's likely that your child may have ADHD. And that increases with siblings. And also, if their father may present with symptoms and there's nothing you could've done differently, Mom, to change that so let's just acknowledge it for what it is.
Dr. Dawn: 25:49 This is a condition that you just have to learn more about and help your child manage. So one of the things that I suggest is first have a current parents' own understanding of what their child's ADHD is. A lot of times meeting with people like yourself, Penny, who are very involved with moms and community caregivers and have an understanding as a parent yourself with a child with ADHD, giving some education and awareness about the condition. But when you weren't one-on-one with your child, I always suggest that once you have this information, start by acknowledging what they seem to be feeling, right? And so when you were giving that example Penny about, "I just want to die," and you know your son didn't necessarily mean that he really was literally wanting to die, in that intense moment he just didn't have the words. So acknowledge, don't argue with what they should be feeling, but acknowledge what they seem to be feeling.
Dr. Dawn: 26:53 "I see that you are angry about not winning the game," for example. You're acknowledging what they feel and you're giving them some type of inclination of "this is what this may be for you," and help them give it a name, you know, anger. It's okay to say it: upset, mad, sad. Because these are emotions and natural emotions for all of us. It's just how we manage and allow them to own it. Don't take it away from them. Don't tell them they should be feeling this way and he should be proud because they got this. No, you want to validate their emotion because they want you to, they need help with understanding and validating for their own needs.
Penny Williams: 27:40 And their emotions are real. Just because we feel like they might be inappropriate, it doesn't take away that that's what our child is feeling in that moment. And validating is an amazing parenting tool. It's magical.
Dr. Dawn: 27:50 Yes, yes it is. You're meeting your child where they are and it's accepting, right? Because some of these kids already don't feel accepted. They already feel like they have to prove themselves, that their emotions are intense or they're not being heard. There's so many caveats, but it also helps lead them to manage it. And so once that emotion is calmed or managed, then help them to discover a different way of looking, different perspectives. Offer them help to figure out, "Hey, this didn't work out this way, so why don't we try this way to better deal with their emotion?" So it may help them have a different thought about their emotion and remember, emotions connect with our thoughts.
Dr. Dawn: 28:47 That's also extremely important. And the thing about when we talk about, you know, how we think in our emotions and our behaviors, the bottom line is that when we think positive, we're not necessarily gonna feel anxious or when we feel upset or mad, we're not gonna necessarily feel happy. So oftentimes our emotions are in line with our thoughts. So guess what mom, we need to help our child feel positive thoughts and energy into their minds. Cause it starts there. "Johnny, I understand that you are angry about losing the game. However, when you look at how the game ended and what happened to lead to the loss..." Because you're talking about executive functioning, thinking about it from the emotion. Let's talk about that. Even the first time he needs to be in a state of mind to where he's not focused on these emotions, but now he's conducive to have a conversation with mom about, "well this is what I was thinking that happened. And how did that make you feel?" So this really just finding that inlet and that way to connect with your child and helping them find ways to manage.
Penny Williams: 30:12 And I feel like mindset for parents is just as important. And really that's what fuels our kids' mindsets. We're setting the example and when we work to be in a more positive frame of mind, when we're working to look at items of gratitude, when we're feeling hopeful, when we're just very mindful about our perspective and our energy that's then modeling for our kids. They absorb so much and when we are always negative or we're always talking about ADHD, we're always talking about all the challenging parts — "you get so upset," or "you never get your teeth brushed in the morning," "you're never ready on time," — when it's just all of that it's this big dark cloud. And, for me personally, I had to come to a point where I said, "okay, I don't want to live like this anymore."
Penny Williams: 31:11 And I know nobody in my family wants to live like this anymore. We were so tired of thinking about ADHD, talking about ADHD, complaining about ADHD, struggling with ADHD that I really had to make that mindful decision to shift. And then it really helped everybody else around me to be able to do that too. And I have to admit that my husband, my kids, they started to pull away. They didn't want to sit at family dinner. They didn't want to hang out in a room with me because they knew that's all I would talk and think about for the longest time because I was just in that fix it mode and I just didn't have the awareness of what that meant. That sort of mindset and perspective. And it's so super valuable to parents because again, we're setting that foundation for our kids to now be in that headspace as well.
Dr. Dawn: 32:03 You couldn't have described it better. I always encourage moms, particularly, to think about it in this fashion. Similar to what you're saying, Penny, your kids learn how to respond to stressful situations by watching how you react. Right? And so we all know, we understand that stressful situations can often occur outside of our control. But how we react and how we respond, that's where we gain control. And so we won't lose it. And so teaching a child that and then wearing all these multiple hats can be daunting. Moms have the power, many family members also look to mom for direction and guidance.
Penny Williams: 32:58 That silent role we take...
Dr. Dawn: 33:01 It really is, and in biblical or even traditional societies, you always see that moms are in the forefront of kind of guiding everyone else. And so that's why for moms, I encourage you listening to us, it's so important that you yourself are aware and, as Penny says, mindful of how you're receiving information, how you're feeling, what your thoughts are like. And even if you need to get the assistance in order to gain better control. Absolutely. Yes. And the other aspect about this is that when we look at genetics and how deeply rooted ADHD is, and with genetics, a lot of my moms I work with have ADHD too. So don't run away from that condition. Manage it. If you know you have it then work with a doctor so that you can be the best for your son and daughter, your husband, you know, your role in the community. But it's all about you first and it's okay, Moms, to prioritize you first. Don't feel guilty about that. Yes, I know you're mom and you weren't always a mom and you used to prioritize yourself. Guess what? You can still prioritize yourself today. I don't care if you have 50 million kids. It's so important because you can't be the best for them if you're not the best for yourself.
Penny Williams: 34:25 Right. That is so true. Society really gives us this idea that we should be ashamed if we take time for ourselves, if we have a family, that our role then becomes, as soon as we're a parent that everything has to be about that child. And self care actually is about our kids. Taking care of ourselves, taking care of our mental and emotional health is about our kids because that then feeds into our interactions with them. And the extra level of stress that we're under causes all sorts of physical ailments. It's a serious thing and we often still, we say, 'Oh well, I'm a parent. I'm stressed, I'm a mom. This is what happens.' But it doesn't have to be. And people like you and I and so many other people that I've talked to on the podcast and summits and at our Happy Mama retreat, we all give you permission to take care of yourself even if it's five minutes just to breathe by yourself, locked away in a bedroom or a closet or whatever you need to do.
Penny Williams: 35:42 You have to have that because it does detract from your capabilities as a mom. That thing that you're sacrificing for.
Dr. Dawn: 35:52 Yes, you're exactly right. I refer to it as "me time" and I actually write prescriptions for this, because it helps validate that I'm giving them permission, even though they don't need my permission, but it just allows them to feel supported in doing it right, and they can show it to their loved one. 'Hey, Dr.. Brown says I can have me time.' It's like you put that note on their door. Don't bother mom for at least an hour so I can recoup, get myself together and be my best for you all. And moms, I think about any caregiver, when you were at your best, then you are able to help your child see the bigger picture when their emotions are not regulated, you're able to not take things personally, right? You know they had a long day at school, but when they come home, encourage them to decompress as well before they start their homework time. Because if that doesn't happen for the both of you, I can only imagine how homework time can be for you moms. You're modeling this for your child that you are doing it for yourself.
Penny Williams: 37:06 And that's so right that we really are teaching them how to treat themselves as an adult. Do you want your daughter to sacrifice everything about herself? If she has children or your son, do you want them to give entirely of themselves and not do anything for themselves anymore or their hobbies don't matter? Nothing they want matters. Do you want that for your child? Of course not yet. We tend to accept it for ourselves, and then that's what we're modeling. So there's a lot of ahas that kind of happened on that journey to figuring out that self care is way more important and way more valuable to our kids than we think it is.
Dr. Dawn: 37:51 That's right. That's right. And when you realize that and you accept it and you're practicing it and all these other things that we discuss, it makes your journey much easier or less effort that you've put into it, and your kids may be more receptive to responding to it as well.
Penny Williams: 38:11 You're just more capable of handling their big emotions when you've taken time for yourself and you're feeling pretty okay, it's a lot easier to keep calm in those moments, to show that validation, to really be the best that we can be, to be exactly what they need in those moments.
Dr. Dawn: 38:31 Exactly. Exactly. And that empowers them, that the condition that they may feel dissed by, you know, because they're hearing it from other places or other people, other peers, that it's something that we no longer have to feel despised, but they can feel empowered by it because you're meeting them where they are and now they can teach others how to help them manage their emotions and what to expect from them. Right? So it's like your child is teaching your teacher how to treat them with the team in order to perform at their best. So it just, it continues.
Penny Williams: 39:13 Yeah. It's completely a community and a domino effect. I think that's part of the reason that you and I do what we do in the ways that we do. We're trying to help to educate the public in general, not just families even, but everybody who comes into contact with our kids with ADHD or with the adults with ADHD. So that we are kind of preparing the world for our kids.
Dr. Dawn: 39:38 Exactly. I just want to reiterate one point, that moms, if you find yourself stuck as well or you find it's even working at even putting effort into trying to help regulate your emotions and your child is a mini you, go ahead and discover this, meet with a physician, meet with someone who can assist you and see if you have ADHD or if there's something else going on, some medical condition. If you're putting in the effort for which most moms do, and you're finding that you're not getting anywhere and you still feel like you're in the same place, you may have ADHD. So it's important because you don't grow out of ADHD.
Dr. Dawn: 40:28 That's the other thing that I talk about. And we just learn better ways to manage it. And when we become adults and some of us need medicines to assist us, some of us need more coaching skills or time management skills, some of us need to change our jobs so that our job actually supports our ADHD. Right? And so, you have to find out what's best for you. But I don't want you out there feeling stuck and giving up either. And knowing and being aware that these conditions don't necessarily go away and continue with you as an adult, it's even more important that you get the help that you need as well.
Penny Williams: 41:02 And reaching out to other moms who understand I think is super, super valuable because we tend to decide that it must be something we did. We must be a bad parent or we didn't find the right treatment or whatever. We can self-blame with the best of them. And that's really easy to do and to get caught up in when you feel like you're the only one who's struggling in that way. But there's millions of other parents, kids with ADHD who are struggling or struggling with kids who are having different challenges, no life is perfect. We get so caught up in the social media highlight reel and we think that we're seeing all of these other moms or other families where everything is just hunky-dory, but it's not, that's just what they're sharing. We have to have to connect. Connection is so important for our mental health too. And there's so many ways to do it now with the internet and social media, there's so many Facebook groups and pages and just so much support out there. And even if you don't interact, even if you're too shy or anxious to talk about it, just stalking those groups can make you feel so much more validated yourself.
Dr. Dawn: 42:26 That's right. And that's why I was so honored to be a part of this podcast because I know that working moms sometimes don't always have the time to connect even when they want to. So Penny, what you've created is an audio version of connection. You know, you're a mom yourself, you have guests on who can provide advice and knowing and encouraging the moms out there that they're not alone. When they're on their drive home, when they're in a grocery store, when they're working out, you know, it's those moments when they can connect with an audio version of what you're doing to feed their minds that 'Hey, the support is out there. What I'm feeling and experiencing, I'm not alone. There is help that I can receive in these other ways. I can do it.' So, accolades to you and in doing this for moms because you know, it can be stressful. Being a parent is awesome, but it can be stressful.
Penny Williams: 43:32 Let's tell it like it is. It is time that we just said it out loud, right? That we just stopped trying to sweep it under the rug. We stopped trying to avoid the hard things and we just go for it and be real about it. Somehow that is the path that I took, which is really kind of insane for me because I have wicked social anxiety and general anxiety. Where I am now is kind of miraculous and completely fueled by this awesome kid that I have. It's a completely different path than I ever thought I would take. But as far as work or career, being this more public presence, that's never been me, but I feel like we need that. We need to know that other people struggle too. And even I have had a rough time the last few months and I have been very open about that because I want everybody to know that even people in this community, even those of us who might have more knowledge or more years of experience in it, it's still a struggle sometimes that never goes away fully.
Penny Williams: 44:50 And that can be really hard. I struggled with feeling like maybe I was a phony if I didn't have it all together. No, I'm just real, just a real person. You're human and we all are.
Dr. Dawn: 45:06 There's so many blessings on that in that journey. Sometimes we will go through those dips, those valleys, those stopping blocks, those detours. And in order for our gift to be unwrapped, our mission to be discovered,, thank God for Penny Williams and having these seminars and a podcast for parents who otherwise wouldn't have known that they're not alone, and that there's help out there and what they're experiencing is natural. This is your gift. I would have never known that you had experienced those things, but thank God you went through them so that you learn and manage them and thank God you went through them with your son who also taught you how to better manage. It's a two way street here, right?
Penny Williams: 45:57 Yeah. When we let our kids lead, it's amazing what they can show us about ourselves. And that's not to say that we're just letting our kids run amuck and do whatever they want to do. You're saying when we really tap into meeting them where they are, as you've talked about, that's letting them lead in a way that's an opportunity for everyone. And an opportunity really to let them be who they are.
Dr. Dawn: 46:22 It's empowering. and we're all unique in our own way.
Penny Williams: 46:28 Totally. We all have our own struggles. I think that's the hardest thing, especially for my son is like through middle school and teen years, was being very aware that the kids around him were different and that he wasn't able to fit, that he wasn't able to necessarily do his work as they do it or things like that.
Penny Williams: 46:49 And he was painfully aware of that for a long time. And we have just continuously had that talk about everybody has different struggles. I'm super anxious. I just about wet my pants talking to somebody I don't know, like that's a struggle. Just because I did well in school doesn't mean that I don't struggle with something and we all do and reminding our kids of that normalizes what they're going through. I think it helps them to see that there is a place for them.
Dr. Dawn: 47:19 That's right. Exactly right.
Penny Williams: 47:21 We didn't get to talk much about RSD and we just have a couple more minutes. So I wanted to, I know we're kind of looping and backtracking from where we ended up, but I think it's a really important concept. When I read the first article on RSD, I was flabbergasted because it explained my son like nobody's business, and my husband, it actually really gives a lot of understanding to some of that intensity, some of those big emotions. But also sometimes when our kids misinterpret completely what we were trying to say to them, they feel it was criticism.
Dr. Dawn: 48:02 You know? And I laugh because when I read about it the first time, I'm like, does someone write about me? And what's interesting about that is that my closest friends or some, even my friends, well, my family is probably a different experience, but my close friends would probably also be like my family. But anyone that would basically know me for a few years, not necessarily have the closest relationship will be surprised that I would even say that. And so the good thing about that is that I, I've managed it to a point, but made it real that I still have a lot of work to do. Because what we're talking about RSD, also known as rejection sensitive dysphoria. So when you think about the word rejection, I'm sensitive to rejection. And dysphoria is like hard to cope, hard to accept rejection.
Dr. Dawn: 48:56 In other words, no, these are individuals who are very sensitive to what other people think or say about them, it's hard to receive criticism even if it's positive. And as you stated, Penny, they may perceive things in a way they were not intended. So sometimes it says that sometimes a rejection is imagined in their minds, but not always. And the thing about ADHD is that 99% of people with ADHD have this condition. And I was flabbergasted when I read this stat that ADHD researchers estimate that by age twelve, children with ADHD get 20,000 more negative messages about themselves than other kids their age.
Penny Williams: 49:51 Heartbreaking.
Dr. Dawn: 49:52 Oh my goodness. I think I put the book down. I was like "20,000 more negative messages?"
Penny Williams: 50:04 Intentional or not, you know, it doesn't have to even be a verbal negative message. It could be a teacher who doesn't quite understand that they need a little more support and thinks that they're just not motivated to do the work. That's a negative message too. They're processing that as meaning something negative about themselves.
Dr. Dawn: 50:25 It is. And as you're saying, we're coming full circle. The first six years of life are very critical for their brain development, right? We're talking about kids before age 12, we're talking about the development, their self esteem, their self worth. That's really starting to develop. So the criticism that they may be receiving intentionally unintentionally or misperceiving can take a real toll on how their self esteem is developing. So how does that impact their school, their education, their friendships, their mood, their sleep, their overall functioning? It has a significant impact. Kids who have ADHD are two times more suicidal than kids without ADHD. And so not only necessarily are they feeling that internally, but they didn't get, again, they're receiving that external stress or being bullied and so that further exacerbates their own thoughts and feelings about themselves and their abilities.
Penny Williams: 51:40 Yeah. I'll tell you, EMDR therapy has been really helpful this year. My son's 17 and working through some of that because his self esteem has taken a massive beating through the years in school and he was just at a really low point and it was time to really work with somebody on that. And the process, the approach of EMDR has been kind of helpful because it's looking at what's the root? It Was really this really poor self esteem and this lack of confidence that was really feeding all of these other issues that we were seeing on the surface. And it's been really enlightening. But you know, I will say we, we talk a lot about using different therapies using different modalities, behavior therapy, talk therapy, play therapy and in the context of ADHD or even autism.
Penny Williams: 52:37 And there's something also to be said for therapy that doesn't come from that approach that's coming from some other theory or idea. And that's what this ended up being for us. It was not a clinician who really has a strong background in ADHD or autism. It was something else entirely and it actually turned out to be the most beneficial of any sort of talk or behavior therapy that he's had over the years. Which amazes me cause I'm always so focused on, what are the specific challenges and we think the ADHD is feeding it. And the autism is feeding it and to figure out that yes, it started the ball rolling, but now it's created these other things that our kids sometimes need help working through.
Dr. Dawn: 53:23 That's right. What you're saying, it just reinforces, not just the condition itself, but how we manage the condition and the bottom line. If you meet your child where they are moms, you know your children the best, right? I'm learning more about your children by having meaningful conversations with them, getting them to the point where they are calm and you're able to communicate in whatever fashion they can communicate in next effective you know, drawing, using words, analogies and getting them to a place where they understand that no one treatment management is going to be the same because that's another part of this. And I talk to kids and they're like, 'well, my medicine doesn't work. I'm bad.' And so I'm like, 'well, no, let's talk about this. Why don't you feel it's working? Why do you feel that you're bad?'
Dr. Dawn: 54:16 Try to uncover what they're saying, like you're suggesting, you get to the bottom line where it's not even a message they needed in the case of what they're talking about. It's something completely, totally different that they're mentioning. They've associated with being bad. And so that's why I always encourage parents that there's no one treatment for ADHD. There's no one treatment for how you're gonna approach this or how you're going to engage your children in different types of therapies. Try all of them. Try, try something. And that's how you know if it's effective or not, get with parents who have different ways of managing because they may already have stopped on that exit or that you all are on the similar journey. And so they can give you insight as to what has been helpful for them. But just know that you are supported and, and = that you're bound to continue to look and discover ways that you did eventually find on a manageable basis are very effective in working for you and your family.
Penny Williams: 55:30 So the bottom line in our entire conversation is this: this is very complex but doable, right? I mean there's so much complexity and you and I could talk for days and still not cover it, but the root of everything that we're talking about is that it is complex and there is a lot for you to dig deeper into and to look at and to take into account yourself, your own self care, your own attitude and mental health and physical health and all the emotions and the RSD and the dysregulation and all the things that are not just inattention and impulsivity and hyperactivity. It's super complex. But I think when we recognize that and then we say, 'okay, I just need to get to know my child, how is this affecting my child? What are their strengths? Where do they need support?' that's how we get through it. We stop worrying about the rest of the world and what they think and we start parenting the individual kid that we have.
Dr. Dawn: 56:35 If I could yell, I would because you are so on point. What you said, it's kind of the guide to where moms can start. If the question about, 'well, what do I do? Where do I start?' That's where you start. You focus on your child and how you can better help them and probably the first step in that journey. The world's always going to be there. They're always going to have their own say and things like that. No, this is about how you're going to make a better world for your child. And so you're going to focus on that, and that will hopefully lead you on the right journey.
Penny Williams: 57:17 Yup. I totally think we still need to start raising individuals in general in all of parenting. That's my latest soapbox. The conformity is killing our kids. It's time to just see who they are and let them be who they are and support that. It's so powerful and empowering for them,. It's been such a great conversation, Dr. Dawn and I'm so glad that you gave moms permission to take care of themselves and to be in the emotions, their own emotions and processing their own grief and really taking charge instead of just sitting down and kind of taking expectations. For everybody listening, links to things that we have talked about in this episode, all the links to all of the fantastic work that Dr. Dawn is doing, her supermoms group, she has books, courses. What am I forgetting? Your website, your podcast and then you are on so many podcasts I see all the time and you're just out there getting the word out and your energy is so infectious and so I hope that parents will really connect with you and learn more from you too. So all of those links and everything will be in the show notes. You can get those at parentingadhdandautism.com/080. And with that, I just want to thank you once again for a really powerful conversation.
Dr. Dawn: 58:52 Oh, thank you so much, Penny for having me. I really appreciate it. I'm truly honored. Thank you again.
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