191: Discovering How Your Child Feels and Thinks, with Dawn K. Brown, MD

Picture of hosted by Penny Williams

hosted by Penny Williams

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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 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… 


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The Insider’s Guide to ADHD, by Penny Williams

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My Guest


Dr. Dawn Kamilah Brown, 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.




Dawn K. Brown 0:03

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 kind of like saying, you know, 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.

Penny Williams 0:30

In this week's episode of the beautifully complex podcast, I am bringing back an older episode with Dr. Don Brown, who has been one of our favorite ADHD experts. And the conversation that we had was about discovering how your child thinks and feels, getting kind of an insider view of what kids with ADHD are going through how they work through the world, how they respond to things, what they need help with, what their strengths are. I hope that you will listen to this episode as if it's the first time or re listen and get some new nuggets of wisdom from Dr. Brown. It's always an energetic and wonderful conversation with her. And I know you'll enjoy it. Welcome to the beautifully complex podcast, where I share insights and strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author and mindset mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your a typical kid. Let's get started. Welcome back to The Parenting ADHD Podcast. I'm super excited to have Dr. Don 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?

Dawn K. Brown 2:15

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, adolescent and adult psychiatrist. I'm a two time best selling author, public speaker podcaster media influencer. And that's burden ADHD, I have a private practice in Houston, Texas, as well as serve three or four clinics and help manage nurse practitioners manage their patients who have mental health conditions. I also work closely with a group of individuals, special individuals who are called Super moms. And these are moms who are caregivers for children who have ADHD. And I also work closely with elite athletes in providing mental wellness, for their way of living as well.

Penny Williams 3:01

You are so busy. I'm so busy. Yes, doing such good work, but so much of it. You're 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 talk about this. Yeah. So we're talking about discovering how your child thinks and feels? Where do we start with us? What do we talk about first?

Dawn K. Brown 3:37

Well, you know, I would like to start by just saying, you know, 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 or just looking at your child and 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 experiencing emotions that kids with ADHD have so hurt, anger, sadness, frustration, discouragement, they were just as much as kids without ADHD So, but 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. So you start to see these differences, and then you start to also observe how they may impact that child's relationships, their self esteem, you know, they're 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, right? 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 where 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. 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 cell development, connections will become synapses in 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 that 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, movements, and so on, and so forth. The interesting part about the brain, we talk about ADHD, or any other executive functioning condition is that there's a 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 brains brain.

Unknown Speaker 6:38

You know, I like to think of 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 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 activity center start, okay. So when you're talking about executive functioning, you're talking about just learning overall and processing information in 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. We have enough research to look at the brain if on imaging and find that sometimes with ADHD, this part of the brain is underdeveloped or under active, right or sub active. Okay? So it's nothing wrong, per se, with your child's brain, it's just that 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, right.

Unknown Speaker 7:55

So I want to, you know, just keep these type 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 impulses to send information from cell to cell. And so again, this area of the brain may not be making enough chemicals, and it never did. I never like to refer to ADHD as a deficiency, because it's not, I actually have coined the term, it's an amazing ability, once you understand what it is and learn how to manage it, I will 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 lays the foundation, to when we're talking about how your ADHD child thinks, how they feel, and also how that reflects in their behavior. Because you can't necessarily say Oh, my child, you know, 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 9:15

Yeah, I always like talking about the fact that ADHD is neurological and physiological, you know, it's lumped into your mental health. And it I think, is certainly impactful in 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, you know, that it's not this actual physiological difference that just makes the frontal lobe work differently or, you know, not as well are, you know, 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 are some of us at least, they work differently than their neurotypical peers, they work differently than your other child, potentially, right. And that 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.

Dawn K. Brown 10:36

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 10:46

So different.

Dawn K. Brown 10:49

So you know, it's very important that we're 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 the society you know, expects them to, and so on and so forth. Because, you know, we have to meet them where they are, and meet them where they are, like you're saying is having an understanding and empathy to know what's the right way to respond to that particular child is so true? Yeah, exactly. You're nurturing them and not necessarily ridiculing them. And they're internalizing that differently.

Penny Williams 11:26

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.

Dawn K. Brown 11:47

That's right. And that's also interesting with kids with ADHD, because when we talk about certain conditions that relate to ADHD, one in mind, and we can get into this later, we're called rejection sensitive dysphoria. 99.9% of people who have ADHD have this newly diagnosed or it's actually not even a DSM, it's a new condition that we're still trying to gain enough information and research on. But what it states is basically, how a person can be very sensitive and receive criticism a little bit differently,

Penny Williams 12:24

Or even perceive it when it's not there.

Dawn K. Brown 12:26

Yeah, exactly. You're exactly right. And so your intent is to nurture and to provide support and empathy, but how they're receiving it is a little different, you know, and it can be like in the realm of intensity, how they perceive it different. So it 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, you know, in the most appropriate way. In the end, there's ways to that how parents and teachers and adult figures can communicate to where they're confirming that the child is receiving it, as well as and we can talk about that as well.

Penny Williams 13:14

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 questioned surveyed 10 adults with ADHD and I said, What was it about your childhood that was either super not helpful, or was very helpful, you know, what did your parents and teachers do for you and not do for you? Because I was so desperate to get inside and understand.

Dawn K. Brown 14:14

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 if we leave the focus on our children, some of our kids may have trouble you know, 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's kind of like a two way street here. And so kids with ADHD more than so at their age, may you know, get quick to anger with minor annoyances for example, where They, you know, over worried about the small things they take offense about, you know, someone who's trying to carefully provide gentle criticism to them, or feel a sense of even urgency to get to something that they want right now, okay, or, you know, trouble calming down when they feel angry.

So one of the things that I work with kids 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 what that child is, so that I can meet them where they are and see what their abilities and their capacities are. Right. 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. Yeah. And I hope that hits home. That's just kind of like saying, you know, 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 16:02

Yeah, yeah, that reminds me, you know, 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 and trying to help them sometimes.

Dawn K. Brown 16:24

That's right. And they have less ability to react to their own emotions, using their brains own reasoning, ability.

Penny Williams 16:31

That was a huge aha, for me.

Dawn K. Brown 16:35

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, you know, didn't know I had ADHD until I, you know, 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 working with kids is they also have trouble with working memory. In and I talked 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, you know, that, you know, our kids are active and heart healthy, you know, and, you know, get that energy out. But it's just as equally as important that they meditate that they may do yoga, that they're focusing on mindfulness, I think we talked about this in your seminar, in kids with ADHD typically have trouble with working memory.

And so that makes it very hard for them to, you know, keep the bigger vision in mind, they tend to get stuck in 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, it 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. And so these kids, you know, kids with ADHD often call or refer to being emotionally sensitive, or sometimes they don't know how to manage these feelings. So they may become bad thoughts or even unhealthy behavior.

Penny Williams 18:17

Yeah, when you said bad thoughts that really reminded me, of something I hear from parents so often is really self deprecating comments from their kids, and even kind of scary comments, you know, I'm stupid, but also, I might as well be dead. You know, 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, that it was very black and white. And so if he was angry, he was fully 100% ingredient that meant he, you know, might as well be dead, or somebody might be her, you know, and so I talked to parents about this all the time, is that we have to start working on that communication piece for our kids and our awareness emotionally, because it does trigger so much of the behavior, and the other challenges that we as parents really focus on.

Dawn K. Brown 19:16

You're 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 is that it's going from zero to 10. It's and they speak in absolutes, because their emotions are part of ADHD, one of the symptoms is lacking impulse control, right, having all of these emotions, all of 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 deal with all of that when it's every emotion that everybody's on 10. So, the behavior, the actual action as a result of those thoughts, and those feelings become Mom, I don't want to die, or I just want to give up or no one likes me and what hates me. And so the intensity of the words that they choose to the degree of they're saying it, it's a reflection of what they're feeling and what they're thinking,

Penny Williams 20:09

Yeah, I love the phrase, your child is having a hard time, they're not giving you a hard time. And I use that kind of is my parenting mantra. Because sometimes, it's really hard to remember that they're not just trying to give us a hard time and be difficult. That just clarifies all that so much, you know, if we can just remember, and 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.

Dawn K. Brown 20:45

That's right, you're exactly right. And again, before we talk about how, you know, as parents, we can be there for our children to help them with, you know, these emotions and help regulate them, I do want to share one final piece about executive functioning, you know, part of executive functioning is about self reasoning. And so it's without ADHD and hedge compare, but I think it brings the point home is that usually a child without HD, they tend to calm down, they can chill out, you know, they see the minor details, and it's not a huge ordeal for them, okay, they may actually reason to say, you know, I'll try again, or let me try to find a better way or be receptive to, you know, instructions on how to go about those, you know, techniques. But kids with ADHD, you know, what's interesting about the brain is that it's slower to develop on that front, you know, 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, you know, 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 the gear to get the one, right, they are interacting with others. So this is a kid that will just 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 there thinking process. So yeah, you know, just, you know, it's important for us to understand, you know, how all of these things play a role in how we connect them. If we want to start talking about well, you know, as a parent, what can I do? Because everything that Penny and Dr. Brown are saying, my kid, right?

This is my child. And this is the concern that I've been having for quite some time. And, you know, for a lot of caregivers, and you know, I work with moms closely so that 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 a feelings of shame, and guilt. Because you see, your child is an extension of you. And there's certain expectations and there's certain behaviors that they're supposed to be presenting in public and not necessarily, you know, and so that becomes more conflictive in your own relationship with your child. And what do you do with that? How do you manage that? Right? Yeah, so one of the things that I do recommend is first, you know, as a parent, I always tell this to my mom, first of all, this is not your fault that your child has ADHD. So let's recognize the condition first.

You know, this is a condition that is most common in kids who have a mental health condition is one of the most common, the research is still out to understand the causes of ADHD, we do know that genetics and environment is impacted. So if your mom has ADHD, it's likely that your child may have about 550 to 70% Okay, and that increases with siblings and also, you know, with if their father may present with symptoms, yeah, and there's nothing you could have done differently mom, you know, to laughing So, let's just acknowledge it for what it is, this is a condition that you just have to you know, 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. And you know, a lot of times meeting with people like yourself, Penny, who's very involved with moms and community caregivers, and understanding as a parent yourself with, you know, a child with ADHD, giving some education and awareness about the condition what it may look like. But when you work one on one with your child, I always suggest that once you have, you know, this information start by acknowledging what they seem to be filling.

Yes, right. And so when you were giving that example Penny about, you know, I just want to die, you know, and you know, your son didn't necessarily mean that he really was literally wanting to do I, you know, intense moment that he just didn't have the words. So acknowledge, you know, don't argue with what they should be feeling but acknowledge what they seem to be feeling, I see some that you are angry about not winning the game, for example, right. And so you're acknowledging what you feel, and you're giving them, you know, 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, you know, upset, mad, sad, because these are emotions and natural emotions for all of us who experience no emotions of bad emotion, it's just how we manage it, and allow them to own it, don't take it away from them, don't tell them they should be feeling this way. And they should be proud because they got this no, you want to validate their emotion, because they need help with understanding and validating for their own needs.

Penny Williams 25:56

And their emotions are real. I mean, 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.

Dawn K. Brown 26:12

Yes, yes, it is. It's, you're meeting your child where they are. And, and it's accepting, right, because of ADHD, again, we can go on and on. But some of these kids are already don't feel accepted, they already feel like they have to prove themselves that, you know, their emotions are intense. So they're not being heard. You know, there's, there's so many caveats to this. But it also helps lead them to manage it. And so once that emotion is calmed or manage, then help them to discover a different way of looking or, you know, a different perspective, 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, you know, have a different thought about their emotion. And remember, emotions connect with our thoughts. Yeah. And so it's good to make that connection. So you know that that's also extremely important.

And the thing about when we talk about, you know, how we think and our emotions and our behaviors, the bottom line is that when we think positive, we're not necessarily going to feel anxious, okay? Or when we feel upset or mad, we're not going to necessarily feel happy. So oftentimes, our emotions are in line with our thoughts. So guess what, Mom, we need to help our child feed positive thoughts and energy into their minds. Because 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, okay, because you now you're talking about executive function, thinking about it. From the emotion, let's talk about that. And in the first time, he needs to be in a state of mind to where he's not focused on his emotions. But now he's condensable to have a conversation with, you know, mom about, well, this is what I was thinking that happened. And how would that make you feel? Well, that this, this, this and this, okay, so it's just really just finding that Inlet in that way to connect with your child and helping them find ways to manage.

Penny Williams 28:23

Mindset for parents is just as important. And really, that's what fuels our kids mindsets, you know, 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, you know, we're just very mindful about our perspective and our energy. That's then modeling for our kids, but also just giving, you know, they're, 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 know, you get so upset, or you never get your teeth brushed in the morning, you're never ready on time, you know, when it's just all of that. It's just this big, dark cloud. And really, for me, personally, I had to come to a point where I said, Okay, I don't want to live like this anymore. And I know nobody in my family wants to live like this anymore. We're so tired of thinking about ADHD, talking about ADHD, complaining about ADHD, you know, 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 say, you know, 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 What that meant that sort of mindset and perspective, it's so super valuable to parents, because again, we're setting that foundation that's setting the foundation for our kids to now be in that headspace as well.

Dawn K. Brown 30:13

You can describe it better. I always encourage moms, particularly to think about it in this fashion, similar to what you saying, Penny, you know, your kids learn how to respond to stressful situations by watching how you react. Right? 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, you know, teaching a child that and then wearing all these multiple hats can be daunting, right? Totally. Moms have the power. You know, and you know what the other thing and I'm sure many family members may admit this, but they also look to moms for direction and guidance.

Penny Williams 31:04

Mm hmm. It's that silent role we take.

Dawn K. Brown 31:08

It really is. And there's so maybe you want to do biblical or even traditional societies. I mean, you always see that moms are in the core, front of, you know, kind of guiding everyone else. And so that's why for moms, I encourage you and listening to us, it's so important that you yourself, are aware, yes, Denise 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 and help that you need in order to gain better control. Absolutely. And the other aspect about this is that when we look at genetics, and how, you know, deeply rooted ADHD is and with genetics, you know, a lot of my moms I work with have ADHD too. So don't run away from that condition, and manage it, if you know you have it and 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 will prioritize you first. Yes, yes, I know your 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. Important if you can't be the best for them, if you're not the best for yourself, right?

Penny Williams 32:30

That is so true. Yeah, you know, 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, you know, the extra level of stress that we're under stress causes all sorts of physical ailments. You know, it's, it's a serious thing. And we often still we say, Oh, well, you know, I'm a parent, I'm stressed. I'm a mom, this is what happens. It doesn't have to be. Yeah. And you know, people like you and I, and so many other people that I've talked to on the podcast and summits and at our happy mom retreat, we all give you permission to take care of yourself. Even if it's five minutes by yourself locked away in a bedroom or a closet or whatever you need to do. You have to have that. Because it does detract from your capabilities as a mom, that's that thing that you're sacrificing for.

Dawn K. Brown 33:52

Yes, you're exactly right. I refer to as me time, and I actually like prescriptions for this. Because it helps validate that, you know, like you're saying, Penny they're giving themselves permission, I'm giving them permission to be time even though they don't need my permission, but it just allows them to feel supported in doing it right. And they could show it to their loved one. Hey, Dr. Brown says like every time it's like you put that note on their door don't bother mom for at least an hour. So I can recruit and get myself together be my best for you all in moms. Think about any caregiver when you are at your best, then you are able to and this is why it was so important for us to discuss this anyways. You're able to help your child see the bigger picture when their emotions are not regulated. You're able to not take things personally right when you knowing 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. And so Yeah, you're modeling this for your child that you know, by doing it for yourself first.

Penny Williams 35:05

And that's so right that we really are teaching them how to treat themselves as an adult. Yes. 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? their hobbies don't matter, nothing. They want matters. Do you want that for your child? Of course not. And yet, we tend to accept it for ourselves. And then that's what we're modeling. So there's a lot of our has 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.

Dawn K. Brown 35:49

That's why That's why and when when you realize that and you accept it, and you're practicing it, then all these other things that we've discussed, makes the 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 36:08

Yeah, 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 be exactly what they need in those moments. Exactly.

Dawn K. Brown 36:29

And that empowers them, yes, 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 is something that they no longer have to feel despite, but they can feel empowered by it, because you're being the way they are. And now they can teach others how to, you know, help them manage their emotions, what to expect from them, right? So it's like your child is teaching your teacher how to treat them in order to perform at their best, so it continues.

Penny Williams 37:06

Yeah, it's completely a community and a domino effect. And, you know, 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 adults with ADHD, so that we are kind of preparing the world for our kids, right?

Dawn K. Brown 37:31

That's right, exactly. You know, and I just want to reiterate, one point is that, moms, if you find yourself stuck, as well, or you find you, you have some, you know, it's even working out, even putting effort into trying to help regulate your emotions, and your child is many you, you know, go ahead and discover this, you know, meet with a physician, you know, meet with someone who can assist you, and even, you know, seeing if you have ADHD, or if there's something else going off as a medical condition. You know, if you're putting the effort for which I most moms do, right, and you're finding that you're not getting anywhere, and you still feel the same place. It's like you may have ADHD.

So it's important because ADHD doesn't necessarily just don't grow out of it. That's the other thing that talk about it, we just learn better ways to manage it 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 may need to change our jobs, so that our job actually supports our ADHD. So you know, you have to find out what's best for you. But you know, I don't want you out there to feel stuck and give up either and knowing and being aware that these conditions don't necessarily go away. And we continue with you as an adult, it's even more important that, you know, you get the help that you need as well.

Penny Williams 38:55

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, you know, be a bad parent, or we didn't find the right treatment or whatever we we can self blame with the best of them. And that's really easy to do and to get caught up. And when you feel like you're the only one who's struggling in that way. And there's millions of other parents raising kids with ADHD, people who are struggling or struggling with kids who are having different challenges, you know, 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, you know, that's just what they're sharing that we have to 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. You know, there's so many Few Facebook groups and pages and just so much support out there. And even if you don't interact, you know, even if you're too shy or anxious to talk about it, it just stalking those groups can make you feel so much more validated yourself.

Dawn K. Brown 40:17

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 P, what you've created is an audio version of connection, you know, you're among yourself, you have guests on who can provide, you know, advice in knowing and encouraging the moms out there, that they're not alone, that they're like, millions. And you know, 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, you know, an audio version of what you're doing to feed their minds that, hey, their support is out there. When I'm feeling and experiencing, I'm not alone, there is help that I can receive these other ways I can do it. So, you know, accolades to you and doing, mom because, you know, again, it can be stressful being a parent is awesome, but it can be stressful. Oh,

Penny Williams 41:16

Yeah, no kidding. Just say it for what it is. Yeah, I mean, it is time, we just said it out loud, right? Stop trying to sweep it under the rug, or stop trying to avoid the hard things. And we just go for it and be real about it. And 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. So where I am now is kind of miraculous, and completely fueled by this awesome kid that I have, you know, it's, it's a completely different path than I ever thought I would take. As far as work or career, you know, being kind of this more public presence. You know, that's never been me. But I feel like we need that we need to know that other people struggle to. And even I, you know, we've had a rough time, the last few months. And I have been very open about that, and my emails to my audience and social media and such, 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. And that can be really hard. You know, I struggled with feeling like maybe I was a phony if I didn't have it all together, you know? No, I'm just real. It's just a real person.

Dawn K. Brown 42:49

Exactly. You're human, you're human. And we all are. Exactly. And there's so many blessings in that journey, right? You know, sometimes we go through those dips, those valleys, those stop blocks, those detours in order for our gift to be unwrapped, you know, our mission to be discovered, you know, thank God for Penny Williams, and having these seminars and a podcast for parents who otherwise wouldn't have known, you know, they're not alone. And even if there's help out there, and what they're experiencing is natural, right. And so this is your gift, I would have never known that, you know, you hadn't experienced those things, but they got you went through them, so that you learn to manage them. And thank God, you know, you went through them with your son, who also taught you how to better manage, though, you know, it's a two way street here, right?

Penny Williams 43:41

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 amok and do whatever they want to do. And there's no rules, just 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.

Dawn K. Brown 44:05

Exactly, exactly. It's empowering. It's empowering. We're all unique in our own way.

Penny Williams 44:11

Totally. We all have her own struggles. I think that's the hardest thing, especially for my son is like, through middle school, and in teenage 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, you know, do his work as they do at or things like that. And he was painfully aware of that for a long time. And we have just continuously had that talk about everybody has different struggles. You know, I'm super anxious. I just about what my parents 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?

Dawn K. Brown 45:00

That's right, exactly right.

Penny Williams 45:02

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 around 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 to actually Yeah, it 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.

Dawn K. Brown 45:42

You know, and I laugh, because when I read about it the first time, I'm like, does someone write about me. And you know, what's interesting about that Penny is that my closest friends or even my family, my family is probably different experience. But my closest friends would probably also be like my family, but anyone that would basically know me for a few years and not necessarily have the closest relationship will be surprised that I would even say that. And so the good thing about that is 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 is also known as rejection sensitive dysphoria. So when you think about in the word rejection, I'm sensitive to rejection.

And dysphoria is like hard to cope hard to accept rejection. In other words, 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 the way they were not intended. So you know, sometimes this isn't a rejection is imagined in their minds, but not always, you know, and the thing about ADHD is that 99% And I see this sad all over the place, because we're still learning more about this condition. But 99% of people with ADHD have this condition. And I was flabbergasted when I read this following stat that ADHD Researchers estimate that by age 12, children with ADHD, get 20,000 more negative messages among themselves and other kids their age, when that

Penny Williams 47:27


Dawn K. Brown 47:27

Oh, my goodness, I think I put the book down, I was I was just thought about going I was like, What 20,000 More negative messages about themselves? Right?

Penny Williams 47:40

Intentional or not, you know, it doesn't have to even be a verbal negative message. It could be, you know, 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, you know, that's a negative message. They're processing that as meaning something negative about themselves.

Dawn K. Brown 47:57

It is. And as you're saying, we're coming full circle. You know, we mentioned in the front part of this episode that, you know, 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, there's some that's really starting to development. So the criticism that they may be receiving intentionally, unintentionally or miss perceiving, can take a real toll on how their self esteem is developing. So how does that impact their school? Their education, their friendships, right, their mood, you know, their sleep, their overall functioning, it has a significant impact? Yeah. So I think you also mentioned with your son and the impulses and what he may say, he didn't mean, but this is a real stat tool we really have to talk about it is that kids who have ADHD are two times more suicidal than kids without ADHD. And so not only necessarily, are they feeling that internally, but again, they're receiving that external stress or being bullied. And so that furthers right is that further exacerbates their own thoughts and feelings about themselves and their abilities?

Penny Williams 49:09

Yeah, I'll tell you EMDR therapy has been really helpful this year, my son 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 really, it's looking at what's the root, you know, on the surface, it was different behaviors, but the root 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 talk a lot about using different therapies using different modalities, behavior therapy to Talk therapy, play therapy, and in the context of ADHD, or even autism, 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, then 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, because I'm always so focused on, you know, what are the specific challenges and we think the ADHD is feeling and the autism was feeling 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.

Dawn K. Brown 50:51

That's why That's why and what you're saying, it just reinforces I mean, not just the condition itself, but how we manage the condition. The bottom line is meet your child where they are moms and dads know your children the best, right? Learning more about your children by having meaningful conversations with them, getting them to the point where they are common, they're able to communicate in whatever fashion they can communicate in, that's effective, you know, drawing no using words, analogies, and getting them to the place where they understand that not one, treatment management is going to be the same, because that's another part of this when I talked 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. What why you don't feel it's working? Why do you feel that you're bad? You know, and try to uncover you know what they're saying? And like, you're suggesting you get to the bottom line where it study the medicine that they need in the case of what they're talking about, right? No, it's something totally different, that they're mentioning. And they've associated with being that. Yeah. And so yes, you're exactly right. And so that's why I always encourage parents, there's no one treatment for ADHD, there's no one treatment for how you're going to approach this or how you're going to engage your children in different types of therapies. Try all of them, try once the out words, whatever you decide to try something. And that's how you know, 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 know, that you all are on a 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 then you know, that you're bound to continue to look and discover ways that you did eventually find out they're manageable, but they're very effective in working for you and your family.

Penny Williams 52:52

So the bottom line in our entire conversation is 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 you know, 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, you know, 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 kids that we have.

Dawn K. Brown 53:56

if I could yell I would, because that you were so on point, what you said, it's kind of the guide to where moms can start. If they 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. Yeah, and you know, and you're probably the first step in that, that journey, and then your child's net. But again, like you said, Penny, the world to the world, because the world is 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 are going to focus on that that will hopefully lead you on the right journey.

Penny Williams 54:35

Yep. I totally think we need to start raising individuals in general, in all of parenting, that's my latest soapbox, but you know, 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. But it's been such a great conversation Dr. Don and I'm so I'm glad that you gave mom's 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. I think, for everybody listening, links to things that we've 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 in a packet that I hope you're on to podcast podcasts, 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. And with that, I just want to thank you once again, for a really powerful conversation.

Dawn K. Brown 56:00

Oh, thank you so much penny for having me. I really appreciate it. I'm truly honored. Thank you again.

Penny Williams 56:06

You're so welcome. I appreciate you as well, and we'll see everybody on the next episode. To access the show notes for this episode, go to parenting ADHDandautism.com/191 for episode 191. Thanks for joining me on the beautifully complex podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share. And don't forget to check out my online courses and parent coaching at parentingADHDandautism.com and at the behavior revolution.com

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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I'm Penny Williams.

I help stuck and struggling parents (educators, too) make the pivots necessary to unlock success and joy for neurodivergent kids and teens, themselves, and their families. I'm honored to be part of your journey!

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Join me as I help parents, caregivers, and educators like you harness the realization that we are all beautifully complex and marvelously imperfect. Each week I deliver insights and actionable strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids — those with ADHD, autism, anxiety, learning disabilities…

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