January 25, 2012

Doing My Due Diligence

I have a parenting challenge that is weighing on me quite a bit right now.

A little backstory

My daughter Camryn has Attention Deficit Disorder with an emphasis on being inattentive and impulsive.  This was first brought to our attention (no pun intended) when she was in kindergarten.  Since she's a summer baby and therefor one of the youngest in her class, we thought maybe she just needed a little time to mature more.  So we didn't do anything about her possible ADD until about the middle of first grade.

I don't need to write out ALL the details.  Suffice it to say, she does indeed have ADD and she does take a stimulant daily.  From 6 1/2 to 11 1/2 (where we are now) there have been many ups and downs in regards to behavior, meds and school.  But for the most part, she has been a bright, inquisitive, well-behaved girl who seems to enjoy school and learning.  We have seen her trying her hardest over the years.


Where we're at today

School is what I'm really concerned with right now.  Well, that and just this overall lack of effort on her part.  Because it's not only evident in regards to her schoolwork and grades, but also here at home.

When I first started writing this we were on day 3 of Cami being home sick.  On the first day she was home I logged into the school family access site where we parents can view our children's school records.  This includes grades, assignments, attendance and any disciplinary actions.  Now, this was my first time logging in all year because I didn't know I needed to disable my pop-up blocker for it open the secure window (so I just thought it wasn't working for me).

What I found was very disheartening.  Cami is in 6th grade this year and we are nearing the end of the first semester when they will be filing report cards.  According to the online records, she currently has 3 Ds.

She has always struggled with math and we did experience a hiccup with that earlier in the year.  But that turned out to only be about an assignment she simply didn't turn in.  Total ADD move on her part.  So you live and learn, right?  Ever since then, we have routinely asked her if she's turned in her completed work, to which she always answers yes.

I guess my first clue to the troubles should have been when she called me from school and told me she needed to turn in 2 missing math workbooks.  I asked her if she had them, she said yes, so I said to freaking turn them in!  She replied that they weren't finished.  I told her that doesn't matter.  Some is better than none.

In fact, whether she finishes all her math homework or not doesn't matter, according to the agreement we made with her math teacher and written into her 504 plan.  Her math teacher explained to us that it should only take each student about 30 minutes to do their homework.  Since Cami has ADD, if someone is sitting with her, helping to keep her on task, that's all she will expect of her as well (if she's working on her own, we'll give her an hour).  The teacher said math homework is really just practice, so finishing it all isn't necessarily the point; as long as she's trying and doing most of it, she will get credit.

But here Camryn is still thinking she can't turn it in if it's not complete.  So it shows an F in her record.

Seeing an F in your child's school record is one of the most upsetting things for a parent.  Or at least it is for me.  F means FAIL.  I don't want my child to fail!

OK. So, I talked about all of this with her, explained that something is better than nothing and that if the teacher tells Cami she has to finish it, to have her call me because that's not what is supposed to happen. I also spoke with her about how now that she's in middle school her grades count towards the rest of her school career, and ultimately the rest of her life.

That's a big thing to lay on an 11 year old, but it's the truth.  I told her we expect nothing less than a C and if she brings home Ds or Fs there will be serious consequences.  I reiterated what my mother told me, that school is her job and her grades are her pay.

Camryn listened, nodded, said OK....

But then I'm up in her room a day later sorting through her laundry and such.  Now, keeping her room clean has always been an issue, and seems to be an issue for most ADD kids.  She's sick, so I'm not bothering her much, but when it comes time to put some clean laundry away, I discover that the last time I had her put away clean clothes, she simply threw them all into the bottom drawer of her dresser.  I also discovered that she's shoving hoodies onto a shelf in her closet, rather than hanging them up.

These might seem like small things, but this combined with the school stuff screams of a total lack of effort on her part.  All this time I was under the impression that she always tries her hardest, that it's just difficult for her to stay on task.  And I still think that's true.....but....

I also think she is just kind of floating through her little life right now.  I guess she's lost in her own little world way more than I thought.

I've been wracking my brain with, "what do I do?" and "how do I help her?".

For many parenting dilemmas I believe in natural consequences, but I'm now thinking that might not be the way to go with her, with this.  She's not stupid, but she is...how do I say this delicately....?  Things go in one ear and out the other, or right over her head entirely.  Let me say again, she is not dumb, she's just got ADD and her brain is all over the place.

I think I am going to have to hold her hand and walk her through some things for awhile.  Things that other 11 1/2 year-olds can take care of just fine on their own, Cami still needs help with.

We are going to have to start checking her binder and planner religiously every day, as well as help her organize each assignment so she knows when to turn it in (which should already be written down in her planner, but....).  I will have to start checking the online records at least weekly.

As for her bedroom, I am going to have to help her get it really cleaned up and organized, and then push her into a routine of keeping it that way.

Nag, nag, nag.

So I know what I and we have to do.  The problem is how exactly to execute it.  How to balance it so that I don't go back to doing everything for her.  And how to get her to understand that these things matter and are important.  I think it is so easy for an ADD kid to just not care about certain things because it's so hard to focus on them.

I worry so much about her future if she doesn't learn how to take care of these things now, while she still has mom and dad to help her.  Since learning about ADD, I have felt that my most important job as her mother will be to teach her how to function well -- how to be organized, not lose things, not always be late to places.  If I can teach my ADD daughter these things, I will feel successful as her mother.

Right now, I'm failing at this and I'm really disappointed in myself.  I thought I was doing all the right things.  I do ask questions about school, have been to every conference and 504 meeting.  I help with Cami's homework the best I can, math not being my strongest subject either (there's a lot of Googling).  I encourage her, tell her she can do anything, she's smart and beautiful and funny and I love her so much.  Her teachers have told me they feel the same way about her and that they really appreciate me as a parent, that so many other parents just don't seem to care.

So why is she still struggling?  Obviously some changes need to be made and I have to suck it up and make them. It maybe even require a trip to the doctor to reevaluate her medication needs....

I just want to get this right, and I feel like I'm already running out of time since we are now over halfway through her childhood.



22 comments:

  1. I feel for you. My son also has ADD and it's very frustrating. However, everything you have written describes MY childhood. Back then we weren't diagnosed. I pull from my own experiences when I try to work with Ryan. So that said, all I can tell you is what I wish MY parents had done and that is "stay on top of her." I needed to be steered through everything and eventually my parents gave up (and I don't blame them, I was a pain in the ass and they had other kids too). The age she's at now is when things really start to matter. Those low grades, which I also had, are hard to rebound from. There are so many great resources out there. Hang in there!

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    1. Ali, thank you so much for this! My husband was also undiagnosed as a child and he too lends his perspective which helps me deal with it better. Um, will you be y new best friend? :-)

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  2. I know that this road has not been easy, but you really are doing a good job. Just being willing to help her where she needs it instead of simply giving up has put you over hundreds of other parents. This will always be a growing and changing situation, but I know you will always take the time to sit down and evaluate how to move right along with it. She may never be a perfect student, but with help from her loving parents, she will make it through just fine.

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    1. Thank you so much, Jess. It really means a lot to me that you think I'm doing a good job cuz I look up to you as a mom!

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  3. *hugs* I too have a 6th grade daughter with ADHD and a mood disorder. I found mysel nodding through your whole postt. We don.t have issues with math though (unusual I know!) but we have the room, and the lost work, etc. We are very ADHD here too with an attitude to boot. It really is hard because, at least for us, my daughter doesn't really get the concept of consequences. It's a challenge all its own, but by keeping a close eye and keeping a line of communication open between herr and me, us and her p-doc, things aren't smooth, but they are a whole lot better than they used to be.

    Hang in there. You are doing the right things and eventtually itt will kick in, even if she is 40 like me and iit downs on her. ">Ohhhh thats why my mom was always on my back!" LOL

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    1. sorry aboout all the typos. my iPad external keyboard seems to like to type double at inconvenient times.

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  4. I am not in your house so I don't know how the language is there but I know in the post I saw ADD a lot. Now I know too that could simply just be from you telling your story. How much do you talk about it in the home? My fear would be is she using her ADD as an excuse? This is where my problem with these come in, it becomes a label that the child lives up to. PLEASE don't think I am say you did that, I am not. I think it's a VERY fine balance and we aren't aware of it. I know you are a great mother so I am just wondering if unintentionally somewhere she figured out how to "live up to her ADD". Also, would rewards work better than punishments? Does she play video games? Watch TV? What if she has to earn her minutes of those things? Every time she comes home and tries her hardest on Homework she earns 5-10 min of technology time. Or another one is she only get 30-60 minutes a day but only AFTER her things are done?

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    1. Yes, we have caught her saying things like, "well it's just hard for me cuz I have ADD". We didn't say it around her for a long time, but sometimes you just have to. We tell her that ADD is a REASON, not an EXCUSE, and that she has to try her hardest no matter what.

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  5. I am so proud of you for writing this post. Not easy to talk about deficits in our kids. And every one of the commenters are knowledgeable people too, which must be great comfort to you. Be gentle with yourself, Jen. Cam doesn't live in a vacuum - she's got more swirling in her head than confusion. Her father's health issues, her brain chemistry and hormones are all coming into play at the same time. You are right to exert more control now - don't second-guess that. Bad grades are often a cry for attention. Almost all kids have messy rooms though - I remember the days...

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    1. Thank you, Auntie! Will just keep trying.

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  6. I agree with what Ali says: "...stay on top of her..."
    That, pretty much, will be your job.
    Hard, I know! I still wish my parents kept on top of my grades in middle school. In their defense, they were getting divorced!!
    Once I went to college, as an older adult; I got straight A's; but there is still stuff taught in middle school that I just don't know! Oh well... hope it's not too important *big giggle*.

    Work with the doctors. New stuff comes along all the time.
    Work with her teachers. Find a way of learning that 'clicks' with her. I told you about that game we played on the computer; she could be fantastic with flash cards! She can memorize really well. Try it with math problems!

    Lots of love,
    MOM

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    1. She actually said last night that she *might* be starting to like math a *little bit*. Mark and I were floored. So really, what I'm most concerned with is good, consistent routines, reminders and all that.

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  7. I don't have any answers for you, but just want you to know that I'm here if you need to vent! xo

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  8. If you don't mind, I'm going to speak as a middle school teacher....your plan to check her binder and planner are good ones. Also checking her online records is good, too. I'm wondering....does her school have a way to check for homework assignments each night? Do teachers have websites where they list the assignments or have a phone number where you can call to listen to a recorded message? My school has both of these things, and they are fantastic resources for parents.
    And YOU are not failing. You're seeing the situation for what it is and you're adjusting.
    Sixth grade is a hard year...a big transition from elementary to the big leagues. She's lucky she's got you in her corner.

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    1. Thank you. It's SO different from elementary school and at first I thought the teachers were taking good care of the 6th graders. But now I'm not so sure. They don't seem to have cut the apron strings, so to speak. Of course I'm going to do what I can, but what happens to the kids whose parents don't care as much as I do?

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  9. There's a fine line as a parent, it's hard to know sometimes what's the right thing to do. Never blame yourself and just know the best thing you can do for your daughter is to talk to her and to listen to her. Keeping those lines of communication open is one of the best things you can do.
    The fact that you care shows what an awesome mother you are, some parents just bury their heads in the sand and hope the problem will fix itself.
    Good luck with everything

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    1. I believe very much in keeping communication going so I will always try to foster that.

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  10. I'm sorry I can't offer you advice, but I really do not think you are failing. As for the room, some of us are just messy. I HATED cleaning my room. I still do and now I'm happy if my clothes end up in a drawer, any drawer will do.

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    1. I didn't mind cleaning my room at all. Wow, something we DON'T have in common...

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  11. I have a 6th grader too, and several friends with ADD kids. They do the same things you are planning to do - check online grades religiously, and check the homework assignments daily - in our school they are on the website. It is scary how independent they expect these kids to be in 6th grade and I am currently preparing my scatter-brained 5th grader for that now that I know what's expected. Is it just that she's forgetting to do work or turn it in or is it that she doesn't understand assignments? Grades are typically calculated with homework, classwork and assessments all given various weights. For us, the only way middle school actually matters in terms of overall school career is that getting some of the subjects out of the way in middle school means fewer requirements to take in high school (can get some HS credit for math, foreign language, and a couple other things). The grades themselves make no difference (assuming they pass).
    As far as the room goes - as I saw someone mention earlier - that is a universal problem. My non-ADD kids do exactly the same thing - stuff clean clothes wherever they can find a space. Not necessarily in drawers or shelves; 8 year old had a huge stack going on TOP of the dresser for a while! You are a very nice mom to help her get that organized. Sometimes it's so overwhelming for them they just can't do it.

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    1. Thanks for this. WHY are kids so lame about their rooms?? I just don't get it and it makes me a little crazy sometimes!

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