The Adventure of Learning to Parent Your Child with ADHD
with Beth Grushkin
If there’s one thing parenting kids with ADHD is, it’s unpredictable and inconsistent. We can be stressed by those characteristics and fight hard against them, or we can accept them and use them to our advantage. Seeing the ups and downs of the special brand of parenthood as an adventure and a perpetual learning and growth opportunity is how mom and blogger, Beth Grushkin, meets the challenge of raising two boys with ADHD with courage and passion.
In this episode of the Parenting ADHD Podcast, Beth and I discuss how a creative and adventurous perspective have helped her to keep going, to keep rising after challenges knock her off her feet. She also shares what she has found to be most important for her kids and family, including sleep, nutrition, screen time, out-of-the-box parenting, and modeling what we want to see in our kids. The struggle is real, and Beth acknowledges that and provides strategies and hope to help you keep going.
Resources in this EpisodeNOTE: Some of the resources below may be affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission (at no cost to you) if you use that link to make a purchase.
BETH GRUSHKINBeth has been a teacher for over 20 years in both public & Montessori schools. She has been a mom for 13 of those years and some days, she is still brought to her knees with questions about how to parent her two boys with ADHD. She does not always have the answers, but she fights like a mother to find them. On her blog, Fuzzymama, she shares her family’s trials and triumphs of living with ADHD. There are lots of tried and true ideas for treating ADHD naturally as well as ways to get a little ADHD parenting relief! As a voracious reader herself, Beth shows how her family satisfies their love of reading and creating. Her thinking has always been and will always be a little unorthodox. She questions the choices of main stream society, digs deeper, and always does things a little differently than the norm. All in all, she is tremendously grateful for all the learning and loving opportunities having two boys with ADHD has given her!!
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Speaker 1 (00:00): Beth Grushkin (00:03): Nobody knows what to do and it's okay. Not to know. Right? So it's like we are both learning. And I say that all the time, "wow, this was really good learning for us. Wasn't it? I did not realize that about you. I did not know that about you."
Intro (00:29): 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-aholic and Mindset Mama, honored to guide you on the journey of raising your atypical kid. Let's get started.
Penny Williams (00:58): Welcome back to the Parenting ADHD Podcast. I'm really excited today to be talking to Beth Grushkin from Fuzzy Mama, and we're going to talk about a lot of general stuff about ADHD and her experience with her own kids, being adventurous, using creativity and activity to help our kids to learn and grow and thrive. Will you start, Beth, by introducing yourself? Let us know who you are and what you do.
Beth Grushkin (01:29): Sure. Thank you. And also, first of all, I just have to say, I am so excited to be on here. Your site was, was actually one of the first ones that I found and I just consumed it because I was looking for someone else who was going through the same things as me. So, so just thank you for that, for your work. But I am the mom to two amazing boys who happen to also have ADHD. My husband has it as well, so I am in a household with three boys, three men. I have actually been a teacher for about 25 years. That sounds like a long time. And so I actually started my blog because I just wasn't finding information out there. I started probably about four years ago and I was really struggling and I was doing so many things for my kids and I thought, I need to start writing this stuff down so that maybe I can help someone else save time, energy, money, all of those things. So, so yeah, so that's a little bit about me.
Penny Williams (02:50): Isn't it interesting how our kids kind of define our journey? I don't think you expect that when you have kids at first.
Beth Grushkin (03:01): Yeah. I, I didn't even get married until I was 37. So I, I had my kids at 38 and 40, so I am definitely on the older end and boy, I had no idea, no idea at all. And parenting in general, we'll do that. But when you throw ADHD in the mix, it's a huge shift. It's it takes you places. You never thought about
Penny Williams (03:30): Exactly good and bad. You get the full spectrum of everything. I'm definitely a better person for it. No doubt.
Beth Grushkin (03:40): Oh yeah. I have learned so much from my kids. It's incredible.
Penny Williams (03:46): Do you want to start just by telling us maybe your story with ADHD, your journey for recognizing it or diagnosing whatever you're comfortable with sharing and boys are comfortable with sharing?
Beth Grushkin (03:58): Well, I will overshare I'm sure. So you can stop me anytime. Yeah. So I think that I probably noticed when my boys were probably about three and one, I was exhausted and now I mean, I think everyone could say the same thing, but my oldest just had so much energy, energy, energy, energy for days, but not in a bad way. Always he would, he started talking full sentences. I kid you not at like 16 months and just talked to me in full sentences nonstop. And so I was always like, Oh, he's so smart. And it was exhausting and really, really hard to know what to do. I also remember my oldest being so sensitive to things, right. I mean, it doesn't come with just one thing sensitive to loud noises, sensitive to scary movies, scary books, sad books, just like so empathetic to others. I mean, I think when, when he was about three, I remember reading him a book and I look over and he's in tears and what is wrong. And he's like, what's going to happen to that. And I had no idea that he was going to take that, Oh my gosh. I just remember that moment. Like this is something different.
Beth Grushkin (05:38): Yeah. But preschool went fine, did well, busy boy. And it probably wasn't until first grade that I really noticed some things that I was like, Oh, so I remember that they had to learn math facts. And boy, his school was really doing it in a way that surprised me. It's like every week they would do a math facts quiz and then their score would get put up on a bulletin board. Can you tell me that? I mean, I was so shocked. I was like, why isn't hasn't anyone said anything about this before? Like talk about anxiety producing starting in first grade. And I remember saying something to the principal, to the teacher and everyone just, well, that's the way we do it. It's very motivating. I thought I would care to guess more than half of the kids. So that's when I started to see the anger, the anxiety that I would just see my sons, like just anger, just roll through his whole self. And I mean, I had no idea. And so, what did I do? I thought we have to practice more facts more because he has to learn his facts. So, I made all, all sorts of mistakes. And so I would say that was kind of the biggest like, Oh, this isn't good.
Beth Grushkin (07:34): So that didn't come until third grade. And we had been seeing a therapist and again, kind of school stuff started to happen a little more like talking all day long in class. Things like that. And so the therapist just said, Hey, why don't you just see what comes up? Which I was fine with, but then really surprisingly, like everything happened so fast. It was like, you get the test then, you're told, okay, what's the med that you want to go on? Do you want to pick this one? Okay. I mean, there was like, there was no, like, here are the results of your tests and there was no explanation whatsoever, whatsoever. It was now you must go see this other person and went to go see her. And it wasn't. I mean, I was okay at that time, meds, I thought, gosh, maybe it'll help. But yet, no explanation whatsoever. I just think it's very strange. And so we got another one just three years later after that, completely different experience. But I also knew what to ask for. I asked what does this mean? Why did you give him this? So I knew so much more, but I'm so surprised at just how much really parents are not explained any very much of anything.
Penny Williams (09:26): Yeah. That's why I do what I do. I mean, that's, that was the catalyst for me was they didn't give me any information. They gave me a diagnosis, three fact sheets that were one page each and a prescription and sent me on my way and said, we'll see you in 30 days and check on medicine. And I was like, wait a minute. First of all, you just knocked me off of my center of gravity. Give me some time to process this because I was really blindsided by ADHD. That was not what I expected. And then, give me more information, tell me what I can do, which they don't do when you get a diagnosis. And so being the type a fixer that I am, I was desperately seeking, what do I do? And then I was just like you, Oh, well, I might as well share all this stuff.
Beth Grushkin (10:20): If I'm going to gather all this information and not just of course, snowball, but that really is the story for probably 95% of parents who get an ADHD diagnosis. We don't get enough information to even understand what's going on in our kids' brains, even the nuances, all of these hidden things, the emotions, the empathy, the extra sensitivity that your son was showing, they just tell us, well, hyperactive, impulsive and attentive rate. Here you go. And it's so much more. And so we just have to go forward and figure it out. Right. We just have to keep trying different things. And I know that's very much your experience too
Speaker 4 (11:09): Completely. And I didn't know any better, so we can go back and I'd say, well, that drug really isn't working. In fact, it's kind of making things worse. Okay. Then try this one. There was nothing about food or sleep or things that I could do, parenting things to do. Absolutely nothing. So it's tough, you're just flying blind.
Penny Williams (11:42): Yeah. And that's why I just went crazy. Cuckoo pretty much because I was like, I know there must an answer to this. There has to be. And right at the beginning I thought it was one thing. I thought, what is it? Is it gluten? Is it dairy? Is it diet? Does he need more sleep? I was looking for the one thing. And well, now I know it's not just one thing, it's 20 things or more than 20 things. So that's something too that I really learned on the way.
Penny Williams (12:20): Yeah. It's really the whole of the person while it's one aspect sort of brain functioning. I guess if we want to boil it down to simple terms, it's everyday life, it impacts so much of their being from cognitive to executive functioning, to emotions. So many things, social it's everything, it's everyday life. And that's the journey to figure that out. For me, it was a pretty long journey because there wasn't a lot of information out there. I hope now that there's more information people are blogging like you and I and other services, there's so much more than there was 10 years ago, but it still feels like a matter of people figuring it out. And I think part of that is because every kid with ADHD is still different. Your son and my son are very different. They have similar diagnoses, but they still have a different brain and a different experience even from each other. And so you have to learn more about your own child. You have to really see how it's affecting your child as an individual and go forward from that.
Beth Grushkin (13:43): Yeah. And you know what? My two could not be more different. I see it every single day. I mean, one is loud, super active. The other one is not, he can be up in his room, quiet as a mouse for hours, doing something that he's not supposed to be doing or that I don't want him to do, but it's so, so different.
Penny Williams (14:10): And they change as they get older too. Like it's always kind of a moving target, but that's even more expressive of why we really have to look at who our kids are and where they are and look at the totality of their experience in order to do the best we can for them to be the most helpful that we can. Do you want to talk a little bit about some different approaches that you've taken with your boys that have helped? I know that you yourself have an adventurous spirit and I imagine that you have imparted of that on your kids as well. And creativity, there's so many avenues really to explore, to help our kids
Beth Grushkin (15:03): Yeah. I think ever since they have been really small, I've just really been so observant of them and what they like to do and really followed them. I mean, both of them needed sleep. And so they literally had a bedtime at six 30 until they were three, I think, or four, but it's like, Oh my gosh, people would make such fun of me. Like, Oh my God, come on out, bring them out. It's okay. If they don't get good sleep no, you do not want to be in my home the next day. So there were things that I learned on the way that were not really the norm but we kind of have to push that normal away.
Beth Grushkin (15:54): I've been doing things with them since forever that others have thought like, Oh, that is really strange. Or, Oh my God, give them some sugar. I mean, the way people push food is just incredible. Right? Not that they never have any of that, but I live with them. So I know what they're like when they have sugar or junk food or whatever. So I think I've really done things that are a little out of the box forever. It's nothing that I learned. It's just something that I learned from them. Screens is another thing. Screens is such a hot issue, but I saw my kid on a screen when he was two, now we did wait that he had virtually no screens until about two, which I know now is really hard to do.
Beth Grushkin (16:58): I mean, kids are on their mom's smart phones and stuff, but I was just dying to have him sit and watch a show so that I can go do laundry or something. But after that show, forget it. I mean, it turned him into like a zombie. He could not come back. He could not do anything else after that, which is why we all, I mean, know we ever have any screen time or anything. It is at the end of the day, five o'clock at night because I just know them. If they're on it, first thing in the morning, they will not be able to come back,
Penny Williams (17:44): Which is so interesting because like my son he earned screen time in the mornings by getting ready and being ready on time. And for him, it was very calming and soothing before school. It kind of grounded him. It gave him some sensory stimulus to calm down. So it's crazy that even that can be very different, but for a lot of kids, once they have that stimulation, they can't go to normal. Like you're talking about that then to, Oh, I have to find my own sensory input. Now I have to get stimulation somehow. And that can ramp up behavior or can make kids just kind of shut off.
Speaker 4 (18:28): Yeah. And everyone has to figure out what's the right thing for their kid. That's where it's just experiment after experiment, after experiment and you'll eventually figure it out. And so you get these small wins and they just kind of really build on each other. So cell phone, you can imagine how cell phones we held off. My son did not get one until seventh grade. And it really became a social thing because he has a hard time really making friends. And so I thought, Oh my gosh, really that's everyone, that's how kids are social now. Hate it. We finally got him one in seventh grade. Obviously we put some limits on it, blocked things and everything. Cause I think kids really have to learn. It's like \now he had it so there's a lot of learning for them with that. But then, then he ended up losing his phone year end. And I said, you have to earn the money back. Which how does he earn money? It's doing jobs for me. But I said, Hey, if you really want it, you have to come and ask me. And he never asked me. So guess what? He still doesn't have a phone. No, not worth the effort.
Penny Williams (20:11): Right now at home though. Our kids are not going anywhere.
Beth Grushkin (20:15): I mean, frankly, we're going to get him one, because high school, he has to have one, right? I mean, teachers send you texts and stuff. It's interesting. He didn't even really want one bad enough. So, he's been without one for several months.
Penny Williams (20:34): That's crazy. My son never lost a phone or an iPad. Surprisingly. Because that was my biggest fear since they're so expensive and he was using an iPad for school. So every day he was taking it. He's broken many, but he has never lost one. And he's the kid that loses everything. He would lose his nose if it wasn't attached to his face. So, so different. It's so amazing how our kids are so similar and so different.
Beth Grushkin (21:03): Yeah. I think for me, probably the adventure really is just the learning constantly, really screens are not bad. But what I don't like about screens is that when you're on the screen so much, then you're not doing other things.
Penny Williams (21:27): Yeah. There has to be a balance.
Beth Grushkin (21:28): Yeah. So I never wanted my kids stop reading, stop building Legos. They still will spend hours. I mean, we have Legos like you would not believe 2 billion of them. But they will literally sit for hours, still make their own creations. I mean, they are amazing with it. And I think, gosh, I am so glad that I really held off on that other stuff. Cause now, look at what they can do, look at their skills. Amazing. So I still enjoy stuff like that at their age. Middle school age is pretty remarkable. Most middle schoolers might still be into sports or something, but otherwise it's kind of social stuff and technology.
Penny Williams (22:18): I know plenty of adults who love to build Legos. I'm not saying that it's only for elementary kids. I'm just saying so many kids now they put all of that kind of hands on creative toy, I guess, for lack of a better word, they discard all of that and say, okay, well now I'm this old, it almost feels like there's no transition to me. It didn't feel like there was any transition. It was like one day we're playing with toys. Then the next day it's like, Nope, I'm too old for all that.
Beth Grushkin (22:55): I know. And frankly, it kind of makes me a little sad.
Penny Williams (23:00): Yeah. Because creativity is so powerful. In day to day life being creative is an outlet, but it's also therapeutic and it can also really show our kids that they can succeed at something that they could even be talented or good at something.
Beth Grushkin (23:21): Yeah, exactly. And that's why too. I really wanted that because both of my kids are really good in that. And it's something that they can really look at and say, wow, look at this thing. I can draw, look at this thing I can make, because another other areas they really struggle writing or math or they get told, I don't know how many times a day so I just really wanted to be able to have that so that they could just really feel good about something. Now I still make sure that I have cool markers and pens and they have no books. And so I just make sure that I have those things around always, so that they pick up a pen so that they draw. So they journal, but that as they're getting older, that takes a lot more work from me, they're not as inclined. They want to get games, can we get on games now? Can we do video games? So,
Penny Williams (24:34): And it's hard to hear because that's what the other kids are doing, that their peers a lot of them are spending time online and they're connecting that way. It becomes harder to have that be less of their day to day life when they're seeing all the others, every kid wants to be like the other kids. And especially our kids with differences, they're so acutely aware of they really gravitate to what can I do to be like everybody else?
Beth Grushkin (25:10): Yeah. And if it's anything social, I'm like, okay, that's fine, get onscreen with so and so because that's just what they do now.
Penny Williams (25:24): And they're building skills doing that. If they're not face to face, they're still building some social skills, they're learning some social nuance, not to mention, in the games they might be learning problem, solving skills, executive functioning skills. They're strategizing, they're looking for allies. Many games like Minecraft are really big with creativity too, in addition to all these other skills that I just mentioned. It's not like it's all bad, there's a time and a place for it and a certain amount of time. I think it's important to recognize that for our kids, that it's not just all negative. They do get some benefit from it too. And in their eyes, I think the perceived benefit is far greater than in ours, it's what's important to them.
Beth Grushkin (26:24): Yeah. No for sure. And that's something too. I have learned there's some really awesome things out there.
Penny Williams (26:31): What about other creative outlets are there? Do you try to plan time for creativity or you just kind of offer things up and hope that they will use them?
Beth Grushkin (26:46): I sit down and draw and they come and join me most of the time, it is so powerful because really, as parents, we have to do this stuff too. I mean, if I swear my kids are gonna swear and they do and I've heard it. So I have heard it back at me. We just have to model that for them, really just about everything. We have to model what I want and that is super powerful.
Penny Williams (27:28): And it's not part of really traditional parenting, we're telling our kids what to do, "do, as I say, not as I do." And we don't think about, well, if I sit down and do something creative, maybe my kids will also — they're going to see the value. They're going to see that you feel like it's worthy of your time. They're going to be curious about what you're doing. That's such a huge, huge strategy, even though it probably, it may not be a strategy intentionally, you figured out that it certainly was really powerful. And I think just playing with our kids and interacting with our kids, as they get older, it gets harder. They're not as interested in us anymore. But if you're fostering that as they're growing up and you're still showing interest in what they're doing and trying to engage with them in something of interest, they will continue some of that as they get older.
Beth Grushkin (28:36): Yeah. It's awesome.
Penny Williams (28:39): Do your kids spend a lot of time outside? Are they outdoorsy kids?
Speaker 4 (28:45): They do. My husband 100% — they go on hikes, they go on 10 mile hikes. In fact, they have gone on a 20 mile hike, which is fantastic. He has been the one really to do that. They go camping, so that has been awesome for them. And then that's kind of me time camping in a tent. It's so funny, but I am someone who just loves quiet and I don't get it very much.
Penny Williams (29:35): Plus you're giving them the time to really bond with dad.
Beth Grushkin (29:40): Yes. So often moms are spending more time with kids and there's a myriad of different reasons, but giving dad's time or giving the other parent time to really have just with them is super valuable to our kids. They're digging deeper into their interactions with that other parent. And it's that we have to have time. I mean, my goodness. And that's something that I'm not super good at. I give, give, give, give, but boy, do we have to, because I have been so run down and that's not good for anybody. Then I'm a mean mom and a mean wife and mean everything, but that's something that I'm still working on.
Penny Williams (30:42): I did an episode on the fact that we have to feel good to do good, which I got from an episode of Brene Brown's Unlocking Us podcast, I was inspired by that. That piece of self care, even if it is just getting a little quiet time is monumental. It's monumental to our kids. When we talk about self care, we automatically think that it's selfish, especially for moms. If you're a mom, you're a mom110%, you're nothing else. That's kind of our cultural expectation. And we need time to be who we are independent of that, but we also need time to just be at peace and to recharge in order to really be the best parent that we can be. Which is what we want so badly. That's why we sacrifice ourselves, right? To be the best parent we can be, but then it ends up eroding that potential. And we just don't think about it, because it's kind of driven into our heads that if you're a parent, you're a parent, like it has to be all of you. And again, we can circle back to that conversation about modeling. If we're giving everything of ourselves and we're at a bad place, what are we showing our kids? Well, if you're a parent, it sucks and that's not the message we want to share.
Beth Grushkin (32:14): Yeah. I say to them even like, Hey, I need my time. This is my time. I love you very much, but I just need to go upstairs and read or, I need to be alone. And I think as they've gotten older they kind of understand it a little more, but boy, sometimes I just have to stand firm and say, no, please get out of my room. Please just give me 30 minutes.
Penny Williams (32:48): Yeah. Mom's having a break. I give you breaks. It's time for my break.
Beth Grushkin (32:55): Yes. But it's hard. It is hard. It's not easy business at all.
Penny Williams (33:01): No, it can be a really challenging journey, but I think that's part of the beauty of it. If we look at it in that way, it's kind of an adventure. We have kids who are different, who are more challenging, who have more challenges, how can we still help them to craft a life with success and joy? How do we still get them to that place for them? What does that look like for them? And we ended up kind of creating our Parenthood from scratch and it's an adventure, it's a journey.
Beth Grushkin (33:41): Nobody knows what to do and it's okay not to know. So we are both learning. And I say that all the time, I'm like, "wow, this was really good learning for us. Wasn't it? I did not realize that about you. I did not know that frightened you. This is really good learning." And now that I know.
Penny Williams (34:07): I love that. I love that because you're showing that you're human and that we can only do as much as we know and we learn more and then we can do more. And it's a good lesson for our kids, especially with challenges. When you learn more about yourself, you're able to accomplish what you want to accomplish. You just might have to do it differently.
Beth Grushkin (34:35): Yep.
Penny Williams (34:36): So what I'm hearing is the biggest takeaway for you was that you have to make it up as you go and you just have to keep going. Even if it gets really challenging and you try things and you stick with what works and you change what doesn't.
Beth Grushkin (34:53): Exactly.
Penny Williams (34:55): And our journey was much the same. And I'm sure our audience is probably nodding their heads in agreement. It's the nature of the beast. But it's really helpful to hear someone say, keep going, you've got this. Because there's so many times when we feel like we don't have it, that we're failing.
Beth Grushkin (35:15): Yeah. And it can be so lonely to just to feel like, am I the only one going through this? Am I the only one? Yeah, not the only one. And my gosh, I am going to have a high schooler next year. So we are guiding the whole hormone, you know?
Penny Williams (35:39): Oh, the hygiene. I could use some help with that. It always changes. It's always a moving target. I've said that for years and years, it feels like every time you're like, okay, we got this, we're on, we're just coasting, we're floating. Then something changes — puberty or the environment like high school or, it's their interests change, everything changes. And that's just human nature. We all change. I am completely different in my forties than I was in my twenties. I never would have imagined where I am now. And I think that's the beauty of parenting in that way is that we're teaching our kids that they can keep adjusting and keep taking it as an adventure. You are offering a freebie to everyone. A free download. Do you want to tell us what that is really quick and I'll tell everybody where to get it?
Beth Grushkin (36:40): I have a big, huge list of all the really awesome things that I have read and used. I do not want anyone to go out and buy 10 things. Maybe this is interesting. Maybe I read this or I say, choose one small thing at a time because we can get ourselves overwhelmed so fast. It's just all the best of the best, because I love to share things when I find awesome things. So tried and true books and tools and strategies and things like that. And sometimes you do find a thing and you're like, how could I have lived without this thing for us?
Penny Williams (37:39): It was a HowdaHug chair for us. That was the biggest. Second is a weighted blanket. That's the one that's lasted, he's outgrown the HowdaHug, but that was the biggest transformation. There's so many tools.
Beth Grushkin (38:06): The free download is just about seeing what might've worked for somebody else, deciding if it's something to try for your own kid and then trying it with moderate expectations. Because it all doesn't work for everyone. For sure.
Penny Williams (38:22): For sure. So I want to tell everybody to get the freebie and for links to anything we've discussed in this episode, as well as links to Beth's website and social media, you can get all of that at the show notes they're found parentingadhdandautism.com/092. I am honored to talk to you and have you on the podcast. I know that this has been a really helpful conversation for so many of our parents listening. Absolutely. And with that, we will end the episode. I'll see everyone next time.
Outro (39:08): Thanks for joining me on the parenting ADHD podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share, and don't forget to check out my online courses, parent coaching and mama retreats at parentingadhdandautism.com.
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