The latest CDC report on Youth Mental Health states that teens are more anxious and depressed than ever before. At the same time, more women will be diagnosed with ADHD than ever in history. Both of these are complex issues, however there is something families can do starting today that will help both Anxiety and ADHD.
People who are dealing with anxiety and ADHD are often driven to action by their emotions. When emotions are in the driver’s seat, anything can happen, or be procrastinated to another day. What’s one thing families can do to help? The Family Meeting.
The family meeting encourages communication, decision making, support and a safe place to work on challenges. There are many ways to conduct a Family Meeting, but here are a few favorites of my own family and many of my clients.
One: Start with a positive ice breaker. Each person shares a recent accomplishment, from turning in a missing assignment to making a new friend, to a recent win at work.
Two: Share a mistake made and what was learned. Part of anxiety is feeling afraid of doing something wrong, or dealing with something that doesn’t turn out as expected. Parents have a wonderful opportunity to share some of their mistakes, how they felt, and what they learned from them. Teens can then feel safer to be less “perfect.” Moms can often feel pressure to hold it all together, and by having the family to talk with, she can receive support from them.
Three: What challenges are coming up for the week? When someone with ADHD or anxiety sees a difficult challenge that they may not be prepared for, the fear of failure often becomes the reason someone will avoid it. Parents and teens can share tests, reports, presentations, etc. and ask for some support or ideas to break up the challenge into smaller tasks, and create a productive mindset.
Four: What are the plans for the week, upcoming school breaks, and family events? People with anxiety and ADHD like to have a plan. It helps them feel more in control and they can better predict how they will strategize their energy levels. Family members can help each other prepare for weekly practices and performances. Talking about upcoming school breaks and family weekend plans helps activate the reward centers in the brain, which increases motivation.
Five: Share a gratitude for each family member. Each family member describes something about each person that they have seen or experienced in the past week. People with ADHD and anxiety have twice as many negative thoughts in their heads as others. Already in one family meeting, each family member has been noticed positively at least two times. Hearing positive messages activates the Feel-Good centers of the brain.
Wishing you fun-filled family meetings! Experiment and see what works for you.