Confidence and Emotional Regulation

Most kids with ADHD with emotional dysregulation believe this is their lot in life. They often have a fixed mindset (as opposed to a growth mindset) toward their ADHD, believing that they will never be able to get better at managing it. Pair that cynicism with the negative feedback that ADHD children receive daily – 12 negative things for every one positive thing – and it’s not surprising that most ADHD kids have low self-confidence.

Emotional dysregulation is also detrimental to building self-confidence because it is full of shame. Young people struggling with emotional dysregulation know that this isn’t how they’re “supposed” to behave, but they don’t know how to change their reactions. Emotional dysregulation can lead ADHD children and teens to withdraw. The fear of a potential meltdown stops ADHD teens from seeking friends, going outside of their comfort zones, and trying new things – all things that could help them build self-confidence.

Confidence and Emotional Regulation
However, the catch-22 is that self-confidence is a crucial piece to developing self-regulation. It’s very difficult to approach a meltdown from an objective standpoint or approach a meltdown with curiosity instead of judgment without having confidence in the first place. But for those of us who spend time with ADHD kids (parents, caregivers, and teachers), there are tools we can use to build up that self-confidence:

Affirmation
For most kids I work with who have emotional dysregulation, noticing the meltdown and approaching it objectively the first time is the biggest hurdle. The more my clients can practice handling their meltdowns in a different way, the more confidence they get, and that snowballs into more confidence and more ability to tackle those meltdowns. The best way to start this ball rolling for confidence building so that your teen can deal with their meltdowns differently is with affirmation. Initially, your child won’t see their successes, and you’ll need to point them out often (and excitedly!). This can be a huge difference maker in helping them feel like emotional regulation is something they’re capable of. Having someone they love cheering them on and pointing out their successes will help give them the confidence to keep trying and improving.

Talk About It
Another tool to help ADHD kids build confidence to handle dysregulation is to normalize it. Talking about what happened, how it happened, what went well, and what could go better next time helps remind the child to look at their meltdown objectively and treat it like a learning opportunity instead of something to be ashamed of or hide from. And, because people with ADHD have impaired working memory, talking about it also helps bridge the working memory gap, cementing the successful things and the strategies for next time in a place in the brain that will be easier to access next time.

Model it
Everyone, whether child or adult, neurodivergent or neurotypical, experiences emotional dysregulation, and we handle it with varying degrees of success depending on a ton of different factors (your childhood, past trauma, hunger, how much sleep you got last night, etc.). This means that you have moments of dysregulation, and chances are good your kid sees (and maybe causes!) many of them. Talking about your emotional regulation techniques can give your child some good strategies to try and also normalize the reality of emotional dysregulation. How you handle your dysregulation in the moment and afterward will be a blueprint for how your child approaches the same struggles now and in the future. This doesn’t mean you have to do it perfectly! But moments of dysregulation – the ones handled well, and the ones handled not-so-well – can be a great starting point for a conversation that will help your child build the confidence and skills to help them thrive on their journey of emotional regulation.

If this topic is something you would like to explore with an ADHD coach, consider scheduling a complimentary introductory meeting with me or any of the other coaches at the Center for Living Well with ADHD. Let’s get acquainted, understand your needs, and explore how ADHD Coaching may help you experience more of the life you are meant to have.

Griffin Rouse | ADHD Coach | Center For Living Well with ADHD, LLC

Griffin Rouse

ADHD Coach and Life Coach, Executive Skills Coach

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