(214) 532-7158  Shannon Thornton, M.A., LPC

 Specializing in Executive Function Difficulties, Parenting, and Family Dynamics 


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When They Have Meltdowns

Posted on March 17, 2019 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Ever wonder which version of your child will get in your car at pick-up?

Say the same thing you've always said and your child turns into a screaming banchee out of a horror film?

Actually FEEL tension in your body when you know it's time to see you child, or better yet, help them with homework?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you are not alone.  Your darling child is still in there, they're just having a meltdown.  They've flipped their lid.  They're having an out of body experience.  And they are impossible to deal with.  Here are some things that might happen in your house when said lid has flipped:


  • You may hear "No one umderstands me!" or "I hate my life!" or "Leave me alone!" or "I hate you/my friends/school/this house/ fill in the blank!"
  • You may hear doors slammed, loud music, or wailing and gnashing of teeth
  • There may be uncontrollable crying, screaming, lamenting, or nonsensical talk flying from your beloved's mouth with a forked tongue
  • They might start a fight with a sibling
  • They might get physically violent and smash things, put holes in walls, throw objects, or damage property
  • You may find yourself wondering if their head will spin and vomit will spew from their mouth
Unfortunately this is not uncommon.  Here's why: Emotional regulation is one of the executive functions that doesn't work at full capacity in some people with ADHD.  Imagine you have a shallow bucket of water in front of you and from the moment you wake up in the morning, every time you receive negative feedback of any kind, a ping pong ball is thrown at you and you have to keep each ball submerged under the water.  

At home, before 8:00am:
  • "Hurry up! You always make us late!"
  • "Seriously? How many times do I have to tell you to get your...?"
  • "GET. OUT. OF. BED."
  • "Is your brain attached to your body?"
Then at school:
  • "Why didn't you bring your book?  I told you to do that yesterday."
  • "Pay attention.  Are you listening?"
  • "You are so annoying, stop talking!"
  • "Dude, bring your own lunch money, I'm tired of covering for you."
Is it getting harder and harder to keep all those ping pong balls under the water?  You only have 10 fingers, remember?

Now you're home.  Finally.  And you have everything submerged...the ping pong balls, your feelings of inadequacy, embarassment, frustration, and confusion.  At any minute, you could lose your grip and all the ping pong balls go flying up and it's all over.  You have tried SO HARD ALL DAY LONG TO KEEP IT TOGETHER UNTIL YOU CAN'T ANYMORE.  So your mom or your dad or your sibling does one inconsequential thing, and you are done.  

And the ping pong balls go flying everywhere

This is what is happening to your child.  They lose control of their emotions and everything comes out.  It comes out at you, and not at school, because they know you love them and won't turn them away.  (aren't you the lucky one?)  

This is a critical point for you though.  

Here is what you can do in the moment:
  • Identify their emotion and tell them. "It looks like you had a really hard day."  "You are really mad!" "It sounds like today was rough!"
  • Give them space to cool down and offer them time alone to decompress
  • Provide affirmation you still love them. "I know you're upset.  Let's talk when you're feeling better." "It's going to be okay." 
Here is what you should NEVER do:
  • Raise your voice
  • Try to use REASON OR LOGIC.  They are not using the part of their brain that does this, and nothing you say or do can make them right now.
  • Use shame or judgement
  • Punish or threaten to take things away
  • Get too close/hit/slap
Here is what you can do after time has passed and they are calmer:
  • Remind them what feeling you saw and ask what happened today
  • Listen to what they say.  Don't offer advice or tell them what to do.  Don't interrupt.
  • Ask them how you can help
  • Talk about ways to manage their feelings next time to avoid the outburst again

I can help parents and kids through this with a toolbox of coping mechanisms created just for this type of problem.  If you or your child feel out of control or like your relationship is suffering because of it, call or email me.  I've got you.



I Don't Belong Here

Posted on March 12, 2019 at 5:55 PM Comments comments (0)

This is my first blog post.  Ever.  Seems odd because I usually have so much to say about, well...most things.  I have a lot to say about living in a household with three people who have ADHD and the first thing you must know is that I don't feel like I belong here.  If you are neurotypical, or don't have ADHD, and live in a household with others who do, read on.  You're not alone, even though it feels like it sometimes when you're at home.

I realized much later in life that the reason God gave me a husband and two kids with ADHD was so I could encourage others not to make the same mistakes I have and to know they had someone to talk to on a professional level who truly understood them.  It is one thing to be a therapist.  It's another to treat people who deal with the same "stuff" you do.  Some see this as a negative issue and call it "countertransference".  I call it survival and comradery.  I know your people's stuff doesn't look just like my people's stuff, and I may not have all the answers, but know this: it is tough being you sometimes.  

I get it.  My brain, if seen on a continuum with theirs, is well...at the opposite end.  My strengths are their weaknesses and sometimes I honestly don't know how they make it every day.  I also realized that their strengths are my weaknesses, so we balance (fairly well) most of the time.  I am naturally organized and methodical.  I am motivated by my environment being neat, tidy, orderly.  I cannot stand clutter and I run and hide where there is chaos.  I thrive in routine, and derive a little too much joy from crossing things off my lists- which remain on paper.  I am in the 21st Century on most things, but no app can quite compare to the dopamine hit I get from completing tasks and crossing them off a list with a perfectly sharpened #2 pencil.  I may or may not have been known to add things to my list after I've done them just so I can cross them off.  No, I'm not neurotic.  I am super cool and together (at least for appearances sake) and if I actually lose or forget something, look for zombies because we are likely in an apocolypse.

I have been pondering the thought of a podcast or blog or ebook...something to help my fellow man without having to make an appointment with me.  Low and behold, as the universe often does, a client confirmed that need today by asking me to start a blog.  Thanks, M.R., this is all your fault, lol.  I will write about ADHD and share tips and tricks and brain-nerdy facts to help you understand what is actually going on in the melon of the people you live with.  I will also likely write about how to deal with anxiety and vent (did someone say rant?) some about why I think our kids are so riddled with it.  Be forewarned, I have a soapbox or two hidden in my office which I may stand upon while writing.  I'll do my best to put a disclaimer in lights at the beginning of an entry in the event you want to by-pass said soapbox.

I'll leave you with this closing thought: We're All In This Together.  (insert obnoxious tune from HighSchool Musical here) :lol:  Until next time-