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ADHD Parents Together
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Video Game struggle

My son is 8 and is diagnosed with ADHD and ODD. He is on meds and we are still working on figuring out what works. He got a video game system for Christmas and it has been nothing but headaches since. I finally unhooked and took away for good. He was so completely obsessed with it. It was all he wanted to do, talk about , think about. Like an addiction. Which I know they can be. We tried to have limits but that didn’t work. Now he basically hates us but I know he will understand someday. Wondering if anyone else struggles with this and how they handle it? I feel bad taking away what he loves be he no longer cared about any of the things he used to love like baseball, etc. it scares me to think how I will handle this as he gets older as I have less control over him. Any suggestions??

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I say yay and you did the right thing! I took away all internet, phones and computers (with the exception of my Surface) from my daughter in early October. She was obsessed, couldn't stay off it and was sneaking onto sites that she knew she wasn't supposed to go. I just stopped it all cold turkey like you guys are doing. I was no fun for a few days. Now, she doesn't even ask about it. If she needs the computer, we look at it together. She can text her friends from my phone for a few minutes a day.

and guess what? We talk now. We have real conversations where she looks me in the eye. We watch tv together and snuggle at the end of the night. She loves art and draws and paints all the time. It has helped me SO much and I think it has helped HER so much. That and family therapy are the two best things I ever did since her diagnosis.

Hang in there! HUG!

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I completely agree that getting rid of the video games was the right idea. Our psychologist felt very strongly that kids with ADHD are susceptible to gaming addiction and that there are studies that show if they aren’t exposed to them as kids they are less likely to struggle with this as adults.

My son is 7 and is desperate to play video games and I’ve tried to be really honest with him. We talk about ADHD and how his brain works and how video games can make new pathways in the ADHD brain that are not healthy. He’s not happy about it, but he does accept it. Stay strong, you are doing a great job!

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Onedayatatimemom-

I have mixed feeling about the use of video games. Our kids tend to have an "addictive" personality. If it is not video games it will be something else.

Now if his whole life is tied into video games and you can't get him off when times up, then yes I would pull them.

But I also feel it is important for them to have an outlet to stress. They are also, when appropriate a way to play with peers and an outlet for parents to get a break. One last benefit is they can be used as a carrot. So you could wait a while and tell him he can only have ( put a reasonable amount) and they use it as a carrot. Of course we know there will most likely be issues with getting hom to stop. I would ser a timer and explain, if you don't stop when the timer goes off then it really goes away or the next day there is none. Then stick to it calmly so he gets a reward. Clearly explain your rules.

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I totally agree! We use it as a reward system for our 14 yr old son and he only gets it on the weekends. It relaxes him and he plays friends online which is very important as he struggles with his social skills. Limit the amount of time played and set the expectation up front. You can also turn off the system online without having to disconnect everything,

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How do you turn off a system online? We have an Xbox.

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My husband logs into his Xbox account on his phone and turns it off.

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That is what we have been doing and explaining why it matters. He has been pretty good about it. Being on Ritalin has helped him comply! It can be a good incentive.

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I've seen studies that show quest type games are very helpful in developing executive function. The ones where they move are also good for exercise when they don't want to do other kinds. So they are not all bad for our kids. Taking something away that they love puts you further into a confrontational stance. Maybe try meeting with him about it. Tell him you love him and then why you are concerned for him. Remind him your job is to help him grow up to be a happy healthy human and sometimes that will mean you have veto power on his decisions, but you do want to understand it from his point of view. Ask him why he dropped old loves for it, why it became his only activity. Ask him if he has any ideas on how it can be used in a healthy manner and try negotiating out a deal. Maybe a timer, or only weekends, or only after other things are completed and off at bed time. Build in consequences if he doesn't live up to the agreement. Like he loses an hour or a day or something like that. Maybe you keep the power cord when he is not allowed to play. And as always, you know your kid best so take what you need and leave the rest :)

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Hello, games were always a problem for us. Medication for ADHD helped but not enough. After additional therapy we found out the culprit was anxiety. Added an anti depressant and lowered the ADHD meds. Working finally.

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Thanks for sharing! It's great when you find the right balance you almost want to kiss the doctor who is helping you!

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I think you did exactly the right thing because it will be much much harder to take away once he is a teen. We struggle with this too. Our 8 yr old son has a fire tablet with the curated Amazon Freetime and some games we have added to that. It is always a battle to limit his time--we have said he can only play if he takes breaks and does other things throughout the day. He also plays games on my phone sometimes. I think these devices are so addicting for kids with ADHD and/or high-functioning autism because they give kids a safe and easy way to win and be in control without dealing with other people. We have been tempted to take all games away at points, but have tried to work through it with limits. We will not get a game console though--that is where we draw the line. And we have signed him up for a a karate and activity camp all summer. He loves karate! He will play with his lego figures for long periods of time and we try to encourage that. I would rather buy him a new lego toy than have him play games. We will have to watch very carefully as he gets older. I would say that getting kids like this into other activities and hobbies is critical. We also keep telling our son that having some game time depends on him taking lots of breaks.

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I agree with the following posts for the same reasons, but I also think his age plays a part. Eight is really too young to be totally obsessed with video games. By the time he's a teen, video games may play a bigger role in his social life, but for now, I would take them away.

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Sounds like our home! I would say that gaming is severely addictive for ADHD kids. Games like Fortnite are particularly addictive. There’s definitely a brain chemistry issue rooted here. If you observe a game like Fortnite, you notice the constant micro rewards kids get as they find ‘loot’ & gain advantage. I think it fills a major brain chemistry need that they lack. My kid gets hyper focused & is in this calm place. This is why when we abruptly turn it off, it results in a massive tantrum or worse. It’s like taking heroin away from an addict but even more immediate. We had set limits to 1 hour per day & 2 on weekends, but, for games like Fortnite, we found he just could not comply & it was a daily battle. It caused so much turmoil & stress in the home that we took away gaming for the week. That helped massively, however, on the weekends he still got aggressive when we had to cut him off so now that game is banned. He just can’t handle it. Other games, like Farming Simulator, are nice, non aggressive, calms his ADHD, and he does not have a problem stopping when we ask. I think you can keep games so long as they can handle stopping, and it doesn’t run their life, & frankly, ruin your home life. Finally, it is CRITICAL that our kids get some kind of activity to fill the void. Active sports like hockey are great for our boy!

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What you described is uncanny because it is exactly what we are experiencing - almost word for word I could have written the same thing!

We also took away fortnight. His Dr was the one who pursuaded him in the end.

We still struggle with the limits though and tantrums. He’s 9 yrs old

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I understand. It is so hard especially when almost every kid their age plays these games

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Use his video games as a reward he earns. Totally removing the system and games is going to cause nothing but trouble.

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My advice is to set limits. Let him know he is allowed "x" amount of time per day to play the game. You can limit it to 1 hour on Saturday & Sunday if he completes his homework or has good behavior during the week (doing chores without being asked, following directions, managing any melt-downs, etc.). The game is a privilege he has to earn. Encourage him to spend time outdoors by taking him on a nature hike, bike riding or long walk. Kids tend to forget about everything when so engrossed in the video games which can be addictive.

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Thanks for the responses and feedback. It has been a very tough week. We tried to only have on weekends and limit but that didn’t work. I think we are going to keep the Xbox boxed up. The only thing I liked about it was it was one way I could get him to listen when I told him he was going to lose it, the. He listened. I definitely argree that these games have negative effects on their brains and I worry so much about his future. I keep saying the video games are like crack for him. I guess it is true! No more, glad the weather is breaking and soccer is starting!

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Best of luck. It’s nice for me to see we are not alone. Apparently this is a big issue! The game meltdowns are the WORST

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How about making video games as a reward for good behavior.

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We tried but getting him off is the biggest struggle and even when he is not playing that is all he thinks about and talks about. I am going to give him some tablet time but regulate the games and time do not to completely take electronics away as I know kids enjoy them.

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My son is seven and has extreme ADHD. He has bouts of tantrums as well which flux with meds. We are working on finding a new med now. We battle over games constantly. We tried taking them away. It lasted six weeks but with eventual good behavior we transitioned back in. I don’t see any problem with remving them completely from time to time for a cleanse. They are little addicts and it can be helpful.

We ended up reinstating and going with limits some of which we blamed on his doctor (sorry doc!). For one, routinely, no games during the week. None. Weekends only. Doctors orders. We explained addiction to him and he sort of gets it although he doesn’t agree. He fights us but at least it takes the blame off us a little. We have found one silver lining. He loves games so much that they can be a wonderful and effective incentive. So we do things like let him earn game time by doing things we want like eating breakfast. His meds make him not want to eat and not eating makes him even crankier. So..... ten minutes for his glass of milk. Two for each piece of bacon. Two for each bite of pear etc. if works believe it or not. We also find that he needs lots of advance notice for stopping games. He gets 20 min warning, 10, 5 etc. he still loses it when it’s time to stop so we have another activity ready to transition him into. It’s hard but consistency is key. He knows if he has a total meltdown when required to stop he is done for the day/weekend/etc. this is HARD to enforce but once you do it once or twice it takes a couple verbal reminders and the meltdown may be staved off.

Al I can say is - I think games are inevitable so try to establish firm limits, be consistent, transition with lots of warning and make them your ally and tool by creating incentives as much as you can. It’s about the only carrot we have that works. Good luck.

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Wow, I am so impressed that everyone is winning in your house. Our son is 12 years old and I cant tell the number of times his therapist has changed my mind about something I was set on and the outcome was much better.

I have slowly have realized balance is much better than us "winning". Hard lesson but balance is so much better.

I love how you are using it to help you guys parent and he also gets what he loves.

Everyone wins!

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Thanks. We need to try therapy again. We haven’t been able to find the right one. It is so hard and not all days are great. But yes I agree. Balance is key. When I find myself/us in a battle I try to remind myself that. Best of luck. :)

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Yes, I agree thearpy can be amazing when it works but as long as you guys are managing right now, it would be better to find the "right one". Such a journey. Congrats on the progress.

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Last therapist’s best advice: pick your battles.

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My son is 10 I'm going thru the same exact thing with him right now. Hes completely obsessed it's the only thing he does besides go to school. Everything you said is him. Video games is the only thing on his mind 24/7. I've thought to do what you did so many times but I know he would be so angry I'm seriously scared what would happen. I'm so lost on what to do but reading your post felt good just knowing someone can relate with what I'm going through. I wish you and your son the best. You should be proud of yourself for taking it away and staying firm with it.

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Taking it away 100% isn't necessary. There is a way to satisfy both you and your son. Consoles such as Xbox have parental controls. You can set a specific time of the day it is active. Heck, you can even turn access on/off with a phone app. This is what I do with my 13yo with ADHD. I Believe he loves it so much since it is something he can focus on. I don't want to take that entirely away from him. But, on the other hand there is more to life than games. Ultimately it is your choice. I'm just letting you know you have options.

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My son is 9 and we have held out as long as we could with games ect. He got a tablet with games recently and nothing was working in terms of getting him off. He wouldnt even go outside to play with friends. There were so many fights until I decided he wasnt mature enough to handle it. We put it away for 6 weeks and agreed to revisit with his therapist. His therapist said not to use loosing screen time as a punishment -- bc he would obsess more over it. He said no matter his behavior ect he can have his 45min a day. Anything above and beyond he has to earn in a bank to be used the following day. This has worked so well!! He now will do what we ask because he wants to earn more time. (He can be super oppositional.)

If he choses not to take a shower ect not extra time. But each day he gets 45 min. no matter what. He is so so happy knowing we cant take that amount away. It's a win win for all. Maybe come up with some type of plan that is clear and easy for everyone to follow. Hope this helps!! I was very skeptical to be honest but I think there has to be a middle ground for you and your son. These games dont seem to be going away and to young boys it means so much to them socially -- we Moms cant begin to understand this...I was happy his male therapist who also has boys helped us navigate this issue.

Best of luck!!

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