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Transitions & negativity

Adhdgirlmom profile image

Hello community,

I have a 6 yr old daughter with high combined type ADHD who also struggles significantly with emotional regulation and anxiety. She is an externalizer so she pushes these uncomfortable feelings out on the rest of the family through verbal and at times physical aggression. Times of transition (I.e. going to school in the morning) are becoming a clear trigger point. I was successful this morning by simply distracting her with a library book and reading together. However, I'm wondering if other folks have experience dealing with extreme negativity / commitment to being unhappy as a coping strategy for discomfort/anxiety/transitions and if you have any strategies for shifting this pattern?

Thanks in advance,


9 Replies

Sorry you are having these issues. What types of tools ( therapy, educational support, medication) are you given her to help her handle the symptoms of ADHD? Do you see these issues just at the house or also in other places.

Hope we can help you.

Thanks. We’ve used therapy and school supports. We are considering medication but still trying to learn more about them.

Mostly we try to make sure she had proper nutrition, rest, structure and downtime

My 5 year old son used to struggle a lot with transitions. He has ADHD and Anxiety. For us, getting him to a proper dose of an SSRI has made ALL the difference. I didn't think his negative behaviors were being brought on by anxiety, but they were!

Since the SSRI (Celexa in our case), he is the more cooperative, agreeable, happy kid, even when he's not on his ADHD stimulant meds.

If you're not using something for anxiety, consider that the hesitancy around transitions could be related.

Good luck!

Yes, my 10 year old daughter has struggled with many of the same behaviors. You don't mention it, but how is your daughter doing at school academically and socially? Does she have a 504 or IEP?

If your daughter is having trouble academically, then I recommend trying medication for her adhd. You may also want to have her tested for learning differences. I personally think my daughter's anxiety is a product of her having undiagnosed learning differences (inattentive adhd, dyslexia, dysgraphia, auditory processing disorder) in K-2nd grade.

If your daughter is having trouble at school socially, then you may want to try medication for anxiety to see how that changes things.

Meanwhile, at a calm moment (maybe on the weekend) ask her what things help her calm down when she is upset. Have some ideas of your own in case she has trouble starting. For example: reading a book, holding a stuffie, petting the cat, hiding under a blanket, having a snack, taking deep breaths, watching a short video, sitting in your lap, playing with a fidget toy, looking at relaxing photos, doing 10 jumping jacks, etc. Make an exhaustive list with her help. Then ask her to order them - 1 through whatever. Type up her list in order, print it out, and tape it to the wall in her room and in the kitchen. Any time she starts struggling, walk with her to the closest list and ask her to pick one of the activities to do.

During another calm moment, ask her how she would like the morning to go. Does she like how it works right now? What tasks does she need to do (get dressed, brush teeth, etc)? What tasks does she want to do? What order works best for her? Once you have a list and order, put time estimates next to each one (with her help). After you have agreement, type it up, print it out, and post it on the wall. If she works best by crossing things off, then you could put the paper in a plastic sheet protector and use dry erase markers. Try it out. Ask her what is working for her and what is not. Adjust as needed.

Sometimes the anxiety comes from not having any control. Or not having any say. Also, the ability to go through these kind of problem solving steps will be needed for the rest of her life. Start letting her learn them with your support.

Also keep in mind that if she feels comfortable enough with you to let her feelings out, then that means she feels safe with you. If she's not acting the same way at school, then she's bottling up all her anxiety and fears during the day and then it all comes out at home - that's super exhausting to do!

If the school counselor is not involved yet, you could contact them and ask for help.

Remember - things will get better over time. Hang in there!

Adhdgirlmom profile image
Adhdgirlmom in reply to Aloysia

Thank you! We used your prompt for the morning routine and it was helpful! We’ve discussed the what helps in crisis moments question but still working on it. The way you framed it did help me pay attn to when she said “she wished she had her weighted blanket” while she was upset away from the house.

Overall she does great at school and doesn’t have problems socially at school (that I’m aware of). She has a 504 plan and sometimes complains about school, has anxiety about going, or has social problems outside of school so we are still sorting it out. I do know it will get better, it already has since last year. Still learning more about medication options.

Aloysia profile image
Aloysia in reply to Adhdgirlmom

I'm glad the morning routine helped!

Another list to work with her on is early indicators that she is getting stressed or anxious. Some will be things that she notices and some will be things that you notice. It will take much longer to figure this list out, but in the long run it will help her identify these feelings earlier. And that will make it easier to overcome (by applying one of her preferred calm down methods before things get bad).

Homework was an area that was really a problem for my daughter. It has gotten significantly better. When she gets home, I now ask if she has HW. If so, what kind and how much time she thinks it will take her. Then I ask when she'd like to do it (after a snack, before dinner, after dinner, etc. ). She likes having the control of picking. So she might pick math after a snack and reading before bedtime.

Look at every small thing that helps as a win and celebrate it. Then identify the next thing to focus on and hunt for ideas to help with that area.

Take care!!

Find a speech therapist that specializes in executive function. My son has been seeing a SP for 6 years off and on and it has been the most helpful. Also, find a parenting program or therapist. My husband and I didn't do this (where we live has limited resources) but I wished we had. The household needs assistance not only the child.

Adhdgirlmom profile image
Adhdgirlmom in reply to HanDor

So true and we also have been doing this because it totally was affecting the whole house. Thanks for your reply.

This sounds just like my 7 year old daughter. The anxiety was real, especially at the end of last year. She had a lot of issues with the return to school and I believe it was due to learning differences. Her anxiety was especially triggered by even the mention of reading. She has always had trouble with transitions and unexpected changes, even if they seemed minor to me. (Things like deciding to make something different for dinner than I had planned could trigger a meltdown.)

In some ways we're fortunate that she acted out in school as much as she did last year because she got the full gamut of testing and found that she has problems with sensory processing, a reading disability, and social communication disorder. Her classroom last year was especially ill-fitting for her needs and it sent her into a tail-spin when she was immersed in that environment all day with all of the unachievable expectations.

After a summer of evaluations, she started this school year in an inclusive classroom and with an IEP that supports her needs (1:1 aide, a special pull-out reading program daily, supplemental in-class support in math and reading, accommodations of all kinds, and a behavior improvement plan that addresses her sensory and stimulation-seeking needs.) She also takes the Daytranna 10mg patch. So far, we haven't been called to pick her up from school once this year. She seems much more balanced. Fingers crossed it continues.

I recommend reading a lot about ADHD and anxiety, meltdowns, transitions, anger, etc. There's so much more involved in ADHD than just attention and hyperactivity. There's so much that's out of these kids' control, even if something seems intentional. The more you understand where your daughter is coming from and how her brain works, the better you'll be able to support her. Take care!

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