Oh Cantalope, I feel for you. BTDT. By the time my son was 6, my former husband divorced me and our family fell apart. I hate to say it but ds' needs did contribute to it
I am happy to say that my son has come a LONG way - as a ten year old he is in a developmental phase where higher levels of his brain can help him organize the lower levels of his brain, which are very disorganized. That's what I learned from the Eide Neurolearning Clinic where I had him assessed 1.5 years ago. When he was 6 he was found to not be on the autism spectrum but he came close! My son is gifted, has ADHD, sensory issues, and 3 learning disabilities. Based on my experience, here is my advice to you:
0. Boy and girls are different. Expect your boy to seem like an alien to you, especially if he is rambunctious and has ADHD and is extroverted. Be curious about what makes him tick. Read and learn about boys. Talk to mothers of older boys, especially if they have more than one.
1. make a religion of your son getting major daily outdoor exercise (at least an hour, has to be outdoors, has to be vigorous). this truly helps ADHD kids, and helps you too if you can get some exercise in the process
2. keep very consistent sleep hours (you and your son) - use melatonin if needed to make sure he gets to bed at a reasonable hour and has good rest
3. get assessment for Aspergers and ADHD - some are diagnosed to be on the spectrum very late, but the parents find it very helpful to access the resources and support. if your son turns out not to have Aspergers, still look at the books/resources on social skills, etc. - I found them helpful for my son's issues. giftedness can cause a lot of annoying behaviours as well.
4. supplement with vitamin D3 (1000 IU a day) and cofactors and fish oil (1 mg). recent studies are showing that ADHD kids have lower vitamin D levels in their blood! and there is good evidence that fish oil helps. D3 also is linked with poor sleep and that can be an underlying cause of children being annoying as heck.
5. work on managing his need for attention at home. I did this: 10 minutes "mom time", 10 minutes "son time", 10 minutes "daughter time" - alternate. as he adjusts, increase the length of time. it took time but it did help us! I could get my stuff done and feel OK about saying NO to interruptions. I just kept saying "look at the timer". during "his" time he had my complete attention. it helped ME to not be splitting my attention all day as well - focus on what I was doing, even if it was only in 10 minute blocks.
6. don't try to do computer stuff or stuff requiring sustained focus while looking after your child. hire a babysitter so you can do one thing at a time. try to have two switches with your child: "I'm focused on you" or "I'm busy don't bother me". Chunk your time so that you can get satisfaction from whatever you are focusing on at the time. this is important if you have ADHD yourself.
7. don't be a perfectionist about screen time. when I finally started letting my child watch a movie or tv episode every day, I realized that it was probably helping him get a break from HIMSELF. Audiobooks and a giant bin of LEGO also were lifesavers at one stage - the audiobooks gave him "attention" and occupied his brain and the LEGO occupied his hands. I was constantly going to the library stocking up on books on CD. My library also offers audiobook downloads on the computer. this needs to be balanced with outdoor exercises, outings outside the home, etc.
8. many are helped by gluten free and dairy free. but be realistic...if you cannot or will not pull this off, don't waste your time
. I know a lot of moms who drive themselves nuts doing elaborate baking projects with exotic ingredients, yet their kids are "cheating" (their words) all the time. Their time would be better spent getting their kids climbing trees, swimming at the beach, and hiking through forests rather than trying to be perfectionists with food, IMO. with a kid like this, you have to listen to your gut and figure out what to make a priority. The mom experts I know on gluten-free say that you have to try it religiously for 3-6 months to even know if it would help your child
. It's also a lifestyle for them and it affects what families they hang out with, what activities they do, etc. In my case I just could not pull it off without neglecting other major life priorities, and I still can't. I choose not to beat myself up over this.
9. take care of your marriage, if applicable. protect time alone together after your son goes to bed, date nights, etc.
10. cut way back on time-sucks (social media, screens, forum, etc.) and take care of yourself: exercise, sleep, get your vitamin D levels checked and supplement, make yourself beautiful. At the 5 year mark of parenting I was overweight, frumpy, run down, hadn't slept well in years, depressed, anxious, procrastinated horribly, etc. Feeling crummy wasn't helping me connect with my son and be present with him. Even if you sleep 10 hours a night, you still have 98 hours a week of wake time. Even if you do paid work, you have more time than you think to use your time wisely. time management tends to be an issue for those of us with ADHD. take vitamin D3 (4000 IU/day) with cofactors and fish oil yourself.
11. If anxiety/depression is an issue try this - it's drug free, cheap, safe, proven effective and it will help with parenting:
feeling good about yourself will help you feel good as a parent
12. address major life issues: is your home beautiful and orderly? are finances in order? is marriage healthy? if overwhelmed try a program like this: http://flylady.net/
13. do you love yourself? are you enjoying yourself? If not, work on 8, 10, 11, 12. Loving and enjoying yourself is necessary for loving and enjoying your child.
Long list! And some may not apply to your situation. I encourage you to look at the big picture though. Best wishes to you.