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Tips for Parents with ADHD Raising Kids with ADHD
How to be an effective parent when you're struggling with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder times two
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Parenting a child with ADHD (also known as ADD) can be tough, but when a parent has the disorder too, the situation can feel almost impossible. Since it is thought to be genetic, dealing with double ADHD is a reality for many families. The good news is that there are steps you can take to control the chaos and be more effective as a parent. We talked to experts at Children and Adults with ADHD (CHADD), the nation's leading organization serving people affected by ADHD, for tips on how to cope.
When a parent's symptoms of ADHD mix with their child's, there can be fireworks. As parents we often put our kids' needs before our own, but one of the most important things you can do for them is to get your own ADHD treated. Having it under control—and keeping it that way—will make it much easier to deal with things like the endless pile of laundry.
Parenting's a tough job any way you slice it. Parenting a kid with ADHD is even harder, so you may need a little extra help. Attend a parenting class geared specifically toward ADHD, join a support group or read one of the many excellent books on the topic, like The Gift of ADHD Activity Book: 101 Ways to Turn Your Child's Problems Into Strengths by Lara Honos-Webb.
Understand Where He's Coming From
Kids with ADHD aren't trying to drive you nuts—they're just wired that way. Think of it as a brain short circuit rather than willful bad behavior. Understanding that your child has a disability he's often unable to control will go a long way toward helping you be more patient.
Remember What It's Like
Chances are you've been in your child's shoes. Think about how you felt growing up with ADHD (even if you weren't diagnosed at the time)—remember the feelings of failure and frustration? Recalling your own struggles can help jolt things into perspective when you're banging your head against the wall.
Make It Routine
Consistency is key for ADHD families, so make sure a schedule's firmly in place—and then follow it to a T. The more predictable your family life is, the easier it is for you and your child to get stuff done.
Share the Burden
If you have a spouse who doesn't have ADHD, let him or her takes on the tasks that are harder for you to do well. However, be sure you are on the same page about expectations, rules and discipline, even if one of you plays "bad cop" more often.
The ADHD File
Put together a binder of all child's medical records and educational plans related to the ADHD, and automatically file things as they come in. No more rifling through piles of paper—everything will all be in one place when you need it for a meeting with the teacher or your family physician.
Outsource Your Paperwork
Does the paper wrangling in the previous tip sound like it would involve Herculean effort? Hire a highly-organized friend to help you pull together and file all of your child's paperwork. Then all you'd need to do is maintain.
Find the Good
Make a special attempt to notice good behavior and praise your child every day—it will go a long way toward building her self-esteem. And remember you deserve a pat on the back too, Mama! Make an effort to acknowledge the times when you rocked as a mom.
Pick Your Battles
Not all problems are created equal. Decide what things are really important to you, and what's not. Preserve your sanity by letting the small stuff slide.
Share Your Story
Most kids idolize their parents. Knowing that a parent has lived with ADHD—and overcome it—can help kids feel better about themselves. So talk freely about your struggles and victories.
Pass It On
Most people with ADHD develop amazing coping skills out of necessity, so make sure the ideas that work for you trickle down to your child. Share how you learned to deal, both as a kid and more recently.
As we mentioned, what works for you may work for your child—and what works for your child may work for you. Does your child need breaks during the school day? Then maybe you could benefit from breaks at work between projects too.
Block Out Time for Fun
Don't let all your interactions be about problems. Schedule time to just hang out and goof off together. Sharing good times on a regular basis will strengthen your bond, making it that much easier to function as a family.
Set a Good Example
Most importantly, be a good advocate for yourself. Make sure you have all the accommodations for yourself that you'd want for your child. This will show your kid the importance of speaking up for herself—a skill that will serve her into adulthood.
CHADD offers a program called Parent to Parent, which is a training program designed by parents for parents. More information can be found on the CHADD website. (www.chadd.org).