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Adult ADHD: Prevention

You can't do much to prevent ADHD -- more and more research links it to genetics. But you can take steps to keep it from wreaking havoc on your life. Simple strategies adults with ADHD can use (with or without medication) include:

  • Use calendars. Large wall calendars or computerized calendars and reminders can help you keep appointments and knock off to-dos.
  • Keep your work area distraction-free. Clutter-free work areas and desks without windows can help you stay on task.
  • Know your best time of day. Adults with ADHD can learn to be in tune with their “internal clock” and schedule demanding tasks for the time of day when they are at their best.
  • Set firm time limits. For example, only check email or Facebook every hour, or limit yourself to one favorite TV show
  • Use technology as a reward. If you finish your work, you can use your Blackberry.
  • Unplug! It’s harder to crawl under a desk and plug in a computer than it is to just turn it on.

Local ADHD support organizations, often run by those who have been in treatment for years, are also good sources of information on organizational techniques.


A long term study of 200 preschool children with ADHD recruited at the University of Pittsburgh and University of Chicago found that parents of kids with this condition are 24 times more likely to have ADHD than parents of children without ADHD. It’s a small sample, but given what researchers say about the role of genetics in ADHD, it makes sense that many ADHD adults are parenting ADHD children. That means they face the daunting task of overcoming their own organizational and attentional problems so they can create a calm, structured home environment and manage all the paperwork, appointments and medication required for their children.

Although it’s natural for parents to forget themselves and focus on their children, in this case you are helping your child by helping yourself. Parents who suspect they have ADHD should seek treatment in order to function at the level necessary to really support and advocate for their children. It’s like the airline safety remind to put your own oxygen mask on first so you’re still conscious and can help your child.


Parenting a child with ADHD can be difficult, but when a parent also has the disorder too it can make for a very chaotic home. Here are some tips to help you rise to the challenge:

Provide consistent structure and schedules at home. The more routine and predictable your family life is, the easier it is for you and your child to understand and do what needs to be done.

Keep an ADHD notebook. Pull together a binder of all your child’s records and educational plans related to ADHD and automatically put in everything referring to your child’s problems. Then it will all be in one place when you need it for a meeting with the teacher, your family physician, etc.  No more searching through piles of paper.

Outsource your paperwork. Does gathering all the paperwork for the notebook feel like a Herculean effort? Hire a highly-organized friend to help you gather and file all of your child’s paperwork, so all you’ll need to do is maintain.

Share the burden.  If you have a spouse or family member who does not have ADHD, be sure that person takes on parenting tasks that are more difficult for you to do effectively.  Be sure you are in agreement about expectations, rules, and discipline. Family counseling can help you discuss and formulate your shared parenting goals, rules and responsibilities.

Get more tips for parenting with ADHD here.