"I Could Use a Vacation from the Kids"

Parents get mixed reactions when a child is diagnosed with ADHD. How do moms and dads work through sadness, guilt—and burnout?


Filed Under: ADHD and Discipline, Homework and Test Help, Routines for ADHD Children

ADHD Parenting Burnout, Part 2

“We want to protect Brian, from morning till night.”

The more they worried about Brian’s ADHD, the more they wanted to do things for him — running out to Staples at 9 p.m. to get that fancy pen with the purple ink, or walking him into school to ward off his classmates’ barbs.

Being Brian’s Super Mom raised Beth’s stress levels. I told her that Brian was trying his best, and that, given the circumstances, he was doing pretty well. I asked her to take some time to assess Brian’s progress since his ADHD diagnosis. Above all, I told her to be hopeful that everything would work out. Hope is powerful, and I have found that it is absolutely essential in raising a special-needs child.

“We could do a better job of parenting Brian.”

Beth and Joel frequently praised Brian, and I encouraged them to pat themselves on the back. Praise effort and celebrate success — your child’s and yours.

Brian needed the same good parenting that any child needs, just a little more of it. He needed ongoing lessons in independence and responsibility, in using good judgment, and in making sound decisions. He needed parents to keep track of where he was and what he was doing. Beth and Joel were providing Brian with all of that. Once they made a list of what they did every day, their frustration and guilt began to wane.

“We could use a vacation from Brian.”

Beth and Joel felt guilty saying it, but they really needed a break. Parenting is a full-time job, and even the best parents — like Beth and Joel — should have time for themselves. I recommended that Beth attend her yoga class one night a week. I suggested that Joel call or see friends on Thursdays. I asked them to make a weekend date with each other to see a movie, go to a restaurant, or take a walk. After a little time away from Brian, they usually felt refreshed, and couldn’t wait to get back home to see him.

“I can’t do it all.”

When Brian needed extra attention and help, the less-busy parent pinch-hit for the other. When Beth couldn’t face another night of wrestling over homework, or had to stay late at the office, Joel stepped in without complaint. When they both hit a wall, they joined a support group for parents with children with ADHD. They got advice and much-needed support from other parents who, Beth and Joel discovered, were facing similar or even tougher challenges.

All of these strategies have helped to make Beth and Joel’s parenting a labor of love, not a recipe for burnout.

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