Calling ADHD Dads: How to Have a Calm, Loving Relationship with Your ADHD Child

You can learn to give your child the love, encouragement, and approval he or she longs for.
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Dads with ADHD

Be committed to helping your child succeed no matter what it takes.

—Terry M. Dickson, M.D., ACG, CPCC

Terry M. Dickson, M.D., ACG, CPCC, this month’s guest blogger, is the founder and director of The Behavioral Medicine Clinic of NW Michigan (youradhdfamily.com), which has served and supported children, adolescents, and adults with ADHD for the past 15 years. His passion is working with families affected by ADHD and the condition’s impact on family relationships.

Being a father is a huge responsibility and often needs to be mastered. This can be challenging for dads with ADHD, who by the nature of the complexities of his symptoms, may find it difficult to give the kind of love, encouragement, and approval his children long for. There are certain traits common to men with ADHD that can interfere with the father-child relationship for years, especially when those fathers are parenting children who also have ADHD.

As a youngster, I didn’t know that I had ADHD. Being hyperactive and impulsive, I must have been a handful for my parents. I had poor self-esteem and that affected almost every aspect of my life at the time. So I immersed myself in school and success, for me, became getting good grades. I struggled as many people with ADHD do, but my determination kept me moving forward.

When I had kids of my own, my desire for them was to achieve the things I wasn’t able to achieve. Both of our children have been diagnosed with ADHD and, of course, struggled in school as I did. Unfortunately, in my ADHD-charged moments of frustration, I got angry at them when assignments were not turned in and grades were not up to par. These emotions caused my children to shut down when the topic of school came up. I had no idea that I was negatively affecting the relationship.

Perhaps you are a father with ADHD who has experienced conflict in your relationship with your child. However stressful that relationship may have been, believe that it is never too late to change yourself and affect positive change.

The first step in improving your parenting skills is to make sure you are receiving adequate treatment for your ADHD. You can’t help your child if you don’t first help yourself. You need to get the right diagnosis from a practitioner who is knowledgeable about ADHD and its treatments. You may benefit from medication. If you have problems with anger management, substance abuse, or compulsive behaviors, a trained therapist or counselor skilled in these areas could help. Working with an ADHD coach can be extremely helpful. Other sources of support can come from a local CHADD chapter, Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA), a men’s support group, as well as from parenting classes, books and pamphlets.

There are several important truths that you must keep in mind when developing a new fathering style. Know that you are significant and can make a difference in your child’s life. There is power to your presence in your child’s life and a real void in your absence. Know that your child needs your love, approval, encouragement, acceptance and affirmation. Commit yourself to replacing bad habits with better ones. Be committed to helping your child succeed no matter what it takes.

These are ways to show your child that you appreciate and love him:

Show your child unconditional love. Love your children not because of what they do but because of who they are. A solid trust between the two of you will remind your child that he or she can talk to you about anything. Your child needs to know that he or she can always depend on you.

Never shame or make fun of your child. Don’t try to talk something out if you feel emotionally charged or out of control; wait until you feel calm enough to address the issues objectively. Know what pushes your buttons and take steps to ward off overreaction. Be a model for resolving conflicts peacefully. A good listener talks less and asks more questions, especially open-ended ones that do not require yes or no answers, and foster better communication. Establish good eye contact and do not interrupt.

Express the high value you place on your child. Use every opportunity to give praise or to share something inspirational with your child. Provide hugs and words of encouragement when appropriate. Make sure that your positive comments about your child greatly outnumber those that are negative and that the negative ones are given in a constructive manner, without belittling your child.

Schedule meaningful time with your child. Children, in a sense, spell love T-I-M-E. Make sure that the time you spend with your child is free from distractions that would prevent you from focusing completely on him or her. When you promise to spend time with your child, make certain that you keep that commitment so that he or she knows that you can be depended on. This will build trust between you and your child as well. Communicate to your child that you will always try to be available during unscheduled times as well.

Teach your child self-help skills. What skills did you use to overcome your own difficulties caused by ADHD tendencies? It is important to teach him or her to think independently, ask questions, and seek creative solutions. Help your child find his own answers. Be a good listener and slower with advice.

Set realistic goals for yourself and your child. Your goals could include being a better listener, paying more attention to your child’s unique style and talents, or striving to empower your child to be more resilient. Goals for your child could include developing more confidence or helping others in need. Monitor the progress of your goals at monthly and yearly intervals. Progress for your child could be measured by his or her ability to solve problems independently and assume more responsibility.

Dads with ADHD certainly can have challenges in parenting due to ADHD traits. However, it is never too late to build loving relationships with your children. The personal skills you will need to heal broken relationships can be mastered. Remember the important role you play in your child’s life and go make a difference today.

 
 
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