12 Ways to Build Strong ADHD Families
Strategies for healthy, happy families, from educating everyone to seeking outside help. Here, learn how to make your ADHD family stronger than ever.
1. Educate the family.
Many problems will take care of themselves if all family members know the facts about attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) and understand what’s going on. Listen to everyone’s questions, and make sure they all get answered. Let in extended family members to ADHD relationships, too. The more they know, the more help they will be.
2. Make it clear that ADHD is nobody’s fault.
Not mom’s or dad’s, not brother’s or sister’s, and not the fault of the person who has it. All family members must understand this. Lingering feelings that ADHD is just an excuse for irresponsible behavior or laziness will sabotage treatment.
3. See it as a family issue.
Unlike some medical problems, ADHD touches everybody in the family in a daily, significant way. Let each member of the family become a part of the solution, since each has been involved with the problem.
4. Balance attention within the family.
The attention may be negative, but the child with ADD often gets more than his share. And when one child has ADHD, the others often get less attention. This imbalance creates resentments among siblings, and deprives them of what they need. Siblings need a chance to voice their own concerns, worries, resentments, and fears. They need to be allowed to get angry as well as to help out.
5. Give everyone a chance to be heard.
ADHD affects everyone in the family, some silently. Let those who are in silence speak.
6. Turn negatives into positives.
Get everyone pointed toward positive goals, rather than negative outcomes. Applaud and encourage success. One of the most difficult tasks for ADHD families is getting onto a positive track. But once this is done, the results can be fantastic. A good therapist or coach can help.
7. Be clear about your expectations.
All family members need to know what is expected of them, what the rules are, and what the consequences are.
8. Target the problem areas and brainstorm solutions.
Typical problem areas are study time, mornings, bedtime, dinnertime, times of transition (leaving the house and the like), and vacations. Once these are identified, everyone can approach problems more constructively. Negotiate how to make it better. Ask one another for specific suggestions and brainstorm solutions together. Approach problems as a team.
9. Confer with your spouse.
Consistency helps, so try to present a united front. The less that either parent can be manipulated, the better.
10. Get feedback from outside sources.
Sometimes a person won’t believe something a family member says, but will listen if it comes from a wise person (teacher, pediatrician, therapist, other parents and children) on the outside.
11. Never worry alone.
Cultivate as many supports as possible. From pediatrician to family doctor to therapist, from support group to professional organization to national conventions, from friends to relatives to teachers and schools, make use of whatever supports you can find. Group support can help you solve problems and keep your perspective.
12. Keep a sense of humor — and hope.
Sometimes the keys to success in treatment are persistence and humor. Call someone who will listen to the bad news but will also lift your spirits. And keep reminding yourself of the positive aspects of ADHD — energy, creativity, intuition, good-heartedness. Remember that many, many people with ADHD do very well in life.
Edward Hallowell, M.D., is a member of ADDitude’s ADHD Medical Review Panel.
Updated on June 19, 2019