Ask the Experts

Dear Organizing Coach: How Can I Buoy My Family When I’m Drowning?

When both parent and child have ADHD, managing family life can easily become overwhelming for the primary caregiver. Partnering with kids to troubleshoot problem areas can help; our coach explains how.

Q: “I feel overwhelmed all of the time. I’m almost always functioning within my areas of weakness while also trying to enable my husband and kids to function well. It’s a struggle, and I feel like I’m flailing. I’m informed, driven, and usually energetic, and I have strong problem-solving ability. But despite my knowledge and strengths (as well as being an educator, business owner, and having deep and broad training in ADHD and learning differences), I feel like I’m not serving my family well. How can I get my head above water?” — MontessoriMomadhd

Hi MontessoriMomadhd:

Your question is quite common, and it’s one of the reasons I work with the whole family to make sure everyone is properly supported. Here are a few strategies to try in families where both a child and parent are living with ADHD:

Put on Your Own Oxygen Mask First.

It’s critical that you first identify your own challenges and find solutions that work for you! What might that look like? Let’s say homework is a real struggle in your home, and you just don’t have the focus or the mental energy to assist your children. Put other work-arounds in place, like having them complete homework at school or hiring a high school student to assist in the evenings.

[Free Download: Proven Homework Strategies for Kids with ADHD]

Partner Before Parenting.

Your children and husband are the perfect problem-solving partners. Sit down with them with a list in hand of the areas where you’re having difficulty and simply ask what they think would work better in those situations. Perhaps they might have answers you hadn’t thought of that will take some of those burdens off of you! In other words, when you stop parenting and start partnering, the whole dynamic in your home may shift as you begin to problem-solve as a family unit.

Give Your Children Opportunities to Rise to the Occasion

Though it might feel nerve-wracking at first, allowing your children to “try and fly” on their own will show them you trust them to manage more than they might be currently. Figure out what they feel comfortable doing (getting themselves ready in the morning, kitchen responsibilities, pet care, etc.), give them clear and concise directions, and then sit back. Create a space where they can step up so you can take a much-needed step back.

[Expert Tips: 12 Ways to Build Strong ADHD Families]

Organization guru Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

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