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Hey, ADHD Moms: Do You Find Raising Your Kids with ADHD As Hard As I Do?

Having a household with the same condition can make it seem easier for parent’s with ADHD, right? One mom shares how that’s not always the case.

There is lots of evidence that attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) is genetic. In fact, many parents who had ADHD as children bear a child with the disorder. Imagine the odds that two parents with ADHD face. Chances are, their kids won’t pop out neurotypical.

My husband and I both live with the inattentive form of ADHD. Our oldest son, almost six, shows both hyperactive and inattentive traits. Our middle son, aged four, goes inattentive all the way. We’re still waiting on the baby. We’re not optimistic. I’ve long ago resigned myself to a household full of ADHD.

In some ways, having ADHD makes it easier for me to have children with ADHD. I instinctively know that I have to touch them to draw their attention back to me. I’m sympathetic to their intense interests: My middle son would like to know if you’ve heard the Gospel of Spinosaurus? And I understand when those interests shift radically. I get some things. But some parts of raising ADHD kids are just as hard for me as they are for neurotypical parents — maybe more so.

[Free Guide: When Parents Have ADHD, Too]

The ADHD Noise

Omigosh, the noise. Someone is always throwing something, or jumping, crying, shouting, or asking a question at the top of their lungs. All kids are noisy. Three boys, two with ADHD, sound more like a freight train. This would bother any reasonable human being. However, it bothers ADHD parents even more: We have more trouble tuning it out. Unless I’m “in the zone” writing or reading or doing something crafty, the noise distracts me. I can’t ignore it. I’m constantly yelling “What are you doing?” and “Stop yelling!” The noise makes it difficult to concentrate on household tasks.

The ADHD Mess

They pick something up. They carry it five feet. They drop it. They do this 60 times a day with any number of objects large (stuffed penguin) and small (Star Wars figures). When I demand they pick it up, they need a detailed plan: Take the penguin into your room. Now pick up that Star Wars figure. Now this one. It requires so much effort on my part that I might as well do it myself. Which I try to do, but become distracted and start cleaning something else. So nothing gets properly picked up, and we live with a constant scrim of toys over everything.

The Loud ADHD Voices

People with ADHD usually talk loudly. My kids operate at top volume. I find this as annoying and as frustrating as neurotypical parents do. But then again, I usually talk loudly. Normally, this would make children listen more attentively. But we’re all so used to loud voices — and there’s the ADHD — that no one pays attention. I try to touch my kids and get them to talk more softly. But since I’m a bad example, my words don’t sink in.

The ADHD Distractions

My kids are distractible. We home-school them, and so when I’m teaching my oldest child reading, I have to bring his attention back between almost every word. When his younger brothers are playing in the same room, he wants to look at them, not his book. Then he wants to stop and tell me a story barely related to the text. This is all supremely frustrating. It doesn’t help that I’m simultaneously distracted by the lure of my phone, his brothers playing, and whatever he wants to tell me. The combination makes it hard to get things done. We have to keep a tight, regular schedule and stick to a strict plan. These help cut through the distractions — on both ends.

[Survey Results: Parents with ADHD Share the Blessings (and Trials) of Parenting with ADHD]

The ADHD Obsessions

Currently, my oldest son is obsessed with aliens and dragons and Star Wars. All teaching material filtered through these things tends to stick. My middle son is obsessed, now and eternally, with the dinosaur Spinosaurus. For him, one Spinosaurus appearance makes a book worth reading. I get their intense interests, but I struggle to be interested in them. My ADHD says that if I’m not into it, I have a hard time caring about it. And I really don’t care about that Star Wars cartoon or a croc-like dinosaur that lived millions of years ago. I know a lot about them, anyway. But I can’t get excited about it.

The Lost Stuff

I lose things constantly: my phone, my shoes, my book, my computer. My kids also lose things: their toys, their shoes, their books, their iPads. Sometimes they take my phone and lose it for me. You’d think I’d have patience for them losing things, but I’ve spent a lifetime of rising panic at things disappearing. So when they lose things, the old panic just comes back, and I take it worse than a neurotypical parent would. Plus I have no luck in finding things, because ADHD, which makes everything worse.

You’d think ADHD would live well with ADHD. Mostly, we do. But there are clashes, and those clashes usually come from being too much alike rather than too different. We mostly live happily. But there are times when an ADHD mama and a five-year-old with ADHD don’t get along so well. Like reading time. But in the end, I understand more than anyone what my kids need-touches, time, advocacy-so it works out better in the end.

[Will I Break My Child In the Same Places I Was Broken?]

4 Comments & Reviews

  1. Great article! I have a family of 5 with ADHD, both parents and all three kids. I homeschooled them too, for the most part. Les stressful than bus schedules, IEPs and educating a new batch of teachers every year. Yet, definitely more messy and noisy.

    Until learning about the ADHD I couldn’t figure out why my friends could get their kids out the door in thirty minutes and it would take us 3 hours. Oldest is 23 and youngest 17. The noise and mess are much less of a problem and I’ve got 3 interesting and creative creatures that like to be home and/or come home.

    Good Luck through the chaos!

  2. Wow! Do I ever relate to your story. I am ADHD, my husband is ADHD, and over half of our kids are ADHD too. Some inattentive, some hyperactive, and some dealing with that as well as other challenges neurologically. I try hard to be a good parent. I seem to have a better time of keeping my cool and being rational than my husband when it comes to parenting so the bulk of the parenting, teaching, and discipline falls to me.

    They always say that in ADHD scenarios, you divide things up so that those who are interested in things are the ones who are doing them. I suppose that makes sense, but I get overwhelmed at times at the end of the day when it’s up to me to do all the parenting, bedtime, and discipline while my husband relaxes on the couch. He takes care of the things that interest him like repairing the cars, and finding deals when we need to buy something, and I appreciate his skills there, but sometimes I resent that he is not any good at parenting and wish that I had more support.

    The trouble with parenting kids with ADHD when you also have ADHD is that the parenting that they need requires lots of patience, high levels of self control, great people skills, and someone to roll model excellent executive functioning. I would love to do that for my kids but I struggle in those areas because I too have ADHD. I didn’t have anyone to roll model those things for me either and I worry that the cycle of poor skills will repeat because I can’t teach what I don’t know.

    I do, however, fiercely love my kids with all my heart. I screw up as a mom every day and have to say sorry so many times that I feel like it is my middle name, but I keep on trying. I get up each morning and tackle the day because I really want to be there for them and help them. I think that they can feel that. My older children who have left home tell me that they know I loved them and that even though I may have not always done things in the ideal way, they know that I really was trying my best. I suppose that is all anyone can do.

    So we try to keep our chins up. I try to remember to say “I love you” to my husband and remind myself why we started all of this in the first place. We wanted to have a family and be parents, and although it is a lot harder than we thought it would be, I wouldn’t trade it for the world – ADHD and all.

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