5 Ways to Build Bonds: A Guide for ADHD Dads
Dads, use these everyday parenting strategies to manage your own ADHD symptoms, emotions, and baggage so that you can form stronger father-child connections.
Raising a child with ADHD often magnifies the challenges of caregiving. If you are a father with ADHD, as I am, you can only give your kids the structure and support they need if you manage your own symptoms first. And that begins with regulating your emotions, managing stress, and learning to respond positively to your child’s emotional needs.
Try the following parenting tips to forge a more meaningful connection with your child.
Listen and Validate
Don’t rush to fix everyone. Many men immediately adopt a problem-solving approach when children (and spouses) air their problems, but most children simply want to feel heard. Validate your child by saying: “That sounds really hard/frustrating/scary. I’m sorry you’re going through that.” Check-in after this step to see if your child wants your help with problem-solving.
Manage Your Emotions
Picture this: You’ve asked your child twice to put their dirty dish in the dishwasher. A short time later, you make a third request. Hours later, the dish is still in the sink. You explode. “How many times do I have to ask you to do this?!” Your growing frustration may have been obvious to you, but to your child, you went from zero to 100 in no time.
Don’t assume your kids understand your escalating frustration. Instead, practice emotional regulation. Talk to your child at eye level to help them feel safe. Deploy humor to de-escalate your response to the situation. You can say, “This is the fourth time I’ve asked you to put your dish in the dishwasher. If I see the dish in the sink when I come back, I’m going to go bananas.”
Children with ADHD thrive on clear rules, directions, and consistency. Instead of saying, “Clean your room,” be more specific. Say, “Move your clothes from the floor to the hamper.” Break down chores into small, manageable steps to reduce opposition.
Forgive and Forget
All children have outbursts. When you forgive your child for their reactions and mistakes, they understand that they have your unwavering love and support. At the same time, you need to apologize to your child when you lose your cool. It’s a sign of respect that will strengthen your bond.
Tame Your Triggers
Your child’s ADHD-related challenges may remind you of your own, which could bring up feelings of frustration, guilt, and anger. Be aware of when this is happening. Getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and being in nature can help you cope with daily stress and be a more patient parent.
Ideas to Foster Meaningful Connections with Your Child
- Affirm your child’s efforts to connect with you, even if you can’t immediately participate. Say, “Sure, I’d love to play catch with you after I do the dishes.” Aim to say yes more than no.
- Play a video or board game together.
- Do chores together or fix items around the home.
- Show your child how to prepare a meal.
- Play a sport or go for a walk.
- Invite your child on an errand run.
Parenting Tips for Dads: Next Steps
Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., M.S., is the producer and host of the ADHD Essentials podcast.
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