The Blessings (and Trials) of Parenting with ADHD
Parenting a child with ADHD requires patience, persistence, and consistency — a tall order for caregivers who also have ADHD. In a recent survey, parents with ADHD shared the biggest challenges and benefits of sharing a diagnosis with their child.
Parenting a child with ADHD is not for the faint of heart. You must establish rewards and consequences (then stick consistently to them); adhere to a reliable daily schedule; advocate forcefully for school accommodations; remain calm in the face of emotional dysregulation; and manage treatments without a slip-up. Providing for the needs of a child with ADHD requires planning, time management skills, and emotional control — all challenges for parents who also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Still, in a recent ADDitude survey, many readers told us how ADHD makes them the perfect parent for their child.
Below, read some of our favorite comments about how ADHD helps parents guide, celebrate, and empathize with their child — and also how it causes organization, emotions, and schedules to veer off course from time to time. Add your insights into the yin and yang of ADHD parenting in the Comments section below.
Parents with ADHD, On Parenting Kids with ADHD
“Though I was diagnosed at 40, I remember the struggles of my childhood, which helps me to understand, nurture, and motivate my children with ADHD. All I ever wanted was to be heard and to be accepted for my eccentricities. I am able to give my children what I never had: full support, an ear to listen, a heart to accept them as they are, and the perspective to encourage their interests and build confidence and self-esteem. The challenges are that we are all messy, disorganized, and loud. Sometimes it feels like living in a hurricane, especially during the pandemic, but our brains are wired for excitement, so we handle it well.” – Beth
“Having ADHD myself helps me to be understanding and not critical of my child’s struggles. At the same time, my own difficulty managing emotions leads me to not always react appropriately. That, in itself, is a learning experience for both of us: I apologize for my poor reaction and we discuss how to better manage our big emotions. Being open about when I’m struggling has helped her be kinder to herself.” – Anonymous
“Having ADHD helps me understand my daughter’s struggles. I get flashbacks to my own childhood and remember when I felt the same. I can choose to parent her differently than my parents did me. It’s challenging because I already struggle with life and it just adds another layer of stress. Sometimes I don’t have the answers because I haven’t figured out everything myself.” – Anonymous
“My husband and two sons also have ADHD so our home is definitely not boring! The challenging parts are the forgetfulness, unfinished and interrupted conversations, and the inability to follow through with great ideas and plans. Following routines, placing Post-It notes everywhere, and using timers help. We have accepted that we are not a ‘traditional’ family and that it is okay to do things differently than other people. There are also abundant laughing sessions and deep, meaningful conversations. I truly believe we have the ability to see things in a way that people without ADHD cannot.” – Anonymous
“Being able to empathize makes it easier to focus on my child’s strengths. However, struggling with memory, emotional regulation, and focus makes consistent, positive parenting pretty tiring. I have to prioritize taking care of myself, and I’m not great at that.” – Anonymous
“Having ADHD makes parenting children with ADHD more challenging because the process of getting each child tested is not easy. There are a lot of executive functions that must be fulfilled in order to get them tested, which is overwhelming.” – Anonymous
“I am still learning how routines work to support my life and my two children’s lives. I am starting to believe my son has ADHD that is presenting as a mood disorder, which is much different than my ADHD. Thinking my diagnosis and his are the same led to missing his symptoms. I have to be mindful and make sure I follow through to get each child what they need.” – Anonymous
“I am more quickly able to identify challenges and deficits related to my children’s ADHD. I’m more equipped to advocate in schools. I also have a unique connection with my children — I am able to emotionally and intellectually understand them when others cannot. The challenge is in my discipline and teaching habits. I am much less able to provide the consistency and structure that my children need, and I often have to rely on my spouse for that support.” – Christin
“I see our mutual deficits. For instance, it’s challenging when he ‘does everything right’ to make a friend or repair a friendship and is unsuccessful: we both experience overwhelming sadness.” – Kassandra
“I understand their struggles with time blindness and memory and I’m able to teach them coping skills, but it’s challenging when my attention and memory issues get in the way.” – Kami
“My son’s ADHD was diagnosed during high school, which was also when I received my diagnosis. It has been a bumpy ride. Not wanting him to suffer with the same struggles and disillusionments caused me to overstep boundaries, which ultimately alienated him. Wanting to shelter and protect him has resulted in his seeking out even more independence and distance from me.” – Diana
“I was diagnosed just before the pandemic, less than a year after my daughter. The biggest challenge has been that I am horrible at following a schedule. In the past, I’ve relied on school and then summer camp to help with routines. During the pandemic, we didn’t have that structure which made life much more chaotic.” – Anonymous
“I struggle with time management, focus, and emotions just as much as my 7- year-old son does. It’s so much easier, short term, to ignore bad behavior. The rest of my family thinks I let him get by with too much, especially when I give him time to cool down.” – Anonymous
“It makes advocating for my daughter easier. We understand each other’s chaos: we are the messiest, most unorganized, chronically late humans I’ve met. We fight often over very simple tasks. I feel guilty for passing on the condition genetically which turns into over reactive anger.” – Bree
“I am a single parent of an ADHD child. Impulsivity adds a fun degree of spontaneity in our lives, but it is nearly impossible for me to be consistent in monitoring and enforcing behavior modification. My ADHD really gets in the way of being the consistent parent she needs.” – Bonnie
“It’s helpful to understand his mental process, but when I finally focus and start to get stuff done and he interrupts, I get very frustrated.” – Anonymous
“I can understand my child’s struggles and advocate on her behalf when other family members become frustrated with her inconsistencies.” – Anonymous
Parents with ADHD: Next Steps
- Learn: SuperMom Is Overrated!
- Read: Calling Dads with ADHD: How to Have a Calm, Loving Relationship with Your Child
- Understand: Dear Parents: You Are the Solution…
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