ADHD Moms & Dads

A Self-Care Guide for Moms with ADHD Raising Kids with ADHD

Moms’ self-care is critical, yet so difficult to prioritize, especially in an ADHD household. But taking care of yourself can start small — from tracking your mood and using relaxation techniques — and grow over time to include time-management strategies that help you prioritize your values. Get started here with 8 self-care tips for moms with ADHD.

Pensive woman sitting at home, with hand on chin.
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Moms with ADHD: Your Wellbeing Is a Priority

How often do you prioritize your family’s needs before your own? If you’re a mom, you likely answered, “Always.” In fact, nothing may seem more impossible or guilt-inducing than prioritizing your own health and happiness.

But your wellbeing is a priority, especially if you have ADHD and are raising a child with ADHD. Not only are you likely struggling with trouble organizing and planning, not to mention the other executive functioning hurdles associated with ADHD, but your child is likely facing the same challenges. And that makes taking time for yourself even more important.

When you take care of yourself and “put on your oxygen mask first," you and your family benefit. From organizing your day around your values to unraveling unhelpful thought patterns, these tips can help you care for you so you can better care for your family.

A woman holds a jam jar with stones inside on a rocky beach.
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1. Think “Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand”

As you define your anchor points and organize your days, don’t lose sight of the things you value — and the things that might be taking up more time than they should.

Think of your finite time as a glass jar that can be filled with rocks, pebbles, and sand. The rocks represent the things that you value most in your life, while the pebbles represent things that are important, but that you can do without. The sand represents the small stuff.

Ideally, you want to fill up your jar in this order: rocks, pebbles, then sand. But too often, we fill our jar the other way around. When your jar is full of sand, it’s hard to make room for the rocks and pebbles. Daily frustration, stress, and dissatisfaction — all of which impact parenting – potentially indicate that the items in your jar are not properly organized.

Take a moment to think about your jar. Is there enough room for the rocks? Have you given too much priority to pebbles and sand? If so, how can you reprioritize so that the rocks always fit first?

Next Steps

A young woman writing in a journal in her home.
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2. Track Your Mood to Reveal Connections

Reflect on your day by asking the following questions:

  • How would I rate my mood today on a 10-point scale, with 10 being the best I’ve ever felt?
  • How would I rate how I felt as a caregiver today on a 10-point scale, with 10 being the best/ideal day as a caregiver?

Your responses often will be intertwined. A bad day at work, for example, could cast a dark cloud over your mood and influence how you feel about your parenting and other aspects of your life. A day of caregiver struggles will, in turn, worsen your mood. Taking stock of your feelings and being aware of patterns will help you take steps to manage and improve your mood. Tracking your mood will also make it easier to catch negative stretches early on, before they become longer negative spirals that are hard to arrest.

Use this free mood monitoring worksheet to get started. The goal is to turn mood monitoring into a habit, so be sure to define how you’ll make that happen. (Issues opening the worksheet link? Click on "Looking at Connections: My Mood/Stress and How I Feel as a Caregiver" from this resource page.)

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early morning woman wake up waking up on Cozy bed room
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3. Set Your Daily Anchor Points

Creating daily structure and routine is just as important for you as it for your child.

  • Sleep and wake times: Insufficient sleep can affect your mood and coping abilities. Going to bed at the same time each night is one thing. Sleeping an adequate amount each night is another. (More research is coming out indicating that a consist sleep schedule is as important as how many hours you get.)  Many parents use what should be their sleep time as “me” time. Is this the case for you?
  • Morning and bedtime routine: Always make time for yourself at the start and end of the day. Start your morning routine half an hour before your child wakes up, for example, to reduce the stress of getting your child and yourself ready for the day.
  • Set meal times can stabilize your mood and energy levels during the day.

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Female runner sitting on country road with dog
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4. Schedule Time for Things You Enjoy

Engaging in pleasant activities can have a huge impact on mood and energy levels. Schedule time for joyful activities, no matter how big or small, and prioritize them just as you would other essential tasks.

Take a moment to jot down activities you enjoy and would like to incorporate into your schedule a few times a week, such as…

  • …getting coffee with a friend.
  • …lighting a scented candle.
  • …taking morning walks.
  • …listening to music or a new podcast.
  • …chatting with a family member over the phone.
  • …pursuing a hobby.
  • …curling up with a good book.
  • …meditating.

Give yourself permission to be fully present in the activity you scheduled. Don’t use the time to multitask or think about other responsibilities.

As you track your mood over time (see step two above) take note of the activities that had the most positive impact on your day. Leverage those activities when you need a mood boost.

Next Steps

Zeitmanagement, Draufsicht, Schreibtisch, München, Deutschland
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5. Use Time-Management Tools to Your Advantage

Lean on these time-management tools to help you simplify your daily life and avoid stretching yourself thin.

  • Keep a single calendar to avoid double booking and to see where your time goes. The best calendar system is the one you’ll stick to, though electronic calendars might be the best option if your smartphone is nearby at all times. Don’t forget to add downtime and pleasurable activities into your calendar.
  • Don’t leave to-dos in your head. Organize them on a short priority list to help you feel less chaotic and more hopeful about what you can do. As you prioritize items, ask yourself the following questions: Which items have the most immediate deadline? What are must-dos vs. nice-to-dos? Use the Eisenhower Matrix tool to help you assign priority to your items.
  • Break down tasks into their smallest parts to avoid overwhelm. Organizing the kitchen, for example, has lots of subtasks within it (like getting to the dishes in the sink, putting away dishes, cleaning the floors and table, etc.). Focus instead on one of the sub-items at a time, which won’t feel as overwhelming as the entire task. Extend this approach with your family, especially if your child also struggles with getting started on tasks (like chores or homework).

If organizing your time remains an ongoing challenge, seek help from a behavior therapist who understands ADHD and time management difficulties. ADHD and/or executive functioning coaches could also help you stay organized.

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Calm, breathing techniques, regulating, emotions
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6. Learn to Relax and Regulate

Emotional dysregulation is a core ADHD difficulty. It causes strong emotional reactions and amplifies stress. The right tools and techniques, however, can help you pause during challenging moments and improve your ability to self-regulate. Practice the following techniques when you’re relaxed so that you can readily count on them during times of stress. Notice the effects these techniques have on your mood and on your interactions with your child.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

In bed, as you wake up or right before going to sleep, tense and relax parts of your body, starting from your head and moving down to your toes. This free guide explains PMR in fuller detail. (Issues opening the PMR guide? Click on "Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)" from this resource page.) Watch this video to learn more about this relaxation tool.

The Benson Relaxation Technique

Slowly breathe in through your nose. After you exhale, say a one-syllable word, like “one.” Continue this pattern for about 20 minutes.


Mindfulness is defined as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”1 There are countless ways to practice mindfulness (check out this mindfulness app from UCLA), but if you’re new to the idea, try this simple countdown exercise: From your position, and pausing in between, name…

  • … five things you see.
  • …four things you physically feel.
  • …three things you hear.
  • …two things you smell.
  • …one thing you taste.

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A young ADHD woman is sitting by a window and is looking out and day dreaming
A young ADHD woman is sitting by a window and is looking out and day dreaming
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7. Change Unhelpful Thinking Patterns

Our thoughts greatly influence how we feel and behave. Unhelpful ways of thinking, also known as cognitive distortions, can keep you locked in a negative state. Below are common cognitive distortions you may engage in subconsciously, and strategies to help you reframe your thinking. Note that changing your thought patterns will take time and effort — don’t expect change overnight!


Having rules about how you or other people “should” or “must” behave all but guarantees anger and frustration when things don’t happen as expected (or demanded). Mistakes might be devastating to you if you think you “should” avoid them at all costs. (An impossibility.) Thinking that your child with ADHD “should” be able to do things like neurotypical children do could bring up negative feelings on both sides.

How to Challenge “Shoulds”

  • Adjust your standards to be more realistic. Think: “Can I accept myself as I am right now? Can I accept others as they are?”
  • Switch from “should” to “wish” or “prefer”
  • Be kind to yourself if you are not living up to your standards. Say, “I’m doing my best and everyone makes mistakes.”

All-or-Nothing Thinking, Labeling, and Overgeneralizing

“Today was terrible.”

“My child always has tantrums.”

“This is never going to work.”

“I am a bad parent.”

Thinking in extremes is a telltale sign of all-or-nothing thinking that makes issues worse than they might be. Similarly, when you give labels to yourself or others, you ignore individual complexities and overlook the possibility for change. To challenge these distortions, think in shades of gray. Look for contradicting evidence (no matter how small) for a more balanced perspective on a situation. Do you or others really fit the label you’ve assigned?


Filtering happens when you pay far too much attention to the negative and ignore the positive or neutral. Many ADHD families inadvertently engage in this thought pattern, where the focus becomes a child’s challenging behaviors. This is why behavior training programs teach parents to catch their child's positive behaviors. Noticing the good will lead to positive thoughts and behaviors toward your child and yourself.

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Contemplative woman in the street
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8. Give Yourself Grace

Parenting a child with ADHD is really hard, especially if you have ADHD yourself. Practice self-compassion, be kind to yourself, and avoid the blame game. Understand that you are shouldering a lot and giving it your best. As a parent with ADHD, you might need more support to navigate parenting and to ensure that you can care for yourself — and that’s okay.

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Mother and tween daughters snuggled under blanket and watching a movie on digital tablet
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Take Care of Yourself: Next Steps for ADHD Moms

The content for this article was derived, in part, from the ADDitude ADHD Experts webinar titled, “Caring for YOU So You Can Care for Your Child: A Webinar for Moms with ADHD” [Video Replay & Podcast #399] with Andrea Chronis-Tuscano, Ph.D., which was broadcast on May 3, 2022. Dr. Chronis-Tuscano’s webinar presentation was based on the book she co-authored, Supporting Caregivers of Children with ADHD: Parenting Program Therapist Guide (2020, Oxford University Press)

If you and your child have ADHD, visit to learn about Dr. Chronis-Tuscano’s NIMH-funded program for ADHD families.

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