Parenting a child with ADHD is one of the hardest jobs around. Burnout is very real — and common among even great parents! If it ever starts to feel like too much, follow these steps to feel supported, understood and way less stressed.
Many parents with ADHD write ADDitude and say, "I'm exhausted. I have too much to do and not enough help to handle everything on my plate. No one gets me. What can I do?"
Here, Kirk Martin, founder of Celebrate Calm, offers moms and dads a 10-step plan to manage their lives with more energy and support.
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Prioritize Your Self Care
There’s only one person in life you can control, and that’s you. You must take care of yourself. If you don’t make yourself a priority—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—you will become drained and exhausted, and have nothing left to give. If you feel like you're always giving, make an appointment for yourself once a week to do something you enjoy.
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Slow Down and Live
We live in a hectic society. Slow down and decide what you can eliminate to make your life less stressful. For example, say no to non-critical homework sometimes. The teachers may be upset, but it will save you stress — and is first-grade homework really linked to success in life?
Another way to slow down: Create traditions, like Pancake Day or a weekly Technology-Free Tuesday. Traditions instill predictability and simplify life.
For many of our kids, report cards only measure the things they’re not doing well. So, make your own report card, where you measure skills that are important to you — like creativity or compassion. Now, when your kid comes home unhappy about her report card, you can pull out your own and show her all the times she showed leadership or good problem solving. You’ll boost her self-esteem and allow her to see herself in a new light.
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Turn It Upside Down
Sometimes our kids annoy us. They can be pigheaded or argumentative, and it makes us feel like we’re always playing defense. It helps to remember that our kids have great qualities, mixed up with the negative. Whenever you start feeling defensive, list all the things that irritate you about your child. Then flip each one around and ask, “What’s the positive side?” If he’s stubborn, admire his persistence. If he’s argumentative, appreciate his critical thinking skills.
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Don't Revolve Your Life Around Your Kids
When we have children with disabilities, we feel like we must take care of them all the time — and feel guilty if we long for a break. But all work and no play makes mom unbalanced and unhappy. Learn to carve out time for yourself. Start by planning a separate dinner after the kids have eaten so you’re not preoccupied or stressed.
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Take a proactive stance in helping teachers, friends, or spouses understand what you and your child struggle with and how they can help. When you meet with your son’s teacher, share his passions and interests, his strengths, where he struggles, and specific strategies the teacher can use. You’ll be giving the teacher an honest view of your son while suggesting tools she can use to support him.
Do not allow your kids to become victims. They’re bright, creative, and full of energy. Don’t let them use their ADHD as an excuse — instead, help them use their strengths and think strategically about their difficulties. Does she struggle to sit still through her homework? Brainstorm ways to make it easier, like sitting on an exercise ball, or under a table, or even lying off the sofa upside down!
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Find a Friend Who Understands
Perspective helps! Find a good friend with a child facing similar challenges and agree to babysit for each other when it becomes too much. You’ll see that everyone has their own burdens to carry, and you’ll appreciate your child’s good qualities more and more.
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Arm Yourself with Knowledge
Research ADHD and different practical strategies to handle it. Yes, your daughter may struggle with focus and attention — it’s part of who she is. But you can educate yourself and figure out: What are some tools she can use in class? Are there alternative therapies that might work? If you arm yourself with knowledge, you’ll feel less overwhelmed and be the best possible mom you can be to her.
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Stop Trying to Make Everyone Else Happy!
You have to stop trying to make the world around you perfect. You can’t do it. Stop trying to make everybody else happy, and focus a bit more on making yourself happy. Give your kids and your spouse a little bit more responsibility so you can step up and say, “It’s my job to be content myself and to give you tools to succeed in life, but I’m not responsible for your happiness.” Your family will be stronger for it!