Ask the Experts

Q: How Can I Make My Family Respect My ADHD Systems?

After years of stumbling, getting back up again, and learning, you have devised systems that help your ADHD focus, get things done, and feel less stressed. They work — but only when those around you respect and honor them. Here’s how to make that happen.

Q: “I was recently diagnosed as an adult with ADD, and I’m in the process of managing my ADD with therapy and medication while taking college courses and living at home. One thing that really seems to help me the most is having a routine or a highly detailed schedule I can follow throughout the week. I have had various talks with my parents about my diagnosis, and the resources I need to function normally. They say that they understand, but they don’t seem to be taking it seriously. For example, they ask me to cancel my therapy appointments because they ‘need me to run to the store for them’ or  they play loud music while I’m studying or trying to sleep. I have scheduled certain times for completing school work and certain times for helping my parents out around the house, but still they constantly interrupt me while I work (for various reasons) and it has made it hard for me to get anything done or focus on my work in general and my grades are suffering for it. How do I get my family members to respect and support my needs as an adult with ADHD?” –ADDCollegeKid

Hi ADDCollege Kid:

I am so happy you reached out as we do answer questions from “non parents” all the time! That being said, I struggled to answer your question since I do not know the reason why your parents need to rely on you so much for everything.

So let me ask you this:

Can you spend time away from home to get your school work completed? Perhaps on days you attend school you can go to the campus library or even a nearby coffee shop so that when you do arrive home your work is done. Or can you find a friend in your classes that you can arrange to study alongside? This will help you plan and stick to study time away from home.

You mentioned that you see a therapist every other week. Have you discussed this challenge with him? I would strongly encourage you to do so and perhaps he can help set up a meeting with you and your parents to discuss your concerns. In addition, is there anyone else with whom you can speak honestly about this? Another family member or friend that has your parents’ ear?

Finally, have you tried “counter offering?” When your parents ask you to do something like going to the store or helping them around the house, try telling them you will absolutely do it and give them a time that works for you. For example, you will go to the store to get milk… on the way home from your therapy appointment. Or you will clean up the kitchen… at 10 pm after your work is done. If you reassure your parents that things will get done, they should allow you to do them on your terms.

ADDCollegeKid, I have to commend you for taking your ADHD diagnosis so seriously and for figuring out what systems and routines you need to function effectively. Please stay strong and do not get discouraged. And keep me posted — I care tremendously about your success.

Organization guru Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, answers questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

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