13 Survival Strategies for Moms with ADHD
Start the day slowly. Hire a babysitter. Carve out “me” time. These are just a few daily tips for moms with ADHD who are also raising a child with the condition.
If you’re a mom who is raising a child with attention deficit disorder (ADHD), you don’t need me to tell you that you have your hands full. If you’re a mom who also has ADHD, well, I tip my hat to you.
Terry Matlen, author of Survival Tips for Women with AD/HD (Specialty Press), a mom with ADHD, raising children with ADHD, describes the endeavor accurately:
“Imagine being asked to build a house, and, instead of having a nifty red toolbox and a cool leather tool belt, all of your tools are buried under the boards and scattered about in piles. What’s more, half of your workers — your children — have the same problem!”
JoAnne knows all about such challenges. Shortly after her son, Robert, age seven, and daughter, Karen, age eight, were diagnosed with ADHD, she found that she had the condition, too. Although medication increased her focus, and behavior therapy helped control her emotions, she was overwhelmed with raising her children and managing her own symptoms.
She would regularly “check out” at the dinner table, and, at times, felt disconnected from her family. When her children mistakenly interpreted her daydreaming as a sign that she didn’t love them, it was a wake-up call. JoAnne sought help.
An ADHD coach worked with her to find ways to replace some of the chaos and tardiness — JoAnne would occasionally forget to pick up her children at a friend’s house at the designated time — with calmness and efficiency. She learned to manage her own problems while guiding her children through their ADHD maze.
Here are some of JoAnne’s strategies:
Start your day slowly.
Set your alarm for 15 minutes earlier than you need to get up, and use the extra minutes for meditating, reviewing your to-do list, and gathering your thoughts.
Don’t interrupt what you’re doing.
You start task A, then abandon it for task B, which, you suddenly remember, also needs to be done. Then task C pops on your radar screen. Sound familiar? If so, live by this motto, “Don’t interrupt one errand with another.” Complete one task before tackling the next. Just write down the other task you suddenly remembered, so you don’t forget it.
Hire a babysitter — even when you’re home.
A high-school or college student can act as a support system if your child or children are hyperactive. Student sitters have the energy to keep up with an energized child, especially if you have the inattentive type of ADHD and are overwhelmed by an active household.
Be flexible at mealtimes.
Figuring out what to serve for dinner is tough enough. Don’t develop an ulcer over getting your children to sit down at meals. If they are hyperactive, let them stand up, sprawl on a chair, or lie on the floor. Mealtimes will be more relaxing for everyone — and your children will probably eat more because of this.
Make an obstacle course.
Before you go to bed, gather all the items that you’ll need the next day — keys, to-do list, briefcase, letters to be mailed. Place them on a chair in front of the entry door, so that it blocks your path.
Another option: Place must-remember items in a basket and hang it at eye level by the front door. Tie the other end of the hanger string to the doorknob.
Get a tutor.
Most moms with ADHD don’t have the patience to help with homework, especially if the mom’s meds wear off at the same time as the child’s. Hire a high-school student a few days a week to take the pressure off yourself. Your evenings are bound to be more pleasant.
Talk among yourselves.
A family council is one of the most effective tools for dealing with household challenges. Pick a set day to review schedules for the upcoming week, noting any special arrangements or deviations from the routine. Encourage your children to express their opinions about events that affect them — family outings on the weekend or a Friday-night movie that they just have to see. Based on everyone’s input, create a master calendar for the next week.
Place the calendar for the upcoming week in a location where everyone can see it. At a glance, everybody will know where everyone else is going and what they’re doing. Fewer surprises means fewer misunderstandings and fewer frayed nerves, moments of embarrassment, and disrupted activities.
Use visual reminders.
Color-code items to make them easy to spot and unlikely to be mistaken for someone else’s. JoAnne color-coded her children’s toothbrushes to prevent confusion-and unsanitary oral hygiene practices-during the morning rush.
Get it on tape.
Make a tape recording about what needs to be done. Play it back in the morning. When JoAnne got tired of nagging her children every school morning, she invited them to make their own recordings. The kids thought it was a great idea, and brought a little humor to the recordings, with comments like, “Now brush your teeth, you handsome devil!”
Take a break after work.
Coming home to the ADHD zone — a full house of kids with ADHD — can be overwhelming. Build downtime into your post-work schedule, whether it’s to have a cup of coffee at Starbucks or to take a short drive to a nearby lake or ocean.
Stop making promises.
Life is chaotic enough without making promises to your children that you probably can’t keep. The closest you should come to making a promise is to say, “We’ll see how it goes.” If the opportunity is right, go ahead and offer a pleasant surprise or favor. But don’t lock yourself into anything.
Stay in the game.
Discuss ways for your children to pull you back when they notice you are distracted or daydreaming. Agree upon a “trigger” comment they can use like, “Earth to mom!” This will be a reminder for you to focus on what’s most important — your children.