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ADHD in Children Health Center

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ADHD: It Can Run in the Family

A child's ADHD diagnosis is often the key to helping parents realize they could have the condition, too.

How to Thrive When ADHD Runs in the Family continued...

As a first step, the family cleaned out the clutter in their lives -- literally and figuratively -- to help minimize their stress. Rick created a schedule that he stuck by, no matter what, and turned his once hectic-looking den into an organized and distraction-free office. They talked to their doctor about what medications were available to help treat ADHD, and Richy and his dad attended support groups to talk through their challenges, learn from mistakes, and applaud their successes.

Rick and his wife also stopped pushing their son so hard, at home and at school, helping Richy manage his ADHD in a way that worked for him.

"It's very difficult as parents to not expect your child to behave how you think he should, but that was the problem -- it was like trying to fit a square-shaped object in a round hole," says Rick. "I discovered that he had all the drive and ambition he needed to thrive, he just needed us to back off a bit and let him find his own way."

With the belief that ADHD is not a deficit -- just a new challenge to overcome in life -- Rick and his son, who is now 21 and a successful student at California Polytechnic State University in Southern California, both agreed to never use the disorder as an excuse to not succeed.

"We strive to manage the negative aspects of ADHD and accentuate the positive," says Rick. "Diagnosis is a gift of knowledge with which to build your new life -- it's a difference, but it's OK to be different."

Getting Organized When ADHD Runs in the Family

When ADHD hits home and more than one person under your roof has been diagnosed with the disorder, it's time to get your family's life under control. Ratey, who also is an ADHD coach, and past president of the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, offers these tips for families living with ADHD:

  • Create a family calendar. And live by it. The family calendar is the foundation of your structure, helping to keep everyone with ADHD -- and everyone without it -- focused on what needs to be done.
  • Clean out the clutter. Clutter equals distractions, so get rid of it. Clean out your office, your kitchen, your den -- anywhere the family spends a lot of time. That way, when you're home, you can relax and focus.
  • Organize everything. When you're done cleaning the clutter, organize what's left so you know where things are and can find them quickly.
  • Use to-do lists. Family members living with ADHD should treat each other as partners. One person can create a to-do list for the day, and the other can take charge of crossing off tasks.
  • Be realistic. When you create your to-do list, aim at a reasonable level. Pick two or three things every day that you can concentrate on, not eight or nine, so you can enjoy the satisfaction of accomplishment when everything gets done.

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