When Your Child's ADHD Affects You as a Couple
It takes a lot of work to keep a healthy relationship with your spouse or partner. That can be even more of a challenge when you have a child with ADHD.
"Anytime you have a child with a condition like ADHD that impacts his ability to socialize, to follow rules, to learn, and listen, it impacts your marriage," says Los Angeles psychotherapist Jenn Berman, PhD.
Your partnership is one of the most important tools you have to help your child grow and thrive, so it needs and deserves attention. Work together, and you’ll find ways to focus on your child and on each other as well, Berman says.
Patience Is Important
"Many times, I see two parents who are on different pages when it comes to whether their child has ADHD at all, or if they do agree to that, how it should be treated," says Mark Wolraich, MD, a pediatrics professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
It can take some time to come to terms with the diagnosis. If one of you gets there first, give your partner time. You may even need to get a second opinion. Once you're on the same page about the diagnosis, work as a team to decide your plans for treatment.
What You Can Do as a Team
Terry Dickson, MD, director of the Behavioral Medicine Clinic of NW Michigan, has ADHD. So do his two children. His wife doesn't.
Having a child with the disorder "will affect your marriage, and you both need to be equally committed to making it work," he says.
Create structure and routine. This is good for your kid, and it also lets you carve out time for you and your partner to connect.
Set up rules for the home. "Create and agree on clear house rules with your partner," Wolraich says. When you’re on the same page about how to raise your children, both with and without ADHD, you’ll be a lot less likely to clash over parenting approaches.
Talk about your relationship. "Parents with a child with ADHD tend to put the child’s needs first, which is understandable,” Berman says. “But spend time on the needs of the relationship as well, and learn what those needs are through strong communication."