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When Your Child's ADHD Affects Your Relationship

By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Patricia Quinn, MD

Building and sustaining a healthy relationship with your spouse or partner takes work. When you have a child with ADHD, balancing his or her needs with the attention your marriage deserves is critical if both are going to thrive.

"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. "As parents and as a couple, you need to listen, work together, and focus not only on your child, but each other as well."

Accepting or Disagreeing

One of the first disagreements many parents have when faced with a child's ADHD is whether their child actually has the condition. For some couples, that's a big hurdle to overcome.

"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.

The goal is to come to terms with the diagnosis, and unite on one path forward in terms of treatment. Then, you can focus on helping your child, and each other.

For Better or for Worse

"Marriage is something you work on all the time," says Terry Dickson, MD, director of the Behavioral Medicine Clinic of NW Michigan, and an ADHD coach. "But having a child with ADHD adds extra stress to the whole family dynamic."

Dickson knows firsthand: He has ADHD, and so do his two children. His wife does not.

"When we got married, we both knew it was for life," Dickson says. "But you need to know that having a child with ADHD will affect your marriage, and you both need to be equally committed to making it work."

It’s not always easy.

Dickson recalls one study that found parents of a child with ADHD are nearly twice as likely to divorce by the time the child is 8 years old than parents of children without ADHD. Though it's only one study, Dickson says, it highlights the extra pressure that having a child with ADHD can have on a relationship.  

That doesn't mean ADHD drives all couples apart. It can actually bring some parents closer, as they work together to raise a happy, healthy child and keep their own relationship strong. A simple step in that direction is to approach your relationship as one of the most important tools you have to help your child with ADHD grow and thrive. Your relationship really is that important.

7 Relationship Tips

These tips can strengthen your relationship as well as help your child:

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