Parenting When You Have ADHD

Being a good parent isn't an easy job. If you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it can be especially tough.

ADHD makes it hard to concentrate. It can also make you feel irritable, restless, and impulsive. You might have more trouble controlling your temper, planning things out, or sticking to a schedule. All these things may affect the way you parent.

For example, you might feel overwhelmed when your child is upset, and struggle to help them calm down or feel better. Keeping your child to a schedule may be difficult, too. You may have a hard time focusing on your child or playing with them for more than a few minutes.

Since ADHD runs in families, your child may have it, too. That can raise the odds that the two of you have trouble communicating.

All that doesn’t have to stop you from having a great relationship with your child. You can manage stress and be the parent you want to be. Some things can help.

Get Treated

If you’re not seeing a physician or therapist for your ADHD, seek one out. Research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy eases ADHD symptoms. That's talk therapy that helps you identify negative thoughts so you can change how you react to things.

Talk to your doctor about medication, too. Many people find a combination of therapy and medicine works best on their ADHD symptoms. Research shows that parents who take ADHD meds improve their parenting skills. They're more positive to their children. Their kids behave better, too, which may be thanks to that bump in positive attention.

Don’t Play the Blame Game

If you have ADHD, you might feel like you’ve failed your child. If your child has it, too, you may feel twice as guilty -- like you’ve “given” your child the condition.

ADHD isn’t something you “let” happen to you. Bad parenting or chaos at home doesn't cause it, either. It’s a biological, neurological, and genetic disorder. Instead of focusing on feelings of guilt and shame, try to find solutions to make your home healthier and happier.

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Get on a Routine

A regular schedule can make it easier for you (and your child) to get things done. Consistency may also ease your symptoms.

If you can, get your child involved in planning. You can make a family calendar together. Schedule activities at the same time each day or day of the week. That can make it less likely you (or your kids) will be late. It'll also help you follow through on commitments.

Don’t feel guilty saying “no” to things that would disrupt your flow, either. It’s important for your health -- and for your family’s well-being.​​​​​​​

Make Exercise a Family Thing

Physical activity can help you focus. It also gives you more positive brain chemicals like dopamine, which can help keep your temper in check.

If you can, exercise with your kids. You don’t have to join a gym. Taking a walk together and playing sports as a family are great ways to be active.

Keep Disagreements Short and Simple

It takes two to argue. When you and your child don’t see eye-to-eye, staying calm -- rather than “winning” the argument -- should be your top priority. One way to do that is to stick to the facts. For example, if your child insists on doing something you don’t want them to do, you can say, “No, and I’m not going to keep discussing it with you. We’ll talk again when we’re both calm.”

Cut yourself some slack when you screw up or don’t respond the way you’d like -- and vow to try again next time. Show the same kindness to your child, too. Research shows that kids are less aggressive when their parents are kind and understanding.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on August 17, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

National Institute of Mental Health: "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder."

Child Mind Institute: "When Parent and Child Both Have ADHD."

Clinical Neurophysiology: "Effects of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy on neurophysiological correlates of performance monitoring in adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder."

Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies: "Parent Training."

CNS Drugs: “Does pharmacological treatment of ADHD in adults enhance parenting performance? Results of a double-blind randomized trial.”

CHADD: The National Resource on ADHD: "For Parents and Caregivers."

Stephanie Sarkis, PhD, adjunct assistant professor, Florida Atlantic University; sub-investigator, clinical research studies, Florida Atlantic University Schmidt College of Medicine, Boca Raton, FL; author, Adult ADHD:A Guide For the Newly Diagnosed.

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology: "A Randomized Trial Examining the Effects of Aerobic Physical Activity on Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms in Young Children."

Current Psychiatry Reports: "Emerging Support for a Role of Exercise in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Intervention Planning."

Jon Belford, clinical psychologist specializing in ADHD, New York City.

Daley, D., Laver-Bradbury, C., Weeks, A., Sonuga-Barke, E., Thompson, M. Step by Step Help for Children with ADHD: A Self-Help Manual for Parents, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2010.

Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment: Parenting and Conduct Problems: Moderation by Child Empathy.

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