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ADHD in Children: A Survival Guide for Parents

Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on March 29, 2021

Does raising your child with ADHD feel like a round-the-clock job with little to no downtime? Between helping them succeed at school, adjusting to new social situations, and settling into a structured routine at home, you might feel totally out of energy and patience at times.

But there are ways to find balance and head off burnout. Here are some simple tips that can help you ease stress and become an even better parent along the way.

Give Yourself a Break

Everyone needs some “me time” to recharge their batteries. If you feel like you’ve been going nonstop, ask your partner or child to pitch in with chores, errands, or other responsibilities. At the very least, do something you find fun or relaxing at least once a week, even if it’s as simple as reading a book, watching your favorite TV show, or taking a soak in the tub.

Nurture Your Relationship

If you’re married or in a long-term relationship, try to set aside some time each day for just the two of you. Use the time to take off your “parent hat” and not talk about your child. You could also have an occasional adults-only dinner together after you feed the kids their evening meal. Or go out on a distraction-free date night while grandparents, family friends, or a babysitter watches the kids.

Focus on What Makes Your Kid Cool

When your child’s behavior makes you grind your teeth, reflect on something you love or admire about them. Think about one of their awesome qualities each night before you go to bed. Or if you’re dwelling on something they did that frustrated you, consider the flip side of that negative quality. For example, if they were disruptive, you might admire how they’re not afraid to speak up. Or if they spaced out on you while you were talking, maybe the silver lining is that they’re imaginative, too.

Take Charge of Stress

The less frazzled you feel, the more calmly you’ll be able to field the parenting challenges that come your way. Some healthy ways to bust stress are:

Vent to Someone You Trust

Everyone gets annoyed or disappointed with their children at times, so don’t be too hard on yourself when you feel that way. Instead, explore your feelings. You could talk truthfully with a close friend or family member. Or you could confide in a counselor or therapist, who might also suggest ways to redirect your emotions in a positive way. It’s extra-important to reach out for professional help if you’re feeling depressed or exhausted.

Join a Support Group

It can connect you with other parents who understand what you’re going through. You could learn from their successes and setbacks, as well as share your own. Search online for a local support group in your area or join a web-based group for parents of children with ADHD.

Don’t Blame Yourself

Your child didn’t get ADHD because you were a “bad parent” to them. That’s a myth. Experts aren’t sure what causes the disorder, but they think genes play a role. Focus on things within your control that can improve your child’s symptoms, like a loving home life and a structured daily routine.

Get ADHD Treatment if You Need It

Since the disorder can run in families, consider getting tested for it yourself if you often:

  • Find it hard to focus
  • Feel hyperactive or can’t sit still
  • Act impulsively

If you’re diagnosed with ADHD, treatment can ease your symptoms and help you create a calmer, more stable home for your child to thrive.

Get Some Extra ‘Parent Training’

If your child with ADHD is 12 or younger and you feel a bit lost as to how to help them take charge of their symptoms, a type of counseling called a parent training program may help you. These programs can teach you how to:

  • Communicate better with your child
  • Reward good behavior and set up consequences for unwanted behavior
  • Help your little one learn from mistakes
  • Add more structure to their daily routine

Seek out a therapist who has experience or a certification in teaching a parent training program tailored for young children with ADHD. Your family doctor may be able to help you find one.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

CHADD: “Parenting a Child with ADHD,” “Parents, Don’t Let Your Disappointment Defeat You.”

Additude: “Tired, Mommy? 10 Ways to Avoid Parenting Burnout.”

Understood: “8 common myths about ADHD.”

American Psychiatric Association: “What Is ADHD?”

Child Mind Institute: “Don’t Let a Child’s Disorder Destroy Your Marriage.”

Mayo Clinic: “Stress Management.”

National Institute of Mental Health: “Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.”

CDC: “Parent Training.”

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