When Your Child's ADHD Affects You as a Couple

From the WebMD Archives

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."

Continued

Listen to each other. When your partner is talking, try not to think about your response -- really hear what they’re saying. This will help you work through conflict, whether it's about your child's condition or something else.

Share the load. Split up your parenting responsibilities. That can make things easier for both of you, and it lowers the odds of conflict and resentment in your relationship.

Be adaptable. You have to learn to live with your child's ADHD diagnosis and learn to work around it in ways that are right for your child, and for your partner.

Prioritize "us" time. It’s very important for you and your partner to spend quality time together to nurture your relationship, Berman says. Do this on a regular basis -- away from the kids, just the two of you.

Raising a child with ADHD isn’t easy, but some couples find it actually makes them closer. So work together to raise a happy, healthy child and keep your relationship strong.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 24, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

Jenn Berman, PhD, host, Couples Therapy, private practice, Los Angeles.

Terry Dickson, MD, director, Behavioral Medicine Clinical NW Michigan; ADHD coach; Traverse City, MI.

Mark Wolraich, MD, CMRI/Shaun Walters Professor, Pediatrics; Chief, Section of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center; Director, Child Study Center, Oklahoma City.

Wymbs, B. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, October 2008.

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