Parents With ADHD Raising Children With ADHD

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ADHD runs in families. That means that a child with ADHD is likely to have a parent with the same condition. This can introduce certain challenges that parents should understand. It's critically important that the parent—as well as the child—be diagnosed and treated.

This article explores why parenting a child with ADHD can be tougher when you have the condition yourself. It also offers tips that can help parents with behavior management, time management, and other areas where both they and their children may struggle.

Challenges When You and Your Child Have ADHD

Parenting is difficult. When you have a child with ADHD, you are parenting a child who has greater demands, needs more involvement, and requires more patience and understanding.​ These can be harder to provide if you are also living with ADHD yourself.

Parents who have ADHD may struggle with:

  • Co-occurring mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression
  • Dealing with emotions
  • Implementing discipline
  • Managing daily household tasks
  • Motivation
  • Organizational skills
  • Stress
  • Time management

Studies have also found ADHD interventions for kids are often less effective when one or both parents also have ADHD. This may be because a parent's symptoms make treatment adherence more difficult. Kids are less likely to take their medication if their parents have a more challenging time remembering to give it to them.

Add siblings without ADHD, conflicts, attention pulled in different directions, feelings of resentment by the child who requires less attention—all these factors combine to create a parenting role that can quickly become overwhelming.

Dealing with these challenges is often about finding a balance between your child's needs and your own. In addition to managing your own symptoms, you must also find strategies that help you parent effectively and support your child in school and other settings.

Undiagnosed Adult ADHD

When a parent has undiagnosed or untreated ADHD, the difficulty level is even higher. If a parent with ADHD has a child that also has ADHD, there can often be significant dysfunction within the family.

For example, a parent with untreated ADHD will undoubtedly have difficulty following through with treatment recommendations for the child. This includes essential tasks such as:

  • Keeping track of a child's prescription
  • Filling the prescription
  • Administering the child's medication on a regular schedule
  • Keeping track of when the prescription needs refilling
  • Creating routines and structure at home
  • Implementing and following through with behavioral or reward programs at home

Adults may also struggle with other symptoms of untreated ADHD, such as difficulty multitasking, forgetfulness, impulsivity, low frustration tolerance, mood swings, and restlessness.

If a parent has ADHD, they may also have a challenging time being consistent with their child. Parenting skills will be affected by the parent's ADHD. Studies show that parents with ADHD tend to provide less supervision, have more difficulty keeping tabs on their children, and be less adept at creative problem-solving.

If a problem comes up, parents with ADHD tend to address it the same way repeatedly rather than thinking of other ways to handle the situation more effectively. It is often difficult for those with ADHD to be flexible in their approaches to parenting.

Recap

Undiagnosed or untreated adult ADHD can make the stress of parenting a child with the condition even more difficult. Lack of consistency, difficulty coping with frustration, and other symptoms that interfere with daily functioning can make it hard for both parents and children to cope.

Identifying and Treating ADHD

In the past, ADHD was often thought of as primarily an academic or school issue for children. ADHD, however, is a 24-hour-a-day condition. ADHD causes impairments in school or work functioning, but it also significantly impacts families and social relationships. There is even a high incidence of divorce in families in which a member has ADHD.

Children may be referred to treatment due to behavioral difficulties at school. Once diagnosed, a healthcare provider will likely recommend medication to help kids manage the condition's symptoms.

When a child is first diagnosed with ADHD, it is also essential to screen the rest of the family to determine whether additional family members have ADHD. Once family members with ADHD are diagnosed, treatment can begin—and other family members can start to make sense of the challenges they've been encountering.

Treatments for ADHD often involve the use of medications, but may also include psychotherapy, skills training, and self-help strategies. When family members with ADHD are identified, treatment can be so much more effective and family life much more joyful.

Coping Strategies for Parents and Children With ADHD

In addition to making sure that both you and you child receive appropriate treatment, there are a number of self-help techniques that you can implement in your life to make parenting more manageable.

Identify Problem Areas

Make a list of your strengths and some of the areas where you struggle. For example, you might be great at helping kids with homework and making sure they get to appointments on time, but you might struggle with being consistent in terms of discipline. 

Once you know which areas are more challenging, you can find ways to deal with them more effectively. One approach that can work is to share certain tasks with your partner, if you have one, so you are both doing the tasks that play to your strengths.

Find Tools That Work for You

Every parent, child, and family has different needs. A one-size-fits-all approach won't solve your unique problems. Instead, choose the tools and strategies that will work to address your needs.

Helpful tools include reward charts, appointment calendars, and meal planning apps. You can use your phone to set reminders for specific tasks or leave notes in strategic locations to help you stay on task.

Learn About Behavior Management

Developing effective behavior management skills and strategies can also help you more effectively parent a child with ADHD. Two fundamental principles that can help are to:

  • Provide rewards and encouragement for good behavior
  • Remove rewards and apply consequences for undesirable behavior

To implement a behavior management plan in your home, you will need to establish rules. Create expectations and determine which behaviors are unacceptable. Then clearly communicate these rules to your children. 

You might find it helpful to print out a "family rules" chart and post it in a visible area so that everyone can remember what the rules are.

A behavior chart can be a great way to stay consistent. Allow kids to earn stickers or points for good behavior and subsequently lose stickers or points for breaking the rules. Once kids reach a certain number of points, they can cash them in for a reward, whether it's spending money or time playing their favorite video game. 

Create Structure

While it can be more challenging when you have ADHD, having a routine will benefit you and your child. Creating rituals around critical daily activities, including meals, homework, and bedtime, will help your child stay on task and ensure that essential duties are accomplished each day.

Reduce Distractions

Distractions can be difficult for both parents and children. Regulating screen time can be helpful, but so can organizing and simplifying different areas of your life. Create areas in your home where certain things go so that everyone knows where their books, homework, shoes, keys, and other essential items are each day.

Practice Self-Care

Making sure your child is sleeping well and getting regular exercise each day can help with inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Caring for yourself is also critical. Focus on getting rest, being active each day, and eating nutritious meals. 

Remember Your Strengths

While having ADHD is often presented negatively, remind yourself that it also provides both you and your child with many strengths. High energy levels and curiosity mean that your child is always eager to try new things and take on life's challenges.

Being energetic might make you feel restless at times, but it also gives you the energy you need to keep up with rambunctious children.

Having ADHD can make certain things more challenging for you and your child, but it also means that you both possess creativity, resilience, and spontaneity that can help you succeed. And because you share these challenges, you can understand and bond with your child in meaningful ways.

Recap

Learning your strengths as a parent and finding ways to address your weaknesses is a great place to start. Find tools to support your needs, delegate certain tasks when possible, and learn more about effective behavior management strategies. Creating structure in your home, minimizing distractions, and practicing self-care can also help you and your child stay on track.

A Word From Verywell

If you have ADHD, parenting a child with ADHD can be even more challenging. Struggles with time management, organization, discipline, and motivation introduce a number of difficulties in day-to-day life.

While there are difficulties, it is also essential to highlight your strengths and your child's. Assess your needs as a family and lean on these strengths while finding ways to manage your weaker areas. You may also find it helpful to think about how having ADHD gives you a better understanding of your child's needs.

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6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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