Parents and Children Who Both Have ADHD

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ADHD runs in families. That means that a child with ADHD is likely to have a mom or dad with the same disorder. It's critically important that the parent—as well as the child—be diagnosed and treated.

Why Parenting Is so Tough When You and Your Child Have ADHD

Parenting a child, any child, is a difficult task, to begin with. When you have a child with ADHD you are parenting a child who has greater demands, needs more involvement, and requires greater patience and understanding by the parent.​

Add to the mix additional siblings of the ADHD child and 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.

When a parent has undiagnosed ADHD, the difficulty level is ratcheted up even higher. If an ADHD parent's child also has ADHD, there can often be significant dysfunction within the family. A parent with untreated ADHD will certainly have a hard time following through with treatment recommendations for the child—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, etc.

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

If an issue or problem comes up, parents with ADHD tend to address it the same way again and again 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.

Identifying and Treating Adult ADHD Is Key

In the past, ADHD was mainly considered an academic or school issue for children. ADHD, however, is a 24 hour a day condition. It not only impairs school or work functioning it also can have a significant impact on families and social relationships. There is even a high incidence of divorce in families in which a member has ADHD.

When a child is first diagnosed with ADHD, it is important to also 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 begin to make sense of the challenges they've been encountering. By properly identifying ADHD in individuals, treatment can be so much more effective and family life much more joyful.

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  • Patricia Quinn, MD. Phone interview/email correspondence. January 5 and 27, 2009.