Raising Your Child With ADHD as a Single Parent

Mom and daughter doing homework

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Symptoms of ADHD can create stress in any family, but for a family with two parents, there is an additional layer of support that may be missing in a single-parent home. Unfortunately, sometimes single parents can begin to feel isolated and alone as stress around parenting issues increases. As a result, parents may end up feeling drained both emotionally and physically.

Below are some tips to help you head off and prevent these burnt-out feelings.

Identify Stressors

Identify the stressors in your life. Then, do what you can to limit or avoid them. Say "no" when you can, to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Of course, there will be stressful situations that cannot be avoided. In these cases, it often helps to focus on positive ways to cope and respond to the stress — taking a deep breath and delaying your response so you don’t react in an impulsive way, practicing relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation or meditation, engaging in activities that help alleviate your stress level like exercise, and using other positive outlets like talking it out with a supportive friend.

Get Support

Right off the bat, it is important for you to identify avenues of support including family members, friends, local support groups, online support forums, and regular babysitters.

Create Routines and Clear House Rules

Get routines in place and stick to them in order to provide both you and your children with more predictability from day to day. Children with ADHD do best in settings with clear, consistent expectations. Talk with your children about the house rules. Together come up with consequences for behaviors. If your child’s other parent is involved, try to work together with him or her to maintain consistency across both home settings. This way things feel a bit more predictable during visits to the other parent’s home. If there are tensions between you and your ex, you may want to meet together with your child’s doctor to come up with a healthy plan you both can support.

Regular Family Meetings

Set up regular weekly family meetings with your children. Structure this time so that it has a specific agenda to be discussed. Encourage your children to have input in creating the agenda. Establish clear rules so that each child has an opportunity to talk (without interruptions) during the meeting and so that the meetings remain productive and solution-focused.

Central Family Calendar

Use a large master calendar for the family and hang it in a central location like the kitchen. Write all events such as appointments, school functions, and birthdays on the calendar. You can even color-code it to each individual family member.

To-Do Lists

Make “to-do” lists for each day. Be careful not to over-schedule your time with too many “to-dos.” Allow extra time for unplanned interruptions.

Agree on Chores

Single parents may find themselves doing all the daily chores around the household, but it can be a positive experience for your children to share in the daily chores at home. Not only can this process help teach your children practical skills; it also helps a child develop responsibilities and positive work habits. It may take more energy and work on your part early on, but as the tasks become more familiar and routine to your child you may begin to feel less overwhelmed by all the things that need to get done.

Special One-On-One Time

It might feel difficult to find time to fit one more thing during your busy days especially when you are feeling drained and tired, but regular one-on-one time with each of your children can be a big help in recharging your parent-child relationship and reconnecting with the children in positive ways. This special together time is especially important for children with ADHD who may often find themselves involved in negative interactions that can affect feelings of self-esteem.

Don’t Forget “Me” Time

Try to set aside regular downtime in the day for just you. Many single parents find themselves neglecting this essential component of self-care. It is so important that you have time alone to do things you enjoy. It may be regular times to exercise, read, write, or just contemplate things. When you regularly practice self-care, you will be more refreshed, healthier, and better able to handle difficult situations.

Be Aware of the Genetic Link to ADHD

ADHD does tend to run in families. If a child in the family has ADHD, there is a 30% to 40% chance that one of the two parents will have ADHD. Untreated ADHD can make it difficult to parent effectively, especially as a single parent with ADHD. The untreated ADHD symptoms can make it more difficult to be consistent, maintain schedules and keep organized. If you have any concerns, you may have ADHD and it is impairing your parenting and other areas in your life, talk to your doctor right away.

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