Adjusting to Change: Marriage and Parenting When You Have ADHD

Adult with short hair wearing casual clothes sits at table and works from home with toddler on lapWhether a person has been diagnosed with ADHD (inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity) or not, major life changes typically considered to be positive , such as marriage or the birth of a child, can complicate life in a variety of ways.

For people who have been diagnosed with ADHD, the process of adjusting to change, having to modify established routines or coping mechanisms, and learning to balance new responsibilities, can be even tougher. Beyond this, becoming accustomed to changes can lead to a high degree of anxiety, which in some instances can result in increased difficulty coping and completing required responsibilities.

Learning to Cope with Life Changes

Marriage is a life change that people in many cultures typically choose for themselves, for any number of reasons. Though many people find joy and fulfillment in their marriages, it is generally the case that challenges will arise, in any partnership. The following tips can help you avoid and manage conflict within your partnership.

  • Discuss any new shared responsibilities (paying bills, grocery shopping) and try to divide these up based on skill strengths between the partners. If one spouse has good organizational skills, for example, it may be a good idea for that person to take care of more of the highly detailed tasks, while the other partner handles responsibilities that better fit their abilities and strengths.
  • Develop ways (that do not involve one partner taking on a parental role) to manage points of conflict that arise. If you are forgetful or constantly fidget, outline some steps your partner could take to point this out or remind you. These steps should not make them feel as if they are parenting you (or make you feel as if you are being parented), as this can create an unhealthy dynamic in the relationship.
  • If something about your spouse is bothering you, however minor you consider the annoyance to be, find a good time to have a sit-down conversation, and arrange to do so before a small issue becomes a constant source of frustration. Letting small things pile up can lead to negative feelings coming out in unintended and problematic ways.

The arrival of a new child, however anticipated, can often lead to overwhelm, stress, and relational conflict. Much of this is likely to resolve itself as you settle into the role of parents (if it’s your first child) and become accustomed to the new addition. If small annoyances or minor conflicts are not addressed, however, they may continue unchecked and lead to greater distress in the future. The following tips can help.

  • Identify a plan for overnight feeding before the baby is born. This will help minimize conflicts when you are both sleep-derived and trying to feed a crying infant.
  • Consider establishing step-by-step routines (and writing these down) for processes such as changing diapers, sterilizing bottles, breast or bottle feeding, pumping milk or making formula, and so on. If you have these lists readily available, you will be able to review them when tired or stressed and feel less like you’ve forgotten something important.
  • When feeling very anxious, ask your partner to watch the child and do an activity that helps you feel better, such as mindfulness exercises, guided imagery, or deep breathing.
  • Try to take care of yourself as much as possible during this time. Though your typical self-care routine (which might include exercise, time with friends, hobbies, and other activities that bring you pleasure) may need to be slightly modified, at least for the time being, to accommodate caring for an infant, it’s still helpful to take as much time as you can for self-care. Taking care of your health—mental and physical—will enable you to be the best parent and partner you can be.
  • Make time to connect with your partner. Even something small such as ordering food in and watching a movie between feedings can go a long way toward helping you feel at least somewhat more relaxed and maintaining (and strengthening!) the bond in your relationship.
  • If you feel the new responsibilities a child adds are unfairly distributed between you and your partner, or if you are struggling to manage these responsibilities, find a time when the baby is sleeping that works for both you and your partner and calmly raise your concerns.
  • Be mindful that factors such as lack of sleep, changes in hormones following birth, and general stress, among others, can contribute to increased anxiety, depression, and other concerns. While there is often a strong focus on the development and treatment of postpartum depression in mothers, parents of any gender may experience anxiety and depression following the arrival of a baby as they adjust to this new phase in their life.

Making the Best of Change

Any relationship will be challenged by various stressors over time. As your relationship grows and strengthens, these issues may change. Parenting challenges are also likely to change and manifest in different ways as your child grows up.

It’s possible to take action to make the best of each new phase of life, whatever circumstances occur, despite any changes that result. By taking steps and developing a plan to help manage any new challenges that arise, you may be able to alleviate any conflict or resulting negative consequences.

If you need help developing a plan of action or addressing concerns with your partner, a qualified and compassionate mental health professional may be able to offer guidance and support. Addressing issues early on can make it possible for you to better thrive and enjoy the positive aspects of life with your partner, even as you face any drawbacks head-on.

© Copyright 2018 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Carey A. Heller, PsyD, therapist in Bethesda, Maryland

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Carey H

    Carey H

    January 15th, 2018 at 7:12 AM

    Thank you for reading this article.

  • Megan

    Megan

    February 7th, 2018 at 5:43 PM

    I don’t have ADHD myself but the parenting tips for new moms here is helpful. About to have #2. Getting ready for having newborn. Before it was really stressful time for me, always tired, not enough sleep, feel the hormones and not always knowing what to do or feeling good enough. Really important to get help from my boyfriend. He was good the first time but could be better. We will do better this time I think since we know what to do and planning ahead

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