How to Use Your Own ADHD to Better Manage Your Child’s

Parent and child paint birdhouse together. Both have happy expressions on their facesParenting a child who has an attention deficit can be tough. There’s the lack of focus and organization, the constant movement and impulsivity, the emotional intensity flaring at the slightest provocation, and the hair-trigger tears out of nowhere. It can be a constant struggle for any parent to manage.

But what about a parent who also has a diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD)? Research shows that a child diagnosed with ADHD is likely to have a relative who also meets the diagnostic criteria. How can a parent who has trouble organizing bills and staying focused during meetings coach a child to build the skills they lack themselves?

The strategies that are often recommended to help a child with an attention deficit may be difficult to manage or implement for an adult who struggles with executive functioning. But have faith! When a parent turns their liabilities into strengths, it is possible to guide a child toward success. An adult who understands what the child is experiencing is one of the best supports that child can have. By sharing their own experiences and the coping strategies they’ve developed throughout life, parents can help kids develop new skills to be successful at home, in school, and with friends.

In recognition of ADHD Awareness Month, let’s examine some possible scenarios involving this dynamic.

Scenario No. 1

  • The struggle: A parent has difficulty following through with a complex, long-term behavior plan. Whether it is earning points toward positive behaviors or remembering to sign a homework planner on a daily basis to send back to the teacher, a parent with an attention deficit may have trouble providing the appropriate reinforcement to facilitate change over time.
  • The solution: Embrace novelty! One strength of individuals with attention deficits is their creativity. Find simple solutions that work for now and change them up as needed. Set manageable goals for one or two weeks (instead of, say, a semester) with tracking and positive reinforcement that is easy to manage.

Scenario No. 2

  • The struggle: A parent struggles to remember to remind a child about scheduled activities and responsibilities. Adults with attention deficits may have a hard time remembering and planning their own schedules. Asking them to manage a child’s schedule on top of their own (or more for families with multiple children) can be daunting.
  • The solution: Get high-tech. Many kids today have access to a phone, tablet, or other electronic device that can be used to set an alarm with reminders about upcoming events. Use a shared calendar with alerts that notify both the child and the parent about upcoming events—say, “Time to practice for piano lessons,” or, “Put library books in backpack.” Not only does this reduce the responsibility of the parent, but it teaches the child vital skills to remember important tasks.

Scenario No. 3

  • The struggle: A parent can be impulsive in quick, emotional reactions to situations. There is nothing like two tempers flaring in frustration with each other. These interactions can damage parent-child relationships when they occur frequently.
  • The solution: Process emotions verbally. When parents catch themselves reacting impulsively, they can model the self-talk they use to self-regulate their behavior: “I know I feel angry right now, but I know this situation is one that I can’t control.” The child sees that it is OK to have impulsive and strong emotions but that, by using self-talk, they can learn to calm down more quickly.

Scenario No. 4

  • The struggle: A parent finds it difficult to manage homework time. Not only does the parent have trouble managing study time, they have a hard time sitting still during office meetings and focusing on one thing at a time.
  • The solution: Get moving! Adults have probably learned a few tricks that help them focus during those times. Maybe they doodle while listening to a speaker or get up to take frequent breaks. These are strategies that can work during school and at home for a child, too. Get permission for a child to have a “fidget” in class, and set an alarm to break homework into manageable chunks of time.

Parents who have an attention deficit can use it to build a connection with their child. Their experiences can also help their child learn the habits they need to be successful in managing ADHD. If you are having difficulty parenting a child with an attention deficit because of your own ADHD-related struggles, I strongly encourage you to seek the support of a qualified therapist.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015, July 8). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from

© Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Emily Kircher-Morris, LPC

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

  • Leave a Comment
  • pressley

    October 16th, 2015 at 11:01 AM

    I actually think that there could be no better parent for an adhd child than someone who has it themselves.
    After all you already know what the struggles are and how you have been able to cope all of these years.
    You will probably have some real world answers and suggestions for them that no one else will have any insight into or could ever have.

  • kyla

    October 16th, 2015 at 12:46 PM

    Building that kind of connection with your child may not have always been what you had in mind, but trust int the truth that this is a child that you have been given for a reason. You have something precious and beneficial to offer to this child.

  • Corrinne

    October 17th, 2015 at 7:39 AM

    My mom has ADHD but I don’t so you can imagine how stressful homework time always was for us.
    here I am wanting to be all focused and get stuff done and she is getting stressed and moving from one thing off to another.
    Yeah, those were so wacky time.

  • Justin

    October 19th, 2015 at 8:25 AM

    You know, this has just become something that we have all had to learn to manage together. On the days when I am a little unfocused and off track they will help me, and then I know that when they need my support I am there to do the same thing for them. It can be a little give and take on both ends but somehow we are all able to make it work.

  • Penny

    October 20th, 2015 at 7:11 AM

    Think about what an excellent role model for success that you would be for your child if you able to show him or her that this can be managed and overcome. I know that at the younger ages it can feel pretty overwhelming to them, but you have come this far and done this, and now it is up to you to show them that this is possible for them too!

  • Lydia D

    October 23rd, 2015 at 10:43 AM

    Quite often the apple does not fall very far from the tree- take what you have learned with your own style for coping over the years and show your child that this doesn’t always have to signify something bad. It can actually be the start of a great new process for them if they are willing to embrace the fact that hey, this is their learning style, and just go with it.

  • will

    October 24th, 2015 at 6:54 AM

    eek I am the fly off the handle dad, quick with an emotionless response while my wife is more level headed. She always keeps me in check when I think that I am just gonna lose it, typically with my kids when I see them processing things and reacting generally in the same ways that I always have.

  • Collin

    October 26th, 2015 at 9:04 AM

    Scheduling apps for your phone can be a lifesaver for the entire family!

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