Parenting is often hard work, even under optimal circumstances—most parents agree on this point. When a child or teen experiences certain difficulties that affect functioning, whether these are medical issues, anxiety, ADHD, or something else, parents are likely to experience even more challenges. Similarly, when parents are coping with medical or mental health concerns of their own, the ability to parent effectively may be further impacted.
When a child or teen, as well as one or both parents, has ADHD, there may be even greater potential for parenting challenges. However, parents who are aware of the potential for these areas of difficulty may be able to take steps to avoid them. In fact, some can even use their own personal experience with ADHD and related struggles to help their children overcome day-to-day issues and help everyone in the family to thrive.
Parenting Tips for ADHD-Affected Families
It’s important for you, as the parent, to first make sure you are receiving whatever assistance you might need, in the form of therapy, coaching, medication, and so on, in order to function as well as possible. Parents who are taking steps to help themselves operate at their best will likely find it easier to help and encourage their children to do the same.
If your child is working with a therapist or coach, make this professional aware of your own struggles (you may wish to include your child in this discussion, or not, depending on their age). This is important because if the therapist or coach is working with you to develop routines to help your child, it won’t be helpful to anyone if you are not able to follow through with your role in these routines. If you have concerns about your own ability to follow through with a particular plan, discuss this with your child’s counselor. Modifications may be possible. If you are involved in the creation of these plans, speak up and be honest about what you realistically feel you can commit to and what may be more difficult for you.
For example, if your child’s therapist suggests keeping a points chart where your child gets points for performing specific tasks such as getting up on time, brushing teeth, putting on shoes without a fight, and so on, the system will not be of benefit to your child if you are not able to enforce follow-through and keep track of earned points. Another example might be a homework plan where a teenager texts their parents when starting each day’s homework and again when homework is finished. It may be the case that the teenager needs initial reminders to text when the plan is first implemented, but if the parent is not able to follow through with providing reminders, the plan may not work well.
Be open to working on your own challenges as part of the process of helping your child make changes of their own. For example, if your teen’s counselor helps them set up calendar and task list reminder alerts on their phone to help them keep track of specific tasks and due dates, you may find it helpful to do the same.
- If your teen has set a reminder to text you about their homework, you could set a reminder of your own to text them by a set time if you do not hear from them. Many children, especially teenagers, who see their parent(s) actively working on their own challenges, using the same tools they teens are learning to use, may be more motivated to take steps toward change.
- Keep your own emotional challenges in mind. If you get frustrated easily or are overly anxious, these issues might impact your ability to adhere to plans set up to help your child. Further, keep in mind that if your child is trying to follow a specific program, and you react negatively when they struggle, this may affect their progress and motivation.
In short, it’s entirely possible to parent effectively when one or both parents, as well as one or more children, have ADHD. It is, however, essential that parents work to address their own challenges, to the greatest extent possible, in order to parent as effectively as possible.
I encourage parents to be aware of their own limitations and open to addressing them. Actively working on areas of difficulty alongside your child can go a long way toward helping both of you achieve positive results, as parent and child, as individuals, and in the greater context of your family.
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