Parenting a child with ADHD comes with additional challenges on top of the usual trials and tribulations of raising children. Being a parent when you have ADHD yourself involves a whole other dimension of difficulty.
“ADHD in adulthood can be quite disabling as it affects self-management as well as the fulfillment of many adult roles, including those that affect others, such as parenthood, being a partner in a relationship and the management of work and academic roles, not to mention self-care and other endeavors from which we derive our sense of self,” J. Russell Ramsay, co-founder and co-director of the research and development program, told HuffPost. ADHD treatment for adults from the University of Pennsylvania.
Parents with ADHD often go years without a diagnosis. They may feel like they have to work harder to hold on while caring for their children and keeping their homes and lives in order. Challenges involving emotional regulation, sensory overload, sleep disturbances, relationship conflicts, and feelings of guilt and shame are common.
There are no simple solutions when it comes to living with a complex neurological disorder. But there are ways to mitigate the difficulty. Below, experts share their tips on how to handle parenthood when you have ADHD.
“It’s important to stop judging yourself,” said Michigan-based ADHD psychotherapist and coach Terry Matlen, who is herself a mother with the condition. “You do your best, and it’s okay if it’s not like the way you were raised or the way your sister or neighbor runs their household. The rules have to change and you’ll have to learn to be okay with that, including having a house that might not be as tidy as everyone else’s.
Show self-compassion and self-acceptance, especially when you feel like you’re falling short of expectations about what makes a good parent.
“Remember that you are doing your best and allowing your household to have their own ways of doing things – maybe allow yourself a night of being ‘eggs or cereal for dinner,'” he said. said Dr Lidia Zylowska, a psychiatrist at the University. of Minnesota Medical School and author of “The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD”. “Having humor about the pitfalls of ADHD can also be helpful.”
If this kind of validation doesn’t feel natural to you, you can find help in reaching a radical state of self-acceptance and self-compassion with a neurodiversity-affirming therapist.
“One of my favorite things to say to my client is that no one is good at all things, and it’s okay to have things you’re not good at,” said Rachael Bloom, Los Angeles-based therapist.
Understand your strengths
“Parents with ADHD should recognize their strengths,” said Billy Roberts, therapist at Focused Mind ADHD Counseling in Columbus, Ohio. “ADHD can indeed be a superpower. Adults with ADHD can be very empathetic, intuitive, creative and amazing in a crisis. These skills are just as valuable as any other parenting skill.
You can motivate yourself by reflecting on these strengths in times of doubt. And you’ll be better equipped to manage ADHD as a parent if you understand where you shine and what areas are most challenging for you.
“ADHD education about how ADHD manifests for everyone in the family is really important,” Zylowska said. “Because ADHD runs in families, both children and one (or both) parents can have it. Knowing each other’s strengths, challenges, and needs can help the whole family deal with ADHD behaviors as a team.
Ask for help
“Do not suffer alone! Matlen insisted. “Find other families who share this challenge so you don’t feel so alone.”
There are a number of ADHD communities, such as Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) and the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA), which offer various forms support, validation and advocacy to families. Connect with people in your area and find help online.
“For example, since meal planning is often difficult when you have ADHD, check out resources like ‘Cookbook for Busy Minds’ on the CHADD website,” Zylowska suggested.
“It is often necessary to ask for help or to delegate particularly difficult tasks to others, for example asking [a] non-ADHD parent to go on school trips in exchange for taking care of another task,” she added.
Outsource to professionals when possible
In addition to asking your partner, family, or friends for help, you can also consider hiring professionals to help manage your household.
“If it’s in your budget, hire a housekeeper to come in every two weeks or whatever you can afford,” Matlen said. “It will reduce the stress and tension of dealing with clutter and clutter.”
She recommended hiring a professional organizer to help you troubleshoot, work with you to develop systems, and make your home more ADHD-friendly.
“If money is an issue, trade your talents with someone else’s,” Matlen said. “Offer babysitting in exchange to help with clutter, laundry, etc.”
The same goes for tasks like helping with homework. Parents with ADHD may find it particularly difficult to sit down and spend long periods of time concentrating on homework with their children.
“The most important thing for you as a parent is to maintain a good relationship with your child,” Matlen advised. “Hire a high school or college student to come and work with your child on homework.”
Develop stable routines and systems
“To deal with the frustrating parts of ADHD, it’s good to have lots of routines and systems that take the guesswork out of life,” Roberts said. “That can mean adopting habits that promote memory and organization. »
“For example, getting into the routine of making lunches and putting the car away the night before,” he continued. “Also helpful is having the time to look at the systems, maybe a family meeting once a week with a spouse to be more aware of what’s working and what’s not. .”
Be creative and, as always, think about what’s best for you. your family, not what other people do.
“Find systems that work for you, rather than trying to force yourself to conform to something just because everyone says it’s the right way to do it,” Bloom emphasized.
The key is to adjust your expectations and eliminate the outside noise that tells you what “good parents” are doing.
“Your family is different,” Matlen said. “It’s not a bad thing unless you decide it’s a bad thing. But that means you’ll have to do things differently.
“My daughter couldn’t sit at the table,” she said, as an example. “She was either falling out of her chair due to her severe hyperactivity, or she was constantly leaving her chair, making everyone unhappy with the restlessness. I let her eat her dinner in a different room watching TV. Everybody was happy.”
“Be aware of your emotions,” suggested Cristina Louk, a clinical psychologist in Washington state who also has ADHD. “If your emotions are on the rise, find activities that can distract you or calm you down.”
Practice mindfulness so you can identify when stress and intense emotions begin to arise.
“It gives you the opportunity to do something to reduce it by taking deep breaths, pausing, or self-accompaniment – ‘Remember your child is not fussy on purpose, he forgets things because ADHD,” Zylowska said.
Your approach to mindfulness and coping mechanisms will inevitably change as you become a parent and your children grow, but it’s always important to prioritize self-care.
“For many new parents with ADHD, there is an adjustment, realizing that whatever strategies you had as a single person to manage your ADHD – like exercising regularly or taking nature breaks to ‘reboot’ — may not be as easy to do when you’re a parent,” Zylowska said.
“Noticing when you’re exhausted and taking some time to replenish can restore parents’ ability to problem-solve and manage [the] stress of parenting,” she continued. “Self-care strategies may need to be reinvented and coordinated with your partner, but making it a priority is key. ”
Refine your treatment plan
Medical and psychological professionals can not only diagnose your ADHD, but they can also help you develop the right treatment plan for your situation.
“Medications approved for ADHD may be useful for symptom management in children, adolescents, and adults with ADHD,” Ramsay said. “There are non-medical psychosocial treatments designed for adults with ADHD, such as cognitive behavioral therapy for adult ADHD and adult ADHD coaching, that focus on implementing effective coping strategies to better managing adult roles, as well as negative thinking habits, emotional management, and establishing good habits and routines to support better functioning and overall well-being.
As with your overall approach to parenting, your ADHD treatment should focus on what works best for you, not what other people are doing. Remember to adjust and refine as needed.
“Get to know your own ADHD — your strengths and weaknesses — and prioritize your own support so you can care for others,” Zylowska says. “Support can mean medication, therapy, mindfulness, or lifestyle strategies like getting enough sleep, good nutrition, and self-care.”
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