Growing Up with a Parent’s ADHD

Growing Up with a Parent's ADHD

Does my mom have ADHD? That’s for a professional to diagnose, but children can see the signs. Parents with ADHD often struggle with tasks that impact their children. While in some cases it’s diagnosed and treated, a parent with undiagnosed ADHD may not understand why some things are so difficult. Executive functioning deficits can mean it takes longer to schedule doctors’ appointments or may cause children to run late for important events.

Communication can be more difficult between children and a parent who has ADHD. People with ADHD often struggle with organization and emotional regulation. Factoring in children’s natural lack of organization and competing emotional demands can lead to angry outbursts and other negative interactions. An estimated 6.76% of adults have symptomatic ADHD, which means many children may struggle to relate to a parent with ADHD — particularly when it’s undiagnosed.

So what can you do? It starts with learning more.

Understanding ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a neurodevelopmental disorder. It’s commonly identified in childhood, though some affected individuals aren’t diagnosed until later in life. Some characteristics of the condition include:

  • Hyperactivity or an inability to sit still
  • Inability to start or finish a task
  • Lack of impulse control
  • Interrupting conversations or tending to snatch objects
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Anxiety
  • Low social and emotional intelligence

Parents with ADHD often feel overwhelmed by the demands of child-rearing. This can lead to emotional outbursts and anger.

Children often sense a parent’s anger, even when it isn’t directed at them. Knowing a parent is angry can lead to trauma during the formative years, especially when a child’s response to anger can exacerbate the problem. When a parent is angry, they don’t make calm, rational decisions — a stable foundation children desperately need.

Stability is another challenge for the children of ADHD parents. A parent’s mood changes and lack of financial wellness can leave children in a constant state of confusion. Parentification of a child is a common result, particularly when they have a parent with undiagnosed ADHD.

While these symptoms can be challenging for both the children and the parent with ADHD, there are also strengths associated with this disorder. A parent excited about a task is likely to pay more attention and stay engaged with their child as they complete a fun activity. Many children are high-energy and enjoy the equally high-energy thoughts and actions of an ADHD parent, especially at preschool age.

Communication and Understanding

A child who wonders if their parent has ADHD should be informed openly and honestly. Both the child and the parent need to communicate about what the disorder might mean on a daily basis and provide the necessary context for better communication.

Parents with ADHD may fear the effects of living with the condition and its impact on their children. But there are many ways for parents to reduce harm and even build better relationships in the long term.

Getting treatment is the most important step you can take as a parent. Medication and therapy can go a long way toward mitigating the symptoms that might otherwise lead to trauma. Additionally, by reaching out for help, parents model the fact that treatment is a good idea, which is important since ADHD often runs in families.

Honest communication, even with young children, can go a long way toward lessening the damage ADHD might otherwise cause. Letting them know about your illness and how it affects you can help them understand that you love them even when you aren’t in the best mood. They’ll learn to understand that your lack of organizational skills or chronic lateness isn’t because you don’t care. Take responsibility for your struggles and apologize when you do something wrong or unintended.

In addition, take advantage of the creativity many people with ADHD have to find ways to improve organizational skills. Timers, to-do lists, color-coded charts and other lifestyle changes that work for you can help reduce your daily stress and improve your relationship with your child.

Establishing Structure and Routines

When organizing is a challenge, structure and routines can help mitigate the resulting problems. If you struggle to keep your house neat, you might start with chore charts or timed cleaning. If you’re easily distracted, make your routines short but persistent throughout the day.

It’s a lot easier to commit to 10 minutes of cleaning up the living room than it is to devote hours to the task. Use furniture and routines that play to your strengths. Since many people with ADHD have trouble with object permanence, consider using storage with clear fronts to easily see the contents of any drawer or cabinet.

Always go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time. Good sleeping habits and other daily routines can make a world of difference in your daily mood.

Seeking Support and Resources

Seek help. Support is essential for every parent, and it’s even more critical when you struggle with building habits and routines. Counseling one-on-one and in groups can help you learn about and implement strategies that help you manage. The better your mood, the more likely you are to take better care of yourself and your children.

Self-Care and Boundaries

Be gentle with yourself and your kids. Taking care of yourself with easy and accessible self-care routines is essential to reducing your daily stress and load. When you take care of yourself, you have more energy to invest in childcare. Boundaries are a critical part of ensuring you have the time and space for that care.

Give your children clear boundaries so they understand what behavior might trigger a negative reaction. Be consistent about setting and holding those boundaries to avoid repetitive behaviors that might otherwise lead to chronic miscommunications. If you tell a child not to draw on the wall, don’t wait until the second time to remove the crayons. Always act quickly to hold your stated boundary.

If you think you or your parent might have ADHD, contact us at Restore Mental Health to learn more about treatment options. With the right combination of medication and therapy, many people with ADHD will live fulfilled and happy lives.