Parenting a Child with ADHD

Special needs mom, Clinical and School Psychologist
02/24/20  10:02 AM PST

As a parent of a child with ADHD, you are always on the go too, but not always by choice. You are constantly surveying the environment and trying to accommodate your child so that he can perform at his best. This applies to school, home, birthday parties, family gatherings or wherever and whenever. At the end of the day, you may feel overwhelmed and exhausted, and yet, you still haven’t handled all of the items for the rest of the family, your house, or your job.  Instead of focusing on your child with ADHD, I would like to take a moment to focus on you, the parent.

Perhaps you are an adult with ADHD, and perhaps you are not. If you are, you are trying to get through your day while being distracted by children, co-workers, your spouse, and your own thoughts. On top of trying to manage yourself, you are also trying to create a structured home environment to help your child with ADHD function day to day.  You most likely understand what a day in your child’s world feels like, but you may be having a hard time getting through the same kinds of tasks and responsibilities yourself.

If you are not a parent with ADHD, your child’s world feels foreign, frustrating, and constantly moving. You may be having a hard time understanding why your child cannot walk in a straight line, pick up his shoes and put them on without picking up a random toy on the way, or going back upstairs to get his favorite socks. His actions feel random, and draining on your time and energy.

Here are a few strategies to help you, as a parent of a child with ADHD, to prevent burn out from caring for, coaching, and managing your child:

Help! I need Somebody!

It’s okay to ask for help. This help can be a hired person, a family member, or a switch off between both parents. If you are going to hire someone to help you, make sure that person is older than your child, and train him or her. Provide clear cut information as to what you expect to be completed or done while that person is with your child. For example, finish math homework, take a bike ride, or clean their room. Provide training for this person by sharing the strategies that you use to help your child to complete tasks (e.g., take a 5 minute break after working on homework for 10 minutes, break down homework or tasks into individual steps, etc).

If another family member is willing to help, offer similar training so that person is using the same terminology, following the same routine, and is in line with whatever structure you have already created. You want as much continuity and consistency across different people as much as possible.

If you are unable to hire a person to help, or don’t have a family member who is willing or nearby, break up the ‘shifts’ between you and your spouse. For example, you will take the morning routine if your husband takes the bedtime routine. This offers each of you a break during one of the high stress times of the day. You may also want to rotate so there is no burnout within that shift. This will also keep the novelty factor in your favor with your child with ADHD.

Find Other Parents of Children with ADHD

Create a support group, an informal one is absolutely fine. It is helpful to sit with other parents who are experiencing the same struggles and frustrations. You will find comfort and solace in knowing that you are not alone. This is also the best forum to share ideas, brainstorm, and problem solve together. For example, one parent may share how they were best able to approach a teacher and gain accommodations within the classroom, or to refer each other to helpful professionals within your community.

Having a support group of other parents also gives your child a peer group of other children who are like him or her. This gives your child/children a support group as well. As your child gets older, she can share her struggles with her peers and perhaps they can problem solve and back each other up as well.

Seek the Consultation of a Psychologist or Educational Consultant

With the help of a Psychologist or Educational Consultant, you will know what your rights are as a parent of a child with ADHD within the public school system. What kind of accommodations are best suited for your child within the classroom? What is your child’s learning style? How does he best take in new information? How can the teacher maximize my child’s ability to complete classwork?  What kind of plan does my child need – an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Accommodation Plan? What’s the difference? Does my child need a sensory diet? Can my child participate in a social skills group in school?

As a parent, you may not be fully aware of all that is available to your child, and what can be best incorporated into her school day so that she is accessing the curriculum as best she can. Some teachers will seek you out, but in some cases, you will need to seek your teacher out and encourage collaboration and brainstorming.  Your best bet is to be ready with strategies and accommodations that will help your child on a daily basis.

Parenting a child with ADHD is a demanding job that can sometimes leave you, the parent, drained. In an effort to keep you available to your child and your family, find support for yourself with help from another, find support in other parents, and with a professional who can help you create a plan for your child in school.

Dr. Liz Matheis


Dr. Liz Matheis is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and certified School Psychologist who specializes in working with children with ADHD, Anxiety, Autism, Learning Disabilities, and behavioral struggles. She is also mom to three children, one with special needs. Her practice, Psychological and Education Consulting, is located in Livingston, New Jersey.

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