A Survival Guide for Parents with ADHD: Strategies from Preschool to High School

A Survival Guide for Parents with ADHD: Strategies from Preschool to High School

For any parent with ADHD, raising children, managing a household, and maintaining emotional health is a Hurclean task. ADHD impacts nearly every facet of parenting, so caregivers with the condition need distinct tools and resources to manage their symptoms and effectively meet their kids’ needs through every developmental phase. Here they are.

Parenting is hard. It’s rewarding, yes. But also difficult, demanding, and draining. When caregivers have ADHD, the challenges of parenting seem to multiply in number and intensity. ADHD symptoms like inattention, impulsivity, and emotional dysregulation inevitably impact the daily rhythms and responsibilities of parenting, not to mention the relationships we forge with our children as they grow.

From diapers to driver licenses, here’s advice for parents with ADHD on simultaneously managing their symptoms while raising happy, healthy, well-adjusted children.

How ADHD Impacts Parenting Skills

Parenting requires the daily, dependable execution of non-novel, repetitive tasks, a combination that’s kryptonite for adults with core ADHD deficits including fluctuating attention and poor working memory. More broadly, ADHD impacts these core facets of parenting:

  • Emotional availability: When children are experiencing big feelings or challenging situations, they look for guidance and protection from their parents. But with ADHD and its own emotional dysregulation, it’s tough to be consistently present and focused to support a child’s emotions.
  • Relationship-building: The parent-child bond is the nexus of any healthy family dynamic. But many parents with ADHD struggle to stay engaged and interested while spending time with their child, especially if CandyLand is involved.
  • Planning ahead for problematic situations: Parents are continuously making time and space to reflect on what’s been challenging for their family, and how they can alter plans, procedures, and schedules for future success. But caregivers with ADHD often lack the executive function skills to do this high-level analysis, planning, and execution. Impulse control deficits may also cause parents to lash out and complicate already-challenging situations.
  • Organizing supplies and schedules: Managing family logistics and routines requires unwavering organizational skills, a known difficulty with ADHD.
  • Keeping children safe: Parents need the attentional capacity to monitor their children, whether toddlers or teenagers, without distraction.
  • Shaping positive behavior: Positive reinforcement helps establish good behavior, but it requires parents to “catch” and praise their children quickly and with meaningful details.
  • Staying regulated in challenging situations: Emotional dysregulation, impulsivity, and intense emotions are part of the ADHD experience, which makes “calm” elusive in many ADHD households. Managing stress is also an issue for many parents with ADHD.
  • Setting boundaries and giving consistent consequences.

Parenting with ADHD: Tailored Approaches for Spirited Families

The charts below highlight critical areas in each of the four childhood developmental stages, plus strategies for caregivers with ADHD to employ for each.

ADHD Parenting Skills: Elementary School (Ages 6 to 10)

Forming relationships: Children start to form bonds independently and engage in parallel play. Reflective modeling: Children adopt the social skills they see at home — from their parents and siblings or on the TV. Model appropriate interactions for your child, and be mindful of what they’re watching.
Developing interests and hobbies: Children practice and start to demonstrate skill in certain activities. Create opportunities for practice. Think: How can I give my child whatever materials they need to independently practice?
Complex schedules: More activities require more planning and materials. Externalize information. It’s common for individuals with ADHD to forget verbal instructions. Use whiteboards, sticky notes, digital calendars, and other visual organizing tools to keep track of schedules and to-dos.
Academic responsibility: Homework, tests, projects, and elevated expectations place extra demand on organizational skills. Set up “help times;” To manage frustration and frequent interruptions, establish certain times when your child can check in with you. First, make sure that they have a clear workspace free of distractions. (No screens, all supplies in one place, etc.)
Social life: Play dates and parties are still facilitated by parents, which requires clear communication and planning. Set reminders: Schedule a time every week to verify and prepare for upcoming plans. Create multiple countdown reminders until the day of the event.
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