In the previous articles I have spoken about the ADD/ADHD child but what about the parents? As the last of these articles, it is important to talk about parents of children with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is hard work having an ADHD child and few parents who do not have one understand and recognise this. ADHD children can impact hugely on family dynamics and the parental relationship.
Studies have shown that couples with ADHD children fight more frequently about child-rearing issues than couples whose children do not have ADHD. Couples sometimes tend to turn on each other and blame each other when their child is acting out or hyperactive. It’s important to acknowledge that each partner is dealing with the same frustrations albeit in different situations. For instance, a common dynamic in ADHD families is that Mom helps with the homework and keeps the child on task, and Dad takes the child outside to play. As a result, Mom may feel resentful towards Dad because he gets to do all the “fun” stuff, while she is the taskmaster and bad cop. Mom may need to admit that playtime is not always fun for Dad. He negotiates rules, deals with temper tantrums, and teaches the child about taking turns and slowing down. Therefore in order to minimise arguments, it’s important that parents agree on an ADHD parenting approach that they both endorse and support.
As a result of the stress each parent may experience, especially mothers, as they tend to be more involved in the daily routine of the child, parental self-care is paramount. Parents need to make sure that they have time out during the week or weekend involved in pleasurable activities as well as some time each day doing something pleasurable just for themselves. Healthy eating, good exercise, relaxation techniques and good sleep all help to bolster resilience and coping skills. Parents need to ensure that they have lots of support from their partner, a friend, the professionals they work with, if necessary, a psychologist for their child, so that they do not feel alone and lonely on this road. You will be a much more successful parent if you support yourself and get help when and if you need it.
It’s important for parents to remember to just enjoy their child – there is often so much emphasis on problems or ADD symptoms that parents forget how to have fun and enjoy their child and experience the positive aspects of ADHD.
Family fun can counteract many of the negative interactions that kids with ADHD/ADD have as they try to fit in at school or please the adults in their lives. Doing fun things together can bring a family closer, such as having a weekly movie night where each family member takes turns choosing the movie, snacks, etc. In this way parents and kids can reboot their energy levels and can experience each other in a happier context. This too is a form of parental self-care.
Author: Lorian Phillips; Clinical Psychologist