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36 Tips for Families with ADHD

Posted on October 16, 2017



Statistics reveal that approximately 4% of adults in the U.S have ADHD. The majority of those affected are not getting diagnosed, nor are they receiving appropriate treatment. This is most likely due in part, to the fact that ADHD in adults was not widely recognized until the mid 1980s. Since then, researchers have found that adults with ADHD are at risk of having significant lifetime impairments, partly because they often suffer from other disorders, such as anxiety and depression in addition to their ADHD.

Keeping in mind that ADHD is highly genetic and that there is about a 50% chance of an adult with ADHD having one or more children with ADHD, it’s no wonder that families with multiple ADHD members tend to have high stress levels, marital conflicts and find parenting to be a daunting responsibility.

Consider the common symptoms seen in both adults and children with ADHD:

  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity/impulsivity
  • Distractibility
  • Forgetfulness
  • Problems with procrastination
  • Difficulty finishing tasks/projects
  • Emotional lability

When both child and adult share ADHD symptoms, it becomes extremely difficult and challenging for all family members involved. For example, how does a distracted parent keep an inattentive child on task? How does a disorganized parent teach a child organizational strategies? How does a parent with a short fuse tend to an overemotional child?

The adult with ADHD faces the already formidable task of raising a challenging child while at the same time trying to cope with his own personal struggles. If the parents’ ADHD issues are not addressed, they will experience tremendous difficulties fulfilling their roles as effective parents. The unique needs of each individual family member must be met in order for the family to manage effectively.

The challenges ADHD families face is addressed in the article, “When Mom and Dad are Distracted, Too: Parenting When Both Parent and Child Have ADHD.” Below are specific strategies families can use to improve relationships, self esteem and family life in general.

Family Strategies for Living Successfully with ADHD:

  1. Elicit help from your spouse and work as a team.
  2. Educate yourself about the disorder by reading as much as you can about ADHD in adults and children.
  3. Knowing that ADHD is part of the family mix, begin to shift expectations of yourself and your child. Expect that there will be more chaos, disorganization and tension in your home.
  4. Get babysitting help even if you are at home.
  5. Take parenting classes to acquire specific parenting tools.
  6. Realize that suggestions from well meaning friends and relatives may work for their (non-ADHD) children, but not for yours.
  7. Make sure that both parent and child’s ADHD is optimally treated.
  8. Hire someone to do homework with your child. This will knock down the stress level immediately for the entire family.
  9. Give yourself time outs when you feel you’re about to lose control of your temper; teach your child the same tactics. Ask your spouse to take over when you feel overwhelmed.
  10. Simplify your life in all areas: learn to say NO, or get into the habit of responding to outside requests by saying, “I’ll think about it and get back to you.” This tactic forces you to think carefully about the commitment before jumping in. Stop over-committing.
  11. Delegate chores to each family member – don’t take it all on yourself.
  12. Spend time with each child, where the focus is only on FUN.
  13. Learn to see the positive traits in all family members and remember to verbalize them often.
  14. Spend time away with your spouse, friends or alone to re-charge.
  15. Hire a Professional Organizer to get systems in place. Often times, children and adults with ADHD don’t have a natural understanding of organizational methods; a professional organizer can be extremely helpful in teaching such strategies.
  16. Consider hiring an ADD coach to help with prioritizing, time management, organizing your day, etc.
  17. Whenever possible, hire outside help with such chores such as house cleaning, lawn upkeep, etc.
  18. If budget is an issue in getting outside help, consider swapping chores with friends, relatives and neighbors. Ask relatives/friends to take over, then reciprocate with something you can do for them.
  19. Have quiet time for yourself after work. Consider spending 20 minutes at a coffee shop on your way home in order to re-charge, so that you have energy for your family.
  20. Have quiet zones set up in your home to help minimize distractions and sensory overload.
  21. Allow yourself to have “messy zones” at home so that there isn’t constant anxiety and frustration in trying to keep the entire house in order.
  22. Turn off the TV and phone during meals and turn on the answering machine.
  23. Have weekly family meetings to discuss problems and ways to solve them.
  24. Find humor in ADHD mishaps.
  25. See it coming and have a plan. For example, if your child has tantrums at the supermarket, leave him/her home with your spouse or sitter.
  26. Find creative ways for the family to do chores, i.e. singing/dancing; have contests to see who finishes first; offer weekly prizes, etc.
  27. Keep a large wipe-off board and color code using markers for each family member- for schedules, chores, homework, etc.
  28. Have a “home” for daily items that typically get lost, i.e. keys, backpacks, glasses, wallet.
  29. Have things ready ahead of time so there’s not a last minute frantic dash before heading out for the day: pack lunches the night before; put briefcase and backpacks next to the door where the family exits.
  30. Place a small white board on the fridge for family members to jot down needed items from the grocery store.
  31. Remind yourself and your family that ADHD is not a death sentence and that together, you will get through this through humor, creativity and thinking outside the box.
  32. Remember the basics: exercise, good diet and adequate sleep. Some find that meditating is helpful to maintain calm and focus.
  33. Simplify meals if cooking isn’t your forte’. Allow yourself to carry dinners in, and use shortcuts to make simple, fast meals. Many kids with ADHD are very picky eaters and it’s best not to fight the issue. Some parents find that having kids develop menu ideas and helping out in the kitchen motivates them to be more interested in their food choices. Supplement poor eaters’ diets with healthy snacks and vitamins.
  34. Use checklists and other organizing strategies such as a Palm pilot or paper planner. Make sure the system works for you, rather than investing in the latest gadgets just because they are popular.
  35. Pick your battles- let go of things that aren’t all that important. Ask yourself if it’s essential that your son’s socks match at soccer practice; is it worth getting into a fight over it?
  36. As parents, be consistent with house rules and show a united front. Follow routines; children with ADHD thrive on structure.

Things to Remember

Raising a family is challenging, even in the best of circumstances. Add ADHD to the mix, and the stressors can take a toll on all members involved. It’s important to recognize the special challenges these families face. Allow yourself to take a step back, to change your expectations and forgive yourself when you feel that you’re not doing a “good enough” job juggling family and work responsibilities. Think about new strategies, starting with the ones above, to help improve daily family life. Remind yourself that having ADHD is not your fault, but on the other hand, it should not be an excuse for the problems your family may be facing.

Recognize that you are doing your best, but most likely you will need outside help and support- from working with mental health professionals, to securing household help in managing some of the chores when possible. Remember to delegate household responsibilities, keep your sense of humor and get the necessary treatment for all members challenged by ADHD.

Each family member lends a special uniqueness to the family, with talents, strengths and insights; pointing this out on a regular basis will help improve self-esteem and draw your family closer together. We tend to laser-focus on the negatives which only creates more family tension and resentment.

Your job as a parent with ADHD parenting children with ADHD is extremely challenging. Keep your sense of humor and remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can.

(Originally published 2008)

When Mom and Dad are Distracted, Too: Parenting When Both Parent and Child Have ADHD (Part 1) 

Posted on October 02, 2017

Distracted Mom

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Or, in more scientific terms, we can say that since ADHD is highly genetic: there’s a pretty good chance that a parent with ADHD will have a child with ADHD. In fact, there is approximately a 50% chance of that occurring. So what happens when mom and/or dad has ADHD? How does the family manage with multiple ADHD members?

Family life is complex enough when ADHD isn’t part of the mix. But add the common ADHD symptoms of inattention, distractibility, hyperactivity/impulsivity, disorganization, hypersensitivities and more, and one often sees chaos and distressing scenarios that can often become unmanageable. Consider the following:

How does hyperactive Johnny get his homework done if dad shuts down after a full day of work, completely depleted of all energy, and thus unable to give his distracted son the structure and support he needs?

How does inattentive mom remember to buy all the needed groceries for her family, stay on task and be organized enough to get dinner on for the kids, who, if not fed early enough, will have total emotional meltdowns, causing the whole family distress?

There are many challenges that ADHD families face and it’s important to address them by first becoming aware that they exist and understanding how they impact family life. Too often, families are in such turmoil that it’s difficult to wade through the mess and come to some sort of conclusion that not only is it the ADHD to blame, but that there are steps and strategies parents can utilize to prevent family meltdowns.

How Parents’ ADHD Impacts Family Life

Looking at the following scenarios, one can see the multitude of problems ADHD families face:

  1. If a parent procrastinates and is overloaded with last minute work deadlines, how can he help his child with homework so that the assignment is handed in on time?


  1. If a parent is disorganized, how can he help teach his own child organizational skills?


  1. If a parent is hyperactive, how can he slow down enough to enjoy one on one time with his child?


  1. If a parent is a daydreamer, how can she give her child her undivided attention? The child may misinterpret the inattention as the parent not caring.


  1. If a parent is emotionally over-reactive, how can he be patient with his child who also may have a short fuse?


  1. If a parent is annoyed by stimuli (noise, touch, etc.), how can she cope with the normal bustling activities of home life?

In addition to these and many other challenges, parents often are overwhelmed with their own perceived failures as parents. Often, depression, anxiety, guilt and anger set in. Marriages become conflicted and partners lose sight of each other’s – and their own- emotional needs. And what becomes of the children’s needs? Sadly, parents who have children with AD/HD are three times as likely to separate or divorce as parents of non-AD/HD children. But there are ways parents can avoid this.

Where to Start

It’s important to first understand what ADHD is and how it manifests itself in daily life. Parents need to be armed with this information so that they can not only help themselves, but also be available to their children so that the needs of all members of the family are being met.

This can be done by:

  • Reading about ADHD in adults and in children.
  • Attending conferences, workshops and meetings, such as CHADD and ADDA.
  • Getting support from family and friends and attending support groups.
  • Getting appropriate treatment for both child and parent.
  • Letting go of the concept of the “ideal” family and embracing the idiosyncrasies of yours; ADHD and all.
  • Learning to forgive yourself and acknowledging you are doing the best you possibly can.

There are many online resources as well:

In addition, it’s imperative that parents get professional help for all family members with ADHD. Counseling, therapy and medication are common treatment modalities. Studies show that the most successful treatment for ADHD is a combination of these, plus, in the case of children, behavioral treatment. Adults often find ADD coaching to be extremely helpful. In addition, your child may be eligible for special help at school. Discuss your concerns with the school social worker or psychologist.

All in all, maintain your sense of humor. Communicate clearly with your spouse and children. Realize that though your family may have specific ADHD related challenges, each member contributes something special to the mix. Acknowledge each person’s unique strengths and gifts and come together as a family, offering encouragement and support.

Are you a parent with ADHD? Can you share some strategies that work for you? Please post in the Comment section, below.


Originally published On Jan 14th 2008



Pro Tips For Making Things Easier on Yourself as a Mom With ADHD

Posted on September 09, 2017



Check out this article from I contributed a number of comments/tips for this piece, which you can read HERE