When a child is diagnosed with ADHD it impacts both the child and the family. The family often struggles to develop ways to support and nurture the child while caring for themselves. A parent may experience feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and frustration. Siblings may feel jealous of the time and attention that their brother or sister with ADHD receives. The child with ADHD frequently feels like the “sick one.” While all of this can take a toll on a family, there are steps and strategies to help families emerge stronger and closer than ever while nurturing the ADHD child and each other.
Take Control of the Process
Family members must decide how they are going to support each other through this journey. They must communicate with each other frequently and openly, about both their frustrations and their triumphs. The responsibility lies first with the family – before doctors, teachers, administrators, or counselors. Once this commitment is made, then others can play an integral role in helping the child succeed academically, emotionally, and socially.
Consider Your Parenting Type
Next, parents should evaluate their parenting style and the role they want to play in the household. Have a family meeting, and discuss the family dynamics. Get the opinions of family members and openly discuss and determine an optimal household environment. The following are a few roles a parent can play, along with the pros and cons of adopting these roles.
The Teacher - This parent focuses on values, philosophies, culture, ethics, manners, etc.
PRO: A positive, optimistic atmosphere permeates throughout the entire family.
CON: Sometimes, the parents have unrealistic expectations for their child.
The Supporter - This parent views the child’s destiny as beyond his/her control. The parent’s role is to guide and support the child’s decisions and offer advice, but they have minimal concrete expectations for the child.
PRO: A child with ADHD is free to grow and develop their strengths without additional pressure.
CON: Expectations for the child may not be high enough if the parent constantly lets the child dictate his or her activities.
The Molder – This parent has very clear and concrete expectations for the child. The role for the child in the family and the child’s future have already been determined or at least hoped for by the parent.
PRO: There are clear and defined expectations and guidelines.
CON: Parents’ goals may seem unattainable to a child with ADHD, who may ultimately feel defeated.
The Guide - This parent plays a more passive role in parenting, not wanting to infringe on a child’s creativity and individuality.
PRO: A safe and loving relationship can be established between parent and children.
CON: Guidelines are too loose, and there are no clear expectations or instructions for the children. This can often leave a child with ADHD feeling frustrated.
The Dependent - This parent’s emotional needs are met by the child. The child becomes the caretaker in the household.
PRO: The child often develops the strength of nurturing and caring for others.
CON: The child may begin to view their ADHD symptoms as a crutch.
The Monarch - This parent is the center of the family with its members catering to his/ her needs and emotions. This parent is usually the decision-maker for everyone else.
PRO: Directions and decisions are quick and decisive, thus alleviating pressure on children, especially those with ADHD.
CON: In some cases, monarchs focus solely on their needs, thus unintentionally ignoring the immense needs of the child, especially one with ADHD.
Avoid Parenting the Disorder
Remember that this disorder does not define your child or your family. You are not an “ADHD Family.” You are a family, first and foremost, dealing with ADHD. Parents need to remember to utilize support groups, family members, and friends for help. Being part of a family dealing with ADHD is challenging and often frustrating, but it can also bring a family closer together as its members learn to communicate and support one another better than ever before.
Helpful Guide: Family Education (www.familyeducation.com)
A.D.D. Warehouse (www.addwarehouse.com)
Parenting Strategies with ADHD Children
While there is certainly no magical parenting formula, parents with ADHD children need to be more proactive, more intentional and more thoughtful in their approaches. These strategies may well apply to parenting with all children; however, they are especially helpful with children who have issues of inattention, impulsivity, and over activity.
Helgful Guide A.D.D. Warehouse (www.addwarehouse.com)
ADDitude Magazine for People with ADHD (www.additudemag.com)
Children and Adults with ADHD (CHADD) (www.chadd.org)
Taking Charge of ADHD - Russell Barkley