Parenting Tips for When a Parent and Child Both Have ADHD
Parenting comes with an equal number of rewards and challenges, especially if ADHD runs in your family. Children with ADHD often share this neurotype with at least one parent. Sometimes parents are already aware of their diagnosis before they have children. Other times, parents only look into getting a diagnosis when their child receives one.
Since ADHD diagnoses didn’t become common until the 1990s, many people born in the ‘70s and ‘80s aren’t aware they have it until they compare their child’s behavior with their own. This realization can make parenting your ADHD child easier because you understand their challenges and can manage symptoms together.
Symptoms of ADHD in Children and Adults
Though the symptoms of ADHD are often the same in children and adults, they present differently for different age groups. For instance, hyperactivity may manifest in children as a constant urge to jump, play, and run, while adults may simply feel restless and unable to relax. A child’s impulsivity may look like an inability to wait their turn or play quietly, while adults may interrupt others and become easily frustrated.
The best way to manage these symptoms is to do it together. Below are some strategies you can apply to help your child manage their symptoms while handling your own.
Parenting a Child with ADHD for the Parent with ADHD
Accommodate and Manage Your Symptoms
Before you can effectively help your child learn to regulate their ADHD symptoms, you need to devise strategies and methods for managing yours. It’s similar to a flight attendant instructing passengers to put on their oxygen masks before helping their children. If the parent isn’t cared for, they can’t care for their children.
The same principle applies here. Accommodating your needs by storing important items in plain sight and setting an alarm to take your medication not only frees headspace for parenting, but also models to your child that they can do the same thing.
Establishing routines with ADHD can be challenging. However, once you’ve created a routine that works for your lifestyle, your days will go more smoothly. Adhering to a routine creates a kind of muscle memory, enabling you to move through daily tasks without thinking about them too much and allowing executive dysfunction to set in. The idea is to make the routine so rote that you and your child can entertain yourselves with stories, music, and fun discussions without missing a beat.
Routines also help establish healthy habits like staying hydrated, eating regularly, and taking medication on time.
But don’t go to the extreme with this. While too many distractions can draw you and your child’s focus away from things like schoolwork, too little stimulation could lead to seeking distractions because your brain needs dopamine.
Rather than sitting in silence while doing homework, talk to your child about what helps you focus, and let them choose some things to try. For instance, movies and podcasts may prove too distracting, but rock music or ASMR videos could be just the right amount of stimulation.
Teach and Model Self-Care
While it’s beneficial for children to learn that we sometimes need to do things that aren’t fun or pleasant, it’s equally important to teach and demonstrate optimum self-care—especially for parents and children with ADHD.
ADHD brains often move at lightning speed, skipping from one task to another without a break, putting them at greater risk for panic attacks and burnout. Showing your child that it’s okay to rest—and how to rest effectively with ADHD—gives you a break and teaches them how to care for themselves long-term.
Jenn Walker is a freelance writer, blogger, dog-enthusiast, and avid beachgoer operating out of Southern New Jersey. She writes for Klarity, an online ADHD diagnosis service.