Parents with ADHD may worry about their children dealing with similar challenges. But you can teach your kids how to thrive while coping with symptoms yourself.
Parents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may experience a unique set of challenges, including a high possibility of raising kids who have ADHD themselves.
There is a strong genetic component to ADHD: Around
If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, that certainly doesn’t mean you’ve done anything as a parent to cause or prevent it from developing. Many experts believe inheritability may be more impactful than environmental risk factors.
Parents who have — or suspect they may have — ADHD may be concerned about the types of challenges their kids might face with this condition. Rest assured, you can raise healthy and well-adjusted children with ADHD. Learning tips on how to help your kids cope can help the whole family.
According to the
Roughly 3 out of 4 kids diagnosed with ADHD have a relative with the condition. But high inheritability doesn’t necessarily guarantee your child will develop ADHD if you have it.
Experts may believe that inheritability plays the most impactful role in causing ADHD, but that’s not where the story ends.
Your genes interact with outside factors, or “triggers.” So, while you may carry genes for ADHD, you might never develop this condition if those genes aren’t triggered by your environment as a fetus or young child.
Environmental factors that could impact a child’s chances of developing ADHD include:
- Exposure to toxins: coming into contact with certain toxins in utero or as a young child, such as lead or organophosphate, a chemical found in pesticides
- Health and habits during pregnancy: your mother using alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, or certain medications, developing infections, and eating a less-nutritious diet during pregnancy
- Premature birth and birth weight: being born early or at a low birth weight
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI): brain damage from an injury or trauma early in life, or abnormal brain development
- Certain infections: encephalitis and meningitis in early childhood
Due to these variables, it’s impossible to say for certain whether your child will have ADHD. But it is statistically fair to say that the chances of developing ADHD are high if both parents have this condition.
While you can’t prevent your child from developing ADHD, you can play a vital role in helping them understand life with this condition by teaching and modeling effective coping skills.
1. Manage your own ADHD symptoms
Raising children is a tough job, but parenting with any mental health condition can be downright overwhelming. The saying, “You need to put your oxygen mask on first,” often rings true for parents with ADHD.
If you’re a parent with ADHD, it’s important that you address your own symptoms and prioritize your mental health and wellness.
According to a
- tendencies for disorganization
- difficulty focusing
Parents with unaddressed ADHD may experience parenting challenges related to:
- Stress. Parenting stress may feel more overwhelming while ADHD symptoms are present.
- Lack of consistency. Kids need consistency in parenting and discipline, which can be more challenging with untreated ADHD.
- Unsupportive parenting styles. Unmanaged ADHD in parents could make positive parenting more difficult, especially in responding to a child’s behaviors in supportive ways.
- Difficulties with organization. Organizational tasks like managing schedules and keeping track of your kids’ needs can be far more challenging when ADHD symptoms aren’t addressed in parents.
- Household chaos. According to the same
2010 study, parents with untreated ADHD may have a hard time maintaining a calm, organized environment at home.
- Connection. Parents — and especially fathers — with ADHD symptoms present reported lower levels of involvement and connection with their children.
And for kids, growing up with a parent or caregiver in the household who has an untreated mental health condition can qualify as an adverse childhood experience (ACE), depending on the severity and duration.
However, these issues can largely improve with effort and the right treatment plan in place.
Managing your own ADHD symptoms can also set a positive example for children. By prioritizing your mental health as a parent, you can:
- show your child that wellness is important
- model how to follow a treatment plan, such as taking medication correctly and keeping therapy appointments
- help destigmatize living with mental health conditions like ADHD
There’s a reason children are often lovingly called “sponges” in their environments. Kids observe and learn about life largely through what’s modeled at home by caretakers.
Choosing mental wellness is choosing your kids and family.
Adult ADHD diagnosis
Many adults may not recognize they have ADHD. If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, but you’ve never received a formal diagnosis for this condition, you may want to consider setting up a screening for adult ADHD.
Women are more commonly diagnosed in adulthood, due to societal stigma about ADHD symptoms. In particular, mothers may be misdiagnosed with conditions like anxiety or depression before learning they have ADHD.
2. Minimize distractions
Minimizing distractions may help boost productivity when you live with ADHD.
Teaching your child ways to eliminate or minimize distractions while they are focusing on a task can empower them to make healthy choices moving forward. For example, you can show them how to keep separate work and play spaces — like desks and bedroom floors — free of clutter.
Using noise-canceling headphones or listening to music during focus times can also help kids with ADHD concentrate.
Learning how to eliminate distractions may help them avoid disciplinary attention from teachers and other caregivers, such as having distracting toys and games taken away or removed.
3. Teach self-care
Self-care means taking care of yourself as a whole person — not just trying to manage symptoms.
Teaching self-care can be a gift to your child. Learning to prioritize whole wellness can help kids develop healthy behaviors that may set them up for future success.
Some examples of self-care strategies for kids might be:
- drinking enough water
- eating nutritious foods
- exercising and engaging in physical activity regularly
- spending time outside in nature
- practicing sleep hygiene habits
- making time for fun, play, and creativity with activities they enjoy
Self-care can also help corral your child’s attention and energies so that they can focus and be productive at appropriate times.
4. Know what’s typical for your child
Every child develops at a slightly different pace. It’s important to know what’s typical for your child and what’s not so that you can detect potential symptoms of ADHD or other conditions.
5. Be their strongest advocate
You can help your child by anticipating or reacting to what they might need in order to succeed in school and social settings.
Advocating for your child may look like:
- talking with your child’s teacher or school counselor to find out if your child should have an IEP or 504 plan in place to support their educational needs
- speaking up with your child’s pediatrician or therapist when the current treatment plan — including prescription medications or skills-based therapy — is not meeting expected results
- helping your child stick to their treatment plan, including attending therapy appointments and following medication guidelines, as well as any at-home exercises recommended by their therapist
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), an ADHD advocacy group, adds that parents may want to consider keeping thorough records of report cards and teacher feedback, as well as learning more about ADHD and children’s educational rights.
ADHD can present challenges for both kids and parents alike. If you have ADHD, you might be concerned about your child developing this condition and dealing with the same difficulties you experienced.
There is a significant genetic component to ADHD, but it certainly isn’t a negative reflection of you as a parent if your child develops this condition.
ADHD is fairly common, and you’re not alone in this experience — as a parent or a family. With the right treatment plan and healthy lifestyle habits in place, kids and adults can both learn to thrive with ADHD.
Receiving an accurate diagnosis is a key step in learning how to manage ADHD symptoms. It’s important to speak with your child’s pediatrician, therapist, or school psychologist if you suspect your child has ADHD.
Your child’s healthcare team can assess their symptoms and make recommendations based on a diagnosis, which may include a combination of:
- lifestyle changes in your household
Consider getting an assessment for adult ADHD if you’ve never been formally diagnosed with the condition, but your child has. Understanding and managing your own ADHD symptoms can be a crucial step in parenting kids with ADHD.
If you think speaking with a therapist could be helpful but don’t know where to start, check out Psych Central’s guide to seeking mental health support.
While some days can seem overwhelming, there are more resources than ever, and there’s more understanding about ADHD to help families thrive.