10. Adjust your expectations as a parent.
“There is no law that says, for instance, that the house must be immaculate, or that all family members must eat together every single night,” Matlen said. Instead, find what works for you as a family. “Honor and celebrate [your] differences!”
And remember that everyone makes mistakes. “Learn to forgive yourself. There is no such thing as a ‘perfect parent,’” Sarkis said.
11. Use positive phrases when giving instructions.
Avoid giving instructions with the word “don’t.” As Sarkis said, “The brain does not process ‘not.’” (She compared it to not thinking about a white elephant. Tough, right?)
For instance, rather than saying “’Don’t touch the cereal boxes on the grocery store shelf,’ tell your child to keep his hands at his sides, and reward him as often as possible for following directions,” she said.
12. Give one direction at a time.
Multi-step directions can get confusing and overwhelming. Keep things simple by giving one direction at a time to your kids, Sarkis said. Also, ask them to repeat the instructions so you know they got it, she added.
13. Give your child choices.
“Instead of having your child pick out his or her own outfit for school, lay out two outfits the night before,” Sarkis said. Your child gets to make her own decision, and you’re not spending the entire morning fighting about what to wear.
14. Ask your kids what they need when they act out.
“Did they have a rough day and just need a hug, are they hungry, or do they need to talk about their day?” Sarkis said. “Even if they aren’t really sure why they are upset, asking them how you can help can redirect them from being upset.”
15. Get outside help.
Women are taught that they must juggle motherhood, work and household chores successfully. If we don’t, then there’s something wrong with us. But as Matlen pointed out, having outside help, such as a housecleaner, professional organizer, coach or babysitter, is not a luxury. “They are accommodations for living with ADD.”
It also helps to hire a babysitter when you’re home. This creates more positive interactions between you and your child, Matlen said. “ADD parents often have a short fuse, and finding ways to cope will make life calmer and happier for both parent and child.”
16. Take a timeout.
When you notice the early signs of a stress meltdown, take a timeout. “Explain to the child that when things become tense, the parent may choose to give himself a ‘time-out’ in order to cool down,” Matlen said. “This is also a wonderful way for the child to learn how to be proactive with his own strategies for dealing with his stress.”
17. Carve out breaks for yourself.
Parents need to take breaks in order to refuel, Matlen said. That can mean spending time with their spouse or friends or by themselves.
18. Let kids have breaks, too.
Kids also need breaks from their parents and routines, Matlen said. Ask grandparents and close family and friends to have them over for sleepovers and other fun activities.
19. Educate your non-ADHD spouse.
It’s important for the spouse who doesn’t have ADHD to understand the disorder and how it manifests. Help them by providing books, articles and other resources to read, Matlen said. She also suggested encouraging your spouse to attend support groups.
20. Work with specialists.
It’s vital to work with mental health professionals who truly understand ADHD and the challenges that come with parenting. Remember that getting parenting help doesn’t make you a poor parent, Matlen said. In fact, it’s a smart and proactive thing to do. “One needs to understand that the ADD parent has special needs which often require special help,” Matlen said.
21. Don’t forget to laugh and have fun!
There’s no doubt that parenting a child with ADHD when you have the disorder yourself is stressful. But taking life seriously all the time increases everyone’s stress. Matlen encouraged families to see the humor in life, which can bring you together. Also, let your child take the reins and lead the family in a fun activity, Matlen said. This is a great tension-reducer.
While parenting is exhausting, finding what works for you and your family can ease the strain and improve your relationship. “Understanding one’s own special needs as an adult with ADD can take a parent a long way in learning how to cope and utilize the many tips and strategies available,” Matlen said.