When a Child and Parent Both Have ADHD

The Bright Side

Although a family with a parent and child with ADHD is probably a wild, crazy, and disorganized mess, there are also some big plusses to such situations. For starters, parents with ADHD probably have a good idea about the struggles their children may be going through. They can empathize with the children and may be in a much better position (compared to parents without ADHD) to understand how their child's brain works. It is also possible that a kid with ADHD may be more likely to listen to a parent who also has it, since the parent has "been there and done that."
In addition, it is possible that a parent and child with ADHD might actually lead to less conflict. Two disorganized people may live together peacefully (albeit chaotically), whereas combining an organized parent with a disorganized child (or vice versa) might produce an explosive and frustrating situation.

Making a Tricky Situation Work

What can be done if having a parent and child with ADHD in one house has already created a volatile situation? First, make sure both of you are being adequately treated for the condition. This will likely mean medication and may also mean therapy. This step alone can do wonders for the situation.
But what to do if everyone is appropriately treated, yet the family dynamics are still explosive? First, remind yourself that no family is perfect, and some trouble should be expected for every family, especially during those tough teenage years. But if your family situation seems far worse than normal, don't hesitate to talk to your doctor (and/or your child's doctor) about it. Counseling (either together or separate, or both) may be useful, both to work past old hurts and to find new paths forward.
Here are a few practical tips that may be useful for families with a parent and child with ADHD:
  • Talk about what works for you and ask your kid what works for them. Two creative ADHD brains are better than one for finding unique solutions to tough problems.
  • Wake up early enough to give everyone ample time to get out the door in the morning. Rushed mornings mean disaster for ADHD families.
  • Ask your kids to help out around the house. It's not fair for a parent (especially a parent with ADHD) to be stuck with all the household upkeep. Start by assigning each child one or two age-appropriate tasks. Avoid complicated reward charts, which may frustrate both kids and adults.
  • Find ways to limit screen time automatically (for instance, set time limits on devices) for both you and the kids. Think of it as automatic self-control. Kids and parents with ADHD tend to hyperfocus on video games, the Internet, and other electronic content, which can all be enormous time wasters.
  • Get outside and be active, either together or separately. Turn off the TV, the computer, and the video games and get some fresh air. You'll all feel better if you do.
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