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When ADHD Parents Have ADHD Kids

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

Oh, the Irony!

If you’re a parent, then you know the extra demands that this role makes on executive functioning. And if you’re the parent of an ADHD kid, you might even know what executive functioning means!

If you’ve got the double whammy of being an ADHD parent of an ADHD kid, you’ve got what an ex-client so eloquently described as "the extra burden of figuring out how to help your mini-me without losing it!"

ADHD Parenting Tips for Raising ADHD Kids

A lot of what ADHD kids need to thrive (consistency, management and structure), is exactly what ADHD parents struggle with.

There’s overcoming the obstacles of getting your kids the right help.

There’s the curse words of the ADHD brain - routines, schedules and structure, oh my!

Just getting them out the door in the mornings makes you need to go back to bed!

5 Things that ADHD Kids Need (That are Difficult for ADHD Parents)

1. Routines and structure. 2. Organized systems for possessions, clothes and schoolwork. 3. Consistent boundaries and consequences for breaking them. 4. A sense of calm and emotional availability from you. 5. Follow through with practicing skills – reading practice, piano practice, physical therapy exercises...

Alana’s Top 3 Tips for Surviving ADHD Parenting

The real-life nutty, mostly-ADHD Stern Gang!

1. Put your Own Oxygen Mask On First!

Think of this mask as a pyramid. If you know Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you know that you can’t be calm, collected and on top of parenting if you are not covering the basics.

Alana’s Hierarchy of ADHD Parenting Needs

1. Basic Survival Eating, hydrating, sleeping and basic healthcare.

2 . Energy Sources If you want to feel good and have basic energy for parenting ADHD kids, I recommend:

  • Movement (I hate the word exercise, but something that pumps oxygen into your brain and muscles, or fresh air and a change of scenery?

  • Social Support Get that support from someone or a group who understands you and your challenges raising ADHD children. Ditch the classical parenting tips and advice from neurotypicals. What works for them does not always work for your family. In short, stop trying harder and try different!

3. Mental Support And finally, parenting ADHD kids makes a lot of demands on your already compromised emotional regulation skills. Getting help to learn to regulate your own emotions, makes you:

  • more emotionally available for your kids and

  • able to model for them effective calming-down strategies.

2. Outsource your Brain

Overwhelmed? Frazzled? Ditzy? Dropping balls? My only tip for the problem of ADHD “scatter-brain” is to stop relying on it and write everything down. Whether you use a notebook or an app, assume you won’t remember and get it out your head!

And I hereby give you permission to stop searching for the perfect system! There is no perfect system for task management. The best one is the one you actually use! And you do have to stick with one for about 3 months before you know if you can use it.

3. Have a Haven

Take a time-out for yourself! Noisy brains need a calm environment.

Find a small space in your home that you can make visually appealing and calming, where you can go to collect yourself and gather your thoughts. Go there when things are heating up and you might say or do something you would later regret.

Lots of bonus points if you can figure out how to get up 30 minutes before your kids, and go there to drink your coffee, AKA, become human.

I once heard a story about a mom who sat calmly at her kitchen table while her kids raced around asking her for food, help with finding shoes and demanding that she get involved in their squabbles.

Like the eye in the center of a tornado, she just sat quietly sipping her coffee and repeating, “Right now, I am creating a mother for you.

Imagine being able to do that even before the storm rages?

The Flip Side

It’s not all bad though. Having ADHD gives you the ability to empathize with your children. One of the best pieces of parenting advice I ever received was that our kids don’t need us to solve their problems for them. They just need to feel heard.

I once wrote in a blog post in which I said, “Like some sick joke of the universe, the kids who need the most micromanagement, consistency and structure; are being raised by a parent (or two) who struggles with the very same skills."

I got an objecting but really touching comment from a reader, offering a different perspective:

“Not just with regard to ADHD, [ we often land up with] children who have similar traits to ours, in order to reflect back to us like a mirror the things we need to work on in ourselves...

…It does take a bit [or a bucket!] of honesty, willingness and openness to self-reflect and [work on these challenges in yourself.]

Noticing the connection between our kids' patterns and our own … is meant to give us food for thought and self-reflection... Kind of like our …[personal] IEP right in our own home!”

But most importantly, in the long run, your kids won’t remember that your floors weren’t always shiny, or that you kept forgetting the permission slips.

They will, however, remember that they were seen, heard and understood. That they grew up with a parent that GOT them. And that, my friends, is worth a price far above rubies.

What’s your biggest ADHD parenting challenge? Comment below.

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