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The ADHD Parent Raising the ADHD Child

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

You are a parent with a child who has ADHD and everything you’ve read says to raise a child with ADHD successfully you have to have structure, routine and patience… but -

You have ADHD TOO!

You have a hard time creating and maintaining your own routines and your own structure. You have your own good days and bad days. You feel like you’re not able to keep your own train on the track - much less being proactive for your children’s mental health and well being. Are you failing your children? Will they always be disorganized? Will they always struggle?

Not. At. All.

Why? Because you love them. You accept them. You lean into their strengths. You lean into your own strengths. THAT is what it means to have a successful life.

There are however a few good tips and tricks to navigate the day to day to help make creating a little routine a little easier:

Here are my Top 5 recommendations for ADHD Parents raising children with ADHD.

1. The number one most important thing you can do is to give yourself SPACE

Meditate. Sit Quietly. Clear your mind. Journal. Allow yourself time and space to be

open - to allow your intuition clear and unfettered access.

We overthink things. We make things more complicated than they need to be sometimes. We’re parents - with ADHD!

When we give ourselves space to access our inner guides and intuition - we can focus on the real priorities in our lives with more ease and not allow ourselves to get bogged down with being “busy”.

2. Lists! Create them. Use them. Love them.

The benefit of lists?

More time. More space. More productivity.

  • Having a list helps your brain to prioritize and sort everything out and put them in order

  • Lists can help to make realistic timelines

  • Lists helps avoid "triggers" by being proactive; they remind us what to bring, what to plan for, and ensure we get sleep, food, stimulation, exercise, relaxation; they help us get the most important things done so we have mental capacity for fun!

  • They remind us to stay focused and stay on track

  • Lists also help us to stay flexible. How? Because they can be created quickly, and they can easily be adapted and revised to fit our needs.

What should be in a list?

  • Anything! Goals, milestones, tasks, schedules, to-dos, to bring, to pack, to remember - all of these are what I consider lists. If you have any set of tasks to do - make a list. I don’t wing it - I always feel like my brain is on heavy spin cycle when I try to wing it with a large set of tasks or to-dos.

  • I make checklists for daily routines in out house: Night-Night Kid routine, Breakfast routine, getting out the door in the morning, to-do before going to bed for us parents - even a laminated list of what should go in the diaper bag (that's mostly for their dad...)

  • I also no longer try to convince myself that I can remember things without a list. Even if it seems easy or small, our ADHD brains make it harder to remember.

Where should I make my list?

  • Anywhere! Post-it notes. Wall calendar. Whiteboard. Google docs or sheets. Outlook tasks and calendar. Task manager on your smartphone. Notebooks. List apps such as Family Wall or To-Doist

    • Whatever works for you - try all methods out and see what is the most helpful and what you actually stick to using the most. It doesn't have to be flashy or complicated - it just has serve you and your family well.

  • Make them re-usable when you can - laminate them, hang them up, put them on a white board, create a template and print out multiple to use over and over.

SHARE them with your children. Let your children in on the creation of lists. Communicate this list. Show why lists are important and why the items on this list are important. Help build your child’s own internal reward mechanism for checking things off the list.

3. Timers. Timers. Timers.

I don’t trust my ability to track the flow of time. I have ADHD - time gets away from me almost as a rule. I set timers, alarms and alerts to help stay on top of time.

  • Alarm Example: While I was racing around in the morning, I had a terrible habit of thinking it was still only 7:40am and then when looking at the clock, I would be shocked to find it was already 8:00am… yikes! Time just got away from me. So, I started setting alarms in the morning:

    • 20 minutes before I needed to leave in the morning to begin the countdown

    • Then I set two more for 10 minutes before I have to leave and 5 minutes before I have to leave, because I don’t trust my snooze skills

    • It doesn’t mean I’m not still late sometimes - but I am well aware of the fact that I am running late rather than it being a sudden surprise. (Baby steps…)

  • Timers Example: I set timers for the activities I do with and my kids

    • Eating Breakfast together - somehow I can spend 45 minutes just sitting at the breakfast table enjoying my coffee and chatting with kiddos - only to make them late for school and me late for work. So right before as sit down to eat, I look at the clock and decide how much time we really have and set a timer. Sometimes we have to gobble it down in 15 minutes or less, sometimes we can relax and take 30 minutes.

    • This one really gets me - sometimes I try to give my kids 15 - 20 minutes of free time before bed, but I get distracted and lose track of time. Next thing I know 45 minutes to an hour has gone by and then they get to bed late. Now I let my kids know how long the timer will be set for and they know when it goes off - time for bed!

ONE RULE: I NEVER turn off a timer or alarm unless I am ready to do the task and activity it was set for. If I need “five more minutes”, then I will set a timer for “5 more minutes”. I learned the hard way that even that 5 minutes can get away from me. I don’t expect more of my brain than it can do. (see number 5 below)

4. Do ONE THING until it's finished (or Try to...)

I believe there is a difference between multi-tasking and getting distracted: Obviously in our lives multi-tasking is essential - I will fold laundry while I help my son with his homework, or binge-watch Netflix while I'm doing the dishes, or even prep dinner while I'm listening in on a zoom call. If I don't do those things - I'll be up till 1am every night with no clean dishes or folded laundry... However - once I start a task like dishes, or laundry, or dinner, or homework, or cleaning a room - I don't allow myself to get distracted and start a new task until the first one is completed all the way.

This is not always for easy for us with ADHD - I'm guessing we all been guilty of doing dishes, but then our kids are shouting, so we go to check on them, and then see a bunch of unfolded laundry and just start doing that, but then we don't finish that because we get super wrapped up in this Disney movie, only to realize its past the kids bed time, so we launch into the night night routine, and then fall asleep putting them to bed, only to wake up in their beds an hour later, more awake than before - and now it's 10pm and the house is a mess! (Has this happened to anyone else???)

So now, in this same scenario - if I was doing the dishes and I needed to check on kids, after I get them settled, I would remind myself to go right back and finish the dishes and just know that the laundry will be there later - even if later means tomorrow - and I can always watch that Disney movie on my own time, but tonight, the dishes will be done! (And I would also have timer going to remind me when the kids need to go to bed. See #3 above).

If have multiple things that need to get done - I create a list (see #2 above) and I try to do:

  • the less interesting things; and/or

  • the things that have a finite end first

For example - "cleaning your closet" can take 15 minutes or a whole day... but doing the dishes is usually a set amount of time. If both of those items were on my list, I would do the dishes first. Or - doing the dishes versus writing this blog post. Writing this blog post would become my "reward" for finishing the dishes. (And when I finish this blog post, my reward for that will be binge watching Netflix....)

5. Know your strengths! Accept your weaknesses.

Focus on what you’re good at and what you like doing. Are you crafty? Are you a good cook? Are you sporty? Are you super organized? Do you love spreadsheets? Are you outdoorsy? Are you super creative? Do you make friends easily? Do you love adventure?

Lean into all that. Show your children how amazing you are when you are in your best element; when you are doing the things that you love best. Show them your shining, radiant, brilliant self. Show them that kind of joy. By seeing you access your joy, they will have a better understanding of how to unlock their own. THAT will help everything else go smoother. If you can access your joy - then you can find a solution for all of the other things.

Stop stressing about your weaknesses. I know weaknesses may be a harsh term - but we can’t be good at everything. Rather than beating our heads against a wall trying to be good everything - what if we sought alternatives; its ok to seek help in areas where we’re not as strong.

  • I use a virtual PM to help me do my budget, make doctors appointments, and stay on top of upcoming events and tasks (this is the only item in this list that costs me money - the rest are all free options)

  • I am part of “Goal Group” because I need check-ins to remain accountable for the tasks / items I’m working on

  • I block time on my calendar called “Focus” or “Admin” time just for me and I create a list of what I hope to accomplish in that time

  • I have an app on my phone that closes all my social and shopping apps so I don’t get lost scrolling and lose track of time

  • I forgive myself (constantly) for my not-so-good days. I remember #1 above and I give myself space, compassion and love. I realign and readjust where I need. Then I start 2-5 all over again.

THAT is what your kiddos need to see. Not how to have it all figured out all the time. That’s not reality. Reality is being able to recognize when we’ve hit a wall. Reality is recognizing when something just isn’t working. Reality is being OK with what has happened, while knowing something needs to change. The next step is to feel our way to a corner and turn around it; feel our way to a door and walk through it. When your children see someone capable of doing that - they see an emotionally healthy person that they can model their own emotional health after. That is the best gift you can give your children.

For more ideas like this please reach out to learn about our one-on-one parent success coaching or one of our upcoming Parent Reboot Workshops.

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