When Both You and Your Child Have ADHD

Parents with ADHD that has not been diagnosed are often overwhelmed by the demands of parenting and struggling to meet their children’s needs. Lacking organizational skills, they may find keeping up with their kids’ schedules and managing their behavior very stressful. Mothers with ADHD are more likely to be treated for depression than ADHD, according to Dr. Mark Stein, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the University of Washington and a clinical psychologist and director of the ADHD and Related Disorders Program at Seattle Children’s Hospital. This oversight is especially unfortunate, he says, because treating the ADHD that’s underlying their problems would benefit both them and their children.

The problem may be more widespread than is currently believed because ADHD tends to run in families. There is a 60 percent chance that one or the other parent of children who have been diagnosed with ADHD may have the condition themselves.This can have a big impact on the treatment of a child’s ADHD.

Studies show that intervention for kids with ADHD tends to be less effective when a care giving parent has ADHD, too. Medication treatment requires a lot of parental organization to make appointments, deal with insurance, fill prescriptions, make sure kids take their medications and monitor any side effects, and the child’s treatment is less effective if compliance with the treatment regimen isn’t consistent. Behavioral therapy for kids with ADHD is also less effective when parents have ADHD. Dr. Stein comments that there are a number of studies that look at behavioral parent training, and the biggest predictor of not responding is if a parent has ADHD.

Clinicians suggest that this situation requires a treatment plan that includes the entire family. Dr. Patricia Quinn, director of the National Center for Gender Issues and ADHD, says that the problem can be especially difficult for mothers with ADHD. There are few support groups that focus on the unique needs of women with ADHD. Husbands may not understand what they could be doing to help their wives and may have unrealistic expectations of the relationship and responsibilities. In-laws and other family members may criticize the way the house looks or other obvious signs of ADHD problems.

There are a number of things parents with ADHD can do. The first step is to get treatment and educate yourself. Melanie Howard, at Parenting.com has a number of recommendations for parents who confront this situation.The good news is that, as a parent with ADHD who has a child with ADHD, you are in the best position to empathize and help your child in dealing with the condition.


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  1. Donna

    I am being treated for bipolar disorder and take 4 prescription meds: effexor for depression, depakote as a mood stabilizer, Xanax for anxiety and Abilify to help with depression and mania. However, even with all 4 of these medicines, I still have difficulty concentrating, organizing my goals for the day, and focusing I do get easily side tracked or distracted when trying to make decisions. This fuels my bipolar disorder because life still feels very overwhelming for me. Iam a 51 yr old female who has been on meds since the age of 22. Is there help for me yet?