ADHD Mom’s Parenting Strategies
Are you a mom with ADHD? Does that make it tough to stay organized, be on time or manage your family’s daily routines? If so, help is on the way. We asked experts – including some with the disorder – for their best tips to tackle the 7 trickiest parenting scenarios…”
Source: Parenting with ADHD 6 Ways to Cope
“Simple changes that can make your daily routine easier.”
Minimize the morning rush
Socks are flying, shoes are missing and lunches aren’t made. The ADHD adult’s tendency to procrastinate makes getting the kids out the door feel like a four-alarm fire. Everyone’s stressed, frustrated and screaming at each other.
What to do:
Make a list of what needs to be done in the morning, and what you can do the night before, suggests Rory Stern, Psy.D., ADHD coach and founder of ADHD Family Online and an ADHD sufferer.
In his home, night-before prep is essential to a stress-free next day. He and his wife make lunches and lay out their child’s clothes.You can also pack backpacks, put instruments by the door, and make sure all school papers are signed and ready to go.
“Just taking one thing off the morning list can make a difference,” Stern says.
Step out of homework duty
Helping kids with homework is one of the biggest areas of conflict for ADHD moms, according to Matlen, who suffers from the disorder, along with one of her kids.
Most moms know the drill: One child begs for help to finish a sugar-cube model of the Alamo while another asks questions about 4th grade math that seem like they came from 10th grade algebra.
For a woman who may not have done well in school herself because of ADHD, homework can be especially frustrating, Stern says.
What to do:
- Beg off homework duty and don’t feel guilty about it, say Matlen and Stern. Instead, recruit the help you need:
- Swap evening tasks with your spouse.
- Make dinner or pay bills while he helps with homework.
- Hire a teenage tutor for an hour.
- Let an older sibling trade a chore for looking over a younger one’s homework.
- Ask an adult friend to lend a hand.
- Have your child stay after school for extra help from the teacher, and go along if you can.
“Not only does your child get the help he needs, but you’re giving the message to the teacher that you care,” Stern says. “That goes a long way.”
Impulsivity is a hallmark of ADHD, says Matlen. That leads many moms to eagerly agree to bake all 50 cupcakes for the class party. The problem: They don’t think through the fact that they’ll be up all night trying to complete this task.
“Many women with ADHD are people-pleasers,” Matlen says. “They’re sensitive, and they want to fit in, so they’ll volunteer for everything.”
What to do:
Learn to say, “Let me think about it. I’ll get back to you,” recommends Matlen.
This gives you the time to consider the requirements of a task before you agree to it. If you don’t trust your judgment, ask for input from a friend or spouse. Then write out a script before you call the person back. This way, you commit only to what you can accomplish and won’t get talked into more.
Dig out of the paper avalanche
It starts with those pesky school registration forms and escalates throughout the school year: reading lists, school phone numbers, lunch menus, fundraiser forms, team rosters and schedules, permission slips, yearbook receipts, flyers for events… you name it.
If you have ADHD, that pile of papers will turn into an overwhelming stack.
What to do:
- Create a school-paper file with a folder, or bin, for each child to put important school documents into, including any that need to be signed and returned.
- As soon as your child walks in from school, have him go through his backpack and put all the “parent papers” into his folder.
- Keep papers in the kitchen – or wherever the family gathers at the end of the day – so you remember to review any documents.
- “Make this a task you deal with every day until it becomes a chore you don’t have to think about,” Matlen says.
- If email or voicemails help you organize your day, ask your child’s teacher to contact you that way rather than sending papers home.
“You don’t need to reveal to the school that you have ADHD,” Matlen says. “Just say, ‘This is more helpful to me to stay organized.”
You know your child’s going to have a tantrum when you hit a certain aisle at Target. Rather than dreading the situation, take Matlen’s advice: See it coming; have a plan.
Planning ahead can take work at first, since people with ADHD struggle with tasks like these. Instead, they see impending temper tantrums – their own or their child’s – as inevitable, Matlen says. However, if you stop difficult moments before they start, you can minimize your frustration.
What to do:
- During a calm moment, list your “short-fuse” triggers, along with how you’ll handle them. Then list your child’s.
- “We would tell [my 2-year-old daughter], heading into Target, that we were not going to buy anything for her that day. And if she had a tantrum, we would leave immediately,” Matlen says.
- The first time she tried this tactic, her daughter did throw a fit, Matlen admits. But having the plan in place minimized Matlen’s own anxiety.
Other ways to minimize meltdowns:
- If your child’s short temper comes right before bedtime, find a calming activity, such as listening to music or reading a book together.
- If you or your child needs a physical outlet – say, after dinner – schedule an activity at that time.
- If your medication wears off too soon, talk to your physician. Stern says there are many new medications that offer various time-releases. Your doctor may be able to alter your (or your child’s) medication for a smoother transition.
Ever leave a child stranded at soccer practice? Sounds horrifying, but this is a reality for ADHD moms.
Create a family calendar
What to do:
- “ADHD adults and children respond to visual cues, so a big whiteboard calendar helps you remember the family’s schedules,” Matlen says.
- Use a different color for each child’s schedule, and hang the board in the mudroom or near the garage door where everyone can see it as they enter and exit the house.
- Some ADHD sufferers, however, have hypersensitivities to marker odors, says Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed., an ADHD coach and chronic-disorganization expert who offers tips on her website Lotus Bridge.
- If whiteboards don’t work, try “colored tape on the wall, stickers or room dividers with push-pins,” she says.
“The important thing is getting the kids to help set it up. Then it’s no longer about making them follow a calendar: It’s about getting the whole family engaged and solving a problem.”
Whatever calendar system you choose, make sure it’s easy to change, Benefit adds. ADHD adults can get bored quickly and start to ignore their own solution, making the system fall apart.
Embrace unconventional solutions
- Choose strategies that fit your family’s needs and keep the day moving as smoothly as possible.
- Laundry may be overwhelming in some ADHD families, “so everyone just lives out of baskets,” Matlen says.
- Other families might eat breakfast foods for dinner once a week or take the fronts off dresser drawers so they can better organize clothes.
“You can’t go through life comparing yourself with other families,” Matlen says. “Surround yourself with people who adore you for who you are, not what your house looks like.”
For more information, visit their ADHD Child Health Center. How Much Do You Know About ADHD?
Do you battle inattention and restlessness? You could have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). About 8-9 million adults have ADHD. Many adults are unaware of their disorder, as it was never diagnosed in childhood. Find out how much you know about this common disorder.
ADHD Experts Reveal Their Favorite Ways to Manage Procrastination (psychcentral.com)