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When Parents Have ADHD

When Parents Have ADHD

Parenting is always a challenge, but if you have adult ADHD, you may need some extra help to minimize the impact ADHD has on you, your children, and your family.

Did you know that many parents of children with ADHD have the disorder, too? It's true. Adults with ADHD are often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed—until their child is diagnosed with the condition. Although you may be surprised to learn that you're more likely to have ADHD, given that your child has it, take heart. If you have it, you can greatly improve all areas of your life if you simply take the time to recognize the symptoms and treat them. And doing so can make ADHD easier for your child, too, if he or she also has the condition.

Do You Have ADHD?
Examine your family tree. Do your children, parents, siblings, or other blood relatives have ADHD? If so, you have a higher risk of the disorder because genes play a large role in ADHD. Results from studies in twins show that when one twin has ADHD, the other twin has a higher risk of having the condition. So if you have at least one blood relative with ADHD and you have ADHD-like symptoms, you should talk to your doctor.

The ADHD Brain
ADHD is a condition associated with alterations in brain chemistry and changes in the way the brain works. The function of two brain chemicals—dopamine and noradrenaline—is impaired in people who have ADHD. And studies show that in ADHD sufferers, one part of the brain—the prefrontal cortex, which helps filter out distractions and regulates behavior and emotions—doesn't work the way it should. And ultimately, these changes in brain chemistry and brain function are what cause ADHD symptoms.

Parenting with ADHD
ADHD symptoms can creep into all areas of your life, even your parenting. Because of your symptoms, you may have a harder time supervising and being involved. You might find it difficult to be consistent with discipline. And sometimes you might feel yourself getting emotional and may have a hard time keeping yourself even and level when you're dealing with a volatile situation with your kids. And if you have a child with ADHD, dealing with your own symptoms can make it all the more difficult to keep your child on track with his or her ADHD treatment plan.

The Bright Side
On the other hand, you shouldn't necessarily look at your situation as completely negative. Because despite the challenges of parenting with ADHD, there are some good things about it, too. For example, if you have a child with ADHD, he or she may feel an extra strong connection with you and feel more comfortable and less alone with the condition knowing that you are dealing with similar symptoms. Your child might also feel better about getting treatment. And you can share useful strategies for managing symptoms. In many ways, parents with ADHD can use their experiences to help their children manage ADHD better.

Seek Support
Untreated, ADHD can wreak havoc on family life. But it doesn't have to. A combination of lifestyle strategies, counseling, behavioral treatments, and medications can help. So make the extra effort to manage your condition appropriately and lead your child by example on the path to a better, more organized, more productive life.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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