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What Should I Know About Being a Parent with ADHD?

Karyn Maier
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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You may have heard the expression, "the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree." While this axiom is intended to refer to certain traits and characteristics being passed from one generation to the next, it can also hold true for the child of a parent with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Several studies have demonstrated that ADHD is commonly inherited, often running through the entire family tree. In fact, research now shows that a parent with ADHD is 24 times more likely to have an attention deficit disorder (ADD)/ADHD child. Furthermore, a parent with ADHD isn’t likely to outgrow it.

Often, a parent with ADHD is not aware that they even have the condition. Diagnosing children with ADHD, on the other hand, became somewhat of a phenomenon during the 1980s. But, it wasn’t until the following decade that adult ADHD became the disorder of popularity. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the incidence of ADHD has increased over the years. However, it does suggest that today’s parent with ADHD probably escaped diagnosis as a child.

Not surprisingly though, a parent with ADHD exhibits symptoms similar to the ADHD child. The most obvious symptom is hyperactivity, although not every parent with ADHD will display signs of this. Most commonly, ADD adults have trouble with concentration and organization, as well as exhibit impulsive tendencies. A parent with ADHD may also have a decreased tolerance to stress and may frequently experience high and low mood swings.

These symptoms, however, may go unnoticed since adults have more opportunity to develop a variety of coping strategies than children typically do. Unfortunately, some of these methods may involve alcohol or drug abuse to combat accompanying depression and insomnia. It’s also not out of the ordinary for an adult to be outwardly assertive in terms of career actions for example, compared to a child who consistently disrupts the classroom.

Fortunately, there is help available for adults struggling with parenting with ADHD or ADD. One of the most valuable tools available today is the assistance of a certified ADD coach. The ADD coach is specifically trained to help parents take a proactive role in developing strategies to avoid self-defeating behaviors. Generally, this is achieved through role-playing and simulation. Many coaches are physicians, psychologists, teachers, and also parents.

The most important thing for a parent with ADHD to remember is that past actions or behaviors do not have to dictate the present. With help and determination, the ADHD adult can learn how to move beyond self-limitations and become more self-regulating. More importantly, the parent with ADHD can be an excellent model and advocate for their ADHD child.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Karyn Maier
By Karyn Maier
Contributing articles to The Health Board is just one of Karyn Maier's many professional pursuits. Based in New York's Catskill Mountain region, Karyn is also a magazine writer, columnist, and author of four books. She specializes in topics related to green living and botanical medicine, drawing from her extensive knowledge to create informative and engaging content for readers.
Discussion Comments
By FatGenes999 — On Jan 19, 2014

I can't tell how old TruthinLove's post is but I thought I would respond anyway. I'm almost 100 percent certain that ADHD was one of the problems my mother had (now deceased). No one, her parents, her siblings, her husband, nor her friends had cared enough about her -- or me -- to encourage her to be properly diagnosed and possibly treated.

Back then (my mother was born in the late 1920s) I guess the disorder had not been considered an actual mental illness, and the behavior might have just been considered part of a "nervous" disposition.

During one of the few times an MD might have noticed she was too "nervous" and hyperactive, the MD had suggested tranquilizers, and the condition was minimized by everyone (except me). My mother took one Valium, hated it, and that was the end of any attempt at treating and/or dealing with her condition. This is not to say that my mother didn't have issues and her life to be nervous about, but it was known by all that she had been hyperactive as a child.

Her brothers and sisters often attested to the fact that she had been "always like that," but with her having been the youngest, she might have gotten away with a lack of impulse control, and other attributes considered to be just signs of "immaturity."

I totally relate to how frustrating, hurtful, humiliating, shaming, embarrassing and rejecting an ADHD parent's behavior can feel to their child. The shame and embarrassment is especially felt in social situations. There is also the stigma of being the child of someone who is obviously "different," kind of like being the child of a parent who is an active alcoholic.

Personally, I feel that it is a form of parental child abuse to entrust the care of a child to an untreated ADHD parent. This is regardless of how many positive and wonderful traits the parent might have, as it had been with my mother. The good traits don't really "outweigh" the bad when one is raising a child. There is no such "margin of error" allowed in such an important and difficult undertaking.

I sincerely thank TruthinLove for bringing this to people's attention. Almost *all* of the focus has been on treating a child with ADHD, and/or, cases in which both child and parent have ADHD. This had not been the situation with me, as I don't have ADHD. More attention should be given to the offspring of parents who have/had ADHD, be they now grown adults or, still very young, The consequences of having been raised by an ADHD parent can be far-reaching, devastating and life-altering.

By anon304878 — On Nov 22, 2012

I am looking for info on how an ADHD parent parents their children- or rather is seemingly unable to parent.

As an adult child of an ADHD parent, I have a lot of anger toward my dad who has led a very chaotic life that has impacted me, my sister, and my mother. I have not spoken to him in years as a result of a "last straw" incident.

He is in denial that his choices have impacted us and feels "he's moved on" and so should we. --Truthinlove

Karyn Maier
Karyn Maier
Contributing articles to The Health Board is just one of Karyn Maier's many professional pursuits. Based in New York's...
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