If you have ADHD and one or more of your kids have it, then you are in good company! As ADHD is partially genetic, this is quite a common problem. The greatest challenge is to get organized.  If you are all over the place, how on earth can you get the house in order, plan routines, organize meals and outings to make it easier for your child. The list is never ending it seems and if you are downcast, don’t be!

Here are my top ten survival tips.

  1. Talk about it. You will need to talk about it if you are in a relationship and try to help your spouse/partner /companion understand just what is going on. You can ask him or her to read or even watch a video which will explain just what it is all about, without getting too technical. This is so important and that is why I have put it at the top of the list. Omitting this step will lead to problems down the line and could cause problems within the relationship. Sometimes, the partner feels resentful that the child with ADHD and yourself are seeking too much attention.
  2.  Get treatment. Get YOUR treatment organized so that you can give your best. Whatever treatment or medication you opt for, make sure that you follow it as it can be an enormous help. Being there or having been there is a great way to empathise with your child and you can use some of the same routines yourself.

3. Decide NOT to have a perfect home. Some of us are perfectionists so we make incredible demands on ourselves and our families in maintaining the perfectly organized and beautiful home. Well, it does not have to be perfect and who cares?  You will not be posting photos of it on Pinterest so relax!  If  Pinterest lowers your self-esteem, cancel it from your favourites. If it helps you to relax or daydream, put it at the top of your favorites.

But the home does have to be organized and have routines which are well established. After all, you are just creating an environment which helps your ADHD and that of your child. That includes well practised routines, structures in place, reminders, post its and pictures to help remind ourselves of various things and of course definite locations for keys and other essentials.  You will be pleased when you see that it can be of great benefit to the rest of the family as well.

4. Repeat instructions and keep them short!   You know yourself that you cannot take in too much information at a time or that you are distracted, inattentive and forgetful most of the time. It is a real help if we break down instructions into simple, short steps. I find that when I am teaching, I ask the students to repeat back what they have to do. It is a great way of checking and also of involving the child much more instead of just having to listen.  Use eye contact so make sure you are both at the same level.

Use positive instructions rather than saying ‘don’t’ all the time.  Too many negatives may mean your child becomes fearful and will not be interested in learning new things. We can use instructions like ‘Close the door gently’ instead of ‘Don’t slam the door’ and so on.

5. Get help. Ask a babysitter to come while you are at home so that you can begin to do things that are just for you and help you to rest. If you find that you are about to have a meltdown, just take time out and make sure that everyone in the family knows that time outs are for parents too.  Find a trusted student to help with homework. I know one mother insisted that the homework be done at school and she was given that option under the IEP arrangements. 

6. Organize your papers. If papers, child records, prescriptions, bills and so on are driving you crazy and you can never find them, a simple filing system is the solution. You could even ask a trusted friend to set that up for you or your partner!

7. Follow the 6-1 rule.  When your child is misbehaving, try to let the small things go. You will have already laid down the limits and established what is not allowed. Most experts now tell us that instead of criticizing the child constantly, try the 6 -1 rule where you are going to catch the child being good and praise him or her accordingly. The ideal ratio is 6 times praise and 1 criticism (approximately!)

8. Make sure your spouse/partner are on the same page!  I mentioned above that you are going to need some understanding as to what are your problems in getting organized and how they can help. But here we want to emphasize that you both need to be on the same page as regards child behavior, consequences and rewards.

This can be a real problem in many separated families where the other partner occasionally appears to spend time with the children.  Kids will usually spot the chink in the armour and exploit it for all it is worth. It also tends to leave nasty fallout afterwards.

9. Don’t expect too much from your ADHD child.  All too often we forget what it was like when we were children and we demand that chores  be done in a certain way! We just have to accept that there are going to be breakages, spills, and so on.  We should also bear in mind that their maturity is going to be at least two years behind the norm for their age. We should have the same attitude as regards academic performance and not demand brilliant results but praise warmly when little steps are achieved.  They may shine in other ways. We should above all praise their creativity and funny humor when appropriate.

10. Be grateful and reach out. Just think if you had NOT been diagnosed! Your life would be hellish because nobody would make any allowances at all, neither your kids nor spouse. So, we can be truly grateful that there lots of ways we can learn to cope and how we can help our kids to manage their time and activities.

Finally, reach out!  There are loads of support groups for parents with ADHD both online and offline. There are certain to be local support groups in your area organized by associations, churches and parent groups. These can give you support and friendship.  The only thing you have to do is to make contact!


Robert Locke MBE is an award winning author and has written extensively on ADHD and related child health problems. You can visit this page on ADHD natural treatment to find out more.

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