Symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsiveness, can be difficult for a caregiver to manage. However, certain parenting tips and self-care strategies can help.

ADHD is the most common childhood behavioral disorder. It affects approximately 6 million children aged 3–17 years in the United States.

According to a 2018 study, the stress and exhaustion of parenting a child with ADHD can cause issues with emotions, finances, and family dynamics. This means it can take a significant toll on a caregiver’s physical and mental health, and they may feel overwhelmed.

Keep reading to learn more about the potential challenges of caring for a child with ADHD, tips for parents, self-care for caregivers, and when to contact a healthcare professional.

A parent holding hands with a child.Share on Pinterest
Cavan Images/Getty Images

Evidence indicates that caring for a child with ADHD poses more challenges than parenting a child without the condition. Some of the challenges families face include:

  • increased stress
  • disciplinary actions that may involve inappropriate interactions and violence
  • financial burdens
  • communication problems
  • depression
  • physical, emotional, mental, and social exhaustion
  • fear of ADHD-related stigma
  • marital difficulties
  • aggression and inappropriate behavior toward other children

There are various ways for parents to support children with ADHD. Strategies that can improve a child’s functioning may have the added benefit of reducing stress and burdens on the parent or caregiver.

The National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI) recommends the following:

Keeping a positive outlook

A parent can focus on victories rather than on obstacles and problems associated with ADHD. They can create experiences that help children excel and bolster their self-esteem.

This could involve harnessing an ADHD symptom that may pose challenges and turning it into a strength. To illustrate, if children are constantly moving, have them engage in physical activities, such as running or a dance class.

Communicating expectations and rules

Children with ADHD need clear rules and guidelines they can easily understand. A parent can write down expectations and place the list in a spot where it is visible. This could include writing out a weekly chore list and putting it on the fridge.

Parents can aim to have an organized, consistent system of rewards and consequences. This would involve explaining the consequences of breaking the rules but being quick to praise compliance.

Instead of offering tangible treats, the rewards could include activities with a parent, which will promote bonding. Rather than punishing the child, consequences should punish the behavior with measures such as time out.

Promoting social skills

Children with ADHD may have trouble making friends. They may talk a lot, interrupt often, and appear aggressive. This behavior may cause them to stand out among their peers and lead to poor self-esteem.

To address these issues, a parent can model social skills and enlist help from a therapist in teaching appropriate behavior. Speaking with a school guidance counselor or teacher may also help.

Creating and maintaining structure

A significant change in daily structure can cause stress and behavioral difficulties, so creating a regular schedule of tasks can add valuable stability to a child’s life.

Establishing and maintaining a daily structure enables the child to know what to expect each day.

Encouraging physical activity and sleep

Children with ADHD may have a lot of energy. Signing them up for sports and other forms of physical activity helps them burn off energy in productive ways with their peers.

An additional benefit of frequent exercise is better sleep, which may decrease ADHD symptoms. Parents can try creating a nighttime routine that facilitates healthy sleep. This may mean encouraging reading, avoiding electronics, and helping a child wind down.

Getting help from the school

Disruptions in performance at school may stem from common ADHD symptoms such as impulsiveness, inattention, and hyperactivity. Ask the child’s teacher whether the school offers special education services and programs that address ADHD.

A parent may also wish to speak with their child’s teacher about making accommodations. These may include sitting the child near the teacher and using volunteer or peer tutors.

Caring for a child with ADHD can be challenging. To avoid losing patience or becoming overly tired, it is important for caregivers to take care of their own physical and mental health.

The following tips may help:

Adopting healthy lifestyle practices

To maximize strength and endurance, parents can adopt healthy lifestyle practices, which include getting regular exercise and eating a nutritious diet. Additionally, it can help to engage in stress-reduction methods, such as taking a nightly bath.

Learn more about self-care tips.

Taking breaks

Parents may consider accepting offers from trusted family members and friends to babysit or help with the child.

Getting support

Support groups for parents or caregivers of children with ADHD provide a place to share experiences, vent feelings, and ask for advice.

It is time to contact a healthcare professional if a parent feels:

  • depressed
  • exhausted
  • frustrated

Many parents likely have moments when they think, “I have no patience for my child with ADHD.” Such frustration can stem from the multiple and diverse challenges they encounter when caring for a child with this condition.

Strategies that help a child cope can also reduce the stress a parent may experience. Such approaches may include communicating rules clearly and maintaining structure.

It is essential for a caregiver to engage in self-care practices, such as taking breaks and seeking support.