Being A Parent of a Child with ADHD | Quite a Challenge!

by Shamsul
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Child with ADHD

Child with ADHD

Many parents of a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) experience significant difficulties. The characteristics of the child and the stress experienced by parents and family often contribute to the development of difficulties and imbalances in family functioning. This post aims to portray the experiences of several families with a child with ADHD and to highlight some basic solutions to regain family balance.

Characteristics associated with ADHD are deficits in attention control, agitation and impulsivity. For example, parents have the impression that the child is not listening and must constantly repeat instructions; the child fidgets and rocks in his chair during meals if he is not simply standing; the child may see a ball and kick it unexpectedly, or they may be jostled slightly and push the other away suddenly. All of these types of behaviors lead parents to experience frustration and can be a challenge for anyone who has to deal with them on a daily basis (Lavigueur, 2012).

In her “survival guide” for parents, Suzanne Lavigueur (2012) explains that several pressures and stresses, experienced both inside and outside the family, are likely to contribute to the imbalance of families whose child or one of the children has ADHD.

On the one hand, there are sources of stress which are frequently observed in all families and which negatively affect the parent-child relationship. For example, a parent experiencing stress at work or having received bad news during the day becomes less available, less patient and also risks being less positive in their interactions with others, including their child. Also, reproaches between spouses, particularly regarding the educational practices of one or the other, add to tensions within the family.

On the other hand, there are sources of stress linked to the characteristics of children with ADHD. Through the difficulties in managing the child’s behavior, aggressive escalations between parents and child sometimes take up more and more space. An escalation of aggression is a power war between parent and child where attacks and counter-attacks gradually increase: “we ask, we ignore; we repeat and demand, we become frustrated, we repeat and threaten. Finally, we punish or, on the contrary, we let it go…” (Lavigueur, 2012, p. 26). These escalations undermine the parent-child relationship, leaving everyone frustrated and angry.

Child Diagnosed with ADHD

Furthermore, beyond the family unit, parents of a child diagnosed with ADHD are often judged rather than supported by family, friends and neighbors. The child is judged to be “badly behaved” and the parents are seen as responsible for his behavior because of their educational approach that is either too authoritarian and rigid, or, conversely, too permissive. And even when ADHD is identified, it is difficult for those around us to decide what belongs to ADHD, the child and the environment, which again leads to this tendency to judge. Furthermore, since the child attends a school environment, parents regularly hear about the difficulties and irritations in the environment. Unfortunately, the accumulation of these pressures can end up emotionally draining a family.

Impacts of ADHD

Characteristics, Pressures and Stress on The Family

The presence of ADHD can therefore lead to the development of a conflicting parent-child relationship and affect family functioning (Johnston & Mash, 2001). Parents of a child with ADHD also report higher levels of parental stress (Johnston & Mash, 2001), lower feelings of parental competence and higher levels of depression than parents of children without ADHD (Tarver, Daley, & Sayal, 2015).

Additionally, the characteristics of ADHD challenge parents’ abilities to exercise their role consistently and appropriately (Johnston & Jassy, 2007). Studies show that parents of a child with ADHD, compared to those whose child does not have difficulty, tend to use more coercive and less adapted educational practices, give more orders, do more reproaches, are less attentive to requests for positive attention and offer less reinforcement for good behavior (see in particular Nadeau, Normandeau, Massé, & Lessard, 2012). The use of ineffective and coercive educational practices in managing the child’s behaviors can then contribute to maintaining or amplifying the child’s problematic behaviors (Johnston & Jassy, 2007) as well as contributing to the development and maintenance of a behavioral disorder in children with ADHD (Johnston & Mash, 2001; Deault, 2010).

So, what can parents of a child with ADHD do? Above all, parents must recognize the diagnosis and fully understand the nature of ADHD (Lavigueur, 2012). They must then preserve the quality of the relationship with the child. How can we preserve this relationship which is perhaps already caught in an escalation of aggression? According to Lavigueur (2012), the “recipe” includes three ingredients: being proud of your child and communicating this to them, sharing the pleasure of being together and knowing how to listen to the child.

To remain proud of the child, parents can, for example, prepare a photo album of good family moments which will allow them to maintain a positive image of the child when difficult situations occur. To have fun together, parents and child can find a simple, easily accessible activity that they enjoy doing together (for example, playing Lego blocks, doing puzzles, playing soccer, etc.). The idea is to do this regularly, leaving aside the problems of the day. Doing small activities with humor and pleasure solidifies the relationship with the child. Finally, listening to the child comes down to helping him and supporting him in his experience.

In short, it is important to remember that these elements can help the family begin a return to family balance, but many other services or interventions, such as parenting skills training programs whose effectiveness has been demonstrated, can also support the family. Finally, we must never forget that children with ADHD often have great creativity and have great strengths that we benefit from highlighting.

Would you like more advice? Do you have good practices to share? Please feel free to express yourself in the comments. Also, if you want help in writing content to drive more traffic and boost conversions, please get in touch through Contact our team or send your requirements here.

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Deault, L.C. (2010). A systematic review of parenting in relation to the development of comorbidities and functional impairments in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 41(2), 168-192. doi:10.1007/s10578-009-0159-4

Johnston, C., & Jassy, J.S. (2007). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and oppositional/conduct problems: Links to parent-child interactions. Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 16(2), 74-79.

Johnston, C., & Mash, E. J. (2001). Families of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Review and recommendations for future research. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 4(3), 183-207.

Lavigueur, S. (2012). These parents are out of breath. (5th ed.). Longueuil, QC: Éditions Québecor.

Nadeau, M-F., Normandeau, S., Massé, L., & Lessard, J. (2012). Psychosocial interventions for children with attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity. In L. Turgeon & S. Parent (Eds), Cognitive-behavioral interventions with children and adolescents, volume 2: Behavioral disorders. Quebec: University of Quebec Press.

Tarver, J., Daley, D., & Sayal, K. (2014). Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): An updated review of the essential facts. Child: Care, Health & Development, 40(6), 762-774. doi:10.1111/cch.12139

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