A strong parent-child bond is an important part of a healthy, happy childhood. But for children with ADHD, the symptoms of their diagnosis can put stress on this bond and have a negative impact on both child and parent. There are, however, ways to help keep this relationship strong even in the face of the challenges that ADHD can present.
How Does ADHD Affect the Parent-Child Relationship?
One of the most important factors to consider in the parent-child relationship is parenting stress. Researchers writing in the journal Frontier of Psychology reported that parents of ADHD children experience higher levels of stress than those of non-ADHD children and even more stress than the parents of children with serious medical issues like epilepsy. This is especially true when the child also struggles with other issues like learning disabilities or oppositional defiant disorder, both of which can commonly accompany ADHD.
To make things more complicated, parenting stress can lead to ineffective parenting techniques that have a negative impact on family function. The Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology uses the example of a child with ADHD who struggles with chores. Ineffective parenting techniques (reminding the child multiple times to do the chore or actually doing it for them) can make the child less likely to be able to do the chores independently. On the other hand, effective parenting techniques (developing a consistent chore schedule and giving the child a reward for completing chores) can hlp to lower the impact of ADHD on family life.
Maintaining a Healthy Relationship with Your ADHD Child
While the parent-child relationship can be more difficult in the presence of ADHD, there are also effective ways to help maintain strong and healthy emotional connections. The Centers for Disease Control recommends parent behavior therapy (also known as behavior parent training or simply parent training) as an effective way to improve issues like poor impulse control and give children the skills they need to regulate their own feelings and behaviors. This, in turn, can give them a sense of control and boost their self-esteem. Parent training can take time and effort, but it can also bring strong benefits in terms of family closeness and function.
There are less formal ways to help as well. The organization Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder recommends that one way to maintain or improve the parent/child relationship is to take time out on a regular basis to be together. Weekends can be useful for extra quality time. The summer is also important, since more relaxed routines and more opportunities to spend time together can strengthen the parent-child bond.
In short, children with ADHD are no different than their non-ADHD peers in that they thrive when there are strong parent-child bonds. While the symptoms of ADHD can increase parent stress and lead to ineffective parenting skills, the good news is that parent training and less formal techniques such spending more time together can help parents and their children to thrive even in the presence of the challenges that ADHD can bring to family life.