By Brian Wu, MD, PhD
With Father’s Day rolling around again, men all over the country are likely to be thinking about fatherhood and what it means to be a dad. If you are a guy with ADHD, though, parenting can be a bit more of a challenge.
In fact, a study in the journal Parenting, Science, and Practice noted that “(h)igher levels of fathers’ ADHD symptoms predicted more inconsistent discipline, low involvement, and a low level of supportive and a high level of non-supportive responses to children’s negative emotions.”
Still, having ADHD does not mean that you cannot build a strong, healthy and loving parent-child relationship. Here are some tips to make the challenges of fatherhood with ADHD easier to overcome.
Treat Your ADHD
If your ADHD is being treated successfully — whatever that looks like for you — then parenting challenges are going to be a little easier. “The first step in improving your parenting skills is to make sure you are receiving adequate treatment for your ADHD,” Terry M. Dickson, M.D., founder and director of The Behavioral Medicine Clinic of NW Michigan that serves children, adolescents and adults with ADHD, writes in ADDitude Magazine. “You can’t help your child if you don’t first help yourself.”
These treatments can often include medication, counseling/coaching, or lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes might include meditation, regular exercise, and a diet rich with proteins or Omega-3 fatty acids.
Choose Your Environment Wisely
Many of those with ADHD can have a hard time focusing on any one thing when there are many distractions in the environment. When you spend quality time with your child, make sure that it is not in a situation where you can’t focus strictly on your child. This could look different for different families, but sharing story time before bed or taking a walk in a quiet natural area after school or on weekends would be two good ways to build that distraction-free space to get close to your child.
Make the Time
Time management can be difficult for ADHD dads. But if and when you do manage it, it can really pay off for you as a parent.
“Children, in a sense, spell love T-I-M-E,” writes Dickson. So make sure that you carve time into your weekly schedule that you actually spend with your child. And when you make the commitment to an activity, make sure you follow through so that you are able to build trust — an important element in the parent-child bond.
Make Self-Help Skills Part of the Parenting Plan
Particularly if your own child has ADHD as well (and this condition often runs in families), then teaching him or her self-help skills early on can help to mitigate the negative impact that ADHD can have even at an early age.
Were there things — such as getting homework done on time — that you struggled with as a child ? If you see your own child struggling with these same things, share the benefits of your wisdom and tell them about your own challenges and what worked for you. This can help them overcome obstacles; it can also give them a better understanding of obstacles you’ve overcome yourself.
ADHD dads can bring a creativity and energy to parenting that can be a great benefit for them and their children. Following these tips to help mitigate the potential down sides to parenting with this condition can make it even easier to have a nurturing and healthy parent-child bond.
Assessing Symptoms to Check for ADHD
Some fathers may exhibit symptoms that suggest they might have ADHD — symptoms that affect their relationship with their children. But they may not have been assessed for ADHD. If that’s the case with you, you should seriously consider getting an ADHD assessment. Knowing that you have ADHD — and understanding how to treat it — will be a huge benefit in your relationship with your children.