Parenting Children Who Have ADHD is Stressful

roller coaster A study reveals that parents of children who have ADHD feel stressed when their child is not behaving appropriately, or is behaving badly. This roller coaster of stress is more intense than the stress that parents of neurotypical children experience in response to occasional bad behavior. This finding reveals a lot about what might help families of kids with ADHD to cope.

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is something that affects both children and adults. One doesn’t necessarily “grow out of” having ADHD. It is possible, though, that a child will learn how to manage the symptoms of ADHD that he or she experiences, so as to appear to be somewhat “cured” when the child reaches adulthood. In reality, the treatment for ADHD is ongoing, and often requires the use of medication as well as certain forms of behavioral therapy.

A child with ADHD has great difficulty focusing attention on subjects that are not of interest to the child at this moment. Another symptom is a tendency towards impulsive behavior, which can show up in verbal outbursts or physical activity. There is also a “hyperactivity” component that manifests in the form of an inability to sit still.

Obviously, these types of behaviors are not a good match for the typical school environment. Unfortunately, due to the many budget cuts that schools have faced, some children who have ADHD are attending schools that cannot provide them with the support they need and require.

When an overstimulated child who has ADHD throws a fit in a public place, everyone nearby cannot help but notice. This tends to not only embarrass the child’s parents, but can also make that mom or dad feel as though he or she is “failing” as a parent. No one likes to be stared at and judged by strangers who do not understand why a child is “acting up”.

A study was done that enabled researchers to understand the correlation between the rise and falls of paternal stress levels and the behavior of their child who has ADHD. Moms and kids were required to answer surveys every thirty minutes, and report their mood. Moms also noted how their child was behaving right then, and children self reported how they felt their behavior was at that time. Alarms were used to remind survey participants to make these reports on time.

The results showed that the stress felt by moms was connected to how their child was behaving. When the moms reported that their child was angry, or disobedient, (for example, the child had argued with the parent), the kids were self reporting that they were “being bad”.

In other words, the mood of the mother is directly affected by the current behavior of their child with ADHD. This means that these moms are on a roller coaster of emotions all the time, (which will take a toll on the mother’s physical and mental health, over time).

The researchers had some advice for parents of kids who have ADHD. They suggested that parents should focus on the positive things that their child does, (and not place all emphasis entirely on the things the child was doing wrong). They also suggest that parents and kids spend “high octane quality time” together, as a way to encourage bonding between the parents and the child.

Image by Ben Sutherland on Flickr

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About Jen Thorpe

I have a B.S. in Education and am a former teacher and day care worker. I started working as a freelance writer in 2010 and have written for many topics here at Families.com.

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