When Your Child’s ADHD Affects You as a Couple
It takes a lot of work to maintain a healthy relationship with your spouse or partner. It can be even more difficult when you have a child with ADHD.
“Anytime you have a child with a condition like ADHD that affects their ability to socialize, follow rules, learn and listen, it impacts your marriage,” says Los Angeles psychotherapist Jenn Berman, PhD.
Your partnership is one of the most important tools you have to help your child grow and thrive, so they need and deserve attention. Work together and you’ll find ways to focus on your child and each other, says Berman.
Patience is important
“Many times I see two parents who are on different pages when it comes to whether their child has ADHD at all, or if they are okay with it, how it should be treated,” says Mark Wolraich, MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Diagnosis may take some time. If one of you arrives first, give your partner some time. You may even need to get a second opinion. Once you are on the same page about the diagnosis, work as a team to decide on your treatment plans.
What you can do as a team
Terry Dickson, MD, director of the Northwestern Michigan Behavioral Medicine Clinic, has ADHD. So do his two children. His wife does not.
Having a child with the disease “will affect your marriage, and you both need to be equally committed to making it work,” he says.
Create a structure and a routine. It’s good for your child and it also allows you to take time for you and your partner to connect.
Establish rules for the house. “Create and agree with your partner clear internal rules,” says Wolraich. When you’re on the same page about parenting, with and without ADHD, you’ll be much less likely to run into parenting approaches.
Talk about your relationship. “Parents with a child with ADHD tend to put the child’s needs first, which is understandable,” Berman says. “But spend time on relationship needs too, and learn what those needs are through strong communication.”
Listen to each other. When your partner is speaking, try not to think about your response – really listen to what they are saying. It will help you overcome conflicts, whether it is about your child’s condition or something else.
Share the load. Distribute your parental responsibilities. It can make things easier for both of you and reduce the chances of conflict and resentment in your relationship.
Be adaptable. You must learn to live with your child’s ADHD diagnosis and work around it in a way that is right for your child and your partner.
Prioritize “us” time. Spending quality time together to nurture your relationship is very important to you and your partner, Berman says. Do it regularly – away from children, just the two of you.
Raising a child with ADHD isn’t easy, but some couples find it brings them together. So work together to raise a happy and healthy child and keep your relationship strong.
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