When Dad Has ADHD

Health Writer

Any parent of a child with ADHD will tell you daily life has its ups and downs. Living with hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention can be frustrating and exhausting. Add to the mix that one of the parents probably has ADHD as well. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there is a 50 percent chance that, if a child has ADHD, one of the parents have ADHD as well. Since many adults with ADHD were only recently, if ever, diagnosed with ADHD, there is a good chance that the parent with ADHD doesn't even know about it.

Some fathers feel they are looking in a mirror when they see their child, the struggles in school, the high energy level, the inability to focus for longer than a few minutes. Once their child is diagnosed and they learn about ADHD, it answers the question, "Is there something wrong with me?" and for some, everything suddenly makes sense.

When a spouse has ADHD, the spouse without ADHD frequently has to "fill in the blanks." The family organization, such as keeping track of doctor's appointments and school assignments, frequently falls to the parent without ADHD.

Fathers with ADHD want to help their children, but often their ADHD gets in the way. According to Terry Matlen, in a previous post, "When Mom and Dad are Distracted, Too: Parenting When Both Parent and Child Have ADHD" some of the ways ADHD can impact family life are:

  • If a dad procrastinates and is overloaded with last minute work deadlines, how can he help his child with homework so that the assignment is handed in on time?

  • If a dad is disorganized, how can he help teach his own child organizational skills?

  • If a dad is hyperactive, how can he slow down enough to enjoy one on one time with his child?

  • If a dad is a daydreamer, how can he give her child her undivided attention? The child may misinterpret the inattention as the parent not caring.

  • If a dad is emotionally over-reactive, how can he be patient with his child who also may have a short fuse?

  • If a dad is annoyed by stimuli (noise, touch, etc.), how can he cope with the normal bustling activities of home life?

Some things dads can do if ADHD is interfering with family life and parenting:

Learn as much as you can about ADHD. Read information on this site, read books, talk with your child's doctor. The more you understand and know about ADHD, the better you can help your child.

If you believe you have ADHD, talk with a doctor. There are both physical and mental conditions which can mimic the symptoms of ADHD. Make sure you have spoken with a doctor and discuss the symptoms you are having. Effective treatment is dependent on an accurate diagnosis.

Be open to learning new strategies for coping. For example, parenting classes can teach you how to develop positive reinforcement programs to help with discipline issues at home. Therapy can help you create strategies for organization, overcoming procrastination or other daily problems.

Focus on your child's strengths. Sometimes when dads have ADHD, the same characteristics that caused you pain make you annoyed when you see them in your child. It may be because you know these traits will cause trouble for your child, but it still comes out as irritation. Be careful that you don't blame your child for ADHD symptoms.

Find something you and your child can share. What activity do both of you enjoy? Maybe you both enjoy watching a football game or going bowling. You may both enjoy music. If you can't immediately find something you have in common, you might need to develop new interests. Find out what your child is interested in and learn more about it. This common interest can help develop a bond and create a way for your child to learn more about your childhood, your struggles with ADHD. Sharing how you managed may help your child better manage their symptoms.

Find out if there are any parenting support groups in your area. Joining a support group can help you feel less alone.

Accept your child, and your family, as being okay. There is no "ideal" family. Each family has ups and downs, good and bad. Let go of any preconceptions of what your family should look like and appreciate everything your family has to offer.


"When Mom and Dad are Distracted, Too: Parenting When Both Parent and Child Have ADHD", Terry Matlen, ADHDCentral.com

"ADHD", Revised 2008, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Mental Health