I (Lori) grew up in a family of 7… with 4 brothers… and some of them had ADHD. Chaos was constant in our home. All I can say is, my mom was a saint. The seemingly endless daily reminders, meetings with the principal or teachers, school suspensions, yelling, and constant wrestling matches in the living room…it was a lot! And though my brothers were some amazing athletes who were so fun to hang with, they required a lot of my parent’s attention. When you have 5 kids, it can be a real challenge to find the time to give all of that attention.
If you are a parent of more than one child with ADHD, we know how exhausting (and fun!) your life can be at times. Here are a few things to keep in mind when parenting multiple children with ADHD:
1) Help Yourself Before You Help Your Kids
The research is very clear that ADHD is often passed down from parent to child. In fact, nearly half of parents who have a child with ADHD, have a diagnosis of ADHD themselves (Starck, Grunwald, & Schlarb, 2016).
Let’s be honest, it is hard to support your child with their own challenges if you still haven’t found strategies to help yourself! If you’re on a plane that is crashing, you always put your own air mask on before your child. Why? Because if you aren’t breathing and awake, you certainly can’t help your child. The same is true to treating ADHD. Maybe that means it is time to schedule an appointment with a therapist and/or psychiatrist that you have been putting off but know you need. You can do this!
2) Ask for Help and Accept Help
Along those same lines, start to get comfortable asking for help from family and friends and accepting help when it is offered. Understand that your position of parenting multiple children with ADHD is hard and you NEED support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with school pick-ups, help with taking kids to doctor’s appointments, or just a night (or even an hour or two!) to yourself to recharge. It is not selfish to take time for you. It is important to take care of your own mental health, so you can be better able to find your calm in the day to day chaos.
3) Routines are a Must
We know, we know! Routines are incredibly difficult for children (and adults) with ADHD. But bear with us for a second: as challenging as it can be to set up routines when you have ADHD, this will save you tons of time and energy in the long run. Think of the most challenging parts of the day… bedtime, mealtimes, transitions when you need to leave the house on time, cleaning up… by being proactive and setting up routines, everyone in the family knows what to do.
Along these same lines, keep in mind that it’s important to externalize these routines. What does that mean? Keep them visible with picture schedules, lists, reminders, and timers.
4) Same Reward System, Different Goals
Rewards systems can be a powerful tool when teaching new behaviors and motivating children with ADHD. But, if you have more than one child with ADHD, these can get complicated quickly. Meet as a family to come up with a system that works for everyone. Maybe your kids like the idea of a cotton ball jar so they can see it fill up. Or maybe they like drawing their own star on a chart. Whatever it is, try to keep the system the same, so everyone is on board.
You can change it up by having different goals for your individual children, so that they are working on skills specific to their needs. And when it comes to the rewards, have a reward menu that is full of options that will be fun for any of your kids. For more help on developing a rewards system for your child with ADHD, check out our Creating Calm Course.
5) Schedule 1:1 Time
This one is tough!! But, it’s incredibly important. When you prioritize 1:1 time, you are able to create connection with your child. This connection is really important, because it is the foundation of your relationship. A strong relationship makes it much easier for you to teach your child, because they trust you.
Our advice for 1:1 time is this: keep it simple. You don’t have to take your child to Disneyland for an entire day to get 1:1 time (but if that’s an option, go for it!) A walk around the block, eating dinner on a blanket in the backyard, or an extra story at bedtime are all great ways to connect and spend some quality time.
And when you have more than one child who needs 1:1 time, it likely won’t be possible to do every day and that is ok. Having something simple once a week or a special date once a month are great options! Pro tip: during 1:1 time, don’t put “demands” on your child. Don’t give a lot of instructions or ask a series of direct questions. Instead, let your child lead the conversation.
Are you looking for more direct strategies for parenting a child with ADHD? We would love to connect with you in our course, Creating Calm. We’ve heard from parents who have multiple children with ADHD – and their feedback for the course has been extremely positive. And the best part about our course is that you don’t need a babysitter. In fact, you can watch it in your pajamas from anywhere in the world. Cheers to that!
Have a beautiful week,
Lori, Katie, and Mallory
Starck, M., Grunwald, J., & Schlarb A. (2016). Occurrence of ADHD in parents of ADHD children in a clinical sample. Neuropsychiatrity Disorder Treatment, 12, 581-588.