The Joy and Struggles of Parenting a Child with ADHD

The Joy and Struggles of Parenting a Child with ADHD

*Links in this blog were selected by the author because she found them helpful during her process and parenting. They do not represent endorsement from the agency.

My six-year-old daughter fits perfectly into our family alongside her little brother. Although some people ask about our family because our daughter is adopted and her brother is our biological son, we do not believe this makes our family unusual. They are both our children and treated that way. Instead, what has affected our parenting more directly is that our daughter has ADHD. [1]

I hesitate when I say this, as it brings to mind the phrase: “my daughter suffers from ADHD”. Yes, it can make life difficult for her at times, but most of the time she’s just another happy kid who’s a lot of fun to be around and bubbles over with enthusiasm for life. I’ve read that boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls, and that girls are often not diagnosed until they’re around twelve years of age, compared to seven for boys. [2] In this respect, my daughter is lucky. She’s only six years old, but her early diagnosis has meant that it’s been easier for us to understand her when she is difficult. Sometimes she just won’t settle, is easily distracted, is full of beans at bedtime or seems to drift away into her own thoughts when you’re halfway through explaining something important to her. [3] Our doctor told us to try not to overreact to her: all of this can be the behavior of a normal child, but being aware of her problem helps us to be patient with her, and we can diffuse the tantrums more easily.

Concerns and acceptance

I’ve heard other parents of a child with ADHD say that they felt partly relieved when they first received the diagnosis. I could relate to this. With our daughter, this was mixed with worry about the future of course, but it was also a help when I found it hard to cope to know there was a reason for her behavior. Maybe she couldn’t help it when she seemed to be annoying just for the sake of it. For instance, when she was younger and we were going for a walk in the park or down to the local store, she would constantly try to climb out of her buggy, so I had to add an extra harness. She wasn’t being naughty after all. This was just her—just a part of her natural enthusiasm. I could think rationally about it and see it as a symptom of her ADHD, but because I knew it couldn’t be helped and there was no point fighting her over it, I could also see it as her need to explore and be unrestrained. This was another thing our doctor told us: that acceptance is a large part of being able to cope when life with an ADHD child gets difficult. [4]

By speaking to other families that have children with ADHD, I’ve learned that you can’t just put them into that box marked ‘ADHD’ and have all the answers handed to you on a plate. I’ve also learned that girls and boys are affected differently by the condition, with girls less likely to be impulsive or hyperactive. Instead they may just go into themselves and seem a bit spaced out, or have trouble remembering things or being organized. These sorts of statements may be helpful to some parents if their child seems to fit the stereotype, but in the end we are all dealing with individuals. My daughter is very outgoing and friendly, but can be a handful. Her teachers tell me this sometimes makes it difficult for her to join in with groups of other girls, although she has made some friends.

Overcoming problems

Another parent of an ADHD child offered me a very helpful piece of advice. Children who are under six years of age are not prescribed Ritalin; it can have an almost miraculous effect on the behavior of older children but questions have been raised about the side effects of giving such a powerful medication to children for long periods. [5] Instead, I was advised to give my daughter a regular dose of fish oil, which is known to help improve concentration, particularly in children with learning difficulties. I know oily fish is good for your brain as well as having other health benefits, so I include it in our normal diet anyway. [6] As a family, we all started taking fish oil in its sweetened form, which is more suitable for children. The idea was not to separate my daughter from the rest of the family and say “you’re not well, you need some medicine”, but to make it something we could all do as a routine. After only a few months there was a noticeable improvement in my daughter’s attention span and she was getting on much better in school. However, I have to stress that this is just our experience. As in all things, what worked for us may not work for all.

I’m a great believer in natural ways of helping a child to overcome their difficulties. All children need plenty of love and attention from their parents. I love my daughter and care for her as much as I do my son. Our doctor tells us that she definitely benefits from the sort of help only a close-knit family can give, but we also need to make sure our son doesn’t feel neglected because of the extra demands made on us by our daughter when she's struggling. [7] We try to be fair to both of them, to give each our individual attention and to encourage them to play together like any brother and sister. This is their normal. Our daughter is many things—loving, playful, infuriating, combative, moody or friendly—just like any other child—and she makes our family complete.


1. Centers for Disease Control and Statistics. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Data & Statistics. [accessed 01/13/15]
2. Girls and ADHD: are you missing the signs? Caralee Adams. [accessed 01/13/15]
3. Mayo Clinic. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. [accessed 01/13/15]
4. Marla Cummings, ADHD Coach and Productivity Consultant. Do you know how you feel about having ADHD? Sept 20, 2012. [accessed 01/13/15]
5. Wayne State University Physician Group. Methylphenidate: Pros and Cons. 2011. [accessed 01/13/15]
6. MNT. What are the benefits of eating oily fish? How much oily fish should I eat? [accessed 01/13/15]
7. WebMD. How a Child’s ADHD Affects Siblings. Heather Hatfield. [accessed 01/13/15]

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