Parenting is tough. Marriage can be too.
We mostly know this and don’t expect everything to always be cupcakes and roses. Just how tough parenting can get if ADHD is involved, can be a surprise.
ADHD, with its clamouring for attention, can slowly creep to the center around which your marriage and family rotate. Your goal of a healthy marriage and happy family depends on a purposeful and consistent relationship focus.
The partnership of a strong marriage is at the heart of preventing frustrated, exhausted, and short-tempered parenting, that gets us farther from both our ideals. If this sounds like a snowballing cycle of bad news, you are right.
The good news is that you can stay alert and avoid or reverse this trap.
Let’s make a team
When you have a kiddo that has (or you suspect has) ADHD and/or challenging behaviors, your family is affected in many ways.
Expecting and communicating around these issues is both demanded by, and in support of, your marriage. We are not going to cure ADHD (I wish there was a simple solution) nor offer much parenting advice.
Rather, my goal is simply to help you anticipate challenges, purposefully communicate, and team up; philosophically, mentally, emotionally, and metaphysically, (if I knew what that really meant) with your partner.
Doing so holds your marriage in place at the centre of your family and empowers it to be a source of strength and joy.
You’re gonna need more
At its core, ADHD has just plain more to deal with.
I don’t have to tell you that it’s going to be more trying on your patience, take more time, not to mention be louder, messier, and require a lot more energy. Kids with ADHD need more structure for them, while at the same time more flexibility and compassion from the adults around them.
Telling them to go upstairs, brush their teeth, get dressed, and put their shoes on (or whatever is your current struggle) probably isn’t going to work that well. You will spend a lot more time getting your kids through simple tasks.
You will need to plan, problem solves, wake up earlier, clean (and tolerate) more shocking messes, and slowly teach and reteach various skills; every single day.
This is exhausting any way you figure, and can be ridiculously frustrating depending on how you and your partner understand why your child is and isn’t doing these things.
It is imperative that you support each other and so much harder to this well if you don’t share a similar understanding of the ADHD. This seemingly simple point is super important and a significant challenge for many couples.
An explanation, not an excuse
ADHD is a brain difference that in certain settings is a disability.
Wrap your brain around that. This is not giving up or making excuses. It is understanding that these differences represent delayed skills that must be taught and accommodated. The mental shift from naughty towards learning, reduces frustration and reminds us that teaching is what’s needed.
The shift is critical and simple but not easy
We wouldn’t get angry at a visually impaired child for not seeing the board, and neither can we punish the ADHD away. Motivation is not what’s missing, so the Star Charts eventually fail.
When one parent clings to the common idea that more ‘discipline’ is needed; the sort of blame that hurts a marriage will follow. As easy as is to have one person be the ‘manager’ of the ADHD ins and outs, this is not conducive to being on the same page.
Having both parents involved with doctors, therapists, teachers, and IEP meetings goes a long way towards this shared understanding.
Talk, talk, and talk some more. There will be grief and frustration as well as successes. When you are on the same team, your marriage will be a safe place to go home to.
Find your people
Treasure your friends who make you laugh, are humble, and opted out of any parenting competitions. If you don’t have them, (you probably do) find some friends who know what it is to have children who struggle.
Winning hearts and minds around you is undeniably important, but so is having a tribe who gets it in a glance. They have been there and are there. They know the dark places your brain goes, can listen and pull you back, and won’t judge you for whatever madness they might witness.
Sometimes, really all you can do is laugh.
Your marriage will thank you too because we all need more than just one person and good friends are a beautiful thing.
The side eye
Wouldn’t it be great if other people (teachers, family, friends, the lady at the park, etc.) were supportive and understanding? If they knew that getting your child to school; (5 minutes late with unbrushed hair,) was heroic.
Sometimes you will need to just ignore the judges comments and walk past the horrified looks. Other times you will need to advocate. When your marriage is strong and central, you can commiserate, run interference, and maybe most importantly; laugh together.
The apple and the tree
ADHD has a genetic component. If your biological child has ADHD, there is a good chance that so do one of you. Many previously well-functioning adults find that managing their children (especially when they need more), pushes uncomfortably on the weaknesses in their own organizational skills.
Adult ADHD also has its own set of issues that can complicate parenting and marriage. It is in everyone’s best interest if this issue is explored and supported.
Enjoy the ride
Please don’t forget, you got married to share and love your life together. Don’t let this get buried beneath dirty dishes and homework battles. Do the things that brought you together as a couple often. Yes, ADHD adds complication, but also let that unique sparkle be something to delight in and encourage. Make a point of appreciating your child’s awesomeness every day and seeking those settings where they shine.
Tap out before your patience snaps and let your marriage be the force that keeps you laughing, problem solving creatively, and enjoying the ride.