When Your Parent Has ADHD—And You Don’t


Parent Has ADHD

We hear much about parenting children who have ADHD. But what’s it like to grow up with a parent’s ADHD, especially when you don’t have ADHD yourself?  A brief essay, below, describes one woman’s experience. I welcome you to share your experience in a comment.

The essay’s author, Jennie Friedman, writes on her See in ADHD website:

My family has wrestled with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and schizophrenia for generations. Growing up with my entire tribe affected sparked in me the drive to educate others how to embrace our differences so we can just focus on the most important business of loving one another.

Growing Up With ADHD When You Don’t Have It Yourself

By Jennie Friedman

“Why, Kebie, why can’t you just do the simplest thing? All you have to do is empty your pockets and put the receipts in THIS envelope. Why don’t you remember anything?”

Dad was getting scolded again, and I was just happy it wasn’t me. Why did she have to get so mad all of the time? I felt bad for him.

Whatever it was she was mad about, though, you’d never know by him. He was too busy to get upset; he was always on the run, dashing in and out of the house or going away on exotic business trips. Oh, sure, I heard a lot of sighs, watched his face get flush, and his forehead would get all wrinkly, but rarely did he lash back at her.

Oddly, we had the same forehead, my dad and I. We looked a lot alike even though I’m an adopted child. And while that is how I escaped the genetic pool of a family with anxiety, depression, ADHD, bipolar, and schizophrenia, I didn’t escape the familial environment that was shaped by his neurobiology.

ADHD rarely travels alone, and his special blend was ADHD, bipolar, and seasonal depression. Unfortunately, in 1985, he stopped taking his lithium and committed suicide almost two years later.

Consequences: The Good And The Bad

There are many consequences of being raised by at least one parent with ADHD—some good and some bad, with coexisting conditions contributing to difficulties. Also, if one parent has it and the other does not, the child can witness arguing and miscommunication and misinterpret what is going on.

In my eyes, dad was the fun one who sadly wasn’t around as much as the mean bossy one. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my mom very much, but she was never the life of the party like my dad. I remember her telling people how he had Peter Pan Syndrome. I didn’t know what that meant, but it sure sounded fun.

Obviously, she wouldn’t have had to correct
Dad so much if he were more like her, the perfect
one. And since I was so much like him, I gathered
I probably wasn’t good enough either.

As a young kid, it was great having an adult that all the other kids wished they had as a parent. He would take me for bike rides and let me decide which way to go even if it were so far from the house we arrived back home after dark. He would tell my friends and me the scariest ghost stories and then chase us afterward.

Mom, on the other hand, never played with us, ever. She would only tell us what to do or how to do it. She was the disciplinarian and dad, the camp counselor. Naturally, she resented this, “Why do you always have to make me the bad guy?” From my perspective, she was doing that to herself.

Throughout childhood, I felt in defense of Dad. He was my best friend and my hero. I marveled at his creative, open mind and wanted to be just like him when I grew up. He was the smartest, funniest, and most adventurous man that ever lived. But I did know something wasn’t quite right. He always seemed preoccupied, and that created an absence that was felt. He also over-committed to others, which took time away from us.

When he was around, Mom would treat him as a third child. Obviously, she wouldn’t have had to correct Dad so much if he were more like her, the perfect one. And since I was so much like him, I gathered I probably wasn’t good enough either.

Then I became a teenager, and everything fell apart.

Suddenly His Qualities Became Embarrassing

All of the qualities that had so enamored me became embarrassing. Suddenly, his joining my friends and me while we danced to the Go-Go’s was horrifying. When we would go out to dinner, he would explain to the waitress how I was shy, which mortified me. Worst of all, when he would talk to my friends, it was inappropriate if only because he acted as if he were one of us. Eventually, there was nothing normal about him, and I kept my distance.

I know on the surface this sounds typical. I sure thought it was. But it’s always in hindsight where we see things better.

My dad’s disorganization, faulty memory, and poor sense of time were taxing on everyone. He couldn’t engage with the mundane daily grind that Mom responsibly managed. He also had trouble with filters and boundaries, which wreaked havoc on all of his relationships as well as his career. We even moved six times in 15 years because he couldn’t keep his job.

Did this make him a bad parent? Absolutely not, but his ADHD did affect everything. Well, everything but the love. You see, I will always love him.

Jennie Friedman’s website is See in ADHD.

Growing up, did your parent(s) have ADHD? Do you think it affected their parenting style or your parents’ relationship?

Jennie and I welcome your comment below — Gina


85 thoughts on “When Your Parent Has ADHD—And You Don’t”

  1. Hi.
    I am a 34 year old U.K. based father to a 5 year old Son and a 2 year old daughter.

    It’s pretty obvious that I have ADHD and also am likely somewhere on the Autism spectrum.

    I have had a pretty unusual life, from growing up in a closed fundamentalist Christian cult (or “clut” as the local newspapers called it at the time) to working variously as a stonemason, general builder, sculptor, teacher of sculpture and even some years running a busy cobbling shop, and in recent years also spent several years in prison for the unlicensed possession of an antique target pistol.

    My wife discovered that against the odds ( we had tried for some years prior to my sentence to conceive as she was in her late thirties at the time) she had fallen pregnant just before my incarceration, and as a result I missed the majority of the first two years of my son’s life.

    I was however able to access psychiatric help other than antidepressants for the first time, which is how I am able to be fairly certain of my condition, although this stopped short of a full diagnosis.

    I am unable to seek medication or diagnosis because since my incarceration we have neither have the time or money. My wife is a high functioning alcoholic and fairly heavy cannabis and opioid medication user, and I have had to reduce my work hours significantly for the past year to cover childcare due to the pandemic, although I doubt I have ever earned more than the low end of £20K GBP p.a. and currently cannot see a realistic path to increasing my earnings.

    I currently spend most of my time looking after children and failing at housework, and the small remainder (a few half days and part of the weekend) failing at running a small one man building business that I started in 2019 and up until the pandemic ran with a one hundred percent positive feedback rating and that used to be a good fit for our childcare and money needs.

    I still in the main have managed to continue having happy customers (with one exception that causes me considerable shame) but on such reduced hours both income and productivity are in the toilet.

    It is very hard to see a future in which I am not a negative influence on my family, especially given the content of many of the above messages.

    I have spent most of my adult life battling my symptoms and have also been accused infrequently of narcissistic behaviour by my wife, although I notice mostly this correlates with my asking her to stop using intoxicants quite as much….

    My prison sentence helped me to get off a variety of substance use issues that I had developed during my twenties, and for some time I hoped that it might be possible to make a fresh start.

    I’m still sober, but between the time demands of childcare (schools have been locked down for the past quarter over here, and we have not been able to access full time childcare for nearly a year) the repetitive and restrictive nature of being locked down for so long is rapidly rendering me almost completely useless.

    The pandemic seems to have undermined all the positive gains I made since prison, and at the same time I also have been having to come to terms (since it became obvious that I am very likely to have both ADHD and some comorbid Autistic symptoms) with the possibility that I am unlikely in the long term to be able to be the husband and father that I would like to be or that my family deserves.

    I have in the past been guilty of having grandiose and ‘pie in the sky’ ambitions and can no longer have any real faith in my ability to tell the difference between sane self belief and pathological bad decision making.

    I hope I would never put my family through the trauma of a suicide but given the statistics of male ADHD sufferers and my own lived experience I can definitely see why many men in my position might end up believing that their loved ones might be better off without them.

    All this being said, my wife and I still love each other deeply and enjoy each other’s company, and our children are beautiful, kind, healthy, happy and well-adjusted.
    I honestly have no idea how we will all make it through the next couple of months or indeed decades, but I strongly believe that continuing to battle through the myriad imperfections is the only right thing to do.

    I do however have to tell myself this on a daily basis at the moment, however….

    Any thoughts positive or negative gratefully received, of course…

    1. Hi T.

      Thanks for being so candid and vulnerable. That takes a lot of bravery!

      I’m sorry to hear about the bad turns of luck in your life. UK gun laws are strict! And prison time just for possessing a gun?? Wow.

      Covid/quarantine have hit us hard as well. My husband worked in event marketing, so you can guess how that went starting in March 2020.

      Hang in there. Consider ADHD meds if you’re looking to improve focus and organization. My mother and daughter are the ones with ADHD in my family, and they both have seen marked improvement with medication. Also do some online research into how to create useful habits to improve organization and general sanity in life. My daughter struggles greatly in primary school. But building repetitive habits has helped her be my most successful child! She uses large notes around the house, always does things the same way – putting things in certain places, doing things in a certain order- and that keeps her from losing important items and keeps her on task far more often.

      Also… give yourself a few pats on the back. You’ve been through a lot! And you’re still doing your best. Good luck to you!

    2. Dear Tom,

      I’m heartbroken to read your story. Thank you for writing it, so clearly, so that others can see the real-life impact of the medical system’s neglect of ADHD in adults.

      Upon reading your story, few would believe we are living in the 21st Century, with you living in a relatively wealthy country that traditionally prides itself on its NHS.

      This is all so very wrong. And I’m sorry you are at the receiving end of it.

      COVID has indeed ratcheted up the stress and optimism for so many people with ADHD. People who were marginally coping before have found daunting, to say the least, the extra demands.

      I want to respond to this point, in particular, where you wrote: It is very hard to see a future in which I am not a negative influence on my family, especially given the content of many of the above messages.

      In my long and deep experience, T., the worst damage comes when parents do not acknowledge their difficulties——and instead blame everyone around them. Children and spouses can forgive a lot if they don’t become the targets and they know that their parent or spouse is open about the struggles and their attempts to find help for them.

      After reading your story, it strikes me that you have heroically cleared many hurdles in life. That is very much to your credit. And maybe to your love for your wife and children–and their love for you.

      In growing up in a “Christian cult,” you might find this post resonates for you: Does ADHD Create Vulnerability to High-Control Groups?

      You deserve treatment. It might be that ADHD treatment even addresses some of the traits that might be considered that of Asperger’s. Many clinicians don’t know how to distinguish the two very well.

      Are you sure you cannot access care anywhere? I know it’s hard in the UK. But it might not be impossible. Especially as vaccinations are edging us toward “normal.”

      You might want to start with an Adult ADHD support group. Here is a map of groups: http://www.adders.org/englandmap.htm

      Support groups tend to be highly variable; some are unfortunately conduits for steering clients to a business or some other service and offer little in the way of finding access to treatment.

      So you might want to check them out as best you can before attending. Maybe, if you cannot attend, some have websites with information in improving odds of finding access.

      The Adders site was one of the first websites on Adult ADHD anywhere. I’m not sure how often it updates but it might be a good basic source for you.

      Not finding treatment, however, doesn’t mean you are helpless, of course. Knowledge is power. And learning as much as you can about Adult ADHD will help you on many levels.

      My blog is the oldest-running on Adult ADHD, since 2008, and it is full of solid information for you.

      I wish you and your family all the best. You deserve it.


    3. Hi T,
      I thank you for your response. I’m really sorry for all of your troubles but you sound like a very loving parent and that’s really what kids need more than anything, love.
      I do hope you and your family can find some support maybe in your community or a local church organization. It is all the harder when you feel so alone. Gina gave some fantastic advice, definitely look up her resources!

  2. This article means a lot to me. It especially means a lot because it is my 17 year-old daughter who sent it to me along with a message about how the article helped her understand me a bit better. I’m a mom to 4 teenagers, and I am the one with diagnosed ADHD. I’ve often been described as having Peter Pan syndrome, and as the article describes, I’m fun and spontaneous and full of wild creativity, but I’m also distracted and forgetful and disdainful of routine. I am beyond blessed to have children who seek to see the good and have grace for the struggles, and it’s beautiful to have a child who took it upon herself to research what it it’s like to walk in my shoes. I am constantly working to grow and be a mom who comes alongside each of my unique children in the ways that they need, but I’m experiencing that they are so wisely doing that for me too. Thank you for writing this.

    1. Hi Christine!
      Thank you for sharing your response. I feel so blessed that it resonated with your daughter enough to share it with you. As the person without ADHD in the relationship, you never know how people will react, and so when I wrote this, I did feel vulnerable. But it was done with love, as you see. I am thrilled for you guys that you connect with one another in such a meaningful way. Thanks for sharing.

  3. It seems like this story was published a while ago but this is the first time I’ve seen something like this online.

    I suspect my father has some degree of ADHD and or depression. I also find that he is quite emotionally immature, having difficulty with empathizing and taking more nuanced approaches to problems.

    He tends to talk over us when we have conversations about subjects he is not well acquainted with, often jumping from one subject to another that has a passing relation and is quick to reinforce his views over the rest of us (although that might just be a machismo thing). Unfortunately, I lack the words and cultural context to explain any of this to him (We’re Filipino and English is his third language).

    I write this frustrated at my lack of options in addressing this. Thanks to the quarantine, my lack of a well-paying job, and other family issues– I live with my family and just try to stay out of my father’s sphere of influence.

    1. Hi LRM,

      I’m glad you found my blog. Welcome.

      For 20 years, I’ve worked to bring many previously un-noticed ADHD-related issues to light. Knowledge is power, right?

      I can’t imagine how many such COVID-related situations are happening right now. I am sorry yours is one of them.

      The “conversational” behavior you described is not uncommon with unrecognized ADHD. He’s probably not even aware he’s doing it—at least not in the moment.

      Pushing his view on the rest of you might be an ego-defensive cover. In other words, maybe he has not even comprehended your opinions (poor attention span, distractibility, poor working memory, etc.). So he over-compensates by trying to dominate with his opinions. (Yes, it could be a machismo thing, too, but maybe not entirely.)

      I just looked for ADHD information in Tagalog, assuming that’s your dad’s first language. No luck. Maybe you can do a more in-depth search. If his second language is Spanish, there is plenty of info in Spanish.

      In my experience, it’s seldom a good idea to broach the subject of ADHD with a loved one until you have your “ducks in a row.” That is, you’ve identified a competent mental healthcare professional, maybe find one of his peers who has diagnosed ADHD and could talk with him about it….make it seem less threatening. I know that might be a tall order now.

      But at least the knowledge can help you and your family put his behavior in context.

      In the meantime, it sounds like you’re doing the smart thing — staying out of his sphere of influence.

      You’ve probably also figured out…arguing with him can like throwing fuel on the fire. If you haven’t seen this post, you might want to read to see if it sounds familiar:


      If he has challenges that might respond to “environmental supports,” that might help reduce the tension and conflict — e.g. signs on the wall reminding him to wear a mask when he goes out, etc.

      I wish you the best in these difficult times. I hope that what you are suffering through now proves useful or at least informative in the future, as it often has for me in my life.

      Take care of yourself and get outside for some sunshine and nature whenever you can.


    2. Hi LRM,
      Thank you for your response. All things considered, it does sound like you are exercising your best available option at the moment. Gina’s response is great. I will only add as I so often do, that we are all doing our best in any given moment, even if that isn’t very good. All you can control is you and your reactions to him. I do recommend looking into mindfulness. It helps you look at things more objectively so as not to get swept away in the chaos of it all.
      Do take care,

  4. Hi! This sounds like a challenge. It sounds like it’s part of his personality, though. He’s strong in perceiving, while your mom is strong in judging. Your mom imposes order on things naturally as part of her personality. Your dad might also have ADHD, but some of the aspects you mentioned are actually part of his personality, part of how he thinks. There are millions of people who think like him who don’t have ADHD. I just wanted to make a distinction. It’s helpful to understand how some of these cognitive processes are related.

    1. HI ENFP,

      Speaking as an ENTJ….. 🙂

      I can assure you of this: Many people come to resign themselves to ADHD+ symptoms (diagnosed or not) as part of their “personality” when in fact they are treatable symptoms.

      To encourage someone to continue struggling with their symptoms is not something I am comfortable doing. I find putting beliefs before compassion cruel, in fact.

      To also blame a mother who, to keep her family afloat, must try to “manage” her husband? I find that cruel, too.

      Meyers-Briggs is interesting and might be insightful to some, as a key to understanding “personality.”

      But we cannot mistake highly impairing — and treatable — symptoms as personality.

      In fact, many people with ADHD and their loved ones tell me that only with ADHD treatment did their “personality” shine through. It had been always obscured by symptoms.

      Thanks for your comment.

    2. Hi ENFP,
      I understand what you are saying and appreciate your feedback. I personally think it’s a distinction with no difference. Personality or ADHD, the ultimate result is behaviors as a result of cognition. If the challenges in a relationship are due to personality differences, what does that change, you know?
      To Gina’s point, people tend to get or give a pass when, “Oh well, it’s their personality” when actually, they are still responsible for their actions but feel powerless to change them. When treated as a diagnosis with behaviors viewed as symptoms, it empowers the person, which can help them change their behaviors.
      As for my parents, they very well may have been better off had they divorced sooner and met other people whose temperament and resulting behaviors would have meshed better for them. But in the end, there we are, just all of us doing the very best we can with however our brains think.
      Again, thank you for your thoughts. I appreciate you expanding the conversation.

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  6. Jennie, my dad I believe has ADHD and ODD. It has been a strain on his marriage and his relationship with his children. He is extremely defiant, he is hyper as all-get-the-****-out, he can easily be very destructive, and is almost a garbage can on wheels when food is concerned. He has no self control or filter when it comes to wolfing down amounts of food at one time. Hiding bulks of food or treats has been the norm in my family since I was born, because if you don’t, he will wait till 2-3 AM, and then wolf it all down. Once done, he will deny EVERY…THING. And do this like a parrot, or a robot with one command. Just the exact same robotic response for infinite time.

    He got heavy into Christianity, which is not a issue at all. But it seems Christianity and Jesus just made his behavior worse. He tried various religions as I grew up, and seemed to be the most calm under either Agnosticism or Islam. But once he dived completely in Protestant Christendom, he just became almost unbearable to be around. The problem is, for some reason, it seems to cause his ODD to fly out of control. Combined with his hyperactive energy, he can be like the Tasmanian Devil in a house. Just a cause of chaos. He won’t sit still and read the Bible, or find a church community to pour hius energy into, he just….I don’t know, “revs up”. And my mother has been pushed to the breaking point. I think she’s on the verge of divorce.

    Again, this is nothing about religion. It’s just….exhaustion with his behavior. He will not even pay attention to anyone speaking to him for longer than around 5-15 seconds. One of the best descriptions I’ve heard of someone trying to talk to him is “It’s like trying to talk with a kitten.” The cat looks at you for a good 2-3 seconds, and then…well, they’re off in their own world and that’s all folks.

    Jennie, I don’t know what to do or where to go. I don’t want my family to fall apart. And I’m 100% sure there are more families like mine, where we don’t know what to do, where to go, or just….just don’t know what else to do but either run away, divorce, abandon, or whatnot. I’m sure there’s non-neutral people that may even develop hate of a religion (for no good reason), all just because of a dysfunctional family member.

    I love my family. I want peace in my family. But I just don’t know what to do anymore.

    1. Hi Unsure,

      You surely describe some “red flags” for ADHD in your dad—and maybe ODD, too. In other words, It is definitely worth you and your mother learning about Adult ADHD.

      Indeed, I know several people diagnosed with ADHD later in life who spent quite a few years “self-medicating” with certain religions. The more “authoritarian,” it seems, the greater the appeal.

      You mention that he “won’t sit still and read the bible” and efforts to converse with him is “like trying to talk with a kitten.” The fact is, it might be more a case of “can’t” than “won’t.”

      You mention that he “wolfs down” his food and has “no self-control.” Chaos. Hyperactive Energy. Oppositional. All red flags for ADHD.

      Absolutely, there are many—perhaps millions—of families in the U.S. alone dealing with similar behaviors in a loved one. ADHD is massively undiagnosed. Even with diagnosed ADHD, treatment is often poorly done.

      I encourage you and your mother to read my first book. Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? Stopping the Roller Coaster When Someone You Love Has Attention Deficit Disorder

      I’m pretty sure it will explain almost everything you’re experienced. More importantly, it can point to a better path for him, along with his family.

      There are dozens and dozens of helpful posts in this blog, too.

      Knowledge is power. You are smart to find Jennie’s post. Keep following your instincts.


    2. Unsure,
      I wish I could give you a hug right now.

      I know exactly what you’re talking about, because I’ve lived both sides of it. My parents were insufferable when they found a cause to latch on to, and I was insufferable as a Christian evangelist at times.

      ADHD minds can be like liquid–they take the shape of whatever container they’re poured into. Often, we’re drawn to systems that provide structure for our thoughts, because we don’t naturally have that kind of structure ourselves. You’re right when you say, it’s not about God or Jesus–it’s about his ODD, cognitive inflexibility, and inappropriate single-mindedness.

      You have an INCREDIBLE amount of insight & emotional intelligence to be able to separate your dad’s behavior from his religious beliefs.

      Hang on to your perceptions, because you know that they’re true. Get Gina’s book. It validated my experiences with my parents, my husband, and myself. We *all* have ADHD, and it manifests in different ways, with different comorbidities, and might require different techniques to treat each unique person. Her book will give you the goods on how.

      I’m happy to report that my husband, myself, and my oldest daughter have all had incredible responses to medication, and it changed how I practiced my Christianity, and how I treated my family. It changed how my husband treated me and related to me. I feel more certain of God’s guidance than I ever have in my life, because I’m not *plagued* by all the possibilities of the “something shiny” that’s distracting me.

      Gah, I could go on and on, but now that I’m aware of time, I need to go to bed.

      Feel free to follow me on Twitter, @XianJaneway, or ask Gina to connect us. 😀

      “Taylor J.”
      ^^^You can stick that name into the search box, and find our family’s story in a dozen or so articles on this blog. <3

    3. Hi Unsure,

      Thanks for sharing your story. It sounds tough and I’m sure feels tougher. I like what Gina and Taylor have said in response, and I believe their advice is sound. The only addition I have to offer is something I had to learn the hard way. You cannot control your parents. You can only control how you respond to them. And on that note, I will add that I believe its best to forgive them for doing the best they could even if it wasn’t good enough. At least try to as best you can in order to move forward and develop healthy boundaries when dealing with them.

      I can feel your pain when you say, “I don’t know what to do or where to go. I don’t want my family to fall apart.” But the truth is you cannot control what happens in their marriage. I know the day my dad announced he was divorcing my mom was one of the worst days in my life and I was 17 at the time. An age when people told me, “Well, at least they were together until you almost graduated High School.” They were wrong. There’s no age when a divorce seems fine. It will always seem like the family “fell apart” when it first happens.

      I say I learned the hard way because that is how I felt at the time, like my family ceased to exist. Everyone moved to other cities and states and I was on my own in many ways. Angry. Then after his suicide, I was even angrier. For like 10 years it was all I could do to run away (and around) as far from all of them as I could.

      Thank goodness, I eventually became healthier. I learned to love myself and to not blame them for my life and circumstances. You don’t mention how old you are but trust me. I’m 51 now and can say that forgiveness has served me best. But it took a lot of time. So, I suggest you look into some counseling maybe to help you learn how to reframe things. As I said, I think the advice given so far is wonderful. Learning boundaries would help. And just love them as best you can but don’t take responsibility for their actions.

      I’m on your side.


    4. Thank you so very, very, very much to everyone who responded. I’m sorry for such a late reply, but it feels amazing to see such warm responses.

      Taylor J, I would love to connect with you, if Jennie doesn’t mind. What you said really, truly helped. My mom read your response too, and from what she responded to me about it, what you said was incredibly refreshing.

      @Jennie, thank you so much for your response.I don’t take responsibility for his actions, but still…it’s my dad. For all his problems, still, I never would have been as exposed to so much in the world or learned to think neutrally unless he taught me. I’m not trying to control him, but it’s hard to just try to socialize with him. My connection with him means alot, because it shaped so much of who I am now.
      As much as I’d love to, I can’t just only care for myself. My mom comes from Cajun culture, so maybe that Cajun stuff is too ingrained in me? But I get what you’re saying, definitely. And a number of family members I have stopped worrying with, lest their craziness make me crazy.

    5. Hi Unsure,

      I’m glad that our responses helped you and your mom.

      Definitely, there can be cultural overlays that obscure or reject the very idea of ADHD.

      In my long experiences, the most powerful way to help a loved one with ADHD out of “denial” is to get educated and receive validation and support.

      My first book will give your mother (and you) an important foundation of knowledge. I wrote it to explain ADHD and its treatment strategies, but also its potential effects on loved ones.

      You and/or your mother are welcome to join my free online discussion group. It’s e-mail based. All you need is a Yahoo ID, which is free and easy to get.


      Again, I encourage you to also read Taylor J.’s first-person essays on her experiences with her own and her husband’s (as well as her children’s and parents’) ADHD.

      Here is the first post: https://adhdrollercoaster.org/tools-and-strategies/new-free-you-me-adhd-book-club/


    6. Unsure,
      You’re describing my mother to a T- from the ridiculous food behavior (like a dog around bacon, any time there is food) to the religious obsession, the non-stop energy, etc. and embarrassing behaviors. Our family eventually did end. My parents divorced my senior year. I saw my father go on to a much happier, more well-matched marriage. My mom is still single as she’s too much of a weirdo for anyone to date or marry her. But she’s happy as a clam now, doing exactly what interests her and not spending much time on things that don’t (like cleaning). She’s also a wonderful grandma. Where her wild antics and enthusiasm embarrassed us as teens, my children adore that she’ll finger paint and tell stories and make messes. My siblings and I are Ok too. I don’t know if that helps, but there is hope after divorce, especially for the non-ADHD parent. I don’t know how my dad lasted 23 years with her. I can barely stand an hour in her presence. But they both ended up happier eventually.

    7. Hi OMgirl,

      Thanks for your comment. That’s wonderful, that your family story has a happy ending.

      I wish they all did.

      I know many partners of adults with ADHD who finally left the relationship, often after trying to improve things for years….decades even…who go on to live much happier and healthier lives.

      Unfortunately, many divorced adults with ADHD who were diagnosed late or never got traction with treatment struggle sometimes to the end of their lives. Struggle mightily.

      Under-resourced. Poor health. Few friends. I hear that story more often, unfortunately, than the one you describe for your mother.

      Much depends on socioeconomic status.


  7. Hi,
    I am a single mother to a 19 year old daughter. It has always just been the two of us.
    I had a difficult and traumatic childhood which led me to being (unsuccesfully) fostered as a young teen. I had trouble with any authoritative figure including teachers, had a bad temper, and suffered from depressions.
    As I grew into adulthood life became increasingly difficult, I was always surrounded by chaos and abuse.
    I loved being a mom, but as time went on my depressions became worse, and I was not able to be the mother I wanted to be to my daughter. It became so bad that I wanted to kill myself because I thought my daughter would have a better life without me. I always thought my problems stemmed from my early childhood years, and didn’t have anything to do with me and who I am, but it turns out I was wrong.
    Three years ago I was diagnosed with severe ADD along with chronic depression. It was a relieve really, to finally understand the many problems I have had in my life, but it pains me so much to know the difficulties it has created (and continue to create) for my sweet non-ADHD daughter.
    We talk about it and she is way too understanding. She worries a lot about me and developed separation anxiety at an early age.
    I constantly try to be the responsible adult and give her a sense of security, but seem to always fail. I want her to be proud of who she is and self-confident, but I am the one to ruin it for her with my impatience, criticism and short fused temper, not to mention my frequent inability to be mentally and emotionally present.
    I have looked everywhere for a support group for kids like my daughter, but can only find groups for parents with ADHD children. Do you know of any?
    To end this on a positive note, I want to add that we have a very close and loving relationship most of the time. We laugh a lot, also about the crazy situations my ADD causes. She’s an amazing young woman, smart and compassionate, who is doing exceptionally well in school. I can’t really take credit for any of that though, it’s like she was just born well behaved.
    I really hope you know of a support group for her, I think it could help her understand herself better, and to not feel alone, knowing that other children (whatever their age) probably share some of her thoughts and feelings. Something she will never tell me about from fear of hurting my feelings.
    Thank you for sharing your story, which is somewhat similar to my daughter’s.

    1. Hi Jeanne,

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. It is one, I am sure, that happens all too often, that ADHD will be missed while the focus is entirely on childhood trauma.

      With the emphasis on this ACES philosophy (where every dysfunctional behavior is linked to childhood trauma), I worry that this phenomenon will not only continue but also expand.

      The fact is, there is a greater-than-average amount of conflict, domestic violence of all types, instability, and substance abuse in homes where one or both parents have ADHD. While surely that carries a trauma for everyone involved, especially the children, the mistake is missing ADHD as the highly genetic, underlying factor.

      I’m glad you finally discovered this key piece of information, and that you and your daughter have a close, loving relationship.

      I’m sorry that I don’t know of such a group for your daughter (support for the children of adults with ADHD). It surely seems needed. It’s possible that she might find it useful to attend a parent or adult group for ADHD. She could explain her circumstance first and ask if she would be welcome. If nothing else, hearing similar stories to yours from other adults might help her de-personalize your challenges, to see them through the “ADHD Lens.”

      She could check fora CHADD chapter in her area: http://www.CHADD.org

      You don’t mention it, but if you haven’t pursued treatment for your ADHD, I hope that you will consider it.

      Thanks so much for your comment. I know it will resonate with others.

      Gina Pera

    2. Thank you Gina for your answer.
      I was diagnosed and treated by a psychiatrist specialized in ADHA, but did not respond well to any medication she gave me. She still sees me regularly and support me in any way she can, for which I am very greatful.

      I hope that soon there will be support groups for people like my daughter. I would start one myself, if it wasn’t because I know I want be able to follow through.

      We are are Danish and sadly there seem to be much less focus on adult ADHD/ADD here. But your idea of contacting a support group for people with ADHD is great, some of them must have children in the same situation as my daughter… THANK YOU!

    3. Hi Jeanne,

      Perhaps you physician started you at too high a dose, or did not address co-existing depression/anxiety at the same time.

      Not every physician who claims a specialty in ADHD actually deserves that designation.

      My friend Charlotte is a good person to know in Denmark regarding ADHD: https://www.adhdkompagniet.dk/kontakt


    4. Hi Jeanne,

      You sound like a wonderfully loving mother and probably are usually too hard on yourself. But I do appreciate your history and your concern for your girl.

      While I do not know of any support groups for people like her and me, I do have a few of us siblings in my See in ADHD Facebook Group. It’s a free resource that she could join and feel free to “vent” or share without judgement. It’s a mixed group with both ADHD and nonADHD participants.

      Thank you so much for responding to the article, I’m glad you found it useful.



  8. I finally got a chance to read all of the comments. I must say I am so grateful to have come across this information. I recently started on an antidepressant after 21 years of marriage to a man with ADD. Our four children are being affected by our relationship and our parenting. Ugh. I don’t know where to start. I’m beyond frustrated. He refuses treatment saying he has managed it all this time. He’s 48. He is on antidepressants and pain medication for a very messed up spine. So, between his ADD, his constant pain, and his being medicated, we are a high stress family. I feel unloved and grew up with a dad that didn’t love me. Needless to say that makes my marriage even more difficult. My 13 year old daughter (non ADD) has a terrible relationship with him. I am constantly trying to tell each one how to treat the other. Neither of them understands the other. My 16 year old son has ADD but its different than my husbands. And my youngest two are to young yet to not just love daddy like he is. But I’m sure the disputes in our relationship cause them alarm. I think I will start with Gina’s book. I’d be glad to hear how others cope. It certainly isn’t easy.

    1. Hi AJ,

      I’m sorry to hear of your situation. Yes, please read my book. I hope it will help you reclaim your life.

      If your husband has ADHD, an antidepressant will not be enough, and it might be exacerbating ADHD symptoms. Please be sure to read the chapters on medication.

      Best of luck to you!


  9. Hello. I was glad to read this article. I didn’t read all the comments though. Apologies in advance if I am repeating a question previously asked. Are there any books written from the perspective of the non ADD child living with a parent that had ADD? When I read Jennie’s post about her parents it reminded me of my husband and I. We have four children. Two have add. I worry about the effects of my husband’s ADD on our family and his parenting skills. He loves the children so much but is extremely critical!! It tends to make everyone withdraw into a shell. Communication is horrific. I’d like to read more about this. Any guidance regarding what books to read would be sincerely appreciated.

    1. Hi AJ,

      A friend visited my house today, to sit through a “dress rehearsal” of the presentation I will give in Canada in a few weeks.

      She was glad that I covered the exact point you mention because her own children and husband play out this dynamic — him being overly critical and the children recoiling.

      It is probably how he was treated, growing up without ADHD diagnosis. But he knows better now, and he needs to do better. Someone has to stop the generational cycle of verbal abuse.

      To answer your question, no I don’t know of such a book. When I learned that Jennie’s dad had ADHD, I asked her to write the piece, because I know it is such an unexplored topic.

    2. Hi AJ,
      It does sound like your family’s dynamic is a bit different than mine, but you are in good hands with Gina.
      Hopefully, one day your husband will want to learn more about ADHD.
      Thank you for taking the time to read and respond.
      Best wishes,

  10. Thank you Gina for your reply & the link to your first book. I told Mum about this blog yesterday, so will pass it on to her too.

    I think we help each other whilst I’m at home, we can talk it out & release some steam. We are going away on Thursday with the dog for 4 days, very much looking forward to it.

    Thanks again

  11. It’s uncanny how your story resembles mine so much. My father is the one with ADHD, I’m much younger though. I’m 17 and he’s recently turned 44 years old. If anything he seems to have gotten worse over the years or maybe I’m just finally noticing it. Mom is an anxious, hard-working woman and they’ve been together for so long but honestly I sometimes just don’t understand why. I love both my parents but my mother is basically the sole provider for our family. My father basically makes less than 10k a year and spends it on unnecessary things. He is always distracted over things that seem mundane or unimportant to me. Ex: Mowing the lawn, watering the lawn, making sure we have THE PERFECT LAWN, showing me used things he got for a “bargain”, giving me the same life lectures that have nothing to do with the current conversation,…
    The list goes on, he’s often so distracted. It isn’t unusual for me lately to have to turn of burners of the stove for him because he’s forgotten.
    Mental illness runs on his side of the family and I suffer from other things, he’s a little narcissistic as well but mainly he’s ADHD.
    It’s hard living with a parent that’s always in another world and another one always constantly trying to have them keep their feet on the ground.

    1. Hi Catherine,

      I’m glad that Jennie’s story resonated for you.

      Do you think there’s a chance your dad would be open to better treatment for his ADHD? He’s only 44. There might be much to be gained. For all of you.


    2. Hi Catherine,

      Thank you for sharing! Yes, we are not alone in the experience of growing up with a dad with ADHD, I know it can be really frustrating at times. Fortunately, you still have yours though. You don’t mention if you’ve spoken to him about seeking treatment. There’s education, meds, therapy, coaching or some combination of all three.

      All I can offer is what I would do if I knew then what I know now and could talk to him about it.

      I would share articles from ADDitude Magazine and Gina’s blog. I would buy him an audio book from Amazon. I would tell him how much I love him and think he’s wonderful most of the time but that I can see there’s some struggles for him that other people don’t seem to have as much trouble with and that I am happy to be supportive as he explores what he can do to help himself, starting with a proper diagnosis.

      I don’t know if you are able to do any of that, but I must say, I remember 17 like it was yesterday. Time flies so at least try and enjoy the parts of him that aren’t so frustrating.


    3. Hi,

      I stumbled across this website since coming to the end of my senses on how to accept my father (71) and his ADHD which is only now currently being diagnosed (we hope) He also has narcissism on his side of the family with his sister Who developed the full disorder. Their father passed away some time ago (early 90’s) and their mother, who we think had NPD passed away two years ago. In the past, I have done a lot of studying of NPD whereas my mother has looked more into ADHD after experiencing the results of an ADHD partner. From a young age I always remembered mum being upset and shouting at Dad, once thought drones to mind of her throwing a breakfast bowl at him whilst we lived in a static caravan, because he “still” hadn’t finished the Cottage they bought when we moved to UK.

      I related to Catherine’s post, saying her dad progressively got worse & it seems my Dad is too, we noticed it worsened since his Mother’s passing & his sister attempting to destroy his life before and after.

      I am loving back home for now whilst I build my business and I see moe things now after talking to my mother and observing my fathers actions and is words. He can be really nasty to mum, especially when he does not know I am listening, I am afraid I am eventually going to distance myself completely from him because there are more negative days than positive. He uses favours he’s done for us as ammunition if he feels we question his actions. They moved into another unfinished cottage and like Catherine mentioned about her dad, he is a bargain hunter daily on eBay, impulsive buying. There are 9 cars in the back yard, none of which are road worthy. He tells mum he will sell one before getting another one but to me, I see him lying because he NEVER keeps his promise. My brother diagnosed himself and is managing his symptoms with excercise and mountain biking. We have copped rages from him too in the past.

      With my father though, I feel because of his upbringing in s narcissistic family, he has one trait where he believes there is nothing wrong with him. He has been to the doctor, three times now, the last time, mum organised to go with him, which he blew up about when he found out she’d be in the same room. They have him on a waiting list to see a psychiatrist to test for adult ADHD but he continues with his “nothing wrong with me” attitude which I find the hardest to deal with. He accuses us of the things he does wrong around the house, also like leaving the gas hob on. He has so much stuff in the house including 4 classic car wheels in the room that is suppose to eventually be the kitchen, mum has been waiting 30+ years for.

      My mother to me, in my eyes is Wonderwoman, she has provided for the family since early 90’s, worked her socks off. She retired but then went back to work because she couldn’t handle Dad at home. They haven’t been on holiday together since I can remember. He never leaves the house.

      It’s affecting me more now I am trying to understand it all. Would it affect my relationships because I don’t feel I can trust anyone right now.

      Sorry for the long post, thank you Gina and Jennie for opening my eyes with your blog & informative feedback to other’s posts. This is just the start for me to start learning more about it. We too feel there are other things dad maybe going through like depression and definitely OCD, we are just waiting for him to have his own awareness before he accepts it and it’s so hard.

      Thanks for taking the time to read my post, I’m sorry it is so long

    4. Dear Charlotte,

      Your comment was not too long. I’m glad that you found a place to be understood and find your voice.

      I encourage you to read my first book, http://amzn.to/2u8djWN

      Even though it might be too late for treatment to make much of a difference for your father (these patterns have been reinforced over a lifetime, and the brain is not exactly “plastic” at his age). Yet, it might be helpful for you and your mum to understand the nature of the disorder, especially the “denial” that can leave the person so blind to their problematic behaviors and the impact on loved ones. It might at least bring your mum some peace of mind and explain some behaviors, which might lessen the hurt, at least.


    5. Hi Charlotte,

      Gina’s book and blog are wonderful resources, I’m so happy you’ve found her site.

      As an ADHD coach, the thing that stands out to me most from your heartfelt post is that the relationship of your parents mixed with your family’s mental history has you questioning your own destiny.

      It sounds like the issue of boundaries has yet to be addressed in your family and it is by establishing healthy boundaries where you may begin to create your own personal power and break any cycle you feel powerless to.

      If reconsidered, each time “there was no choice” but to just deal with dad and the way he was, or is…you may see that your happiness is not dependent on his changing but more on you changing.

      Setting up boundaries is not easy work and it’s not fun. But the people I have worked with in this area all testify that it’s changed their well-being for the better and are they are happier.

      I suggest looking on Amazon for books regarding cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or the topic of healthy establishing boundaries in relationships.

      Thank you for responding to my article, Charlotte. I know how much I loved my father and can understand the pain you’re experiencing from the conflict of loving someone who is not always making it easy to do so.



  12. Hey Jennie,

    I come from a blended family, I’m the youngest of three girls, the only daughter that still lives in the house, and my dad has severe ADHD. Thank you so much for posting this article, it such a relief to see that other people have been in my same position. Now that I’m in my mid-teens, I’m beginning to notice all of my dad’s faults, (all of which are caused by his ADHD), and I find myself being constantly frustrated with him. When I was a child he was my hero and we had so much fun playing together, he almost felt like a big brother, but now I struggle to even have a conversation with him without losing my patience. He doesn’t listen when I’m talking, he’s addicted to his iPhone, and he is always too busy and overcommitted to do anything with me but talk about college and my athletic career. I get really angry about these things, but at the same time I see how difficult this is for him too and I feel so guilty for the way I treat him. I was wondering if you could give me any advice as to how to be more patient with him and some insight as to how he may perceive my behavior.

    Thanks again,

    1. Hi Grace,

      I’m so glad that you found this piece, and that it explains, at least in part, your relationship with your father.

      Have you read my book? http://amzn.to/2jgyKOT

      The first step is understanding what you and he are dealing with, in regards to what sounds like his untreated ADHD.

      The next step would be encouraging him to consider treatment. This might be the best strategy for healing your relationship, and for helping him to have a happier life.

      The book goes into helping our loved ones through denial and finding effective treatment.

      Good luck,

    2. Hi Grace,

      I understand the frustration. There’s so many different feelings all mixed together. I would encourage you to try and not feel guilty about how you’ve been reacting to his behaviors, it’s understandable.

      The good news though, is that you may could forge a new and better relationship together because of your clarity. You don’t mention if he’s trying to manage his ADHD, so Gina’s book may be a real help.

      The only other advice I have is to focus on the good with him and try and let those things that you cannot control not stop you from expressing the positive altogether. Soon enough, you will be out on your own, and those loving feelings will probably be the ones that stick around the longest anyway.



  13. Hi everyone!
    I come from a family all with ADHD. ( We havent told dad yet though haha!)
    I have one child with ADHD thats been busy since the day he was born. I have another child with “inattentive” ADHD. (Was called ADD back in the day ) But back to my childhood experience.
    For example…
    On a family vacation at Disney Land when my sister (also ADHD) were teens we were asked TWICE if we were a hired family to entertain guests. Haha!
    Things just seem to happen to us. We never felt like people were laughing at us. They were laughing WITH us.
    I feel like (even now) at any minute someone will pop out and yell “your on candid camera!” Haha!
    But it was not all easy.
    I thought we were “normal”and everyone else was a bit “off”
    I remember one time my dad asked me to get a phone number out of his phone book. “Sue, get me that number out of the phone book.”
    “Hmm..okay (as I got the book) who’s number?”
    “You Know! THAT number..your sisters friend.”
    My sister had more then one friend. So I start naming them. (For privacy I will use your name) I start looking for Jennie Friedman. Go through all the F’s nothing. Dad getting frustrated with me now. So I told him it wasnt there.
    “What do you mean its not there? Its in there.”
    I said okay I will look for J in case it was under Jennie. Nope. I am in trouble now he gets up and takes the phone book from me.
    “See! There it is! Right there!”
    My bad. I never thought to look under my sisters initial of her first name. Sure enough under D was D’s Friend Jennie.”
    Hahaha! I laugh now. But it wasnt funny then. It was our normal.
    (I am my fathers daughter…you should see my phone book! Its not alphabetical either Its how I remember people. Nick names or jobs ext)
    I just didnt get why other people didnt think like me. My thoughts were always different from the rest it seemed. I was scared to talk sometimes ( if you knew me that one would be hard to believe! Haha.)
    I grew up with a feeling I was wrong. Not different. Wrong. I still have some of that baggage. I have noticed I always feel the need to prove what I say. I need to be able to back up my words or I wont say them.
    I am a strong advocate for my kids and any other child I notice may be having the same struggles. I see life through their eyes. I also see life through parenting eyes. Can be hard on the heart.
    One of the most important things I learned growing up with ADHD in a family with ADHD is we ARE NOT wrong. We WERE NOT wrong. We were DIFFERENT and the thing is EVERYONE is different!
    I think talking about ADHD is the best way to help others that are diagnosed.
    As hard as it was sometimes growing up I woud do it again in a heart beat. It gave me the knowledge to be able to help my kids. No one can support someone better then someone thats been there!
    Cheers my friends!
    Sue on (twitter adhd123sue)

    1. Hi Sue,

      That was a great example! In fact, my phone book lists everyone by first initial, drives my husband crazy. But growing up in a family with ADHD did really open me up to the many different ways things can be done.

      I can hear my dad now telling me there is always more than one way to do something!

      Thank you for sharing your story, you certainly are well equipped to be the greatest mom for your kids.



  14. In a medium over-saturated with ‘managing your ADHD kid’, it’s so, so refreshing to find something like this. In my family of four, my dad & I have it and my mom & brother don’t. I’ve known for a very long time that this division is public knowledge among the four of us (and even discussed at great length on occasion), but we never had a name to put on it until this past summer when my mother and I first started thinking that I might have it (spoiler alert: I got diagnosed two months later). The dynamic described…. it was like reading about my own family. (And, in the spirit of my disorder, I’m now inspired to start writing about my experiences, even though I know I’ll get three pages into it and move on to something else!) Every so often, I send an email blast to my mom with links to articles and listicles covering all kinds of aspects of having ADHD, and this is being added….. Thank you so much!

    1. Thank you, Anna.

      I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately, about how loved ones can become “disconnected” by unrecognized ADHD—parent and child, siblings, etc. With both people the loser.

      It is so wonderful that we are leaving these unnecessary disconnections behind.


    2. Hi Anna,

      I just knew there had to be more of us out there!

      It’s wonderful your family can talk about it, even if it isn’t easy, so many don’t.

      Thank you for your response and for sharing this with your mom.



  15. Hey Jennie !

    My name is Candice and I’m 15 . Ive always had a hard time communating with my mom! I recently discovered she’s has add and she can’t control how she acts sometimes . In life it messed me up pretty bad because she would always do things I didn’t understand and it got to me. so I was always angry with her because she would never actually listen to anything I was saying. but recently I’ve been talking to her and we’ve both been trying to understand each other ! I’ve been being more patient with her , but in a way even though I’m 15 and she’s 45 I feel more mentally developed than her due to the fact that she can barley pay the bills (what money she does have she gambles away) and has a guy around 24/7 it’s really made me resent her a little . And I don’t think having add is an excuse for that . There has to be a point where she grows up and takes charge of her life and I really want to help her without forcing it all down her throat at once . sometimes I feel a little a lone because she’s different than I am and I can barley say 5 words before she zones out . Any advice on how to communate better ?

    1. HI Candice,

      Thanks for writing.

      I hope Jennie responds. Meanwhile, I’ll pipe in to say that the “communication” problems probably aren’t your fault. For some people with ADHD, they find it very difficult to listen to another person for little more than a very short time. It can be difficult for them to keep the information in their head, so as to respond appropriately. Or they get distracted by another thought.

      In other words, your mother is probably not trying to be this way. But if she’s not “owning” her ADHD and taking steps to manage the problematic symptoms, she’s not doing her best as a parent. ADHD is not an “excuse” but it can be a reason that someone is not “growing up” and assuming adult responsibilities.

      You mention that she gambles away the household money, and perhaps spend more time with men than with you. You’re 15. You need a grownup in the house.

      I would look around this site, find some information that you think she might relate to, and print it for her. Sit her down and say, “Mom, we need to talk about this. From everything I’ve researched, it looks like you might have ADHD. You need to do something about it.” Use a neutral tone, not accusatory. And keep it short. Don’t get into an argument. That can just become a distraction from the issue at hand.

      You deserve an attentive parent.

      Good luck!

    2. Hi Candice!

      Wow! First, allow me to commend you for reaching out and looking for help. I didn’t even know how to do that until I was much older. I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with less than mature behavior on your mom’s part. I do know the feeling. I remember the overwhelming responsibility I took on (at 17) for writing checks to the power company so my dad and I didn’t have the power shut off, a thing he just couldn’t sit down and do. Fast forward, I now coach adults on how to get these very boring, but necessary, tasks accomplished. It’s a very weird thing to see when you don’t have ADHD yourself.

      You ask how to communicate better. It seems better, to you, would be where she would hear you and agree with you on all levels? You said, “There has to be a point where she grows up and takes charge of her life…” The problem with this line of thought, and believe me there is nothing wrong with you wanting this, but there doesn’t actually HAVE to be a point where she “grows up” by traditional definition, my dad never did. But that doesn’t mean she must remain blissfully unaware. In fact, she may full well know what she’s doing even if she doesn’t know why. She may also feel a great deal of shame around her behaviors and thinks she’s hiding them from you. I don’t know from your message but considering the circumstances, it’s a strong possibility.

      The funny thing, Candice, about being an adult and being “grown up”, is that it’s a mind set. One that isn’t so easy to have when ADHD is involved. It seems like you’ve learned a lot about the condition. I think Gina has a good idea of you helping in educating your mom. I also think that it’s a decision that ultimately, she has to make on her own. Considering how gambling and intimate relationships can help someone with ADHD feel good in the moment, it may be she’ll need professional help to deal with these issues.

      As for what’s best for you, obviously, I can’t say. But having been in your shoes, in a way, I can say that loving your mom despite her faults and appreciating the strengths that she brings to the table for you may be all that’s in your control. My dad was fun-loving. He was generous. He was free-spirited. And he believed in hope and love. Those were his gifts to me. What are the gifts from your mom? I’m not saying not to to try and help her but focusing on the positive is sometimes the very best thing to do. Please understand, I’m on the other side now. I survived my childhood and am just giving my best advice. I do believe you will be fine. You sound so mature, insightful, and loving and I wish you the very best. Please feel free to contact me directly if you’d like.

      Best wishes,


  16. I am a non-ADHD parent and spouse. What advice would you give a pre-teen or teenage girl about having an ADHD dad? I’d like to build awareness for her, so she can work on having the healthiest possible relationship with her father, but I’m not sure what to say to her. Some of what was said related to this in the article struck me, because I can see this starting. Now that you are an adult with perspective what would you say to that young girl about her dad?

    1. HI Jay,

      Maybe Jennie will weigh in.

      I can offer my perspective. First, I’d never classify someone as an “ADHD dad.” Because ADHD is too variable, and so are the individuals who have it.

      instead, I would identify (ideally, with him as part of the conversation), what are ADHD-related challenges that interfere with the relationship. (I am assuming there are challenges, from your question.) Help her to understand that some of these issues are brain-based but some are poor coping strategies.

      I hope your husband is on board with treatment and is “owning” his ADHD. Because otherwise, teaching a young girl to deny her own feelings and excuse a man’s hurtful or neglectful behaviors is risky.

      Good luck,

    2. Hi Jay,

      In this day and age, with so much good information on ADHD, ideally, as Gina suggested, this could be a great opportunity for a family discussion. ADHD does affect everyone in the family. I’m not sure from your comment just how Dad feels about or manages his ADHD. In my case, it was unmanaged. Had my father known then what I know now, what could be different? The possibilities are endless.

      If this is the case in your situation, and it’s untreated, unmanaged, and life with him is a roller coaster, which he doesn’t want to acknowledge, then my advice would be to model good behavior, love, compassion, and strength for your daughter. What you model is the only part of the equation you have control over. If there is an expectation not met, a boundary overstepped or not adhered to, how do you handle it?

      I saw my mom being very parental towards my dad, which probably accounts for some of why I felt he and I were in one camp and she in the other. As a kid, the message was “Its her against us.” As the non-ADHD parent, this is horrible. So, if there’s a way to diffuse that situation, that’s probably where I’d start. I’m not sure if this is the case for you, but please feel free to reach out to me via email at jennie@seeinadhd.com

      I wish you the best, you sound like a wonderful and rightly so, concerned parent.


  17. I am a non with a spouse that is ADHD. We have 3 daughters and a very lively home because “dad is so fun”. I became clinically depressed over time because of the toll of having to manage everything real while he was off doing something else. Once I realized the effects and severity his ADHD had in me I began to process our 17 year marriage differently. I realized that if I had a child diagnosed with a neurological condition that caused him and his environment trouble I would not abandon them. I began to see my husband and his nuances differently. After much therapy, time, and joint understandings we have been able to communicate and incorporate ways to live with the affects of his ADHD. My girls and I simply help Dad with things like finishing taking out the trash or finding his “where’s my” items. I do not scold him any longer and he no longer has to apologize for just being who he is. We all accept him and simply just appreciate his strengths rather than focusing on his weakness caused by his ADHD mind. By working together to change our mindset we have all together created and share in a much more harmonious family lifestyle through patience and love.

    1. HI Kim,

      Good for you, for successfully navigating a very tricky path.

      Thanks for your comment,

    2. Hi Kim,

      Thank you for sharing your story! It gives me so much hope when I hear of the non-ADHD partner really stretching their mind and heart to accommodate the differences they have with their loved one with ADHD. I know this takes a tremendous amount of love and effort.

      I am especially happy for your children. There is no way to measure the positive impact this will have on their lives but surely it’s immense.

      We are all in this together and you’re living the perfect example of how it is possible to design a life where your husband “no longer has to apologize for just being who he is.” Wow, I’m just so touched, please know I’ll be sharing your example with everyone who will listen.


  18. Pingback: Jennie Hatcher Friedman: Teaching Us to See in ADHD - Black Girl, Lost Keys.

  19. Pingback: Are You an ADHD / non-ADHD Combo Kid Like Me? | See in ADHD

  20. Hi Jaclyn,

    I really appreciate you saying this because as an ADHD Coach I have had people question the validity of my contribution to the cause of ADHD awareness and education. As if anyone needs to justify their passion, but ADHD does seem to place people in certain camps.

    Someone with ADHD, the non-ADHD spouse of someone with ADHD, the ADHD spouse of someone with ADHD, the ADHD parent, the ADHD child, the ADHD sibling…and yes, there must be a million of me..the non-ADHD child of one with and one without ADHD simultaneously the non-ADHD sibling of someone with ADHD.

    Two big things came to my mind while figuring this out: that’s a lot of ADHD and that’s a lot of people in relationships based on love. So, if my voice can help people get to the love part then I’m spending my time and energy well. It’s the reason I starting writing See in ADHD, my book which has yet to be completed.

    It also helps to have people like you and Gina acknowledge it though, so thank you.

    ~ Jennie

  21. Jennie & Gina,

    Thank you for sharing this important perspective. I was just thinking today, there are so many books to help parents learn to deal with their kids in a productive way, but so few going in the opposite direction. Of course, I can see why that is, but still — I want to hear a little more of these stories in an internet so saturated with blogs about managing your ADHD kids.


    1. Thanks for your comment, Jaclyn.

      You know, these “one-directional” stories proved a huge motivation for me, 16 years ago, to start writing about Adult ADHD, in particular the “denial” aspects.

      In my local volunteer work, I saw so many parents of children with ADHD….ignoring their own ADHD.

      I worried about these children, being the “identified patient” and even medicated while their parents remained “in denial” of their own problems. In some cases, the situations even seemed abusive.

      I’m surprised there are not more blogs or books that are personal memoirs from these kids, being treated for ADHD while a parent’s ignored symptoms created real destabilization in their lives.


  22. Jennie,
    I hear ya! I’m the nagging, nasty mom. My husband has ADHD (among other undiagnosed things I am sure), and we have a beautiful adopted 6 year old daughter.
    I try not to explode too much about the forgetfulness, lack of sense of time, overspending, and putting the importance of other people before us and the anger.
    The one thing I hold onto is that I knew and loved my husband before he had ADHD, or before the symptoms were so out of control. I truly think he was a master of masking his symptoms…he had amazing coping skills.
    Every day I tell myself I can’t keep doing this and start making plans in my head of moving to a life without him. Then I remember who he truly is inside….his wonderful heart and I tell myself to suck it up and keep stuffing it all inside. I feel like I’m going to implode. It’s no way to live.
    My daughter is very loved by both of us and the outside world is amazed how great of a family we are (and yes, we do have our moments). She is my saving grace.
    I’m exhausted and just when I feel like I’m ready to give up….I read articles like this that give me hope. Even if its just for a little while…
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Laurie,

      Thanks for your comment. I know hundreds of people (if not more) in a similar situation. And, I agree: It’s no way to live.

      If you are not already a member of my free online support group, you are welcome to join.


      ADHD treatment really can make a difference, for most people.


    2. Hi Laurie,

      I see your daughter and I have a lot in common! Thanks for your response. Now as a grown woman I can appreciate your role in your family (same as my mother’s) in a way I simply couldn’t as a child. I also have a younger sister who is my parents’ birth-child and she has ADHD. Her experience growing up was quite different from mine even though we lived side-by-side until my senior year in high school. I think that’s the big take-away, if there is one, that we all have subjective realities based on how we interpret the world around us. Yours is no less valid than your daughter’s, or your husband’s, for that matter, and as you said, she loves you both very much.

      I truly believe that if you can show respect for your husband while creating healthy boundaries, no matter whether you stay with him or not, your daughter will continue to and forever love you both. You sound like a wonderful mother, she’s very lucky to have you.

      I wish you all the best,

      ~ Jennie

    3. My parents are both unmedicated. In a family full of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and … a few other things.
      I have sought treatment, which has opened my eyes even further.
      It’s … something.

  23. Hi Jennie,
    I found out I had ADD at age fifty. Progress is slow and I am grateful for people like you and Gina who write so clearly about what it is like to be a non ADD person who loves someone who is.
    As the single parent of one son who may or may not have some form of ADD, and the daughter of a mom who most definitely has, knowing more about how to manage my own particular family dynamic is very helpful. I am the only one who is taking medication and I can see what a difference it makes. I now have more compassion for my 84 year old mom and see how my non ADD sister struggles to understand her. My sister is like your mom to our mom. I am learning to forgive myself, but I long to be forgiven by my son. Your words give me hope. Thanks.

    1. Hi Teri,

      You give new meaning to the term “sandwich generation.”

      Thanks for your comment and I hope that, with time, your son has more understanding.


    2. Hi, Teri. Yes, family dynamics can be tricky especially when some have ADHD and others don’t. Your awareness of all of the moving parts, so to speak, gives me hope that more members of your family may eventually evolve in their awareness such as you have, and such as I did. It starts with communication and that, as a society, means we must keep talking about it. Thank you for sharing your story. I wish you and yours all of the best!

      ~ Jennie

  24. WoW Jennie, I am a coach, grandmother and a parent that raised three children. I am grateful for the insight, gives me food for thought.

  25. David Mulford

    Wow – powerful story. Lovely, thoughtful, reflective, and bittersweet writing Jennie. Thanks for sharing.

  26. Thank you Gina, for giving me this opportunity to express a viewpoint that I don’t see talked about too much. There are many articles about children with ADHD having parents with ADHD but I’m sure my family’s makeup is not uncommon where there is at least one child without it.

    1. Hi Jennie – Thank you for sharing your eloquent essay with ADHD Roller Coaster readers. 🙂

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