When Your Parent Has ADHD — And You Don’t


Parent Has ADHD

What is it like to grow up with a parent who has 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.

We hear much about parenting children who have ADHD.  We hear from parents who have ADHD. Frank South writes Stories From an ADHD Dad. But we hear very little from the child’s point of view, as a child or an adult.

This short 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 

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.

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 Grew 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



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

  1. DopamineFiend

    Hello from the UK,

    Growing up with a mum with ADHD was a complicated experience. F

    irstly because my mother the one with ADHD diagnosed in her seventies was extremely strict, you had to behave yourself and do your schoolwork, probably why I did ok at school and things didn’t unravel until I left home for college. She was incredibly loving in an extreme almost over bearing way, Then she would yell and scream over minor misdemeanours.

    She also had mental health issues which meant in my teenage I witnessed self harm or threats to leave or commit suicide. I suspect it may have been partly because she was going through peri-menopause as now I’m at a similar age I’ve found my emotions to become more extreme and ended up also being diagnosed ADHD. We had a lot of fun times also she always said bored children were naughty children so we always had plenty of activities and went on days out.

    She started up a childminding business to pay for all our dancing, drama and music lessons as dad said we couldn’t afford them. The house particularly when we were younger was always a mess and full of stuff, although it wasn’t dirty. she had a very difficult emotionally abusive childhood herself and I always say we got the lite version of this abuse. Passed down through the generations intermingling with the ADHD.

    My dad was the calm quiet one. We now think he probably is Autistic as that’s showed up in our family too.

    On another note my sisters have far harsher words to say about mum than I do. I suspect the one with the Autism diagnose also has ADHD, however she doesn’t seem to be able to use this to understand mum. We discussed it recently and she agrees she also had the symptoms in childhood like being daydreamer in school. She’s always been straight A student through, just finished her PhD, how the autism helps with that ti override the ADhd.

    I also think she bore the brunt of my mums anger alot of the time, I definitely got away with more, possibly becUse my mum identified with me and I was the baby. My other sister who suspects she probably is Autistic having read up on it after her son was diagnosed, really struggles to understand mum and her mental health I know she is trying to just let the ‘nonsense’ mum comes out with go over her head to build a relationship.

    Something I learnt to do a long time ago and not bother to challenge her as I know she’ll just go back to her old ways and it just creates pointless ill feeling. She doesn’t seem to do it with me however she does like to pick fights or create a drama with my oldest sister.

    I’ve tried to explain it’s an ADHD thing she takes it really badly which I guess is understandable. So this is my story of growing up with a mum with ADHD PTSD, anxiety and depression. I thought I already posted this however when I came back today it had gone. Maybe I didn’t press the send button. The final job in the sequence often eludes me. Pressing start on the dishwasher, pressing send in e-mails and tweets for work. Life eh with ADHD.

  2. Dopamine Fiend

    Morning all,

    Just doing a bit of procrastinating from the UK.

    So having a mother with ADHD eh. My mothers thought she had it for a long time, my sisters and I poo pooed the idea, too much listening to song lyrics about Americans drugging kids back in the nineties.

    Anway so I got ‘diagnosed’ following a pandemic breakdown, still spend alot of time unsure wether I truly qualify as alot if my issues seem anxiety related including I think the fast talking and moving around, that’s a story for another time and so my mother decided she was going to get diagnosed in her 70’s much to my horror.

    It’s always been all about her as long as I can remember. Well they said yes she was and she takes meds for it, which she thinks help a bit. My taking meds was a disaster, so I still have ‘untreated’ adhd.

    So anyways what brought me to this was in my sisters group chat, which is generally 50% of the time slagging off mother and the other 50% of the time feeling guilty and coming up with ways we can mend our relationships with mum. Actually we were discussing the scary stove top pressure cooker last night and how mum never remembered to turn it off in time and it used to hiss really loudly and the metal bullet thing on top used to shoot off into the air.

    Yeah mum was emotionally inconsistent and in some respects abusive more then anything. She used systems long before she knew she had ADHD to help with memory and we certainly weren’t neglected in that respect . The house was a tip when we were younger, the kitchen and bathroom were clean just stuff everywhere and a fair bit of dust so what? In term of emotional inconsistency, she would show great empathy in one instance and then be an absolute cow or scream at us all.

    We all have varying traits associated with Autism one of my sisters has a full diagnosis, so things were confusing and stressful enough without the added emotional inconsistencies which got worse as mum went into the peri-menopause years. We also witness the toll of mental illness at times on her, including self harm and in my early adulthood suicide threats. I’ve read some of the stories on here and my heart breaks and it’s why so often I want to distance myself from the ADHD label.

    I so often see myself in my mother, however my sisters assure me I am nothing like her. I know I’m definitely a mix of her and my dad a sweet sensitive shy man, which is where we think the Autism side comes from. It’s probably also why i’m able to empathise more with her and sometime explain her actions to my sisters. I’ve always been considered the one in the family with huge amount of empathy and people in the past have said I’m completely unjudgemental.

    Sorry if I’m going off topic here. Anyway I just wanted to say it’s a really difficult topic in a way to discuss and while the ‘abuse’ that people have received as the fall out of a parent with a neurodevelopmental condition should never ever be minimised. It’s a fine line to tread and demonising such people can end up backfiring in the long run as the public will not want to fund treatment for these people as they are undeserving . You only have to look at how mental health in the UK is funded as the poor sister of physical health. Thus everybody loses!

    What doesn’t seem to get talked about enough is ADHD going into old age. Mum seems to be going back to her old ways to some extent after somewhat mellowing the past 20 years. I do wonder about the effect of having the ADHD diagnosis in much later in life as although she originally seemed to find diagnosis cathartic and as an excuse for all her behaviour and mental health and was glad to lose the Personality Disorder label.

    It opened up a whole new can of worms including reigniting CPTSD with regards to her own childhood and early adulthood experience. Her own mother was severely emotionally abusive, my mum witnessed her attempt suicide at the age of 4 and her mum succeeded an attempt in my mums early twenties again blaming my mum for something yet again and saying she was going to Jill herself.

    Hopefully not too much or an overshare. Sorry if it is! I’m not as bad as my mum normally who has told people on meeting them her mum killed herself. At least this is anonymous.

    Thanks everyone for reading and wishing everyone who had a difficult childhood with an ADHD parent peace wether that be creating strong boundaries away from that parent or trying to build bridges.

    Oh and one more thing . Someone mentioned the two year thing of losing interest with something. It’s a real shame there mother didn’t realise this earlier. I’ve long know particular with study courses, 2 years maximum, first year, love it, second year interest wanes but manageable, any more years not a chance in hell. Wish I’d remembered that for my recent ish Masters degree which I didn’t complete as I was doing a 2 year course part time and life and the pandemic got in the way and it dragged on I lost complete interest coupled with severe depression and anxiety and left half finished in the end.

    Still proud of what I did accomplish as I completed the final couple of modules with pretty severe mental illness. I need to have the huge drive and interest to overcome the memory and concentration problems to complete something of that complexity, I realised in the end no point flogging a dead horse. My husband likes to be mean and remind me of how I said I was going to become a Landscape Architect and he could take early retirement as he’s always supported me financially as I’ve always do millions of little jobs with lots of unemployment, although to be fair to myself I’ve I have a lot of physical fatigue and pain problems since my early twenties which which I’ve never bothered to get diagnosed, well because initially it was all dismissed as just anxiety. I suspect I have Fibromyalgia like my mother.

    Recently I’ve been working part time in a job for over 2 years, the most time I have ever stayed in a job, normally 3 months is my limit, I never apply for permanent position, sometimes it’s been stupidly stressful however I’ve stuck with it as I know the alternatives are worse, it’s part time flexible and I can work from home, so I’ve resisted knee jerk quitting reactions. I guess the are some positive to the diagnosis. Sorry for the really long post, ADHD please feel free to ignore and move on to the next one.

    ‘Normal’ people and Autistic peeps hope you find something that resonates with you.

    1. Hi “Dopamine Fiend”,

      So sorry I didn’t get to approving your message fast enough. By the time I could, you had another one. Slightly different, so I approved both!

      From what you describe, it sounds like your mom was doing her best — and trying to do things better than her mother could.

      Does that mean it was easy for you and your siblings? Absolutely not.

      I urge folks to be cautious about self-diagnosing ASD (or even being diagnosed by a clinician who doesn’t understand ADHD). There are many lookalike components between ASD and ADHD, and it takes a skilled clinician to tease them apart. Also, treating the ADHD can bring clarity. And, given that about half of those with ASD as the primary condition also have ADHD — and , research shows, treating the ADHD helps them to manage the ASD.

      Also, many women with ADHD also have fibromyalgia. Treating ADHD might help with that, too. Lots of physical effects potentially associated with untreated ADHD.

      good luck

    2. Dopaminefiend

      Hi Gina,
      Thanks for your kind words. No worries about not publishing the comments sooner.
      I agree that there are many overlaps with Autism and ADHD and to be careful with self diagnosing, however I’m certain that I carry many of the traits, specifically in verbal communication, I find written communication a lot easier. I’m not so good at back and forth conversation, more of a monalogue person and struggle with knowing whose turn it is to speak on the phone. I say Autistic traits as I’m not sure I would for fill the criteria for a diagnosis, I do have some issues around taking things literally and not being quite sure what people mean and I tend to copy other people to know what to do or say in social situations. My sister who has an ASD diagnosis, had some classic traits, she knew all the birds names as a small child, she can be very blunt and can monologue in something for England, she also spent 8 years completing her PHD due to ill health and pandemic, most people would have given up by then with or without ADHD. She is also exceptionally bright what you in the US called gifted, sailing through school with top grades dispite undiagnosed mild dyslexia. My other sister who I thought was the ‘normal’ one I was shocked when she suggested she thought she may be Autistic, as on the surface seemed the most normal in our family. However she is definitely not ADHD, she is the most together, organised, had a good memory well until she had her baby brain. Her husband laughed (we strongly suspect he is ADHD, likes to hang off cliffs, lose his keys and always appears somewhere else.) and said now you know what it’s like to be me. Having said that recently when they came to stay, her son was asking what they were doing each day repeatedly for the holidays and she reeled off every day for two weeks straight, before she put a stop to it. Must say I was gob smacked. Half the time I have no idea what’s happening on the day. Her son who was originally diagnosed with Sensory Processing disorder and now Autism is surprisingly perceptive, as a 9 year old he said mummy you like to plan plan plan, daddy he’s like freestyle. We wondered if her son also had ADHD however the team who assessed him for ASD said no and that lots of symptoms were similar. He is definitely classic ASD little boy obsessed with trains. My dad also loves trains and they both have model railways and play together it’s sooooo cute. My dad can monologue for England too, he spends his retirement writing to his local MP and researching stuff to do with climate change and sustainability. He also doesn’t have friends despite being a gentle lovely man who was well liked by all his work colleagues, they all came including long retired to his 60th b’day. He’s a bit forgetful I suspect he’s probably mildly dyslexic he chose science because he hates writing. He doesn’t seem to have the ADHD traits like my mum though. OMG, so comedy in my family, so my dad will start a conversation, well monologue about something he has heard on the BBC radio 4 today programme. (I can recommend) then my mum will interrupt to tell you about something completely different, my dad won’t shut up though, he will just keep going so the pair of them are monologuing in unison and then my busy head which never shuts up, sometimes it’s stimulation overload, makes me wanna scream shut upppp! You don’t want to get in an argument with anyone in my family as we won’t back down and we will find research articles if necessary to prove our point. I know we are not ‘normal’ as a family I love them all though. Oh on a side point I’m pretty sure I’ve married a husband with ADHD and possibly ASD. Fortunately his memory’s not as bad as mine and he’s better at remembering dates etc. In fact he has a brilliant brain for facts. Obsessed with wine and his football team. Knows exactly where they are at any given moment in time in the league. He has no qualifications though, used to bunk off school and hide in his parents loft. He bounces from one activity to another, he is better at finishing tasks than me, he would rather clean and tidy one room to perfection then do the whole house in a less perfect way. We have a cleaner, it’s a saviour for our marriage, we still both clean as we go however takes the stress out of worryijg about the house as a whole although she doesn’t clean to hubby’s standards. He does forget to press play on the dishwasher often, just like me and occasionally leaves the oven on. We check for each other with the oven so that’s pretty ok. I’m sure he is dyslexic and dyspraxic too, always dropping things, types with 1 finger, terrible handwriting, always asking me how to spell words and takes an age to send a text. In his mind though he is none of these things and I’ve long given up trying to persuade him, just causes a row. The thing he will own is his OCD, which is soo obvious, all his checking the house before we leave, pushing the front door several times to make sure. I don’t tell him when I’ve gone out and left the back door unlocked or certain accessible windows. We’re lucky in that we don’t really row and he puts up with me being irritating and needy and forgetful, I’ve always been chief organiser as the old saying goes he couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery. That’s not to say we didn’t have an awful rocky time during the pandemic, grief from miscarriages and failed, IVF, furlough, lack of structure then redundancy, death of a parent which came only a week apart and my ADHD diagnosis and awful experience trying various stimulant medication, it was very trying and we became extreme mean to each other and abusive. Glad to report that’s over and we’ve been back on track for some time, I’ve had to adjust some things managed to persuade him that we needed to schedule more stuff and have systems the white boards on the fridge as my memory and concentration is so bad now I couldn’t function as I did before and it wasn’t fair on him to do a full time job and then take on all the other stuff. Still hoping to find the cause of worsening memory/concentration a mix of worsening mental health and hormones in middle age. Don’t think the IVF did me any favours in putting everything out of sync. Well that was a ramble. Right really do need to go do some paid work. Thanks

    3. I love your expressions….. “Monologue for England.” 🙂

      I bet your family holiday dinners are …. interesting! 🙂

      And yes, I imagine those IVF hormones can do a whammy on brain function.

      Yes, our human brains are complex, and no two are alike.

      The thing about ADHD…. it can be very sneaky and wear many disguises. And sometimes it depends on what kind of professional is doing the diagnosing or naming.

      For example, all the “dys” things are more highly associated with ADHD…dyspraxia, dysgraphia, dyslexia. The good news about that is that stimulant medication typically helps.

      Just FYI here’s a blog post on ADHD and dyspraxia: https://adhdrollercoaster.org/adhd-news-and-research/research-adhd-balance-and-postural-sway/

      Thanks for your comments.

    4. DopamineFiend

      Thank you for linking to your article postural sway. Very interesting. I didn’t realise that stimulant meds could sometimes help with Dyslexia and dyspraxia. I wasn’t aware there was anything you could take for Dyslexia. It seems so often that these different disorders never seem to travel alone. I often wonder if it is one all encompassing brain difference which is causing all these different variables that so often are debilitating in people. I listened to an ADHD podcast recently with a UK neuro scientist specialising in ADHD research. He reckoned in reality we were maybe 100 years off really understanding the causes of it and developing new treatments. He did mention others were more hopeful . Slightly depressing although not surprising given the complexity of the brain.
      You’re not wrong about holiday dinners, I wonder how many families are having an argument on Xmas day over the validity of vitamins pills and placebo treatments spurred on by a pop science book about fake science that was under the tree. Can’t remember the title . I just sat back smiling watching the fireworks while various family members got increasingly irate.

  3. I didn’t know my mother has ADHD until my own son was diagnosed and until I started noticing too many similar behaviours.
    I haven’t been in contact with my mother since I left home at the age of 15 years and I’m sure she has never been diagnosed. So it’s purely an opinion I’ve formed during the 10K or so hours trying to understand and help my son.
    Me and my two sisters grew up totally neglected. Since the age of 6 yrs I looked after my newborn sister and my 3-year old sister. I couldn’t refuse because my mother would get very angry with me or other times she would just leave us all alone at home and so naturally I had to look after my sisters. Now, as an adult and having had small kids, I’ve no idea how I did it and how would an adult contemplate leaving such small kids alone.
    Our home was a filthy mess. When we got older we would clean the home whereas our mother wouldn’t even wash her coffee cup. Often I had cleaned home, went to out and came back to find a total mess made by my mother: empty bottles, dirty plates, clothes thrown everywhere, smoked sigarettes and the dog shit all over the place (she constantly picked up cats and dogs and then never bothered to feed them or take them out).
    For long periods we lived without electricity and cooked on open fire because of unpaid bills, we moved often, my mother never kept a job, was busy with her addictions and dysfunctional relationships or just sleeping out her hangover. Now in retrospect I believe she had long periods of depression.
    Often when she was drunk she screamed at us being the burden to her and threatening to kill herself. At some point I told her to just go ahead with it. I remember myself contemplating at a very young age why my mother doesn’t seem to care about me and if she doesn’t care about me then why did she decide to have other two kids whom she didn’t seem to care about either. My son grows in a great family, he was a desired kid, has always been loved and he also doesn’t seem to care about anyone. He seems to view people purely as means to his aims. Multiple tests have ruled out autism but it’s a puzzle. How can someone so loved never love anyone back? Anyway, back to my mother.
    Among the relatives everyone marvels at how the day before her high school exams she, the clever girl and all, took the train and escaped to another country. She never got the high school diploma. Now I understand she was probably overwhelmed by pressure. My son, too has performance anxiety.
    My aunt told me when I was less than a year old, my mother had asked her if she could keep me for a couple of hours. She returned after a couple of months. My aunt is still cross because I was left with her without not even a spare nappy. Now, knowing about ADHD, I understand my mother was probably overwhelmed and bored and just wanted to find a quick solution to her problem without thinking about the consequences.

    Although my mother has never mentioned the source of her income, from various pieces of information I reckon she was/is an accomplished fraudster. This is one of the reasons I avoid her for fear she might con my friends and acquaintances. She can come across as a very lovely person and it’s amazing how she can convince people to help her and to give her money. I know she did or still does run a charity organization. I don’t want to know any more.

    My younger sister recently said “we grew up like orphans without orphanage”. It’s to the point. Somehow my mother managed to cover things up and create a facade of normality. I’ve no idea how she did it, and how come school and social services never suspected anything, knowing the situation we had at home. Someone in another comment mentioned her mother having given her food past the expiration date. My mother probably only ever bought bread and sausages. I grew up with my only meal of the day being school lunch which fortunately then, in my country, was free. I remember eating cooked food at home just a couple of times.

    Me and my sisters have turned out fine, we’ve built our lives 100% ourselves, I managed to get a university degree while working full time to support myself and my sisters. Until having kids I had a successful career as a management consultant. I really believed my childhood is a past I was happy to forget. However, by now I’ve had to leave work because one of my sons has ADHD and where we live there’s no real support for this condition.

    Who has kids with ADHD knows how much energy and time it takes to just arrive to a bare mininum. I’ve never been able to find a babysitter who can manage him, I get phone calls from school every day. When he doesn’t want to do anything, nobody in that class can work. We have great moments of course. He’s just 11 years old, a bright kid, he can be the soul of the party, incredibly creative and very lovely. But he’s also egocentric, scarily manipulative and generally the whole family feels the strain of living with him and his issues. It’s really stressful.

    Every single day is a minefield. Today is one the days when I just keep asking why have I been punished with a young version of my mother. He gets more help than my mother and I hope that for him things turn out better than my for mother but it’s hard, very hard.

    Sometimes I think it would be encouraging for him to know his grandmother and meet someone so similar to him but it can’t happen. My mother would make him a great con artist at best or interfere in my life or sell our organs or make us pay for some mess she has made. I’ve no idea what she could come up with but surely nothing good for me.

    1. Dear Astrid,

      I find your story extremely poignant and heart-breaking. Ignorance of mental health conditions such as you describe rob us all of so much, including a “normal childhood.”

      The fact that you persevered to create a good life to yourself….wow. That can’t have been easy. But, perhaps like others I’ve heard from, your home life made it very clear what you did NOT want for your life.

      Of course I cannot comment on your mother having ADHD. Lots of red flags, but the more important issue is what you can do for your son.

      Did you read this post, from a mother raising a child who was despite her best efforts turning out to be narcissistic, like her parents?

      ADHD and Lacking Empathy: Was I Raising a Narcissist

      The fact is, ADHD very much can impair empathy, conscience, reflection, and other so-called higher-order brain functions. For many people, treatment strengthens these brain-based functions.

      Unfortunately, most mental-health professionals haven’t a clue about this. They seem to know ADHD mostly from reading online (with little discretion) or listening to fringe players extolling the Gifts of ADHD without ever mentioning the potential dark side.

      Because they do now understand this, they relegate such behaviors to autistic-spectrum disorders.

      In truth, they know little about either. And that is an extremely dangerous thing.

      Honestly, I would do more than “hope” that things turn out differently for him. I would really double-down on ADHD education and treatment strategies. You (and he) have the most to lose, so I certainly would not leave it to the average clinician. Until you are well-educated, it can be hard to even gauge competence.

      Also, I would not wait. He is 11. The window of time where he is relatively in your “control” is closing quickly. Please don’t wait until he is a full-fledged teenager. Things typically do not get better on their own, despite “support”. In fact, sometimes the “support” masks the problems and when they enter the real world, without support….

      If you haven’t read my first book, you might want to start there. Though for Adult ADHD, most issues are the same throughout the lifespan. The lens through which we view the issues can change over the developmental stages but not the essential issues. You will no doubt come to understand more clearly if your mother had ADHD as well.

      Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?

      For the deep dive, you might consider my courses. They can warp-speed your education and prepare you to better advocate for your son with prescribers. I do strongly encourage you to consider medication.


      Best of luck to you,

  4. Meghan Sundquist

    Hi there,

    I am searching for literature or websites regarding ADHD parents raising neurotypical children. I was recently diagnosed with ADHD, aged 38. I suspect there are multiple undiagnosed family members, although I grew up in a loving, stable family environment. I suspect possibly my mother (who never worked outside the home, wad prone to forgetfulness and depression, as well as certain childish characteristics), paternal uncle (a deceased alcoholic) and one of my 6 siblings (similar to my mother and also very anxious and depressed) were/are also possibly affected by ADHD.

    My husband and I have three young girls, ages 8, 5 and 4. Our eldest (age 8) was assessed last month and we were told that she does not meet DSM-V criteria for ADHD (we also suspected she did not, prior to her assessment). She had a robust assessment, including Connors (sp?) Assessments. Now I am wondering how much I have hurt and harmed her in life, or not. I have a lot of support from my husband, family and friends and she does seem to love me. Wondering if there is anything I should be doing to go over my or her past together, or if I should be letting this go and moving forward with our relationship, on her terms and mine (whatever that might mean). Any help is sincerely appreciated.

    There is certainly a paucity of literature on this subject.

    1. Hi Meghan,

      Great question. I wish I had a great resource for you. But I’m not sure you need it.

      You are already asking good questions, imho, ones that indicate you are not defensive about any ADHD-related challenges you might have — and addressing it.

      The most important thing, in my observation, is listening to feedback. From your children, from your spouse. Such feedback might not always be accurate, but it’s important to honestly consider.

      If you’re wondering if you have harmed your daughter, though, you might want to write down any suspicions. Then systematically review them first with your husband and then your daughter.

      As for her evaluation, it might truly be that she does not have ADHD. But why the assessment? I would not put all my faith in the average evaluation. There are huge knowledge gaps in the mental-health field. Many girls with ADHD, in particular, want to do well in school, so teachers might not see any issues. The parents’ perspective should definitely be considered. In fact, parents should really be pro-active. Otherwise, you just won’t know if it was a competent evaluation or not. There’s much. more to it than a Conners assessment.

      As for a resource, there is definitely a lack. When we talk about parenting and ADHD, it is almost always focused on children with ADHD. I’ve always found that frustrating, so made sure to take a different angle in my presentations and other work. After all, there are parents with ADHD and they might have children with or without ADHD.

      I first wrote on this topic in 2009: How Does Adult ADHD Affect Parenting?

      So how can ADHD affect parenting? The short answer is: it depends on the individual. The main way that ADHD can interfere with what researchers call “effective parenting” is inconsistency. Inconsistent rules and punishment. Inconsistent moods in the ADHD Parent. Etc.

      Co-author Arthur L. Robin, PhD, and I include a chapter on co-parenting in our couple-therapy guide. In contrast to other guides, we emphasize the importance of co-parents being on the same page when it comes to rules, punishment, routines, etc.. For any children, not only children with ADHD. Otherwise, the risk is one parent being the “enforcer” and the other being the “fun”.

      More about the book: Adult ADHD-Focused Couple Therapy

      Another book you might find useful: Understanding Girls with ADHD.

      I hope this helps. Good luck!

  5. This is the only place I’ve found for children with adhd parents. All other blogs and forums are for parents with adhd or those with adhd themselves. I wish there was more support because living with a caretaker with adhd can be brutal.

    My mother has all the symptoms: impulsivity, time blindness, poor management skills, high distractibility. She has missed important appointments. She pays her bills months late. She has been late to her job EVERY day. She hasn’t filed her taxes in years. She has served us rotten food because she doesn’t look at expiration dates. She forgets to do laundry, buy groceries, wash dishes, put clothes away. She rambles and has literally stopped in midsentence to look at a stray beam of light. In her later years, she has become a hoarder. Family members suspect she doesn’t bathe. Her hair is matted because she forgets to comb it, and we think she doesn’t brush her teeth.

    Growing up, I had to walk on eggshells because she was emotionally volatile. She screamed a lot. She made up rules on the spot and retroactively applied punishments. She threatened to send me to foster care because I was “too much for her” when she was the one creating the chaos. She is in a constant state of overwhelm, and it took me leaving college to realize that I wasn’t the one overwhelming her, it was the daily grind of life itself.

    She makes mundane tasks into such a catastrophe. Literally coming to me in tears because she missed a payment on a bill. Direct deposit is a thing. Calendars, memory apps are a thing. 90% of her problems are ones she caused. People with ADHD can thrive in crises; the problem is that my mom makes things into a crisis because that’s the only thing that motivates her. I don’t know if that is exhilarating for her, but it was exhausting for me, especially as a kid. Every day it felt like the world was ending. I never wanted to go home from school because there was a 50% my mom was having a breakdown over an issue she could have solved months ago.

    I’m nearing my forties now. She is getting worse. Her mom is dead, she had pushed all her friends away, and she is relying on me more than ever. I am no longer providing help over the bare minimum. I’m not going to forgive her, I’m not going to be kind and gentle, I’m tired of doing the emotional and mental work for someone who refuses to change. It’s not her fault she has ADHD but it is her responsibility. And if she’s not accepting it, neither will I.

    1. Dear Sarita,

      I’m glad you found validation here. And I know how rare it is on this particular issue.

      take care,

    2. Hi Sarita,

      My mom too had ADHD and while I have mostly good memories of my mom growing up, I now know it’s mainly because my dad held everything together, especially financially. My parents had divorced when I was in high school and she was okay for a little while. My dad would evern still help her after they were divorced even though they had a volitile relationship where they would literally only yell back and forth in constant disagreements. My mom also went through long periods of struggling to keep a job even though she’s pretty smart and has a masters degree. What I struggle with the most is how it’s pretty much a role reversal. I’m her child but I’m the one to do all the planning and I’m the one taking actions to make something happen. If I didn’t schedule with her in advance and coach her into coming to meet me somewhere at a certain place or time, I would never see my mom. Even when I do this I often has to wait hours for her as she is always late and never really remorseful-it’s always someone elses’s fault. She too hoards things to the point of I don’t go to her house anymore. I’ve tried to sell certain things for her to make more space in her house and instead she will go into hysterics and yell and scream at me for moving things or getting rid of things she doesn’t even use. She is too embarrassed to have most people in her house so she continues to isolate herself outside of work but then gets upset to me that she’s lonely and doesn’t know why she can’t find a partner.
      I completely understand the struggles of dealing with this mental illness.

    3. Thank you, Kay. I’m sure that others will find validation in your story. I’m sorry, though, that you have this story to tell.

  6. After my insane, violent alcoholic, chain-smoking father left suddenly one day without any explanation at about age 6, I was left with the only other relative I had who wasn’t toxic waste – my Mum but having severe ADHD, I was left to raise myself and take of her, especially during her many inexplicable meltdowns. Her ADHD has ruined many of my relationships, friendships and other connections because of her unstoppable verbal diarrhea and utterly bizarre behavior. This is still my life today. I have C-PTSD, never married, no kids, work from home, few friends. I am grateful we are healthy physically but mentally, I am a huge, lonely, moody mess as a result of the insanity and trauma I have been subjected to my entire life. My whole life has been lived in survival mode with little to no joy. More is needed to identify and treat ADHD as it does indeed ruin lives.

    1. Dear Di,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I can only imagine how tough that was for you—and how you might feel when you see ADHD-related challenges minimized.

      You know your mental health more than I could ever speculate…obviously. And you didn’t come seeking my opinion. 🙂

      But I am wondering, it might be that both parents had neurobiological conditions — and you have inherited? But symptoms manifest differently for you.

      Some therapists tend to attribute all adult difficulties to childhood+ trauma. Trauma can definitely make things worse.

      But they fail to see the genetic inheritance from the parents behind the trauma-inducing circumstances.

      In other words, it might be that you also have ADHD, perhaps a milder version than your mother. It’s possible your father also had ADHD.

      It can be hard enough to recover from trauma and function in life. It’s that much harder when underlying ADHD goes unrecognized and untreated.

      In fact, treating the ADHD can help to heal the trauma.

      take care,

  7. I made my mother apologise for having children. Since walking away from my family, I’ve met women with ADHD and I realise that this is what she had. Does that absolve her of responsibility though? Her inability to pay attention made her a magnet for men who shouldn’t have been let out of prison, including my father. She knew she was incapable of sustaining healthy relationships before she decided to breed. She knew she was pathologically incapable of listening, before she decided to create and mentor two entirely new humans. Why be kind to people who destroy everything around them and who are biologically incapable of learning from their mistakes?

    1. Hi Lisa,

      That sounds so hard, I can hardly imagine.

      I’ve heard from enough people whose mothers had poorly managed ADHD to know that, like ADHD itself, it can really run the gamut.

      At the extreme, the poor impulse control, neglect, narcissism, self-centeredness, and misplaced blame is beyond difficult for the child, who doesn’t know what’s happening, who is neglected and sometimes constantly criticized, who can make no sense of what their mothers do or say. This is their mother, who is supposed to be teaching them about so much, who is supposed to be loving and reliable. They spend decades wrestling with this confusion and their very identity.

      They might spend years in therapy, ostensibly because their mother was “a narcissist.” But that sometimes only compounds the blame and hurt, because too many psychologists believe narcissists always act willfully and to inflict harm on loved ones. When instead, the loved ones might simply be collateral damage.

      In truth, you don’t know what your mother could have done differently, given poorly managed ADHD. Is it possible she also had a mother with ADHD? These things can compound over the generations.

      I can understand why being kind to your mother might be a bridge too far for you.

      take care

    2. Hi Lisa,
      I can feel your anger through your words and I’m sure it’s painful. I wouldn’t dream of defending her to you. But you ask a great question and I’m happy to share my view. If it’s not helpful, then just ignore it.

      ADHD is a spectrum condition, meaning that each individual will present uniquely based on their own special blend of executive function impairment plus their personality, values, background, habits, beliefs, and so on. In essence, all women with ADHD wouldn’t necessarily make the same decisions your mother made.

      That being said, what seems to be her “pathologically incapable of listening” isn’t necessarily that. I’m now an ADHD Coach and so have seen for myself how people can change and become better listeners. Listening is actually a skill, which can be developed. Most executive functioning can also be assisted with external support like alarms, alerts, reminders, and other tools. But first, the person requires the awareness that there’s a problem, and a willingness to address it with action.

      That’s kinda the rub with ADHD, their self-awareness is usually pretty low. People think their way, their life, is just how it is and don’t realize they are powerful creators of their experience. It’s hard to take responsibility and be accountable when you aren’t connecting those dots. And so, your mom may have felt powerless to change things, or burdened by circumstances she saw as out of her control. One example I see often is that feelings seem to dictate behavior, despite competing information. So, if she felt strong attractions (albeit unhealthy ones) to certain men, she may well have thought that’s just how she is, and that’s just her lot in life.

      Now, here’s where I directly answer your question. Why be kind, especially if they aren’t going to change? I suggest because you are worth it. You are worthy of being happy, but it doesn’t sound like she’s going to be a source of happiness for you. If you allow that to be okay, and just accept her on whatever level you can, as is, you could, if you decide to, be kind anyway, and just put strong boundaries around what you will and won’t tolerate from her.

      I have no idea from your post how often you see her but you have your own life to live and you too, are the powerful creator of YOUR own experience. If you want to be a kind person, she doesn’t actually have the power to stop you. Additionally, you get to define what kindness to her looks like. Kindness to her may be very different from your kindness to someone else.

      Lastly, I can tell you from my own experience, a life of love and compassion is way more fun than a life of anger and hate. Ultimately, your life is up to you. Just like she had choices that she made, you too have choices. You can believe that having this mother is the worst thing in the world or you can believe something else. You can believe she needs punishment or forgiveness or anything in between. It’s always going to be totally up to you.

      At any rate, I appreciate your response. I am certain many readers feel victimized by their ADHD parent on some level simply because untreated ADHD has horrible down sides, for sure. (Plus, as children, we are at our parents mercy, which can feel so unfair). But as adults, we continuously get to decide for ourselves which beliefs we will hold onto and which ones we want to release. I do wish you all the best.


    3. Hi Jennie,

      I want to add, given your response, Lisa did not say she is living a miserable and unkind life because all she can think about is what a horrible mother she has.

      Lisa did not say she did not have a happy life. She especially did not say that she is living “a life of anger and hate.”

      So, I find your response includes some over-reach and presumption.

      Lisa simply wrote: “Why be kind to people who destroy everything around them and who are biologically incapable of learning from their mistakes?”

      And that is a good question. I can well imagine that Lisa and others in their situation have heard all their lives….”But it’s your mother.”

      Such people can suck all the oxygen from the room — and from their loved one’s lives. They are bottomless pits of needs — and demands. There is deep pathology. These people are not candidates for coaching and typically not therapy, either. These are brain-based impairments that do not respond to “talk” of any kind. Sometimes the best their loved ones can do is save themselves.

      Perhaps you are unfamiliar with such stories. I’ve heard enough over the years to know that people such as Lisa are typically trying to navigate a very difficult situation where sometimes each bit of help or kindness only brings more blame and recriminations. That only adds insult to their injury since birth.

      Sometimes new understanding means new bridges can be built — and boundaries retained.

      But sometimes it is abusive to suggest to such adult children to “try harder” and “be kind.” And it is definitely abusive to suggest that anyone who expresses such sentiments as Lisa is herself the problem, and that her unhappy life would be better if she changed.

      Remember, too, mothers with ADHD are more likely to have children with ADHD (compared to fathers). That means that off-spring might be dealing with ADHD-related challenges themselves. Either of a fully diagnosable degree or sub-threshold but still difficult. Especially in maintaining boundaries and managing their own lives.


    4. Hi Lisa and Gina,
      I wanted to clarify that in my original response when I said, “ You are worthy of being happy, but it doesn’t sound like she’s going to be a source of happiness for you” that I wasn’t assuming you weren’t happy in general or having a happy life. From Gina’s reply to my response, I see that was misunderstood and I’m sorry for not being more clear. As a grown up in a family full of ADHD, I do empathize with the frustrations that I too, still experience with other family members to this day.

    5. This is an interesting article – thank you. I was always told my dad was a ‘narcissist’ but recently realized that my mother was the one with narcissist personality disorder – including the gaslighting and rage. My father was unable to listen, would cut you off while you were talking to change the subject, could not settle on a tv program to watch but refused to give up the remote, and was not good with managing child relationships as he had no ‘interest’ in our lives because he was always chasing his own squirrels. He was also quite successful at building a business, having tons of interests and hobbies, and making friends. My mother always blamed him for problems in the household that I now realize were more to do with her undiagnosed/untreated NPD than him. She completely alienated my sister and I against him for what I now realize is ADHD. When he remarried, his wife (who also has ADHD) helped him develop better coping skills so he does stop himself and actually at least ‘pretends’ to listen which is such an improvement it has changed our relationship. I had a lot of misplaced anger agaisnt him and now i find myself more compassionate as I learn more about ADHD and how it can manifest in poor parenting skills. Ironically, I recently read that Narcissists are attracted to individuals with ADHD because they are easier to gaslight. The dynamic of those two types of personalities was devastating on the children. None of us ever felt safe or secure during development and it has impacted us significantly. I wish I had known so I could start healing sooner. Maybe I could have helped my late brother find some peace before it was too late.

    6. Hi Suzanna,

      I would disregard that mythology about “narcissists” being attracted to individuals with ADHD. That is one person’s speculation, and it has been rather attention-getting for that person.

      Sure, it can happen. But the “narcissists” can also be the one with ADHD.

      Humans are complex.

      I’m wondering if you are having any empathy for your mother. She was, presumably, raising children with a co-parent whose inexplicable behaviors were creating problems. You say he had “no interest” in his children.

      I doubt that you were privy to all that happened between them. It is very easy to judge from appearances but those judgments can be wrong.

      You say your mother has undiagnosed/untreated NPD. According to who? You? I’m wondering how you will give your father the benefit of the doubt — dismissing the label of “narcissist” for him in favor of ADHD — but not for your mother.

      For example, how do you know she didn’t have ADHD as well? Or was overwhelmed in raising a family with an absent, chaotic co-parent? She’s the one who took care of you? Do you wonder how she might have felt about him ignoring you and your siblings?

      That’s great his new wife is supporting him. They don’t have children, presumably. Different matter.

      Pretends to listen? That’s a good thing, you think?

      I urge caution in judging parents based on pop-psychology articles read online. Maybe you’re right. But maybe you are wrong. And your misjudgments could create unnecessary hurt and alienation that you might come to regret.


    7. I feel for you, Lisa. I’ve often wished that my mother hadn’t had us, too. All three of us left home in our teens and we’ve all struggled to maintain adult relationships. My mother, now in her 80s, has never managed to maintain a relationship with another adult, even her siblings. I wish she’d been diagnosed and treated earlier, maybe it would have made our lives easier. To me, people with ADHD are a nightmare best avoided.

  8. Thank you for this post! I do also find that there hasn’t been much work done on the effect of ADHD parents on children.

    My mother’s family is late to everything- we’re talking HOURS late, 3 days late for Christmas late. My mother has been known to miss flights because while packing she realized she needed to clean out her sock drawer. She could disappear for hours and forget that she left her husband and young kids in the car at dinner time when she ran in to pick up milk.

    In the early 90s, when ADHD became a thing, my younger brother was diagnosed. We knew it ran in families, but somehow none of us put 2+2 together.

    Now I’m a mom and part of learning to be a better one has involved delving back into what growing up with a loving mom with severe ADHD was like. If I look back, I think my needs (hunger/tiredness) were sometimes ignored if there was something else going on. (At least until I freaked out completely.) I have terrifying memories of often being “lost” in stores for what felt like 20-30 minutes at around ages 5/6. As an older child, I was regularly left for 30 min to a couple of hours after activities before my mom would pick me up. (She’d tell me just to bring a book. But sometimes it was quite cold outside.) My parents fought a lot and divorced when I was in college. In hindsight, it was mostly due to the ADHD and how frustrated my dad felt about this.

    From my perspective, this appears to have caused me to be eternally “in charge”. I simply feel uncomfortable being dependent on someone. I also deal poorly with chaos, as it seems to trigger my survival instinct. I’ve even moved to a country known for its punctuality. On the plus side, I’m super organized and a strong leader, great at prioritizing. In a way, it’s been great for my career. Like early basic training.

    I’m here exploring other elements I might have missed, trying to learn about my past in order to grow past it. My mom did her best, and although the examples above seem extreme, we certainly weren’t abused. And yet, I think this kind of parenting can leave a mark.

    1. Hi Christine,

      “Like early basic training.” 🙂

      What you describe is similar to the stories I’ve heard from others.

      That includes this story from an MD who, thanks to having adopted children with ADHD, was finally able to see her own mother through the ADHD lens. This was her mother was showing signs of Alzheimer’s….or advanced ADHD.


      I’ve asked several of my friends whose mothers had ADHD (most of these friends are older) to share their stories in a guest post. Maybe I should just collect vignettes.

      It’s very tricky communicating the range of possibilities …. people take offense quickly and assume we mean “all women with ADHD.”

      But finding some truth, how do we understand what happened? The “narcissism” specialists are very eager to paint such mothers as narcissists, with the implication that the damage wreaked on the child is almost a permanent feature.

      My friends have managed to reframe the relationship through the ADHD lens, and, if their mothers are still alive, find ways to modify the relationship.

      Thanks for writing

    2. Christine, your story is so similar to mine that I had to check twice to make sure I wasn’t reading my own post! Everything from the missing flights by days, basic needs being ignored, being forgotten at school or activities regularly, getting lost in stores, and becoming incredibly independent as a result. I’m so glad you’re now unpacking all that was chaotic about your life that comes from having an ADHD mother.

    3. Hi Christine!

      Than you for your response. The struggle is real … I see in my sister, and many other ADHD moms, some of the mothering traits you experienced as a child. It seems like you have analyzed the situation and have made peace with it though.

      I’m not sure when you say you “deal poorly with chaos” what would be helpful for you. I teach my clients forgiveness. In your case, there is the obvious forgiving of your mom (we all can benefit from forgiving the sins of our parents) but you may want to explore forgiving yourself.

      I know with my dad, it was after I forgave myself for having expectations not met that I was able to move forward in a very positive healthy way. I mean, of course it is reasonable to have the expectation that your parent would be responsible, thoughtful, and punctual. Except when untreated, unmanaged ADHD is involved, is it?

      For me, those unmet expectations lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment. I also tolerated bad behavior from others until I strengthened my own boundaries. Inner work brought me relief and confidence and I can see now that began with forgiving and loving myself more.

      I’m wishing you all the peace and happiness in the world!


    4. Dear Christine,
      I absolutely agree that there is hardly any research on the effects it has on children of ADHD parents. I would love to hear more stories and see what childhood looked like for people in these situations. I would love to know how they cope as adults.

      My childhood was stable in that I had a huge family support system and my father and two sets of grandparents balanced out the sometimes hectic behaviour of my mother.

      When I was a young teen we moved to another country and my support system fell away, I was faced with a number of issues. My mother was and is always fun but she was never consistent with anything. It’s easy to say this but it’s hard to live with it. Her mood swings were harrowing, I never knew which mum I would wake up to, a happy easy going optimist, a sulky blaming and gloomy pessimist or an eruptive shouting mum where nothing anyone said was right. House was usually a mess, dinners never on time, clean clothes was soaking wet in the washing machine. My dad helped as much as he could and as I grew up I stepped in and took over.

      She couldn’t concentrate long enough to offer any help and a lot of the time I felt like the adult between us. This prepared me well for adulthood but the feeling of your mum never having your back didn’t go away. It was lonely, I felt unloved, now of course I understand it for ADHD that it was but I was left traumatized. It took a while to recover from anxiety I developed.

      To this day she never listened to the end of any sentence, she interrupts people continuously or simply switches off and drifts. Her fuse can be too short and she says the most hurtful things only to say the nicest things a few hours later. Her many, many careers and degrees never led anywhere. Best I can say is that she picks up and interesting endeavour which she hyperfocuses on but two years later she looses the spark and it all fizzes out. This of course led to financial issues especially as my parents divorced when I was doing my masters. Now nearly 20 years later I am helping her financially while she moves to next “big idea” every couple of years.

      Seems that management of bad habits is quite low, after divorce she picked up smoking, healthy diet and exercise fell away, every time I visit I get more and more scared about her health and there isn’t a damn thing I can do to persuade her to look after herself better.

      As a teen and young adult I ended up becoming her shoulder to cry on, not in a light kind of way but spending 1-2 hours a day attempting to cheer her up. Upto the age of 30 my every vacation involved flying over and helping her, listening to her, working for her businesses which all failed. Investing time and money just to get her to succeed and stand on her own two feet.

      There is very little appreciation and usually a lot of blame from her, particularly as she’s getting older. Some days are good, she’s great with grandkids, they adore her fun side but I feel I always have to be close in case she gets upset and says something demoralising. I usually jump in to diffuse the situation. This is the opposite of relaxing – always having to be on guard.

      Obviously the problem is that although she acknowledges she has ADHD she absolutely refuses to get any help. I doubt she understands how difficult this makes the situation for me, my family and people around her. And it’s extremely painful to see how she suffers through life. Especially knowing that I can’t help fix her life, I have tried a million times and I keep trying but the one thing that could possibly change things for her is to get help.

      In retrospect whether it’s your child or your parent or other relative who comes into this world with ADHD it’s a lifelong commitment for those around them to help them cope. It can be emotionally difficult and there’s so little research to help children of ADHD parents navigate the situation, to recover and to understand.

    5. Dear Katerina,

      Thank you for sharing your experience so thoughtfully and clearly.

      Your account echoes many others I’ve heard, mostly from women whose mothers have ADHD. I’ve asked several to write a first-person account, to depict the common reality that is rarely acknowledged. Your comment goes a long way toward that.

      I realize that your mother’s “denial” and refusal to get help might truly be a dead-end road. But, just possibly, there’s hope. Sometimes “refusal” is knee-jerk, and it more often reflects emotions and even overwhelm at how to even begin to “get help”. It can really take teamwork to make the evaluation and treatment happen. Here’s an essay based on a chapter in my first book:


      Of course, when it takes years to even think about ADHD, so much effort, energy and money has already been poured down the drain, all in an attempt to help. Medication truly can be a game-changer, but it also takes diligence to find professional competence. Mostly, it takes strong self-education and self-advocacy. And even when….no guarantees.

      take care,

  9. This author is very fortunate to have such a positive outlook on their parent with ADHD. Wow! All I can do is complain of my experience. Precaution of my depressing comment:
    My parents came to Western society from the old country and they have been together since they were teens.
    I believe my mom developed aggressive bipolar and depression on top of her ADHD after she was in an accident and took lots of strong medications around the time I was born, and it’s possible my dad had some kind of slight autism .
    They are very stubborn and have never been diagnosed. Their European country was deprived of these things in the past.

    I believe every second child landed with some kind of bipolar , depression, or autism.
    The ADHD is what I self diagnosed myself with with the side of anxiety- depression.

    It’s very irritable to me. I know I would not make a good mother. I just annoy myself including the people around me. I don’t want any one to experience the cringe I did as a child , and even in my adult life as a 31 year old.
    For me, love in a family is not going to win all. It’s not as important as the stability and respect , it’s all about balance. (The author was fortunate to have a mentally stable mother at least, for some kind of support)
    In the end, kids usually remember the bad memories more than the good ones.(including my 5 siblings and myself)
    I think It’s selfish to have kids with any mental illness like that. I don’t recommend it as a victim, it feels like full on mental and physical abuse.
    Non of us siblings really went to therapy, we only complain and lose hope on feeling better since our parents never got better, but worse. You lose motivation and self esteem and don’t make enough money to pay for proper counseling.
    I always dreamed what it would be like to have “normal” parents. But now, are the parents with mental disorders the “new normal”?!

    1. Hi Bernie,

      Thanks for your comment. I can only imagine what home life was like for you.

      The Internet sort of loves to depict ADHD as one thing or another. The truth is, ADHD is a highly variable syndrome and people with ADHD are indiiduals.

      Research tells us that poorly managed ADHD negative affects parenting skills (consistency, discipline, etc.) and there are also adverse factors around employment, money management, health, managing addictions, and so forth.

      Is this everyone with ADHD? No. Nothing is everything with ADHD.

      take care,

    2. RE: “I think It’s selfish to have kids with any mental illness like that.” I agree 100%. My Mum was a single mum with awful ADHD and as an adult, I am a mess. There is no way I would be able to deal with a child with adhd. it is not good for me or society. Smart people realize this.

  10. Thank you so much for this essay! It was useful for me.

    I grew up in a very large family, and my mom has ADHD and all of my siblings except for one have ADHD.

    It was only recently that my oldest sister got her diagnosis, which led to my mom realizing that she herself has ADHD and getting diagnosed, which then led to my three little brothers getting an ADHD diagnosis.

    Recently, I’ve been wondering if I myself have ADHD, or if I’m just exhibiting some of the characteristics of ADHD as learned behavior from my family rather than from it actually coming from my brain chemistry.

    So this was a really interesting read to see the perspective of another person who grew up with a parent who has ADHD!

    Most of the articles I’ve come across have been about how a neurotypical parent can raise their child with ADHD, and a couple about how to be a good parent if you have ADHD or what to do if you and your child have ADHD.

    This is the first I’ve come across where the child is neurotypical, but the parent has ADHD. So thank you so much for this perspective, it was useful for me!

    1. Hi Lauren,

      Thanks for your kind comment.

      Indeed, this is a woefully undercover topic. So, when Jennie agreed to write about her experience for my ADHD Roller Coaster blog, I was very grateful — and knew it would speak to many readers. (So do many of the comments!)

      You know, it might be that you have ADHD as well. Sometimes what happens is that a parent or siblings have more significant symptoms than the other parent or siblings, so that person doesn’t even think about ADHD.

      Close-degree relatives to a person with ADHD have a higher rate of symptoms, even though not fully qualifying for a diagnosis.

      At any rate, knowledge is power, and the more we can understand ourselves and others, the better things tend to go!

      take care,

    2. H Lauren!

      My clients call me ADHD-adjacent and are pretty sure I must have it too or, they think, I wouldn’t be the way I am. But I have taken tests and failed them. It turns out I am neurotypical, although, that in and of itself, is a spectrum. And so it goes, having the influences of growing up with ADHD while not actually having ADHD.

      I’m happy to hear my story helps. In it, I explain that I am adopted; however, a couple of years ago, after I wrote this, I did find my biological parents. Guess what? My biological father has ADHD! (Undiagnosed, but it’s really obvious)

      So, it probably is in my blood, so to speak. LOL and with my clients, friends, and family, I am surrounded by it. “It” isn’t even a big deal to me anymore, it’s been so normalized in my world.

      On that note, I’ll add, just keep loving every one of them, and yourself. It’s all that matters in the end, anyway.


    3. Hi Lauren,
      My clients call me ADHD-adjacent and are pretty sure I must have it too or, they think, I wouldn’t be the way I am. But I have taken tests and failed them. It turns out I am neurotypical, although, that in and of itself, is a spectrum. And so it goes, having the influences of growing up with ADHD while not actually having ADHD.

      I’m happy to hear my story helps. In it, I explain that I am adopted; however, a couple of years ago, after I wrote this, I did find my biological parents. Guess what? My biological father has ADHD! (Undiagnosed, but it’s really obvious)

      So, it probably is in my blood, so to speak. LOL and with my clients, friends, and family, I am surrounded by it. “It” isn’t even a big deal to me anymore, it’s been so normalized in my world.

      On that note, I’ll add, just keep loving every one of them, and yourself. It’s all that matters in the end, anyway.


    4. That’s an interesting thought: do I have ADHD too or am so I just struggle with some things because I was raised by an ADHD mom? I have wondered that myself many times. Am I late because I have ADHD? Because I never had a parent who modeled and explained how to manage my time? Am I distracted sometimes because I have ADHD or because I lived with an absent minded mother? I tend to think it’s the latter because I did exceptionally well in school. I never had any trouble focusing. I was always An over-achiever with good grades and good testing scores. I had lots of friends and was very self aware and tactful. I think I just missed out on some life skills around organization and time management because of my mom. Or maybe I carry little bits of ADHD. Who knows?

    5. Hi Arianne,

      From what I’ve learned about this over the years, I’d say what you describe could be a bit of both — nature and nurture.

      Genetically speaking, first-degree relatives of people with ADHD (siblings, parents, children) are 50% more likely to have ADHD as well — or at least elevated symptoms.

      That is, perhaps not quite qualifying for diagnosis but present nonetheless.

      What you describe as the potential reasons why you might not have ADHD (doing exceptionally well in school, over-achiever, lots of friends, etc.) actually might not be. I know many women with late-diagnosis ADHD who could say the same. Their challenges came later in life, in juggling multiple priorities (home, children, marriage, work, etc.).


  11. Hello!
    I am in an observing situation as my step son has adhd and I am trying to support his dad. The mum is undiagnosed adhd and totally in deny. The whole situation is really bad as the judge at the divorce gave custody of the adhd teenager to the dad as it was a better environment (the mum couldn’t handle both kids – and is a Kinder garden teacher), and the non adhd kid to the mum. She didn’t look after the pre teen boy, leaving him alone at least a third of the time so she could be at her boyfriend. The non adhd 13 years old put a lot on weight, borderline obese, gaming all the day and being withdrawn from social interaction. The dad didn’t see him for a year then recently one weekend per month. This boy choose to stay with the mum. It feels for a teenager, low parenting is the best thing ever, and also some emotional blackmailing might have happened.
    This boy now sadly diagnosed this week with blood cancer and it is very hard not to be mad at the mum who didn’t worry about the huge weight gain and behaviour change while some GI symptoms were noticed.

    So we have a mum neglecting the son she has custody of, and in complete rejection of the adhd one. This one is in great suffering from the mum’s lack of interest to him.

    Now that I read much more on the subject, I understand that her behavior is due to her illness. But the impact on both kids is terrible. She even tells too much to her adhd son about his sibling’s condition which led to very disruptive behavior. So in any case the situation is bad.

    I feel very sorry for her and the children but without any proper support nothing will get better. She believes all is fine in her life with a decent job, and social relations. Typical adhd behavior in woman and career path. Her dad is also undiagnosed adhd. My partner had to learn about adhd to understand his son then realised it was in the family but in total denial.

    Sorry for the whole life story. This is fascinating in a way if it wasn’t for the impact on those children.
    My partner is at the end of the support he can offer to his adhd son. He is very stressed about which life can his son have and if one day he can be independent enough. The unsupportive mum bring emotional issues to him.

    Any advice is greatly appreciated


    1. Hi Helene,

      That sounds like a tragic situation all-around.

      Just to be clear: I wouldn’t agree that your partner’s ex is displaying “typical ADHD b behavior in women and careers path.” Many, many women with ADHD are admirable mothers and/or often lead successful careers. There is nothing cookie-cutter about ADHD.

      I’m not sure what type of advice you are seeking. It can be hard enough to reach through “denial” when the relationship is positive. For an ex-spouse, it’s so much more difficult.

      Perhaps it would be best for your partner, the father, to focus on what is in his control….chiefly, it seems, proper treatment for his son who has ADHD.

      I wish you all the best.


  12. Thank you so much for sharing your story in this article. It really feels like we had similar upbringing. I’ve been thinking lately that my dad might have undiagnosed ADHD and his symptoms are getting worse as he ages since he hasn’t had the proper support to manage them. I think many of his siblings probably also have ADHD as well, as they face similar obstacles. I’m lucky to still have my dad in my life and I’m trying really hard to rebuild our relationship.

    If I can ask a question: Do you think it’s possible to support someone and help them manage their symptoms without them ever being diagnosed properly? I don’t think my dad will ever be in a place where he can realize he has a treatable mental disorder. He’s not at all sympathetic to people with disabilities, especially not mental ones (he was raised very Roman Catholic).

    1. Dear Sarah,

      I’m glad you found my blog. Thanks for your question.

      I’m curious what you mean: “he was raised very Roman Catholic”.

      I was raised Roman Catholic — but “very”? I don’t know. 🙂 At that time, Catholic (parochial) schools were considered among the best, with a strong emphasis on learning, reading, writing, science, and also compassion and social-justice. I remember hearing nothing against mental-health conditions and their treatment.

      Perhaps this is his personal defense mechanism — that no way does he have a “mental condition.” Or, perhaps ADHD symptoms impair his empathy for people with disabilities of all types.

      At any rate, yes, it is possible to provide at least some helpful support to some people with undiagnosed/poorly managed ADHD.

      The first-line medications for ADHD, the stimulants, help the person with ADHD to better organize their thoughts, behaviors, emotions, and reactions. That way, they can focus more on the things they need/want to focus on and spend less time trying to focus and being distracted by other things.

      But another part of ADHD treatment is creating external organization and supports. I emphasize this in my online courses (ADHD Success Training Site). I also emphasize that sometimes the “ADHD-challenged couple” could be parent with ADHD and an adult child, or vice-versa, or siblings or….

      Also I cover it in my first book: Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?

      A preeminent ADHD expert, Russell Barkley, PhD, emphasizes external supports (in addition to medication) in his excellent book: Taking Charge of Adult ADHD

      Please keep in mind, though: Helping someone who has lived with poorly managed ADHD for decades — and refuses diagnosis and treatment — can be an exercise in exhaustion and futility. If there are simple things you can do to help him organize his life and his routines, great. But please know that sometimes “love and support” just isn’t enough, and take care of yourself.


    2. Hi Sarah, thank you for your response. It’s wonderful that you care enough to see about helping your dad.

      As a Coach, who has almost exclusively worked with the ADHD population over the past several years, I know a formal diagnosis is not mandatory to learn new skills and strategies that help. However, there absolutely has to be some recognition that help is needed. Otherwise, no amount of good intending advice will do anything but probably annoy him.

      I have clients who don’t have any idea if they have ADHD or not but they do know they struggle with procrastination, perfectionism, self-sabotage, and overwhelm; hence they seek me out for help. If I had to guess, I think each of them would qualify for the diagnosis, but that’s not my expertise nor concern. What I do differently from mainstream coaches is use ADHD-friendly techniques that work for specifically for that mindset.

      Could you learn those and teach him? Maybe. Could you help your relationship with him by learning all about ADHD? Yes, I think so. But unless he’s aware enough of his “stuff” it will probably feel one-sided to you, more often than not. I hope that helps.

      I say hope springs eternal and if you want things to be better between you, you certainly can always positively affect at least your part of the relationship equation.


  13. 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!

    4. I just want you to know that I feel so much for you and your wife and your family right now. I am struggling like fook in the adulting department and was recently diagnosed with ADHD. This explains a lot but itsolves nothing. Meds are good in some ways, but a mum suddenly blessed with a memory and concentration span just isn’t popular with the kids (who clearly preferred it when I was too distracted to follow anything through),

      You seem self aware and clued up. It seems that you love your wife and at the same time acknowledge neither of you is perfect. Mostly you seem to love your kids and that’s is what my Google search about parenting with ADHD found. Be the best you can be. I hope your wife is ok too. If you can’t change her path and she can’t make you feel better, it’s still ok. You sound like a great dad. Good luck fella x

    5. Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for sharing camaraderie.

      And….you know….every day, despite 20 years of being entrenched in Adult ADHD study, meetings, reading, writing, etc…. I learned something new. Or at least think about something new.

      I can’t believe I never thought of the adjustment that necessarily comes when a parent’s ADHD is finally diagnosed and treated. The transition for the parent AND the children.

      OF COURSE!

      best of luck to you!

    6. Six months later – I have a new job and between lots of overtime and night shifts things are starting to level out financially. My darling wife has managed to white knuckle her way down to a tenth of her previous usage and we have managed to move house (the old one got condemned due to faulty wiring)
      Things are looking up!

  14. Christine LeVahn

    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.

  15. 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,

  16. 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.

  17. george birkett

    Great article and so typical of my marriage breakdown and current relationship with my daughter

    1. Hi George,

      I’m sorry this story resonates for you, but validation is important.


  18. Pingback: Procrastination | simplesilence

  19. Hi Unsure!

    Of course I don’t mind, in fact, I encourage you to reach out to folks who resonate with you, like Taylor.

    Building a support team is key!


  20. 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.


  21. 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.



  22. 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!


  23. 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,

  24. 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

  25. 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.



  26. 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.



  27. 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,

      You know…THAT number. 🙂

      Cute story. I completely get it.

      Thanks for writing.


    2. 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.



  28. 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.



  29. 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,


  30. 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.


  31. 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.


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

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

  34. 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

  35. 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.


  36. 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.

  37. 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

  38. 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.

  39. David Mulford

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

  40. 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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