How to cope as a parent of a child with ADHD

My daughter was diagnosed with ADHD in her teens, a time that is fraught in terms of the relationship between teens and their parents anyway. We found it very difficult, and I know my daughter would agree that it was a tricky time. The good news is that you will get through it, and the dynamic will change and you will laugh with them about it. I’ve put some thoughts together of what we found useful, and I hope it helps.


  1. Understanding and patience, I promise it’s not easy! Educate yourself about ADHD and the challenges it presents for teenagers. Be patient and try to understand their perspectives. ADHD is 80% hereditary, and so probably one parent will understand your teen more than the other which should help.
  2. Clear communication: Encourage open and honest communication with your teenager and listen to what they have to say. If you”re shocked, then hide it or the communication will stop. Empathise about the difficulties and discuss how you felt too.
  3. Consistency: Establish clear rules and routines that are consistently enforced, to help your teenager feel secure and manage their behaviour. Make compromises, we agreed not to ask my daughter how school was in the car, as she just wanted time to be peaceful and decompress. Her compromise was to say good morning, rather than scuff silently and sullen into the kitchen.
  4. Supportive environment: Create a supportive and encouraging environment for your teenager and encourage their strengths and interests. Find their talent and make it a priority.
  5. Positive reinforcement: Use positive reinforcement to encourage desired behaviours and recognize your teenager's achievements. React to positive behaviour and show gratitude. It can feel ridiculous to say thanks for something silly like putting a bowl in the dishwasher but do it anyway.
  6. Encourage self-advocacy: Teach your teenager to advocate for themselves and communicate their needs effectively, especially at school. Encourage calm explanation rather than flipping out.
  7. Seek professional help: Consider seeking the help of a mental health professional, such as a therapist or counsellor, to support your teenager and your family. Her Psychiatrist was a fantastic middleman, able to explain to my daughter what we may often had said many times but getting her to hear it.
  8. A psychologist told me that ADHD children will drink, smoke, vape, have sex, do drugs and do all of it early due to their impulsivity. So be prepared and know its not your fault.
  9. Take care of yourself: Remember to prioritise your own self-care and seek support from friends, family, or a support group. You will lose your temper and berate yourself, her psychiatrist also told me that they are the most difficult children to parent.


Adolescents with ADHD often experience difficulties regulating their emotions, which can result in emotional dysregulation. This can manifest in several ways.

  1. Impulsiveness: Teens with ADHD often act impulsively and have trouble controlling their emotional responses, leading to impulsive behaviour and outbursts.  My daughter chopped a boy’s hair in class, hid another child’s  mobile phone and stole a drink from the school canteen.  Again, looking long term, we now laugh with my daughter about all the reasons I was called into school.
  2. Mood swings: They may experience sudden mood swings and have difficulty controlling their emotions, leading to irritability and frustration.  This was difficult; we would try and do lovely things as a family and things were so often ruined.  The more I understood, I realised that it was her stress about spoiling things, that manifested it.
  3. Disorganisation: Adolescents with ADHD can struggle with disorganisation, leading to emotional dysregulation when things do not go according to plan.  It is good to try and set up good routines when they are younger, hang blazer here, shoes off here, school bag there. Pack your school bag the night before.  These simple routines will help.  However, you will have to also be aware of what day they need a sports kit etc, and remind and support them, and it will drive you mad, but not as much as dealing with the fallout if they forget something.  
  4. Poor self-esteem: The difficulties associated with ADHD can lead to low self-esteem and negative self-image.  This is only exacerbating emotional dysregulation.  This is a symptom that is very upsetting to see, all we can do is keep saying positive things to them, however every time they forget their homework or are told of at school for not listening etc.
  5. Difficulty managing stress: ADHD can make it difficult for teens to manage stress and cope with challenging situations, leading to increased emotional dysregulation.  My daughters Psychiatrist explained that they’re so coiled up with stress at school, what homework might they have forgotten, what they need for a lesson, social interactions etc etc, which is why ADHD kids tend to be so grumpy when they come home from school.

The teenage ADHD’er can be a very difficult person to be around.  Pick your arguments and battles, I was so frustrated that my teen insisted on eating and doing her homework in bed, I felt it was why she took so long to do her homework.  The psychiatrist said, “why does it matter?”  It really seemed to matter to me, but I had to let it go.  What really matters is calm, harmony, so often sought but rarely achieved.

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