Health & Wellness

Care for the Caregiver: ADHD

About 2.4 million children ages 6 to 11 in the U.S. live with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, a common neurodevelopmental disorder. These kids may act impulsively, be overly active, and have trouble paying attention or getting organized.

“It’s not that these children don’t want to listen or behave; they just have difficulty exhibiting those skills,” says Judith Hanono-Yaron, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Sheppard Pratt’s Outpatient Mental Health Center in Gaithersburg. “Parents must help teach them how to control their behavior and self-regulate. They have to lead the way, like a conductor of a symphony.”

Self-care and ADHD 

Caring for a child with ADHD can be stressful and may lead to burnout if caregivers don’t prioritize their own well-being. “This stress can lead to fatigue, headaches, trouble sleeping, anxiety, depression, and marital problems,” Hanono-Yaron says. 

Fortunately, she says there are many ways for parents and caregivers to engage in self-care. Keep your body healthy. Get enough sleep, stay hydrated, spend time outdoors, and eat a healthy diet. 

  • Stay positive. “Remember your child isn’t a ‘bad kid’ or trying to anger you,” Hanono-Yaron says. “Try to laugh at the funny things they do rather than focusing on the negative. To prevent feeling guilty, avoid perfectionism and speaking negatively to yourself.”
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. “It’s easier said than done, but if not doing the dishes is going to help you prevent a meltdown, leave them in the sink until tomorrow,” she says.
  • Get support. “Talk to a therapist, spend time with people who energize you, join a support group, or spend time with other parents of kids with ADHD,” she says. 
  • Re-energize. It’s important for caregivers to spend time away from the kids to recharge. “Have a date night, get together with adult friends, or pick up a new hobby,” she says. And don’t be afraid to ask for respite care to get these much-needed breaks if you don’t have other help. 

Getting ahead of the stress

Understanding ADHD and planning for challenges can help make the day-to-day less stressful. “Children with ADHD thrive on structure and predictability. Let them know if there is going to be a change in routine so they know what to expect,” Hanono-Yaron says.

Caregivers must ensure kids get plenty of physical activity during the day and healthy sleep at night. “Establish a bedtime routine starting about an hour before getting in bed,” she says. “This can include turning off all electronics, taking a bubble bath, or reading books.” 

And let them see you practicing self-care. “You are modeling this behavior. The more you take care of yourself, the more you can take care of your child,” she says.

Self-Care BINGO

As we long for the sunnier days of spring, now is the perfect time to rev up your self-care routine. Look to this BINGO card for plenty of ideas. Whenever you are feeling stressed or sad, grab this card and try to score a BINGO!

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