Mindful Parenting for ADHD
Mindful Parenting for ADHD
A Letter from Mark Bertin, MD
Living with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) uniquely amplifies stress for anyone who suffers from it, as well as those who care for them—and all that stress itself undercuts ADHD care. Feeling chronically exhausted or burned out—or overly reactive or shut down—makes it even more difficult to take charge of ADHD. It makes change more difficult to accomplish, and new habits tougher to forge. The practice of mindfulness supports ADHD care not only because it builds attention, but also provides tools for life management as a whole.
Why is ADHD so stressful? ADHD is not specifically a disorder of attention; it also affects executive function—a mental skill set that includes most self-management, organization, and planning skills. Practically speaking, children with ADHD experience a developmental delay of life-management skills. Living well with ADHD requires a practical understanding of executive function, along with hands-on support to manage its wide-ranging impact.
Real-life “impairment” is part of the diagnosis, which can be obvious or subtle. ADHD can cause difficulty with communication, relationships, and behavior—be it at home, at school, or at work. But it also impacts everyday health such as sleep or nutrition. It complicates daily routines by turning vital tasks—such as getting out the door on time or finishing homework—into chronic, intense challenges. Not surprisingly, parents of children with ADHD report higher levels of anxiety and marital stress.
When mindfulness practice allows parents and children a greater ability to manage stress, that step in and of itself makes ADHD care easier. But there’s more to it than that. Building skills around ADHD requires new habits that change seemingly entrenched behaviors—something supported by mindfulness. Living with ADHD also affects self-esteem, and creates loads of judgment for everyone involved—a perspective that may shift through mindfulness practice. By allowing those affected by ADHD to negotiate challenging decisions by facilitating communication, mindfulness influences ADHD for the better.
Mindfulness on its own does not fix ADHD, but supports and enhances existing evidence-based care. No one with ADHD is intentionally causing themselves problems at home, acting impulsively, or otherwise making themselves struggle. The way out starts from practical planning that acknowledges the wide-ranging impact of executive function. When balanced with detailed ADHD advice, a broad focus on self-care allows parents and children to define their own path forward, and begin to thrive.
Get started with this caregiver action plan from Mark Bertin, MD's new book, Mindful Parenting for ADHD.
Action Plan: Caring for the Caregiver
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