Unlocking ADHD writer Constance Thum explores the importance of self care for parents of ADHD children, and how to prevent burnout.
Why Self Care is Important
Being a parent is a difficult task with no official handbook, and handling children with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) may add more stress to parenting due to the complexity of the condition. Besides juggling work and other commitments, parents also have to manage their ADHD children’s general welfare and education. Parenthood is a lifelong commitment that is both time and energy consuming. Thus, parents may have periods of feeling emotionally, mentally, and physically overwhelmed. Self-care for parents is hence important for both themselves and their ADHD children.
There are multiple benefits from self-care that parents may enjoy including lower stress and fatigue levels, improved moods and relationships, better sleep quality and general wellness and health. The Child Mind Institute notes that depression, anxiety, insomnia, and a slew of other problems are common for parents facing the chronic stress of raising ADHD children with intense and varied behaviour needs.
An important reminder for parents is that they should not feel guilty about taking time away from their ADHD children to engage in self-care since the wellbeing of parents matters too.
Additionally, parental self-care is beneficial to the child and to the parent-child relationship. Parents who take care of their own wellbeing are better able to care for their ADHD children in a sustainable manner, and are in a more patient, uplifted mood when engaging with their children, which helps reduce conflict between the parent and child.
Some strategies to prevent mental and physical health burnout from childcare may include:
- Physical exercise and movement (e.g., sports, hikes, yoga)
- Art (e.g., painting, instruments, dancing, pottery)
- Hobbies (e.g., cooking, reading, writing, films)
- A healthy diet
- Journaling to record daily feelings and thoughts
- Personal grooming (e.g., spas, DIY face masks)
- Adequate sleep (seven to eight hours for adults)
Taking time alone and being away from children may give parents time for introspection and reflection. Couples should also delegate some romantic or communication time for themselves to avoid neglecting their partners which may cause marital issues in the long-term (more information).
Isolation and loneliness from parenting an ADHD child may be minimised by reaching out to friends, other family members, and partners to discuss personal challenges. Parents should remember that investing in their happiness and wellbeing, other than that of their child’s, is also a priority!
There are also other avenues for finding support as a parent with an ADHD child, including ADHD informational magazines, therapy, and support groups (more information). In particular, parent self-help groups may be extremely useful for mental wellness discussions and sharing parenting tips.
In a 2015 health research report, it was found that mutual aid groups where parents with ADHD children can interact with one another helped parents to construct a shared narrative of absolving parental blame and preserving a positive view of themselves as “good parents”.