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Are You a Parent With ADHD?

How to Cope with an Attention Deficit at Home and Work



Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, presents itself through impulsivity, inattention or hyperactivity. The symptoms typically arise during early childhood, but kids aren’t the only ones who can feel unfocused and fidgety.

According to the national advocacy organization Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, in more than three-quarters of cases attention-deficit problems continue into adulthood. However, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America notes that fewer than 20% of adults with ADHD have been diagnosed or treated.

What is ADHD?

ADHD has three types: predominantly inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive and a combination of the two. The predominantly inattentive presentation, commonly called attention deficit disorder or ADD, does not include hyperactivity.

Medical professionals, including physicians, psychiatrists and neurologists, may diagnosis an attention deficit if someone shows five or more symptoms such as:

  • Difficulty with organization
  • Tendency to procrastinate
  • Lack of desire or ability to complete tasks
  • Impulsivity
  • Being easily bored
  • Inability to listen
  • Tendency to do things in excess
  • Getting frustrated or impatient easily
  • Neglecting to follow rules
  • Displays of nervous energy
  • Proneness to accidents
  • Failure to focus
  • Avoidance or dislike of mental effort
  • Tendency to lose things

ADHD in adults

“In private practice, I tend to see more children with ADHD, as their parents often prioritize their children’s need for treatment,” says Dr. Valerie Braunstein, a licensed psychologist in Philadelphia. Because attention deficits were not identified as often when today’s par- ents were children, a person can have reached adulthood without knowing she has ADHD. Meanwhile, others may view her as lazy, inconsistent or disinterested when in reality she has a treatable condition.

ADHD symptoms can interfere with work, relationships and the ability to parent. “In the work environment, adults may make careless mistakes, not listen when spoken to, avoid work that requires sustained mental effort, interrupt others and become easily distracted. Children or spouses might become frustrated because the family member with ADHD might not listen to them or may struggle to finish projects around the house, arrive late to important events or forget things others find important,” says Dr. Braunstein.

“The more stress and pressure I feel, the higher my inattention and impulsive behaviors,” says Trish Pappert, a New Jersey mother of three who has an ADHD diagnosis. Whether she needs to get the kids to events on time, stay organized at work and at home or communicate effectively with the people in her life, Pappert finds it difficult to be an adult with ADHD. “On my youngest’s first day of soccer practice, she asked if we could go to the park. Without thinking, I took two of my kids to a park about 20 minutes from home. By the time I remembered she had practice, it had already started. Normally, I keep a calendar with reminders set to help me,” Pappert says.

Liz Brown, a certified coach for teen and adult ADHD at Be Well Life Coaching in Wilmington, DE, stresses the uniqueness of every case. “ADHD affects each person in different ways. It all comes down to awareness of the obstacles one faces and finding ways either
to build new skills or structure life in a different way,” she says.

Coping strategies

Unfortunately, no set formula exists for how to handle ADHD as an adult. Pappert finds it helpful to keep a to-do list. When her stress levels get too high, she finds solace in nature at the park or the shore. She has also worked with a behavioral therapist, uses deep-breathing exercises and soothing music to help her focus and takes medication to ease her symptoms.

Involve a family member in the treatment process for support, Dr. Braunstein suggests. Educate her about the condition to help her understand why you do and say certain things. “Don’t suffer in silence. ADHD is a valid medical disorder, and it is important that it is treated as such,” Dr. Braunstein says.

Ariana Annunziato is a communications major at Drexel University and a co-op intern with MetroKids

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