This Is How Millions of Moms, and Their Kids, Are Living Successfully With ADHD
As long as you have the tools to help, you don’t have to be afraid of your ADHD
Research has shown that ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), a disorder marked by inattentive and/or hyper-impulsive behaviors, which can impact development and functioning, is more heritable than most other mental conditions.
Brittany Allen, a single mother living in California with her two daughters, spoke with me about how she felt like a “failure” when her daughter, Emily, was diagnosed with ADHD at age three.
Hoping to share helpful tips with other parents and kids living with ADHD, and in the midst of continued external stress caused by the pandemic, Brittany continues to advocate for the mental health of families everywhere.
“Emily was always a very different child,” Brittany tells me. “I thought it would be easier with her being my second, but her behavior was very different from my first child. Emily was incredibly active to the point of getting lost in grocery stores. She was so interested in her environment that she started having a lot of tantrums, about everything, and they weren’t normal 2-year-old tantrums.”
Brittany was diagnosed with ADHD herself at age seventeen, starting medication soon after, which she claimed was “very helpful,” especially in college. Going off the medication when she got married and had a baby, she didn’t think it was causing a problem in her life until her daughters got older.
“I started to connect the issues I was having in my 30s — a lot of problems organizing my life, my house was always a disaster, and I felt like I was playing catch up the entire weekend,” Brittany said. “I wasn’t enjoying working, I wasn’t enjoying anything, and would always question, ‘What is wrong with me?’”
Feeling extremely frustrated that she couldn’t “get it together,” both for herself and her kids, Brittany brought it up to her doctor who replied, “Well, you’re a mom and this is just how it is.”
A Day in the Life with ADHD
Like most kids and adults with ADHD, it takes Emily longer to do basic things because she gets distracted. “Eating breakfast, for example, takes longer than it needs to,” Brittany says. “If I’m not on top of her, we fall behind.”
With ADHD, the filtering mechanism in your brain doesn’t operate efficiently.
“I felt so relieved to be able to share these intimate insecurities about myself, like being late,” Brittany says upon her diagnosis, “because I never understood why I couldn’t be on time. My dad (who also has ADHD) is late to everything, too. So now we share suggestions with each other on what this article said or listen to a podcast where a researcher discusses ADHD.”
Emily is currently on medication that she takes on an as-needed basis, and Brittany says her daughter has become “more vocal” about taking the medication as she gets older.
“If she doesn’t feel like taking it, I don’t give it to her,” Brittany says. “I respect her decision.”
Finding Tools to Help
Brittany explains there are a lot of tools she uses to help manage her symptoms of ADHD, including listening to podcasts and finding resources that teach her and Emily how each of their brains works, and how to utilize those findings to their advantage.
Brittany credits preparation and routine as the main things that help the two of them navigate life with ADHD.
“Starting our day on a schedule sets the day up for success,” she tells me. “Going over our schedule the night before is really helpful. We have a lot of post-it notes, too (what we’re doing for school and when activities are), so when we start our morning, we refer to that instead of thinking of everything we have to do and feeling overwhelmed by it.”
Another tool that works great for the mother-daughter duo is eliminating visual clutter.
”Eliminating clutter from my workspace and her space made such a difference,” Brittany said. “The filtering mechanism in your brain for tasks just doesn’t operate efficiently, and clutter makes it worse. When I started integrating these tools, in our lives and in our habits, we prioritize making sure things are picked up, and we’ve seen so much success with this.”
Other things that have worked great were cutting Emily’s toys in half, and initiating short-term consequences and rewards, like telling Emily to pick up her dishes and then clean her room, before she could play.
Advice for Other Parents (and Their Kids) Living with ADHD
Brittany suggests focusing on learning tools for the entire family, stating everyone can become more successful by incorporating healthy routines the whole family can benefit from.
“Embrace that ADHD is part of your life,” she suggests. “Don’t just try and make it go away. There are different time-management tools that will help your brain filter tasks better, and the more you do it, the easier it becomes.”
Brittany claims that everybody can use these tools, not just people with ADHD. “Sometimes these tools are the only way we can manage tasks,” she says. “I also think there are a lot of undiagnosed adults. If they know they have it, they can see all of the tools to manage it and it becomes less scary because you feel more equipped to cope.”
Brittany says she is proud to be able to use her ADHD in a positive way, building good habits and understanding that medication isn’t “fixing” her brain, but helping her cope with the condition.
“I want Emily to grow up thinking, ‘I have ADHD and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished,’” Brittany says.
While our busy lives can be hard for our brains to process (especially when you already have trouble filtering tasks), they can be wonderful and fulfilling, too.
“You can still manage your fun, full schedule while not feeling overwhelmed by it,” Brittany says. “As long as you have the tools, you don’t have to be afraid of your ADHD — you can live a wonderful life with it.”
Ashley Alt is a freelance writer based in Connecticut specializing in mental health and wellness. Her work has been featured in Forbes, POPSUGAR, Well + Good, Modern Mom Probs, and more.
She is the mastermind behind Sip Sip, a weekly advice column for modern moms looking for ways to improve their mental health.