Divorce and the ADHD Family: 3 Essential Tips for Better Co-Parenting

Child with ADHD standing between her divorced mothers and holding their hands with hearts drawn on the wall behind her

Divorce is so complicated. It can be tough on both kids and parents. For kids with ADHD who already struggle with organization, time management and transitions, going from one home to another can be disconcerting. They need their parent to establish and maintain consistency between the homes, whether that’s two sets of favorite toys or assistance packing their stuff. The most important thing for predicting a positive outcome for these children and teens is how well the divorcing parents can place their kids’ well-being over their own discord. This means that, despite whatever animosity or distance has led to the divorce, both adults consider what serves their youngsters in terms of their lives not just what works best for the parents. To that end, here are 3 suggestions.

Take the long view on adaptation:

Child with ADHD and her divorced parents, standing as she says goodbye to her father who is kneeling infront of her with his suitcase by the door, while her mother stands by and watches

Think about what will help your child or teen adjust to the new family arrangement. Getting used to different homes and shifting structure takes time and can be uncomfortable. Go slowly to help kids adjust to the massive changes in their lives. Be patient and expect pushback in terms of anger, anxiety or withdrawal. Instead of judging them or getting frustrated, acknowledge current challenges by saying something like “Of course you are struggling, we all are. That’s normal in this situation.” 

Create consistency:

Separate homes shouldn’t mean separate rules, responsibilities and routines. The more consistency there can be between thetwo homes, the better it is for the kids. Of course, you and your ex don’t have to do everything in the exact same way and you probably won’t. That’s one reason you’re not together. But be on the same page about the big stuff such as screen allowances, academic responsibilities and logical consequences for inappropriate behaviors.

Manage negativity towards the other parent:

Child with ADHD sitting on the floor with her teddy bear in the dark with her eyes over her head as shadows of her divorced parents fighting are on the wall

This might be the toughest task but bad-talking the other parent to your child only creates unnecessary anger and resentment ultimately towards YOU. No child wants to be caught in the middle of any battles between their parents. Do your best to find someone else to complain to: a therapist, coach, good friend, sibling, cousin–anybody. You want to be able to show your child that you can support and celebrate them as a family at sporting events, graduations, performances, etc. in their lives.

Take a deep breath–you’ve got this!

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