Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) doesn’t just affect the individual. It affects the entire family, according to Mark Bertin, MD, a board-certified developmental behavioral pediatrician and author of The Family ADHD Solution.
Parents of kids with ADHD not only have to navigate a complex neurological disorder, but they also have to contend with criticism and judgment from others, he said.
For instance, parents might be told that ADHD doesn’t exist or that their child’s disorder is their fault. Or they’re criticized for putting their kids on medication.
Not surprisingly, studies show that parents of kids with ADHD are at greater risk for anxiety, depression, relationship problems and divorce, among other issues, Dr. Bertin said.
That’s why focusing on ADHD’s effect on parents is critical. Without it, “we aren’t addressing ADHD fully,” he said.
In fact, parents practicing self-care is a critical part of managing the disorder, he said. Just consider what happens when stress takes its heavy toll.
“When overly stressed we’re more reactive, more likely to fall back on habitual patterns of behavior, and don’t communicate as skillfully as we might with our children,” Bertin said. It also makes it harder for parents to follow behavioral plans for treating ADHD, he added.
That’s precisely where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness “minimizes stress so we can parent at our best,” Bertin said. It’s defined as the ability to pay attention to your experience with openness and without reactive judgments. When parents practice mindfulness, they not only reduce their stress, but they’re able to make better decisions and respond to their child’s behavior rather than reacting to it.
Read more: Psych Central