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What to do When You’re Overwhelmed with an ADHD Child

By: Angela Pruess | Published: August, 2023

If you’re overwhelmed with an ADHD child you’re not alone. These foolproof steps from a child therapist (and mom of a kid with ADHD) will move you forward with clarity and confidence. ADHD in kids can be emotionally and mentally taxing for caregivers, but following these 5 tips will help you maintain a sense of perspective and keep both you and your ADHD happier.


Can I be honest?

Some days I wonder what my life would be like if I wasn’t raising a child with ADHD.

I wonder if I’d have extra patience from not using every. last. drop. on emotional meltdowns and explosions.

I wonder if I’d actually be able to keep my house together from less impulsivity driven sneaking of ice cream and the leaving behind of sticky smelly messes everywhere.

I wonder if I’d be ‘fun mom’ more often not having to provide strict routine and predictability all the time. 

Typically, this pondering occurs on the days I’m overwhelmed with my ADHD child and the role of raising an outside the box kid feels heavy. On these days it seems like other parents just have it easier and that the vision of what I thought family life would look like has been snatched right out of my hands.

I’m thankful that seven years down the road, these days occur much less often. Time helps. Time is full of hope and possibility. Time makes room for growth.

On the days you feel yourself lost in the stormy waters of overwhelm and exhaustion, keeping the following ideas in mind will help you stay anchored to what really counts, the well-being of both you and your child.

5 Steps to take When You’re Overwhelmed with ADHD Child

Pause and let it be

Give yourself permission to press the pause button when your about to lose it. In most instances with your child, it’s not truly an emergency and both you and your child will benefit from putting the breaks on, and then following up when your ready with a more supportive and effective response.

When the world is spinning around you, pause and look within yourself taking note of your emotions and bodily sensations. What emotions are under the mask of anger and frustration?  Are you frustrated and resentful that your child makes the same mistakes over and over? Terrified your child will never learn to clean up after themselves?

Whatever you are feeling is OK.

Accepting your feelings just as they are when overwhelmed with an ADHD child is step one. Emotions are temporary and when we honor them and work through them we allow them to pass. You are not a bad parent for having thoughts and emotions about your child’s challenges.

Being mindful of these thoughts and emotions and not reacting out of frustration and criticism will allow you to show up as the best parent for your child and keep your relationship intact.


Be Kind to Yourself

You weren’t planning on navigating a special needs journey when you set out to be a parent. Coming to terms with the unique challenges brought by ADHD in kids takes time, patience and self-compassion.

Parenting a child with ADHD causes great parents to be really hard on themselves. When you give into the false notion that you’re responsible for your child’s ADHD behaviours it gives the impression that very real symptoms of a neurological condition are actually the result of poor parenting.

When these negative thought patterns creep in, call them out for what they are and squash them with a good dose of truthful and realistic thinking. “I’m doing the best that I can today and so is my child”, “It’s my job to recognize what ADHD symptoms in children are and to place my child’s behaviors in proper context, not the job of extended family or onlookers at the park.”

Find what works for you to work through these complicated emotions such as talking to another special needs parent, journaling, prayer, etc.

Related: The Best Mindset for Parenting a Strong-Willed, Highly Emotional Child

See your child through their behaviours

Knowing how to help a child with ADHD decrease negative behaviours means shining a huge spotlight on their innate gifts and strengths and not only focusing on and bringing attention to negative behaviors. Focusing on your child’s positive qualities will help when overwhelmed with ADHD behaviours during rough days, months or even years.

When loud, defiant and aggressive behaviours dominate your day during a rough patch, remember that your child is so much more than their behaviours. I love this quote from Fred Rogers that illustrates this so beautifully.

Getting to discover and draw out the amazing person your child is, is truly a gift, so don’t forget to enjoy it.

Zoom out to a bigger picture

When you’re dealing with overwhelming and challenging behaviors on a consistent basis, it’s easy to become physiologically overwhelmed yourself. When you’re living in a stressful environment your brain starts to function out of it’s emotion area (limbic system) out of survival, instead of using the logical rational thinking area of the brain (frontal lobe).

Yelling, defiance and aggression trigger you emotionally the same way your child is being triggered by their anxiety/ADHD/sensory symptoms and it can feel like you’re getting sucked into a vortex of disruptive behaviors.

Reminding yourself that this too shall pass and that behaviors are only temporary can get you throughRefusing to do homework and punching their brother after school today doesn’t equate to time in juvenile detention 10 years down the road.

Your ADHD child’s pre-frontal cortex which is responsible for planning, impulse control, and self-regulation will continue to develop each year (until age 25) giving them increased executive functioning skills. They will also continue gaining valuable skills from you on dealing with anger and learning how to better manage their emotions and behaviors through self-regulation

With your support and encouragement your child is going to be ok (and so are you).

Related: Disciplining a Child with ADHD 

Enjoy your kid

You know the days it feels like you have no patience for your ADHD child or that you just can’t handle your ADHD child’s behaviors for one more second? Take those days as a sign some relationship repair is needed. A secure warm attachment to a caregiver is a basic need for every child, and especially vital for kids who face additional challenges in day to day life.

When it comes to kids, everything starts with the relationship.

Give yourself permission to step back from your parent ‘control center’ and let the little things go for the day. Do nothing but find a few easy ways to create some fun and laughter with your amazing kid. Connection and laughter are both therapeutic and work wonders when we’re stuck in a relationship or behavioural rut.

When Overwhelmed with a ADHD Child always remember…

Always remember, the greatest lessons come from the greatest challenges.

The gift of time has allowed me to realise that my child’s challenging behaviours have in fact grown my patience by leaps and bounds, that a clean house isn’t what matters most and as it turns out, I really benefit from routine and predictability these days (read- I’m getting old).

Pause, breathe and remind yourself that your child’s going to be just fine. After all, they have the most important thing going for them, a loving, concerned and dedicated parent in their corner.

Oh hey! I’m Angela!

Welcome! I’m a Licensed Children’s Mental Health Professional, Creator of the Confident & Connected Method, and mom to Spirited Kids that help me learn and grow (grey hairs) every single day. I believe EVERY child deserves to live their BEST life and that emotional health is the magic key to lifelong success and happiness. Read more about me and the Parents with Confidence manifesto.


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