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ADHD

11 October 2019

How raising a child with ADHD can test a parent

According to an expert, having a child with ADHD seems to have a negative impact on parents no matter what types of symptoms the child displays.

Parenting can be tough business, but when your child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) the task can often be overwhelming.

Over time, that stress can give rise to a certain amount of friction between the parent and child, one expert notes.

Negative impact for parents

Dara Babinski, a child psychologist with Penn State Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, has spent considerable time delving into the issue.

The first thing to know, she said, is that ADHD can manifest in many different ways. In some cases the disorder – which is usually diagnosed during childhood – can centre around a child with difficulty focusing or completing tasks.

For others, the main issues may have more to do with impulsive behaviour, such as incessantly moving around or talking excessively. Some children suffer from both concerns.

But "there often seems to be a negative impact for many parents no matter what types of symptoms the child displays," Babinski said in a medical centre news release.

And that's a problem, she added, because "parental involvement is really critical" when it comes to caring for a child with ADHD. "[So] when the parent-child relationship is strained, that is a risk factor for long-term difficulties for the child."

Why? For one, managing the behaviour of a child with ADHD can require a lot of energy, Babinski noted. It can also translate into learning and disciplinary problems at school. And parents typically end up trapped in a merry-go-round of visits to paediatricians, psychiatrists and behavioural therapists, which can often mean missing work.

Depression and other mental health concerns

All these factors can end up consuming a parent's time and drive up parental stress, she said.

But despite the stress, Babinski emphasised how critical it is that parents remain attentive to their child's needs, even as he or she ages out of adolescence into young adulthood.

So what can parents do to stay involved while keeping a lid on stress? Babinski advises parents to work in concert with teachers, so that together they can come up with an organised plan to help the child overcome whatever hurdles ADHD throws in his or her path.

She also points out that it's not uncommon for parents of children with ADHD to struggle with depression or other mental health concerns. Roughly a quarter to half of such parents have such issues, she said.

And if that's the case, parents should make sure to get the treatment they need, Babinski said.

"That can also help the child's behaviour if the parent is feeling better and has more time and energy to focus on handling the child's behaviours," she explained.

Image credit: iStock

 

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ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation (www.gb4adhd.co.za) She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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