One in four parents of kids with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder also have ADHD.
One in every four kids who is diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder also has a parent with ADHD—whether they know it or not. And the other three probably have a grandparent, an uncle, a sibling, or a cousin with the condition, says Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist with Understood, a nonprofit advocacy and educational organization for the parents of kids with learning and attention challenges. That’s why many experts now suggest that every ADHD evaluation should include a screening for the parents as well as the child.
“When a mom or a dad has ADHD, it affects the success rate of the child’s treatment,” explains psychologist Mark Stein, Ph.D., director of the ADHD and Related Disorders Program at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “The responsibility is on the parents to observe behaviors, schedule the appointments, be attentive during sessions, then go home and practice what they’ve learned. All of that is very difficult if you’re struggling with impulse control and focus issues yourself, while dealing with the impact on the family.”
If you have a child with ADHD, make sure you're familiar with the symptoms of the disorder as they appear in adults.
Symptoms of ADHD in adults include:
- Not listening carefully
- Making careless mistakes
- Being disorganized
- Reckless driving
- Losing things frequently
- Having angry outbursts
- Problems with short-term memory
Tari Coffey was a business management consultant at Seattle Children’s Hospital and the mom of a son with ADHD. "My parents always said, 'He’s exactly like you!'" she says. Dr. Stein’s team found she had a mild case of ADHD, even though she was 40 and had never been diagnosed. A typical morning for her involved running late, forgetting her phone, and impulsively reacting to her son if he tripped and dropped his water bottle. But as she began to understand her own symptoms, it became easier for her to be empathetic and patient with her son. Says Coffey, “I felt like I was learning how to communicate with him in an entirely new way.”