What ADHD feels like… to parents

I recently started at The Star Academy as a Junior ABA Instructor, I got to know children who’ve been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). According to Autism Speaks ADHD is prevalent in 30% to 60% of children diagnosed with autism. To put this into context, only 6% to 7% of people in the general public is diagnosed with ADHD. This statistic piqued my interest and I immediately wondered what ADHD feels like to parents.

Harpin (1: 2005) states that, during the pre-school years of children suffering from ADHD, parental stress is extremely high- children don’t respond to ordinary parental requests or behavioural advice as expected. Stress can be relieved by utilising targeted work to improve parent- child interaction.

During primary school years the child begins to be seen as being different, fellow learners start to develop the necessary skills that enable them to learn successfully. Comorbid problems may start to surface further impacting the child. At this stage the parent may find that other family members may hesitate to take care of the child, or that the child isn’t being invited to parties or playdates. As a result, family relationships and friendships may start to break down, placing further emotional stress on the parent.

Harpin (2: 2005) states that research concluded that parents of children with ADHD experience an increase in likelihood of disturbances in marital functioning, increased levels of stress, and strained parent- child relationships. Young adulthood may bring a decrease in hyperactivity, although inattention, impulsiveness and restlessness still cause difficulties. Parent- teen conflict may be more severe than the average household, putting more strain on the family system.

Although the above picture seems grim, Templeton (2016) shares her experience on what ADHD feels like.

• ADHD feels like being an undergraduate student, reading every possible article and watching all the videos Youtube can produce regarding ADHD.

• It feels like the child’s whole future can be saved or jeopardised by deciding whether to medicate or not.

• ADHD feels like self- doubt. Constantly wondering whether the right decision is being made.

• It feels like being judged constantly for all decision made regarding the child’s discipline, medication and treatment.

• It feels like heartbreak, knowing the child underneath the diagnosis, knowing that the child is being misunderstood and judged.

Templeton warns that the journey of parenting a child with ADHD is not easy and that it may feel like a lonely journey, it rarely is. Templeton suggests the use of online forums which offer assistance and the support of other parents on the journey. Templeton encourages all parents to keep on being brave, supportive and loving, no matter what ADHD may feel like.

By Elzanne van Dyk


Harpin, V.A. (2020). The effect of ADHD on the life of an individual, their family, and community from preschool to adult life. Archives of Disease in Childhood. [online] pp.1-3. Available at: https://adc.bmj.com/content/archdischild/90/suppl_1/i2.full.pdf

Templeton, R. (2016). 12 Truths That Every Mom Of An ADHD Kid Knows. [online] Scary Mommy. Available at: https://www.scarymommy.com/12-truths-that-every-mom-of-an-adhd-kid-knows/