When my son Javi was diagnosed with ADHD, I had no clue that our biggest challenge — the one that would make or break every single goal — was my husband.
Don’t get me wrong, my Mountain Man (MM) is an amazing and loving father. He was also raised on a mountain by parents who tolerated nothing. One of MM’s favorite childhood stories is how he ate an entire chicken bone because his father refused to allow him to leave the table until his plate was clean … even after hours had passed.
You can imagine how hard it is for this thick-skinned, no-nonsense man to understand that our son can’t “just” eat or “just” sit still or “just” accomplish his tasks faster. While it is still a struggle for me to remember that Javi can’t completely control his behavior (and isn’t manipulating us with it), understanding often seems insurmountable for my husband.
And so I had to develop some strategies to help my MM remain a loving and nurturing force in his son’s life despite all the frustrations (and to keep me from losing my mind). Hopefully these suggestions will help the dad(s) in your child’s life do the same:
Encourage joint activities. My guys love basketball and football so I spend lots of time encouraging and making it possible for them to participate in these activities together. MM coaches Javi’s football team and takes him to every basketball practice, they go to professional and college games together for “boy’s nights,” and both often get to leave their chores for me tof finish so they can go toss a ball around.
Why it works: Not only do these activities burn up some of Javi’s extra energy and help clear his mind, they also develop a tight bond between my guys. This really comes in handy when Javi can’t seem to remember where he left his homework folder or acts on his worst impulses. (Keep in mind that you can’t force either dad or child to participate in an activity they don’t enjoy. That’s a recipe for disaster!)
Include dad in appointments. Moms are pretty amazing and competent people — but so are dads. There’s no reason to leave them out or excuse them from participating in therapy or medical sessions. MM and I either take turns attending meetings and going to therapy or we show up to those sessions together. He was resistant to this at first, but now he really appreciates being part of the process.
Why it works: When we are both active participants in managing and monitoring Javi’s disorder, neither of us feels either overwhelmed or left out. Before we instituted this policy, I often felt like I had to be all things to all people and MM felt that I didn’t trust him to be involved in his son’s care. Now we stay on the same page and have fewer disagreements about the next right step.
Introduce dad to other dads. Fathers of children with ADHD aren’t like the mothers. They’re less likely to seek out support or confide their feelings to other people. This often leaves them feeling like strangers in a strange land. But for every mother of a child with ADHD you know, there’s likely a husband, boyfriend, or other father figure standing right beside her. Encourage these guys to open up to each other and vent their highs and lows.
Why it works: By making friendships and sharing their frustrations with other men who’ve had similar experiences, dads feel more connected and better understood. The bonds they create will remind them they aren’t the only man out there dealing with ADHD issues, which will sustain them through whatever challenges come next.
And, speaking from experience, there’s nothing more hilarious than listening to a bunch of men laugh and cut up as they share those heartbreaking-in-the-moment-but-ridiculous-now moments!
Bonus:These articles give more great advice on how to get dads involved and keep them compassionate toward your child with ADHD:
- Resources for Dads of ADHD Children
- Fatherhood and ADHD
- Fathers and ADHD Treatment
- Why Boys with ADHD Need Their Dads
- ADHD, My Son, And Me
- Life After Divorce: Making Every Minute With Your Kids Really Count
- ADHD Dad Blog
How have you helped your child’s father or father figure better cope with and feel included in your child’s disorder? What resources would you suggest for dads in particular?