Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnoses are becoming increasingly common, however, ADHD remains one of the most misunderstood neurodevelopmental disorders. ADHD can be caused or brought on by a combination of hereditary and environmental factors. Common symptoms may include inattention, lowered ability to maintain focus, fidgetiness, distractibility, difficulty controlling impulses, and hyperactivity.
Given this broad range of symptoms, ADHD may be difficult to identify or diagnose without the support of health care professionals, which can impact families as they struggle to understand and adapt to their child’s change in behavior. Misdiagnosis or underdiagnosis of ADHD, as with other forms of neurodivergence, remains a gendered issue as well, with ADHD being under-recognized amongst young girls in particular.
ADHD is now the second most impactful condition affecting children’s health in the U.S. According to a 2019 BlueCross BlueShield report, 10% of children in the U.S. were diagnosed with ADHD, and ADHD diagnoses have jumped more than 30% in the past eight years. 
While there is an ever-increasing body of research developed to demystify the condition and support children with ADHD and their families, people often misinterpret the symptoms of ADHD with the behavior of a child that is acting out.
Three categories of ADHD
There are three different types of ADHD, depending on which types of symptoms are most present for the individual:
- Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: It is hard for the individual to organize or finish a task, to pay attention to details, or to follow instructions or conversations. The person is easily distracted or forgets details of daily routines.
- Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: The person fidgets and talks a lot. It is hard for them to sit still for long (e.g., for a meal or while doing homework). Smaller children may run, jump or climb constantly. The individual feels restless and has trouble with impulsivity. Someone impulsive may interrupt others a lot, grab things from people, or speak at inappropriate times. It is hard for the person to wait their turn or listen to directions. A person with impulsiveness may have more accidents and injuries than others.
- Combined Presentation: Symptoms of the above two types are equally present in the person.
ADHD Behaviors and Symptoms:
- Persistent daydreaming
- Tendency to lose things
- Frequent squirming or fidgeting
- May be extremely talkative
- Might make careless mistakes or take unnecessary risks
- May have a hard time resisting temptation
- Might have trouble taking turns
- Might have difficulty getting along with others
While most children experience periods in which they may have trouble focusing or behaving, children with ADHD do not grow out of these behaviors. Children with ADHD may have difficulty paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (and may act without thinking about the result), or issues being overly active.
ADHD can appear in toddlers or preschoolers, which makes diagnosing the disorder challenging, as its symptoms are easily confused with a myriad of other conditions like anxiety disorder, depression, autism spectrum disorder, or developmental problems, such as language delays.
Parents who suspect their young children have ADHD may consider talking to a PCP, counselor or arranging an evaluation by a therapist to determine if ADHD is the root cause behind their child’s behavior.
Symptoms and Challenges
ADHD impedes a child’s executive functioning (impulse control, the ability to think clearly, focus, plan, organize, and complete tasks), impacting both parents and siblings in caring, supporting, and providing extra guidance to help the child acquire those skills on their own.
The symptoms can be so severe as to impact their families, leading to relationship problems, increased conflict, and even higher rates of divorce and depression. ADHD can impact social relationships, their performance at school, and their general integration into society. 
For parents, it’s essential to be mindful of the impact ADHD can have on the rest of the family. For example, siblings of children with ADHD face particular challenges like learning to adapt to their sibling’s disorder and the subsequent loss of attention they may receive from their parents as they grapple with supporting their child with ADHD. Additionally, siblings may be asked to take on a “parenting” role with their sibling, which they may not fully understand or be equipped to manage, leading to stress and anxiety.
Communication is vital to help the other children in the family to respond positively to the new environment they may find themselves in. Learning to manage ADHD takes time, patience, and willingness to support the child with ADHD. Mistakes will be made, so it’s essential to approach these events with perspective and understand that everyone is managing as best they can.
It Takes a Village
Caring for and supporting any child works best with a collaborative approach that may involve families, teachers, therapists, and medical professionals working together to create and implement a care plan for the child, and this remains true for children with ADHD.
Behavior therapy, social skills training, and counseling can significantly benefit a child with ADHD. Equally, parent skill training and counseling for all family members can help lessen the emotional toll that ADHD can exact.
It’s crucial for parents to educate themselves about ADHD and its’ impact on your child and family, and investigate what services exist to help your family develop a strategy that focuses on their wellbeing.
While ADHD is quite common, your child’s teacher and school may not be equipped or trained to help your child effectively, so it may fall upon the parents to educate school staff to best support the child.
How To Help Your Child and Yourself
Parenting a child with ADHD is challenging but can be incredibly rewarding as your child advances. Patience, perseverance, community, and self-care are essential to helping your child, family, and yourself. Unfortunately, parents can often feel isolated, tend toward self-blame, and may have deep anxiety over their child’s condition and how society reacts to and treats them.
So remember to be kind to yourself, forgive and learn from your mistakes and keep focused on you and your family’s well-being. Managing ADHD can be demanding and stressful, but you just might be surprised at the love, support, and encouragement you receive from your community.
How To Help Your Child and Yourself
- Educate and empower yourself.
- Understand how ADHD affects your child.
- Focus on teaching your child one thing at a time.
- Work with your child’s school.
- Connect with others for support and awareness.
- Find out if ADHD runs in your family
- Discipline with purpose and warmth.
- Set clear expectations.
- Talk about it.
- Be sure to make space for spending special time together
- Build resilience by keeping your relationship with your child positive and loving.