Dealing with ADHD in the Family: Strategies for Washington State Parents

Understand ADHD and learn effective strategies for dealing with ADHD in the family.

Dealing with ADHD in the family is not easy for anyone, especially not for a parent of an adult child. However, your support, understanding, and love are more powerful than you might realize. You’re not just a bystander. You are a key player in their support system. WeLevelUp Washington will give you the knowledge and tools you need to go through everything. We will help you understand how ADHD affects the entire family, seek professional help, and access healthcare services.

ADHD in the family system

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is a common condition that affects focus, self-control, and other important skills. In a family setting, these challenges can influence everyone’s daily life.

Dealing with ADHD in the family banner

ADHD is more than the inability to sit still or pay attention. It involves a range of behaviors that can make family routines and responsibilities harder to manage. For example, a child with ADHD might have trouble following instructions, which can lead to misunderstandings or frustrations. Adults with ADHD might struggle with organizing tasks, which can affect their ability to manage household duties or maintain schedules.

The impact of ADHD on a family can vary, but many share similar experiences. You, as a parent, may feel stressed or overwhelmed by the extra effort needed to manage your child’s behavior. Siblings might feel neglected or resentful if they perceive their brother or sister with ADHD is getting more attention. A family member with ADHD might feel misunderstood or isolated, sensing their differences but not knowing how to communicate them effectively.

A mother and a daughter, dealing with ADHD in the family
ADHD in the family has many significant impacts.

Approach ADHD with empathy and understanding. Be aware that these behaviors are not intentional. They are part of the condition. Your approach can help reduce frustration. Educating yourself and your family about ADHD will build a supportive environment where your loved one can thrive. Understanding leads to patience, and with patience, you can find effective ways to work together as a family.

Encourage open communication within your family. Talk about the challenges and feelings associated with ADHD, but also highlight the strengths and unique qualities of your family member with ADHD. This balanced view will create a supportive atmosphere, which will make it easier for everyone to contribute to finding solutions and adjustments in their daily routines.

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How prevalent is ADHD in Washington?

According to data from 2016–2019, 7.1% of children aged 3 to 17 years in Washington were diagnosed with ADHD. This statistic shows that ADHD has a significant impact on the younger population in Washinton.

As children become adults, the prevalence drops slightly to between 3% and 5%. This decrease may indicate that some people’s symptoms improve with age, or it may be due to the difficulty in diagnosing ADHD in adults. As a parent, it’s important to be aware that ADHD can persist into adulthood and that ongoing support and advocacy are necessary to help your family member.

How ADHD affects entire family

ADHD doesn’t just affect the person diagnosed with it. Everyone in the family feels its impact, which is why knowing how to deal with ADHD in the family is crucial. This condition can influence family dynamics in several ways:

  • Increased stress levels: The unpredictability of behaviors associated with ADHD, such as impulsivity and difficulty with time management, can lead to last-minute changes in plans or forgotten responsibilities. This unpredictability requires family members to adapt quickly. This often leads to frustration and anxiety.
  • The strain on marital relationships: Parents may disagree over how best to support or discipline their child with ADHD. One parent may advocate for stricter rules, while the other may push for more understanding and flexibility, leading to tension.
  • Impact on siblings: Brothers and sisters may feel neglected or less attended to because a child with ADHD might require more time and attention from parents. They may also experience embarrassment about their sibling’s behavior in social situations or resentment due to perceived unequal treatment.
A stressed person leaning against the wall due to ADHD in the family
ADHD in the family leads to mental health challenges.

How does ADHD affect family relationships?

The influence of ADHD on family relationships extends to independence, employment, and social relationships within the family context. ADHD effects on family relationships are:

  • Independence: Your loved one may struggle with tasks that require organization, planning, and time management, making it difficult to achieve independence. This can lead to frustration for both the individual and family members, who may need to provide additional support or take on responsibilities that the individual with ADHD finds challenging.
  • Employment: How does ADHD affect family relationships regarding employment? It can make maintaining employment difficult, which can impact the family’s financial stability and increase stress. Difficulty staying organized, meeting deadlines, and managing time effectively are common challenges that can impact job performance.
  • Social relationships: Social interactions can be complex for someone with ADHD. Impulsivity and difficulty in reading social cues can lead to misunderstandings or conflicts, affecting relationships not just outside but also within the family. Family members may feel the need to intervene or mediate in social situations, adding another layer of responsibility.

Dealing with ADHD effects on family

Open communication within the family about the challenges and feelings can help reduce stress and build a supportive environment. Seeking professional guidance on how to support a family member with ADHD can also be helpful.

When you understand the broad impact of ADHD in the family, you can take proactive steps to strengthen your family unit. You can improve communication and support each other effectively. Also, other people can help you. Many families are going through similar challenges, and support is here to help you build a positive and understanding home environment.

Can a family doctor diagnose ADHD?

Yes, a family doctor can evaluate your child’s symptoms and may refer you to a specialist, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, for further assessment. It’s important for the diagnosis to be thorough and comprehensive, especially in adults, as ADHD can sometimes be mistaken for other conditions, such as anxiety or depression. A specialist in ADHD is often better equipped to distinguish between these conditions, ensuring an accurate diagnosis.

An accurate diagnosis is necessary for targeted treatments and strategies that can significantly improve quality of life. For adults, recognizing ADHD can also provide a newfound understanding of past difficulties, such as academic or work-related challenges. It can also reveal ways to handle current challenges and improve their quality of life.

A young person studying
ADHD causes difficulty sustaining attention.

Symptoms of inattentive ADHD

Inattentive ADHD is one of the three ADHD types, alongside hyperactive-impulsive ADHD and combined type ADHD. It involves significant difficulties with attention and concentration, which can impact various aspects of life, from work to personal relationships. Unlike the hyperactive-impulsive type, it does not prominently feature hyperactivity or impulsivity, which makes it less noticeable but equally impactful.

Symptoms of inattentive ADHD may include:

  • Difficulty sustaining attention
  • Trouble organizing tasks
  • Forgetfulness in daily activities
  • Avoidance of tasks requiring sustained mental effort
  • Getting easily distracted
  • Failure to follow through on instructions

Difficulty sustaining attention

Your loved one may struggle to focus during tasks or leisure activities. For instance, during a conversation, they might miss key details or drift off, not following the thread of discussion. While working on a project or homework, they could start strong but quickly lose interest, moving on to something else without finishing.

During reading, they may find themselves having to reread paragraphs multiple times because their mind wanders away from the text. They might start watching a movie or show with interest but find themselves scrolling through their phone or thinking about unrelated things halfway through. In meetings or classes, maintaining focus on the speaker’s words becomes challenging, and they might not remember important points mentioned.

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Trouble organizing tasks

Planning, organizing, and completing tasks can be challenging, leading to missed deadlines or forgotten commitments. For instance, your loved one with ADHD may struggle to start a project because they can’t figure out what steps to take first, leading to procrastination. Important dates like appointments or deadlines might slip their mind, often leading to last-minute rushes or missed obligations. Their work or living spaces could be disordered, with difficulties maintaining a system for where things belong.

Completing multi-step tasks can be overwhelming, resulting in partially finished work or tasks being abandoned altogether. They might frequently underestimate the time needed for tasks, leading to a pattern of starting things too late and not finishing on time. With ADHD in the family, all this can be frustrating to all members.

Forgetfulness in daily activities

The disorder can cause your loved one to forget appointments. They may frequently misplace commonly used items like keys, wallet, or phone.

But when there is ADHD in the family, there could be some more serious challenges. A family member with ADHD could fail to meet obligations such as paying bills or responding to important emails. They might also forget to complete daily routines, such as taking medication, feeding a pet, or locking doors. All that can lead to some pretty problematic situations.

Avoidance of difficult tasks

There might be a tendency to avoid or procrastinate on tasks that are seen as mentally draining. For example, homework, work assignments, or projects that require deep focus could be put off until the last possible moment. They might frequently switch between tasks, never settling on one that requires continuous mental engagement. Activities like filling out forms, writing reports, or preparing for a presentation could be delayed or avoided altogether.

Getting easily distracted

External stimuli or unrelated thoughts can easily divert attention. Noise from a TV in another room or conversations nearby might make it difficult for a family member with ADHD to concentrate on the tasks at hand. They might start a lot of tasks while attempting to complete chores or errands, but minor distractions cause them to divert, leaving many tasks unfinished.

In settings like classrooms or open-plan offices, they might find it hard to focus due to the activities and movements around them. Unrelated thoughts or daydreams can interrupt their concentration during activities, causing them to lose track of what they are doing or planning to do next. When you have ADHD in the family, all this can put pressure on others and lead to some unpleasant scenarios.

Failure to follow through on instructions

This includes not completing work assignments, chores, or duties in the workplace without obvious reluctance or opposition. Instructions given in multi-step formats can be confusing, leading to only the first few steps being completed before they lose track of the remaining ones. They could overlook or forget parts of the instructions, leading to incomplete tasks or errors in the work they submit. In the workplace, they might miss key details in assignments or projects, leading to work that doesn’t meet the set expectations or objectives.

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How to support a family member with ADHD

When there is ADHD in the family, understanding, patience, and specific strategies that foster a positive and supportive home environment are essential. If you wish to help your loved one with ADHD, you need to:

  1. Set boundaries
  2. Encourage independence
  3. Maintain supportive dialogue

How to set boundaries when there is ADHD in the family

Dealing with ADHD in the family requires boundaries. Clear boundaries help create a structured environment that can reduce misunderstandings and conflicts. It’s important to establish these boundaries together and ensure they are realistic and respectful of your family member’s needs. This process can help the family member with ADHD understand expectations and the consequences of their actions, providing a sense of security and stability.

What you can do when there is ADHD in the family is set clear, achievable expectations for behavior and responsibilities. Make sure that everyone is aware of these. For those with ADHD, it might help to break down tasks into smaller, manageable steps. Also, establish consistent daily routines to help manage expectations and reduce uncertainty. Routines can make it easier for a family member with ADHD to follow through with tasks and responsibilities.

When setting limits or boundaries, explain why they are necessary in a way that shows understanding of the ADHD family member’s perspective. Ensure the consequences for crossing boundaries are logical and related to the behavior. However, some flexibility is also necessary. Be prepared to adjust boundaries as needed. What works well at one time may need to be adapted as situations and individuals change. And don’t forget to recognize and praise efforts and achievements, not just outcomes. Positive reinforcement encourages good behavior and helps build self-esteem.

Finally, when dealing with ADHD in the family, it’s vital for caregivers to also set boundaries for themselves. You must have time for self-care. This prevents burnout and enables you to provide better support.

How to encourage independence when dealing with ADHD in the family

Encourage your child to take responsibility for their actions and to participate in managing their ADHD. This can include:

  • involving them in setting up organizational systems
  • making decisions about their treatment plan
  • identifying strategies that help them focus and stay on task

Celebrating small successes can boost their confidence and motivation. Independence in managing their condition can lead to greater self-esteem and resilience.

How to maintain supportive dialogue

Regular check-ins where you can openly share feelings, experiences, and concerns can make a significant difference. It’s important to listen actively and empathetically, without judgment or immediate solutions. This supportive dialogue creates a trusting relationship, making it easier for your family member to come forward when they’re struggling or need help. Additionally, discussing ADHD openly can demystify the condition and reduce any stigma or shame associated with it.

Additional strategies for supporting a family member with ADHD

Strategies for support include the following:

  • Educating yourself and your family: The more you know about the condition, the better equipped you’ll be to provide support. Consider seeking resources from reputable organizations and professionals.
  • Using visual aids: Lists, planners, and calendars can help keep your family member organized and remind them of tasks and appointments.
  • Focusing on strengths: Everyone has strengths and talents. Focusing on these can help your family member with ADHD build self-esteem and find areas where they can succeed and feel competent.
  • Seeking professional help: Counseling or therapy, both for the individual with ADHD and for family members, can provide strategies for managing symptoms and improving family dynamics. Support groups can also offer a sense of community and understanding.
A person reading about ADHD in the family
Educate yourself and battle ADHD in the family.

Treatment and management of ADHD in the family

Managing ADHD in the family effectively often requires a comprehensive approach that combines medication, alternative treatments, and strategies to address accompanying issues, such as anxiety. Understanding the available options can help you make informed decisions about care.

ADHD medication

Stimulant medications are commonly prescribed for ADHD. ADHD medication works by increasing levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain to improve concentration and reduce impulsivity and hyperactivity. Non-stimulant medications are also available and can be an option for those who do not respond well to stimulants or who experience undesirable side effects.

Wellbutrin for ADHD

Wellbutrin, known generically as bupropion, is an antidepressant that is sometimes used off-label to treat ADHD. Unlike traditional ADHD medications, Wellbutrin affects norepinephrine and dopamine but without the stimulant effects. This can make it a suitable option for people who cannot tolerate stimulants. It’s important to discuss with a healthcare provider whether Wellbutrin for ADHD is an appropriate option, considering its benefits and potential side effects.

Comprehensive approaches to dealing with ADHD in the family

A comprehensive approach to managing ADHD often yields the best outcomes. This approach can include:

  • Behavioral therapy: Helps individuals develop coping strategies and skills to manage symptoms and improve functioning.
  • Educational support: Tailored educational plans (IEPs or 504 plans in the United States) can provide accommodations that help students succeed.
  • Lifestyle changes: Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate sleep can significantly impact symptom management.
  • Social skills training: This is especially beneficial for children and adolescents, as it helps improve interactions with peers and adults.
  • Mindfulness and stress management: Techniques such as meditation can help reduce anxiety and improve focus.
A therapist talking about ADHD in the family to a patient
A professional therapist will help you address the problem of ADHD in the family.

Anxiety treatment

Anxiety often co-occurs with ADHD, making it crucial to address both conditions. Anxiety treatment may include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which is effective in teaching coping mechanisms for anxiety symptoms. Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are also commonly used to manage anxiety.

Importance of tailored ADHD treatment

Every person’s experience with ADHD is unique. This makes personalized treatment plans a must. What works well for one person may not be effective for another. Ongoing communication with healthcare providers, regular assessments of treatment effectiveness, and adjustments as needed are key components of successful management.

How to access healthcare services for ADHD in Washington

For residents of Washington State, accessing healthcare services for ADHD and mental health support is streamlined through insurance providers like Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS). BCBS offers comprehensive mental health coverage, including therapy sessions, psychiatric consultations, and medication management. To access these services, start by reviewing your insurance plan details to understand your coverage scope, including any co-pays, deductibles, and requirements for pre-authorization.

Follow these steps to use the Blue Cross Blue Shield mental health coverage in WA:

  • Review your policy. Familiarize yourself with your plan’s specifics by consulting BCBS’s website or contacting customer service.
  • Find a provider. Use the BCBS online directory or contact customer service to find approved mental health professionals in your area.
  • Verify coverage. Before scheduling appointments, confirm with the provider that they accept BCBS and understand any upfront costs you may incur.
  • Schedule an appointment. Contact the mental health professional to schedule your appointment, indicating you have BCBS coverage.
An old couple learning about their insurance coverage regarding ADHD in the family
Make sure to understand your insurance coverage to support treating ADHD in the family.

If you have any other insurance plan, the steps are the same. Also, you can contact We Level Up Washington, and we will gladly help you understand your coverage and find the best treatment options for you or your loved one.

Your loved one with ADHD can live a better life with your support

Your readiness to stand by your child with ADHD makes a huge difference. Therefore, explore the effects and impacts of ADHD in the family, how to recognize the symptoms, and what to do to help. With the right information, support, and resources, you can guide your child towards managing their ADHD effectively. Engage with healthcare providers and consider all treatment options for ADHD in the family. Also, stay involved to ensure your child feels supported, understood, and empowered to thrive.


State-Based Prevalence of ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 Sept. 2020,

Vos, Melissa, and Catharina A Hartman. “The Decreasing Prevalence of ADHD across the Adult Lifespan Confirmed.” Journal of Global Health, vol. 12, 15 June 2022,,

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