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Parenting with ADHD can be funny, but it's no joke: Here, 3 tips that can help

In a funny parody video, a family raps about adult ADHD. But humor aside, what advice can an expert offer parents who have the condition?
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

It can be easy for those who have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to lose focus. So it's unsurprising that, in the latest parody from the Holderness family, dad Penn Holderness gets distracted by everything — from a squirrel in his yard to the music coming from an ice cream truck — as he raps about his own challenges with the condition.

"You down with ADD? Yeah, so is he," Holderness and his family sing in the parody of the 1991 hit "O.P.P." by rap group Naughty by Nature.

Throughout the video, Holderness outlines the struggles and successes he's had in handling the condition, explaining that while he may be quick to tune out wife Kim while she's talking about home decor, he also finds that he can be creative, hard-working and good at multi-tasking as a result of having ADHD.

"I hate that it's called a disorder," Holderness wrote in a blog post about the video. "There are so many things that people with ADHD do well...we have an energy that is often infectious. We are passionate and spontaneous and creative. We love to love, and to be loved."

Still, there are challenges to parenting with ADHD.

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"I know what a pain in the butt it can be living with someone who sometimes bounces around like a pinball," Penn wrote in the post. "I bet my wife sometimes feels she has to put up with three children, not two."

Dr. David Goodman leads the Adult Attention Deficit Disorder Center of Maryland, and says in parenting situations, it is common for the non-ADHD parent to feel frustrated or overworked. To prevent one parent taking on the bulk of responsibility for the family, Goodman offers some tips for families dealing with adult ADHD.

Find the right medication for your family's needs.

Goodman cautions against taking ADHD medications that wear off within a few hours, as often parents with ADHD have responsibilities to their families after working hours are over.

"Typically people will take medicine just for work and they go home and by 6 p.m., the medicine has worn off," said Goodman. "But now you have to function as a parent with a child, and you have to coordinate with your spouse so dinnertime becomes difficult and the homework period becomes difficult."

Instead, Goodman recommends ADHD parents take a once-a-day, long-acting stimulant — one that is still working during dinner, homework and bedtimes. And, the doctor recommends not skipping doses on the weekends, when some parents tend to be less likely to reach for their ADHD medication.

It's also important for parents to take their medication early enough in the morning to allow them to be helpful to their spouse and children during the morning rush to get to work and school on time. Goodman suggests taking medication upon waking, or setting an alarm for an hour before wake up time, taking the medication, and going back to sleep until it kicks in.

"Mornings can be stressful," said Goodman. "And this lessens impatience and helps you be less likely to yell at your kids."

Establish family routines.

"Do the same thing in the same way at the same time," said Goodman. "Every single day."

To keep days running smoothly, Goodman recommends setting alarms or creating visual cues that remind ADHD parents to take their medication. And, it's a good idea to have a morning and evening routine posted in a place — like the front of the refrigerator — where everyone in the family can see it.

"It's important for everyone to see the routine and know what is expected of them at different times," said Goodman. "Routines also help the non-ADHD spouse feel like they are not always having to be the organizer for the entire family."

In the latest parody from the Holderness family, Penn Holderness raps about the struggles and successes he's had as an adult with ADHD. YouTube

Communication is key.

Goodman says it's important for the ADHD spouse and the non-ADHD spouse to have a signal that allows the ADHD spouse to express that they are feeling distracted or impatient, and are unable to fulfill their duties at that time. Goodman suggests a certain touch, facial expression or code word between partners to help communicate what is happening in moment and prevent stress later on.

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"Yelling 'Pay attention!' at an ADHD person is like yelling 'Look out!' at a blind person," said Goodman. "It's not an issue of willingness, it's an issue of capability."

While adults can understand ADHD and it's symptoms, it can be difficult for kids to understand why Dad isn't paying attention to their story about their day at school. Because of this, Goodman encourages parents to communicate to their child — when age-appropriate — what ADHD is and how it manifests.

"The children need to accurately interpret the parent's behavior," said Goodman. "They need to understand that a parent's distractibility does not mean the parent is disinterested in what they are saying."

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Goodman says there are silver linings to parenting with ADHD — ADHD parents are often spontaneous and creative, and are typically fun, loving parents to their kids.

Penn Holderness agrees.

"I play to my strengths," Holderness told TODAY Parents. "When I get that antsy distracted 'ADD feeling,' I grab the kids and do something spontaneous and ridiculous. They love it 99 percent of the time."