Fathers with ADHD
Hands down, fathers with ADHD might just win the “Best Father in the World” award when it comes to having fun.
“I’m like a grown up kid and they love it,” says Joe Elfassy, who has learned how to be a clown, a juggler, and an amateur chef. “My girls have a dad who can do things most other dads can’t.”
“I’m not afraid to try anything,” Elfassy says. “I’m all about spontaneity. We garden, build things, I teach them how to repair things. I’m very hands-on, and whatever I do I involve them in it,” says this stay at home dad, who has two daughters, ages 5 and 9. “I am always able to see the funny side of any given situation.
“The kids know that if they want to have a good time, go see dad. No matter what my kids want to try, I’m in. No matter how difficult or unrealistic their requests, I will try to figure out a way that we can do it.”
Duane Gordon, also father to two daughters, one of whom has ADHD, echoes the very same sentiments. Gordon laughed, remembering when his youngest daughter was in the first grade and needed to dress up as the engine of a train for a Christmas pageant. “Between the two of us, we went kind of crazy… ok, it was mostly me,” he admits. “By the time we had finished, there was even smoke coming out of the engine, but the only problem was once she put it on, she couldn’t lift it and we had to dismantle a good portion of it.
“Another Christmas my daughter, Kyrie, and I took it upon ourselves to put the lights up outside to decorate the house for Christmas. “We figured we can do this up right, and by the time we were finished, planes were probably going off track because our house was so bright with all the lights covering our house.
“These are memories that my daughters still have today -- of all the crazy things they did with dad,” Gordon said. “Most definitely one of the plus sides of being a father with ADD is coming up with so many wacky ideas and doing strange stuff without bothering to think whether or not this makes sense, is it logical? I just go for it.”
Even now, although Gordon’s daughters are in their 20‘s, they come to him to problem solve, or for brainstorming. Gordon says they can always rely on me for ideas. Most recently, Gordon said his oldest daughter, 27, who is soon graduating with a Ph.D. in psychology, turned to him for ideas for a research topic. “I can think of great questions or ideas even if I don’t totally understand the subject matter.”
“One of the ADHD traits that make ADHD dads the best dads in the world is our curiosity and willingness to learn about things our kids are interested in,” said Jay Carter. “ADHD dads can hyperfocus with their child on whatever the latest and greatest thing piquing their child’s interest, and then when the child’s attention wanes from that particular area of fascination, so does the dad’s, where other dads might become frustrated they invested so much time and energy now that their kid has lost interest,” Carter pointed out.
Joe Pecile, father of two boys, ages 22 and 25, believes that a father with ADHD can be more understanding as opposed to judgmental because of their own challenges.
Elfassy agrees, however, he realizes that when he is off his medication he can forget how young his children are and expect a bit too much from them. “When off my meds, I can begin to feel like everything they do is against me,” he admitted. “With medication, I remember that they are just kids.”
It’s that inconsistency that is one of the challenges for Elfassy being a father with ADHD. Elfassy acknowledges that when he hasn’t taken his ADHD medication, he tends to react to the smallest stimuli even though it’s really not that big a deal. Elfassy said that his children notice the difference, so when he’s forgotten to take his medication, even his youngest will say, “Daddy, you’ve gone crazy, take your meds.”
During his daughter’s teen years, Gordon said it was difficult not to overreact. “When a kid does something, you react immediately without thinking of the consequences and whether or not this is really that important. The same impulsivity that makes me ready for anything fun often leads me to say things I regret later.”
Pecile pointed out that once he learned about his ADHD, his family relationships improved. The understanding helped him retreat to a neutral corner of the ring rather than engaging immediately in a more negative way.
Carter believes that sometimes his impulsivity can be positive because it helps him to reward behavior quickly. “The trick is to make sure that our impulsive reaction has the appropriate amount of correction or reinforcement,” Carter said.
“One of the biggest challenges of being a father with ADHD is trying to create consistency in the way that we work with our children,” Carter said. “Most kids, especially kids with ADHD, do well with structure: going to bed at the same time, getting up about the same time, having the same expectations for homework and chores around the house. But for dads with ADHD, this can really be challenging. We strive for some level of consistency in our own life and even that’s hard to do sometimes.
“Dads with ADHD struggle with social cues in social situations, but we also struggle with the social cues around our own family,” Carter pointed out. “Fathers with ADHD can sometimes have difficulty in picking up on some of the things a child is going through and may not be quite as able to step in with the appropriate response.”
Forgetfulness is another challenge of fathers with ADHD, Elfassy said. On a recent Saturday, his wife had suggested he take his daughters to the fair that was in town while she was at work. Efassy said he planned to do just that, but woke up thinking what a perfect day it was to build a garden and got so involved working with his kids in the backyard, that he totally forgot about the fair. He felt bad that he let his daughters down. He knows they were disappointed and when things like that happen, he feels he’s let himself down as well.
“As dads with ADHD, we’re often very busy because there are so many things we like to do and we don’t always make time or set aside time to be there for our kids,” Carter said.
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