One of my favorite people has ADHD. He keeps life interesting, funny, and I promise you there is never a dull moment. He is smart and observant, even when you think his head is in the clouds. I can’t wait to find out if he becomes a roboticist, engineer, or a circus performer when he grows up. Whatever he does will be unique and interesting. In his defense when I was his age, I wanted to be a lawyer and a rockette. I still want to be a rockette…
But he has to grow up first and parenting him can be challenging. Parenting a child with ADHD is a part-time job, particularly in the beginning of the school year. That’s why you’re reading this blog at the end of ADHD Awareness Month, instead of the beginning.
Co-parenting with your ex may add another obstacle to parenting a child with ADHD. Kids with ADHD need consistency, structure, and organization. They need a parent to be patient and explain rules and instructions clearly and often more than once. They need to know that there are rewards and consequences and not just theoretical rewards and consequences that you are going to forget. I am tired just thinking about all of these things.
If you provide this consistency and discipline for your child, but your co-parent does not, your child can suffer. They behavior and learning can be impacted. Your child can also rebel against you and show a preference to the “fun” parent, particularly when they get older.
Transitions may also be difficult for children with ADHD. Transitions between 2 homes when parents have a shared parenting time schedule may be another obstacle for your child to overcome. There may be morning and after school to-do lists at one home, but not the other. Bedtimes, food choices, and hygiene routines may vary. Some variation cannot be avoided, although consistency is more important for children with ADHD.
Communication and cooperation are key. They are the first factor in New Jersey’s best interest analysis that a court must consider when determining custody and parenting time for a reason. There are14 factors that the court must consider in determining the best interest of a child under N.J.S.A. 9:2-4: (1) the parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child; (2) the parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse; (3) the interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings; (4) the history of domestic violence, if any; (5) the safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent; (6) the preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision; (7) the needs of the child; (8) the stability of the home environment offered; (9) the quality and continuity of the child’s education; (10) the fitness of the parents; (11) the geographical proximity of the parents’ homes; (12) the extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation; (13) the parents’ employment responsibilities; and (14) the age and number of the children.
Not all of the factors apply in all cases, but the parents’ ability to “agree, communicate and cooperate” is continually important.
There are many resources online and in our local communities and schools for children with ADHD. I love this website with cartoons to explain ADHD https://www.adhddd.com/ It is geared towards adults, but I have shown some cartoons to my favorite people. Here is also a link about parenting a child with ADHD: https://chadd.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/parenting2015.pdf
Melissa Knoerzer, Esq. is an associate with the law firm of Adinolfi, Lieberman, Burick, Roberto & Molotsky in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Melissa has been practicing family law for many years and has helped many clients facing family law issues as they also care for their special needs children. If you are struggling to co-parent with your ex, and are facing these unique and challenging circumstances, reach out to Melissa to learn more about what may or may not be legally available to get you some well-deserved relief.