Son with ADHD, mother with BPD - CHADD's ADHD Pare...

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Son with ADHD, mother with BPD

RolandOfEld profile image
16 Replies

Hello all, let me introduce myself.

My son (five years old) was recently diagnosed ADHD. I was upset but in a way relieved since it explained a lot of his behavior, which until that point I had wholly blamed myself for.

Here's the complication: his mother, my wife, has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). If you're not familiar with BPD, the short answer is she can go from normal to raging and disassociated in 30 seconds. Recent behaviors include hitting me while I was sleeping next to our 2 year old daughter, trying to make two year old daughter pee on the floor so I had to clean it, and cutting half my wardrobe to shreds. Not a good environment for children and I'm doing everything I can to improve it. She has also recently acknowledged her illness and is taking some first steps.

Here's problem 1): This means its hard to distinguish how much of his negative behaviors are coming from ADHD and what are coming from home environment.

Here's problem 2): dealing with mama's problems leaves me so emotionally used up that I have very little energy to give son and am becoming a really bad father (screaming at him, grabbing him when he won't stop running around).

Today is a first step, coming here to learn more about ADHD and hopefully get some context by which to determine how to better understand and help my son.

Looking forward to connecting with everyone here and hearing your insights!


16 Replies
kirahush profile image

Oh man! You seriously have your hands full. I work in the Mental Health/Substance Abuse field as a counselor so I completely understand your situation. I know this is hard to hear should send your wife to inpatient treatment until she gets a handle on her BPD and learns the coping skills necessary to nurture healthy relationships. Her BPD may be contributing to your children's behavior because this is their "normal." Every household has a different "normal" that contributes to how they behave, at home and in the community. Do you think you could handle being a single dad for a while so that their mother can get her s**t together? Better to have one parent teaching boundaries, responsibilities and social norms than having two parents with varying lessons.

I honestly wish you the best of luck with this sticky situation. BPD is very difficult to deal with but most women eventually grow out of it as they learn the coping skills necessary to deal with their emotions. BPD is often a result of severe childhood trauma and that can be treated with therapy and a process called EMDR. It's an eye movement treatment that changes the traumatic thoughts into "normal" ones that no longer haunt the patient. Look into it! I know that it works....first hand! I've been utilizing it for my own issues.

Keep us posted!

RolandOfEld profile image
RolandOfEld in reply to kirahush

Hi kirahush, I really appreciate your feedback, especially from your professional background, thank you!

The status right now is that my wife is aware of her condition and taking steps to get better. She sees the psychiatrist and takes her medication religiously. She sees a counselor from time to time and we also go together sometimes. And she is reading books to help her escape "black and white" thinking.

She is about to start her dream job after 4 years of taking care of the kids at home so unfortunately there is no way she would join a hospital program right now. The job may help her mood a lot. So I will make do.

But she's not there yet and stuff still happens like I described. When it does, I go into "single dad" mode like you mentioned and pretend she's not there and just focus on keeping things as normal for the kids as I can.

My son's behavior has been getting more extreme recently, such as intentionally peeing on the floor several times a day. As said, I don't know if this is the environment or his ADHD progressing as he gets older. I'm trying to get myself educated to cope with his situation better instead of putting so much focus on my wife.



luya profile image

Hang in there. I completely understand what you’re going through. Both of my kids have attentional issues and a trauma history. I used to constantly ask myself things like “Is this because he’s three, because he probably has ADHD, or because he had a rough life before I met him?” - but after some time and research I came to the conclusion that the exact “why” isn’t the crucial question. I was parenting my kids according to what I thought they should need instead of what their behavior was telling me they need.

You’re also surrounded by people who can’t regulate their emotions. I don’t have specific answers for you, but as a single parent of two kids who cannot be left to their own devices for more than about 45 seconds, I notice a huge difference in the quality of my parenting when i know I’ve carved out some time to take care of myself. From that standpoint, it’s gotten a little bit easier to choke down my first “WHAAAAAAAAT DID YOU DO?!?!” reaction and get to talking about big feelings that may have been going on at the time.

RolandOfEld profile image
RolandOfEld in reply to luya

Thank you, luya! That must so exhausting, face two kids as a single parent. Our kids are the same in that you really can't leave the room for more than 30 seconds before the fighting or wailing begins.

I really like your two main points: 1) drop the why and focus on the behavior, and 2) focus on the self care. This is something I've been negotiating with my wife recently since I see that my impatience towards my son has A LOT to do with how much rest I'm getting (close to none) and not just with how bad his behavior is.

I really appreciate the paradigm shift!



Mudpies profile image

My heart goes out to you. We have two boys one with ADHD and my husband is schizoaffective bipolar subtype. He is also seeking treatment but it has been the hardest year of my life. I’m not sure if the relationship you have with your children’s pediatrician but that has been my lifeline for me and my children. I also have been “single parenting” it for a while now. Our pediatrician is the one person in our lives who knows the whole truth and I can be completely honest with about my sons behavior, my reality, and my emotions. He has helped us tremendously. My suggestion would be to find a professional that can help walk you through this mine field you’re currently living in. Rest is also extremely important for me as well. Make that a priority in your life if you can. Also, I go to my husbands psychiatrist appointments with him. I give the doctor my perspective at every appointment, that seems to be helpful in my husbands treatment also. Above all else welcome to this group. You’re not alone and we are all here to support you.

RolandOfEld profile image
RolandOfEld in reply to Mudpies

Hi Mudpie, I'm not familiar with your husband's disorder but it sounds quite serious and I'm guessing has some similarities to BPD. I'm so sorry for all you've been through and would like to hear more about your year. Same for me. I think we have faced similar difficulties.

I truly appreciate your suggestion as to a professional. I'm fortunate in that our psychiatrist and counselor are both aware of my wife's condition now so I think I'll try to keep in closer contact with them.

anirush profile image

This must be so hard for you. My daughter was diagnosed with BPD as a teen. She got pregnant in her early twenties when she was on drugs and had two boys. Now in her thirties she is stable has a good job, but she still has severe anxiety disorder

The older boy has ADHD and depression with but is under control with medication. The youngest has had severe behavioral problems since Age 3. There's been constant Med changes over the years. Right now in seventh grade he is actually pretty stable.

My daughter also gets angry at the drop of a pin. She refuses to be on medication which makes it tougher. I have learned not to react to her mood swings. But it's easier since I don't live with her. Grandson with the most problems lives with me full time because she can't handle him when he gets unstable. Keep looking for help and take care of yourself. My job and my church are my safe places.

RolandOfEld profile image
RolandOfEld in reply to anirush

Thank you for your insights anirush. I would be interested to hear more about how your daughter's BPD stabilized. I often wonder about raising a BPD child since my son reflects some of wife's behaviors. Makes me worry about more than ADHD on the horizon.

bridg profile image

Buy the book 123 Magic and Start using that method for your children. You can also teach your wife, so she won’t have to scream at the kids, discipline will be easier. Good luck!

RolandOfEld profile image
RolandOfEld in reply to bridg

Thank you for the recommendation! I hadn't heard of it.

MunchkinMommy537 profile image

My heart goes out to you and all your family. My suggestion mirrors some of the others: take time to care for yourself so you can more effectively care for your family. Try to find a babysitter or someone who can watch the kids so you and your wife can have some alone time to remember why you got married. I highly recommend an online counseling service called Talkspace. You are assigned a therapist that you chat with through a text based chat room. You can send messages whenever you need to and your therapist answers when they get a chance. So if something happens at 1 AM you can send a message and not have to wait until your next appointment to discuss it. For your son, I recommend a pediatric psychiatrist (if you want to try medication) and psychologist (to help with behaviors). 5 is a tough age to get help for, so be persistent when looking. Good luck.

RolandOfEld profile image
RolandOfEld in reply to MunchkinMommy537

Thank you, MunchkinMommy537. An online service might be more feasible with my schedule. Sometimes I really need someone at weird times, especially since I live in my wife's country in Asia (12 hours difference from US).

MissOz profile image

I thought about your post many times today. This is A LOT for one to handle. I’m so sorry you have to go through this. I hope your wife gets the treatment she and you need. Her condition is not hers, only. It affects the entire family. She suffers, you suffer, the kids suffer.

Sometimes, when the home environment is not healthy, it could be a good idea to keep the children busy outside the house. Lots of extra curricular activities involving sports and music.

RolandOfEld profile image
RolandOfEld in reply to MissOz

I really appreciate your kind words, MissOz. It is A LOT, especially considering I live abroad in my wife's country and have no access to family and friends. I believe we are taking a positive turn, but it will be a long time before real progress is visible. I agree with your suggestion of more time for kids out of house and activities.

paradoxlive profile image

As I've read all the replies I see that almost everything has been said. I wanted to add that for my family, seeing a therapist who focuses on parenting skills has been a lifesaver. I didn't know they existed until I started looking for a therapist for my seven-year-old son. My husband and I have had sessions with our own "advisor" while our son waits in the lobby playing games on my phone. We have learned how to set limits, how to engage our son in "jobs" like doing his homework or getting his shower that get a reward when done reasonably well. Sometimes the reward is a high five and a 'great job' on his Responsibility Chart (Amazon) and sometimes his rewards are tokens he can trade in for cash, screen time, and various privileges.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that children with ADHD do have a higher chance of having other psychiatric disorders. I'm not saying this to scare you but to let you know that it is very good of you to keep an eye on your son and to get him evaluated if you are concerned about BPD, Major Depression, Anxiety, and learning issues like dyslexia, dyspraxia, and other neurological differences. I say "differences" because all of these "diagnoses" come with upsides. Especially for kids who get treatment early and maintain their self-esteem. My son is a great artist and lego engineer! He's awesome at math and at expressing himself verbally. His handwriting is his only impediment to telling those stories on paper. I've got him in Occupational Therapy and he sees a regular counselor as well. Yes, it fills up the calendar and leaves little time for LIFE. But it has made the living we do share a lot easier. It's even brought the fun back! Once my hubby and I learned HOW to parent an ADHD child we started to enjoy parenting our awesome little guy again.

With regard to your wife, she does seem to be moving in the right direction though it sounds like she might need a change of medication. I say this as someone who is disabled due to Major Depression and Anxiety. I have spent some time in hospitals and partial hospital programs. There is a program near me that runs in the evenings for people who work and uses Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) to help people learn to reframe their thoughts and assumptions, put time in between thought and action, and lots of other super helpful things. Another response mentioned EMDR and I do agree that it is an effective therapy as well. You don't have to pick just one! A good EMDR therapist helped me through a lot of trauma and may be able to help your wife as well.

Speaking of trauma - YOU are experiencing it RIGHT NOW. And maybe for the moment, you need to be self-reliant and be the single dad but at some point, I hope that you will consider putting time into your own mental wellbeing. Sometimes there literally is NO TIME for self-care. I know. Joining this group is a great start though! Welcome. :) I wish you had a local support system but maybe there are groups in the area. I love Google for that kind of research. Or, if there is a mental health center, they may be able to help you find further support. There's nothing like having a group of people who are experiencing similar things to share with and learn from. I need to find an ADHD parent support group here! (I'm better at advice than at doing.) Try and remember that you too are under a lot of stress and forgive yourself when you make mistakes like yelling when you don't mean or want to. I've found that apologizing for my own outbursts has modeled the behavior for my little guy and now he does the same. We all make mistakes. We all try to do the best by our kids. And as Dr. House says, "all parents screw up all children."

Be Well.

RolandOfEld profile image
RolandOfEld in reply to paradoxlive

paradoxlive I was very moved by your feedback, thank you!

I will keep a watch for other disorders. I had never heard of ODD until I came here but that seems a high likelihood as well. I'm trying not to get too wrapped up in letters and labels but having a context in which to understand my son's behaviors is extremely helpful (much like when I started learning about BPD regarding my wife).

And I love how you emphasized looking for the positive in a diagnosis. My son is a brilliant little engineer just like yours and I am amazed by what he can do.

Our hospital here in fact has a DBT program led by doctors trained in Seattle, but time-wise it is not so possible for my wife and the psychiatrist even encouraged against it. I think semi-regular check ins with our counselor are more possible. I will look into EMDR.

Your reply along with everyone else's has given me a lot of hope and inspiration!



PS - If anyone has any additional book recommendations, I would very much appreciate it!

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