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What's the most effective way to step-parent a toddler with ADHD?

green_eyes89 profile image

I am engaged to the love of my life...who has a preschooler with ADHD. The situation is pretty complicated because his mother has him 4-5 days out of the week and he gets very little attention at home and has virtually no structure or routine when he's there because she is too preoccupied with her boyfriend and her 2 other children who are both two years and under. Every weekend he arrives dirty (as in she hasn't bathed him in days), hungry/thirsty (90% of the time), and starving for attention (so he is out of control). His mother is inattentive, uncooperative, and unconcerned when it comes to co-parenting a child with ADHD. At our house however, we provide a relatively regular routine and a structured environment conducive to his special needs. I have been doing what I can to educate myself on the most effective and positive way to parent a toddler with ADHD, but it's a constant uphill battle. Every week we go through the frustrating process of getting him used to our structured routine...and then he goes home to his mother. Over the duration of my time with him I can definitely tell we're making at least some positive progress in a couple areas with him, but every week it's totally disheartening to my fiancée and I when we feel like all the progress we were making with him has been completely erased in his time away. I'm just hoping that by joining this support group I can get the advice I so desperately need!

5 Replies

Welcome to the group! I had a very similar experience. So I can share what I feel is very much needed in a situation like this. First and foremost his mother needs to jump on the same page for the well being of the child. Though it may seem impossible it’s a structure that needs to happen. If you do not change the cycle I can assure you it only gets worse. Kids with ADHD thrive for structure, they like knowing what to expect and need comfort in their surroundings, any child does but it affects our children differently due to their inability to thrive without structure.

It took my sons father and I am immense amount of coparenting therapy to not only understand the need of our son, but to do what was best for him, which was team up!

It’s very hard being on your end because you only have so much influence, I have my son 90% of the time, but the moment he would go to his dads the structure went afar. Which confused my son and made things unbearable again until he realized through the best interest of our child was detrimental.

It’s a commitment and lots of time and energy. It’s hard enough being up kids in this society in general but the foundation is where it starts.

I hope you find the support you need on here. There is so much information and great people on here who show ongoing support.

Thank you for sharing your experience with me! I completely agree that his mother needs to get on board with providing structure and routine, as well as getting on-board with actively co-parenting...but I fear that is going to be a battle in and of itself because she's extremely immature and petty when it comes to (as she puts it) "telling her how to raise HER child". What's really pathetic is that I've only been in his life 10 months (she refused to let us see him for the first year we were together because she was mad that my fiancée was in a happy, loving relationship for once...as I said, immature and petty) and I'm more concerned about his health and well-being than she claims to be. Ultimately, I feel it's going to end up with us fighting it out in court for custody because she would rather do things the hard way rather than compromise.

I’m so sorry you’re having to go through this. When it comes to a child, parents have to do what is best for them for best results, especially with kids with special needs.

I’d talk to your fiancé about next steps and creating a better foundation of that means going to court. Sometimes that’s the only way the other parent opens their eyes.

I will admit it will be a struggle on your relationship but if you’re committed it will be a blessing for you and his child.

Hello green_eyes89,

Your situation sounds very complicated and you are an amazing mom to step up and parent this child that needs you as an advocate. My ADHD son is now 14. I'll share with you what helped turn things around for us at that age.

* Sensory activities to fill his need touching, feeling, engaging his body. He could swing for hours, loved being tossed around or squished like a sandwich in couch cushions.

* Tons of playful connection --especially when he could initiate the play. Books: Playful Parenting, The Art of Roughhousing. Examples: Having a sword battle with pool noodles. * Check out the booklets and tools at Hand in Hand Parenting. (handinhandparenting.org) This organization really changed my thinking on how to connect with my preschooler, how to help him handle his very big emotions, and made me feel more confident as a parent.

Good luck and best wishes.

Toddlers are the toughest... until puberty then things really heat up. But certain principles work at any age. Research Pax Tools for parents and adapt them as needed. Here are a couple of links:

Pax Tools intro


Pax Breaks


Working from home


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