As challenging as it was when you were married to your ex with ADHD, at least when you were married you could manage things and hopefully that meant compensating for your ex's ADHD difficulties. Trying to manage your children's belongings and schedule when they are with your ex who has ADHD can make the problem exponentially worse. A person with ADHD -- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder -- struggles with how to organize and manage the components of their life such as belongings and their schedule. It really helps if your ex is aware of their limits, uses compensatory strategies and accepts your help and help from others. But what if they don't?
There is no getting around the reality that if you have an uncooperative ex with ADHD that complicates logistical aspect of being divorced with children even more than is typical. Everyday life events such as keeping track of belongings, and making sure your kids are on for their activities become complicated ordeals. Sports equipment gets lost, homework doesn't get turned in, kids are late for activities and birthday parties are attended without presents; making you feel like a failure. In short, life can be quite chaotic for a child living with an ADHD parent in a divorce situation, making your life chaos too.
Helping children adjust from one household to another in divorcé is difficult and now add ADHD in one parent. Here are eight things you can do when your ex has ADHD:
1. If possible have separate items for each household.
Nothing is more frustrating that having your children arrive back from visitation with an ex with one or more of their essential belongings missing. Often times in these situations children want to compensate for their parent with ADHD and feel that they have of make excuses. As a result not only do you not have all their belongings, they begin to learn to the unhealthy habit of defending one parent to another "It's not mom's fault that I forgot my soccer cleats" a child may say for example. Being a child and living out of suitcase during visitation is too hard to manage without significant parent monitoring and oversight. Thus, having separate items belonging to individual households ensures that your child will always have what they need. When you know in advance that your ex has ADHD, make it part of an overall divorce agreement to have separate items in each home for your child;this is more difficult to enforce after your divorce.
2. When your child does arrive back home without all their stuff, keep cool and realize it's frustrating but it's not worth blowing up over in front of your child.
They already feel bad because they think they let you down. Getting angry at them only makes it harder. Have a backup plan where you ask your ex to make another trip to bring what they forgot or sometimes it may be easier to just get it yourself. Sometimes that's all you can do; accept the reality and make the best of it.
3. If you can't convince your ex to have a separate set of items at their house then minimize the amount of items going back-and-forth and limit what your children take with them when they do their visitation.
If your ex wants to have more than what you send than they can purchase more. Recognize that the more you send, the more they will have to keep track of and the less likely you're going to get everything back. A lot of belongings are difficult for people with ADHD to manage so keep it simple.
4. Have a laminated list of items that are with your kids during their visitation and once they can read encourage them to compare their items to the list before they return home.
If they have sports equipment that they need they may be more motivated to use this strategy.
5. On the weekends that your children are with your ex and they have sports games, send your ex an email in advance reminding them of the times of the games and practices and their location.
Children ages eight and up can start to develop some independence and can be responsible for reminding your ex of the schedule and helping keep track when they're at your ex's house.
6. Homework will be a challenge when your ex has ADHD.
If possible do the homework at your house. If not, enlist the school's help. Most schools will provide duplicate copies of assignments to children living in two households and helps when things get lost at your ex's house. Don't be afraid to communicate with the school about the reality of the situation; sometimes students can do their homework at school.
7. Recognize the burden of management will be on you regardless of whether you are married because you still share the children and the responsibilities of parenting.
Know that when you have a highly structured and organized environment, your children will learn these skills and be able to use them as they get older to help with management at your ex's house.
8. Do the best you can and share this sentiment with your children.
A person with ADHD isn't trying to be difficult and disorganized. I know because I have ADHD myself! Change and organization occurs when people use strategies that make life more manageable despite the ADHD. If an ex won't get help keeping organized, the people around them don't have to participate in the chaos, and this includes the children!