How does your spouse's ADHD impact your children?

I've been looking around here as I'm new to this site but haven't found too many references to the impact of a spouse's ADHD on children in the family. My husband has ADHD and takes medication but it is a continuous roller coaster of manic enthusiasm and bursts of anger and at times verbal abuse directed at me and our children (for example, calling my son an "f*ing retard" to his face). Until now I felt my 4-yr-old son was too young to understand but now he's starting to have uncontrolled outbursts himself and seems scared to make mistakes (as of course am I, that seems well-documented on this site). My husband recognizes this is not ok and sometimes apologizes but doesn't seem to be able to control himself. In my mind you can't apologize to a child after saying hurtful things and have that assuage the damage. I feel so alone here; I feel pretty strongly that kids should be raised in a 2-parent household if possible but am struggling with what is worse for them. My 4-yr-old is a sweet and loving boy but I don't know if this home life is producing these changes in him or if he's also got "it" and I'm going to start seeing more and more manifestations. My 1-yr-old seems to have been born with a bad temper and I fear for him too. I think I have made such a mistake and now my sweet boys are getting the brunt of it both genetically and environmentally... Mind you, 95% of the time my husband is actually a great and very involved dad. He clearly loves his children. Has this been anyone else's experience, and what are you doing to try and fix it, if that is possible?



Those who may have read my posts on here know that I am calling on my own experience. I can only go by what is written in your post. ABSOLUTELY your husband's behavior is abusive and bad for your children, and unless your husband has these outbursts with everyone he encounters, then he CAN help it.  You owe it to your young children to protect them from this happening again--no 4 year old should be called a "f*cking retard" by his father, are you kidding? I know that it can really throw you off balance when the rest of the time, he behaves like a loving father and is a good person. 

Based on my experience, I would tell your DH that he needs to seek treatment immediately for anger management and his ADHD. And that these outbursts and name calling are unacceptable and apologizing does not take it away--have you tried asking him why he is doing this and just explaining how it must affect your children to hear it? I hope you will get through to him. I read a phrase recently that said that young boys learn how to be men by watching their father--that is what did it for me. I couldn't have mine grow up thinking that the appropriate response when mad at a woman was to call her a b*tch. And be prepared--what you are going to do if he does it again or will not seek treatment? My spouse's behavior escalated into worse fits, name calling, then finally breaking objects and after a few years, throwing things at me. My sons were not treated this way, but I know they were affected by it and I hate every day that I didn't just leave sooner. 

I waited too long, asked him to go to counseling, and then gave mine an ultimatum--go to counseling right now or we are separating. Once he confessed to me that if he ever went, he couldn't talk much about the anger thing--I think underneath he was just too ashamed or worried about consequences. Unfortunately, mine would not go, so we are done (I was actually relieved that he said no at that point--I felt like I had tried everything I could). I hope that you are successful with your marriage and DH. I know that keeping a family and marriage intact is an admirable goal. In the meantime, do research on verbal and emotional abuse. It really opened my eyes. 


Lyninny, thanks for your helpful insight... He is taking medication and seeing a counselor. Although his counselor has also thrown out PTSD and "rapid-cycling bipolar" as possible additional diagnoses, so I'm not totally sure he has a real handle on what's going on here either. I told him (well, texted him) that I want us to start counseling together so naturally he was very pleasant and connected today. I've dealt with this when it is directed at me for many years now, at the expense of any emotional intimacy for the sake of protecting my self worth, but when it is directed at my children and I start to see it hurting them I truly don't know what to do. This is not the life I wanted for myself or my beautiful kids. I love my husband or at least I love the memory of what we once had. All in all I think he is a loving person with no impulse control and crippled self-esteem. So far I have been telling my son, "Dad gets angry sometimes but he loves you. I am going to try to teach you the right ways to act when you are angry." This sucks. When I attended counseling before, I felt all I was doing was talking about my husband and the sessions were supposed to be about me, so I tried not to bring him up. Now I understand better from reading on this site how important it is that I talk this through with someone.

djdj, I say the same things


I say the same things you've said to my son. I tell him to go beyond these four walls and meet people from all walks of life, there are codes of conduct out there in all walks of life. There are also a lot of borderline functioning people with all sorts of issues. We have our struggles with dad. There are days when I try not to bring attention to the angry or odd displays but my son is getting old enough to look right at me and mumble, "Seriously?" so in this sense, I feel like I have someone who's seeing what I'm seeing and I'm not the one always at fault....

On the self esteem issues. How much conflict growing up caused by ADHD in childhood I cannot tell, but dh was treated horribly into his late teens. I believe abuse of childhood esteem leads to poor processing for anyone. Sometimes I get the sensation when dh is arguing with me, he's not seeing me, but he's seeing and arguing his overbearing father who dished out the most abuse. Sometimes the arguments sound a bit like a child who's feels he's losing the battle to a parent but insists on being willful and defensive.

Sounds like my husband and

Sounds like my husband and his father.  Unfortunately, my husband spends four days a week with his parents, helping out, because my mother-in-law has dementia.  So he's back in the atmosphere that, I think, contributed heavily to his emotional disability in the first place.