How, why or when to discuss your ADD marriage problems with the kids

After asking for a separation from my husband of 18 years (yes, things had gotten that bad), and after 2 -3 months of marriage counseling, my husband was diagnosed with ADD.  The diagnosis really helped explain a lot of things (my feelings of complete lack of connection with my husband, my feelings of doing everything within the marriage, our pathetic sex life, my husband's complete surprise that there was a problem...) and, to a large extent, we follow the patterns in the books a bit too perfectly  (except we did not argue much).  My husband has since started on medication, but its been too early for me to tell if there is an improvement in the same behaviors that led us to this point. Some of the behaviors are definitely still there, and I am trying not to fall into our typical reaction cycle, but I do sometimes.   (We are separated so our interactions are fewer---less stress on me, perhaps more on our children).  My kids are now 17 and 15, and the older one was diagnosed with ADD about 10 years ago.  (No, none of his counselors or the educational psychiatrist told us that it was likely inherited from one of the parents.) 

My question---despite our other problems---is how much of our circumstances to explain to the kids (primarily) and other people (parents, relatives, close friends).  My children are really angry at me for "sending dad away," and since they did not see a problem, I can understand their viewpoint.  They demonstrate their anger by ignoring me, making belittling remarks to me, slamming doors, stonewalling, refusing to answer questions, generally being rude, telling me he doesn't love or respect me, etc.  They do see their father quite frequently---we alternate dinner nights with the kids and weekend fun time, and breakfasts when school is in session.  (Their father virtually never made dinner before our separation and never got up with them to make breakfast---which I did, out of choice, and rarely planned weekend activities.)  We have both told them that we both take even responsibility for our marriage problems, but they clearly see this as something that I initiated---which I did.  We have told them that we are "working on it,"  but again---they don't see what we are doing (marriage counseling, individual counseling, reading all the ADD material I can find, trying a few "date nights").  I have not wanted them to know too much of what we are doing, because I don't want them to get their hopes up too much for a reconciliation. 

How much should we tell them about ADD and its effects on our marriage (the typical behaviors, etc.)  and my husband's medication and our general work on the relationship?  I don't want to blame the ADD or my husband for all of our problems, but it seems like many of our problems may be rooted in the ADD.  This is especially touchy because they are teenage boys so they are not particularly communicative to start with---and one of them has unmedicated ADD  (that we may now choose to discuss medication with as an option before he goes off to college.)  Before our separation, I had a great relationship with both of my kids.  Now, I think they hate me (at least for now) and its really painful.   In addition, my parents are completely non-supportive of me and our separation.  They think I am selfish and just mean---they don't care about ADD or its effect.  Again---I care a bit less about telling them---but they ask very detailed questions whenever we talk (which is not often now).  I don't know if my husband wants me telling other people (parents, etc.) about his ADD---I think he thinks of it as "something wrong with him."  Any advice on dealing with angry children from while we work on the marriage?

I'm not an expert, but...

If you and your husband are getting along well enough to co-parent then this is a decision you should discuss together. I think if your kids are old enough to ask detailed questions they deserve some detailed responses, but it would be best if the responses were ones that the two of you could agree on ahead of time.

Have you ever considered taking your kids to a family counselor? Someone who works with families might be able to help give you and your husband a voice without placing all the blame on either of you. This would also give your kids someone besides you who they could express their fears and anger to. A therapist would also probably do a better job of explaining the ADD issues without making it seem like if your husband takes a magic pill everything is fixed.

Btw, since ADD is extremely inheritable, are either of your kids effected? If one or both of your kids has ADD this could also complicate their identification with your husband and fear of being rejected.

united front

I, too, am feeling my way through a separation (9 months ago) and upcoming divorce from my spouse with ADHD. We have two children as well. Kudos for you for presenting a united front to your children. 

I don't think you owe a specific explanation to your family or friends--just that you are separating and working on some issues. I am sorry to hear that your parents have the attitude that they do. I hope they will come around. In the meantime, you know what? They don't have to live your life. They don't wake up in your shoes every day.  

And your children? I know, ouch. I suspect they are acting out toward you because you are the easiest target and they feel comfortable doing so. Can you get everyone into some family counseling? It did worlds for my children. I am sorry, though--I know it is so painful to be "the bad guy." 

I am sure you must feel like it is you against the world some days. Stay strong. It can take a lot of courage to say "we deserve better than this," and be the one who leaves or initiates counseling and change. Hang in there. It gets better. I never thought that my ex or I or my children would be as happy as we are now.