Tips for Becoming Independent of Parent/Child Dynamics

It is REALLY hard to wait for an ADHD partner to learn to get him or herself better organized.  I know I just always wanted to jump in and provide suggestions.  But, of course, my ideas for organization work for my sort of mind...and not for my husband's.  Plus, he hates it when I tell him what to do, even if I think I'm offering him a useful suggestion.  So I've learned to continue to request assistance when needed, but not to make suggestions about how that assistance is provided.  This gives my husband the autonomy he needs/craves and me the results I seek.  

And, yes, it took a while to get to this place.  Making the transition is hard!  Here are some tips that can help you start to get out of parent/child.

Tips - ADHD Partners

This is a big deal - use all resources available.  Yes, you may be used to doing things when they become urgent or happen to come to your attention.  But that doesn't work when you are coordinating with another person.  So it's imperative that you find some system that allows you to get the most important things on your joint task list done on deadline.  What that process looks like is up to you...the good news is that there are lots of resources to help you get organized, including ADHD coaches and the book ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life.

Truly take full responsibility.  It’s easier to let someone else assist you…but the idea of this work is to help you be more independent.  If you say you will take full responsibility for an action, make sure you will do so - without resentment - and then take full responsibility from beginning to end. Use whatever support you need – delegating to another person you hire; reminding yourself of tasks with alarms or calendars; writing down the steps you will follow, or anything that helps you stay on task.  There are many ways to make sure you get things done.  

Use SMART to set time bound, specific steps to complete.  If you don't know what that is, see this blog post.  Hold yourself accountable for meeting your deadlines - set reminders to get there.  If you don't succeed at meeting your SMART goal, assess why not and try again with a revised plan.

Create a plan with specific sub-deadlines.  Write it down or put in in your calendar to make it concrete.  If you don’t meet a deadline, catch up before the next.  If you remain behind, evaluate your ability to complete on time.  If you know you are going to miss the final deadline, it’s best to let your partner know (this is for good coordination, not approval!) and then refine your plan.  Don’t give up.

Don’t ask for assistance from your partner unless absolutely necessary, except to stay coordinated.  This is to help you stay in charge and not revert to behaviors in which you ask for help or guidance.  Note, this does not apply to things with which you need input, such as planning a family vacation.  That's coordinating...not asking your partner to take over.  The idea here is YOU are in charge.

Consider setting up environmental modifications including apps, a kitchen timer, a visible white board, notes on your bathroom mirror, creating a personal Kanban, etc. that will serve as a regular reminder of what you are working on.  You want to be drawn back to the project every day, and chip away at it so completion seems easier and easier.

Do not rely on your partner for everyday functioning.  Pretend you are single, and driven to get this task done by tomorrow.  How would you do it?


Tips - Non-ADHD Partner

Trust that your partner will learn complete the task or else keep you informed.  At first, tasks will likely not get completed on time – it takes effort to get the right support structures and treatment in place to break years of inconsistency and distraction.  But continue to be supportive.  A positive atmosphere is critical to changing these ADHD behaviors.  It's too easy for ADHD partners to fall into the 'I'll never be good enough' rabbit hole.

Give the process time. You may truly fear that if you don’t control the situation, nothing will get done, but you must give it a chance – as long as the ADHD partner is truly working on managing the ADHD there will likely be growth and change.  Further, understand that if you do control the situation and 'over-function' by taking on your partner's responsibilities, you will control what gets done but lose the positive aspects of your relationship as you fall into traditional parent/child dynamics.  Put another way, your sense of control is illusory.  You stay in control of tasks and lose control of your love for each other - a FAR worse outcome!

Avoid offering help, suggestions, unsolicited advice or critiquing unless asked. Your partner is in charge and does things differently than you.  Focus on accepting that your way is not your partner’s way (as an example, when I look for a hotel online I efficiently settle on the first thing that seems reasonable and affordable (i.e. ‘good enough’).  My husband scours a huge number of options to find just what he wants. Both ways are legitimate, though very different.  And, yes, his way takes more time…but he often comes up with some great options I would miss.)

Be careful about tone of voice.  Don’t use accusatory or mocking words. Resist the urge to tell a partner how to do something better.  ‘Better’ is often another way of saying ‘my way’ vs. ‘your (unfamiliar) way.’

Don’t create lists, timelines, etc. for your partner. That’s another way of ‘parenting.’  Lists can be effective ways to coordinate if they are for you BOTH – just make sure you aren’t making a list for him.

Do not nag.  Ever.

Do not create consequences for missed deadlines, ways of doing things, or other things that don’t please you.  When you create consequences, vs. allowing the consequences to fall as they will, then you become the authority figure and your partner becomes the ‘subject.’

Work with your partner on using the 3 legged stool treatment model (see my treatment ebook on the home page): i.e. you might suggest a coach, medication, support, but do not decide on the treatment option(s) your partner should use.

For a video on this topic, watch Melissa with Jeff Copper on Attention Talk Video.