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  • Writer's pictureMirka

ADHD Parenting: Age vs. Stage - Setting Realistic Expectations

Parenting a child with ADHD comes with its unique set of challenges and rewards. One of the most crucial aspects of supporting a child with ADHD is understanding the interplay between their chronological age and their developmental stage. Unlike neurotypical children, children with ADHD may exhibit behaviors and abilities that align more closely with a developmental age younger than their chronological age due to delays in executive function skills. This misalignment between chronological and developmental age can impact various aspects of parenting, from setting expectations to fostering understanding and patience.


Understanding Developmental Age

Children with ADHD often face delays in executive function skills such as self-regulation, self-awareness, attention, time management, impulse control, focus, organization, and working memory. These delays can result in a developmental age that lags behind their chronological age by approximately 3 to 5 years. For instance, a 10-year-old child with ADHD might exhibit behaviours and abilities more akin to a 5 to 7-year-old neurotypical child.


Assessing Expectations

Adjusting expectations based on your child's developmental age is crucial for fostering a supportive and understanding environment. Here's a simple three-step process to help parents gauge their expectations:


  • Step 1: What am I expecting of my kid in this situation? Begin by identifying your expectations in a given situation. Whether it's completing homework, following instructions, or managing emotions, pinpoint the specific behaviours or tasks you're expecting from your child.

  • Step 2: Subtract 3 to 5 years from your child’s age. Take into account your child's chronological age and subtract 3 to 5 years to estimate their developmental age. This adjustment reflects the potential gap between their chronological age and their executive function skills.


  • Step 3: Would it be realistic or fair to expect this of a child of the adjusted age? Consider whether the expectations align with what would be developmentally appropriate for a child of the adjusted age. Reflect on whether your child possesses the necessary skills and abilities to meet those expectations, taking into account their ADHD-related challenges.


Adjusting Strategies

Once you've assessed your expectations, it's essential to adjust your parenting strategies accordingly. Recognize that your child may require additional support, structure, and patience to navigate daily tasks and challenges. Implementing strategies such as breaking tasks into smaller steps, providing visual aids, establishing routines, and offering frequent reminders can help scaffold your child's executive function skills and promote success.



Parenting a child with ADHD involves navigating the complex interplay between chronological age and developmental stage. By understanding that children with ADHD may operate at a developmental age 3 to 5 years younger than their chronological age, parents can adjust their expectations and parenting strategies to provide appropriate support and understanding. Through empathy, patience, and tailored interventions, parents can empower their children with ADHD to thrive and reach their full potential.


Mirka

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