The impact of ADHD

About ADHD

The impact of ADHD

This section helps parents, carers and teachers to identify the impact of ADHD:

  • On a child at home and school
  • On a child’s relationships within the family, at school and with friends.

On this page:

  1. Discussing the impact of ADHD ↓
  2. Identifying effects at home and school ↓
  3. Understanding effects on relationships ↓

Discussing the impact of ADHD

Challenges, children with ADHD, home, daily activities, parents carers siblings, school, homework, teachers and friendsUnderstanding ADHD can be a difficult and painstaking process for both children and parents/carers. One of the best ways for a parent/carer to understand their child’s concerns is to try and talk with them. This process could be aided by suggestions from teachers or advice from healthcare professionals.

When talking with your child, consider how the home and school environment may seem full of challenges for the child.

In facing the challenges posed by ADHD there are a number of tools to make the child believe they are not facing these challenges on their own and that there are other children with ADHD. One of these is the Medikidz cartoon book on ADHD that could help you and the child to understand more about how others live with their ADHD.

See the Further information section on this site for more details and ideas.

Further information »

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Identifying effects at home and school

ADHD can affect a child in many aspects of life at school that other children may take for granted. This strip shows some examples of daily challenges in a child’s home and school life.

What ADHD means for a child

A cartoon strip giving examples of daily challenges that a child with ADHD may face in their home and school life


At home, it is important to remember that the child may not be the only person with ADHD: ADHD can run in the family, and part of the diagnosis process may be to look at the child’s family to see if anybody else exhibits symptoms. 

It may be that parents with ADHD symptoms have not been officially diagnosed or treated. Where a parent has these symptoms, it is important to work together as a family and with the school to be consistent with the child, for example, rewarding good behaviour and expected behaviour.

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Understanding effects on relationships

What ADHD means for a child’s relationship with their parents

A child with ADHD may cause divisions between parents, as disagreements can arise about how to deal with problems. These divisions can lead to issues with the parents’ relationship.

You can minimise the opportunity for divisions to arise between parents by:

  • Making decisions together
  • Letting the child know that all decisions require both parents’ agreement.

Situations involving the child where divisions could occur include:

  • Using other people’s things without asking
  • Not doing chores at regular times
  • Being disorganised over homework.

What ADHD means for a child’s relationship with brothers and sisters

Coping with sibling rivalry is a day-to-day reality for parents where one or more of the children has ADHD. This short comic strip shows some examples of potential causes of conflict within the family.

Relationships with siblings

A cartoon strip giving examples of potential causes of conflict within the family


Some ideas for preventing difficult situations include:

  • Treat each child according to their abilities
    • Aim to be fair to each child, regardless of additional needs
  • Offer each child the same opportunities
    • Try to offer the same thing to each child. For example, the child with ADHD may be offered certain freedom that the brother or sister is offered because they are more responsible
  • Spend time alone with each child
    • Aim to spend some one-to-one time with each of your children on a regular basis. This will help prevent resentment.

What ADHD means for a child in terms of friendships

Problems that may affect friendships include:

  • The inability to pick up on the feelings of others
  • The inability to understand why others are upset with them
  • The ability to be more ‘in tune’ with children who are either older or younger than they are, rather than their peer group
  • Dominating others through bullying or being bossy
  • Interrupting conversations
  • Dominating a conversation
  • Being unable to follow a conversation
  • Lack of self-control.

Although it may seem that there are considerable barriers for the child to overcome, many of these problems can be discussed with the child, to help promote more positive relationships with friends.

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American Academy of Pediatrics. Clinical practice guideline 2001; 108(4): 1033-44

Burt SA. Psychological Bulletin 2009; 135(4): 608-37.

Coleman D, et al. Psychiatr Serv 2009; 60: 950-7.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition 2013. American Psychiatric Association.

Faraone SV, et al. Biol Psychiatry 2005; 57(11): 1313-23.

Kovshoff H, et al. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2012; 21(2): 87-9.

MTA Cooperative group. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1999; 56: 1073.

NICE Clinical guideline 72: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. 2008.

O’Regan F. How to teach and manage children with ADHD (2010). Nottingham, UK: LDA.

World Health Organisation. The ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural disorders 1993. Available at Accessed 26 June 2013.

Ziegler Dendy CA. Teenagers with ADD and ADHD (2006). Bethesda, US: Woodbine House.

These materials have been produced with practical advice and guidance provided by the expert European ADHD Awareness Taskforce.