Congrats, you’re raising a daughter with ADHD! As it happens, at least two of my daughters have ADHD and I could not be happier how things turned out. After raising two girls with ADHD for the past 14 years, I have a lot of insider knowledge on parenting girls with ADHD.
Girls with ADHD are some of the most engaging and fascinating people on the planet (says my possibly biased opinion). My daughters are full of energy, creativity, zest for life, ambition, and passion.
But, as parents of daughters with ADHD know, there are some challenges that girls with ADHD face that a neurotypical girl does not.
Read on to learn a little bit more about parenting girls with ADHD and how to parent a daughter with ADHD.
The Signs of ADHD in Girls
First things first, does your daughter actually have ADHD? The symptoms of ADHD in girls can be a bit tricky to identify, because not all girls present the same way, and many girls with ADHD look nothing like a typical boy with ADHD.
So, how can a parent know if your daughter has ADHD?
In reality, you just kind of know. You can see that your daughter is different from other girls and has struggles and challenges that other girls do not. You can see that she also has a sort of hidden energy, restlessness, and imagination that other girls do not.
My favorite example of a girl with ADHD is Anne of Green Gables. That poor girl who people think is weird, is constantly talking, is hyper and clumsy, and is always forgetting things and getting into trouble is the literary embodiment of a girl with ADHD.
If you’re wondering if your daughter could have ADHD, read more about the signs of ADHD in girls here.
ADHD Signs Girls vs. Boys
Another common misconception that many caregivers and professionals have is that ADHD is the same in boys and girls. While the core symptoms are the same (trouble with attention, hyperactivity, or both), ADHD symptoms present quite differently in girls.
Compounding the issue is a girl’s natural wish to conform and mask her differences, and ADHD in girls can be even harder to spot! If you’re curious about the differences between male and female ADHD, read about ADHD symptoms in girls vs boys here.
ADHD Myths about Girls
There are a lot of myths about girls with ADHD, including that girls can’t have ADHD at all. Not only are these myths annoying, but they can be seriously harmful to girls with ADHD because it can make it harder for doctors, teachers, and other professionals to even look at ADHD as a possibility for girls.
It’s time to end these ADHD myths about girls.
ADHD and Anxiety in Girls
One big struggle that girls with ADHD have is anxiety. Anxiety as a side-effect of or co-morbidity alongside ADHD is common for many, many girls with ADHD.
Both of my ADHD daughters struggle with anxiety, but it presents itself differently in both. My eldest daughter masks her anxiety with irritability. She is in constant fight or flight mode, and she chooses to fight almost every time.
My other daughter internalizes her anxiety. She is like an emotional sponge, soaking up everything and holding it all in until she has a meltdown, or until she makes herself physically sick. Her anxiety often manifests as headaches or stomachaches in addition to shyness.
Read more about ADHD and anxiety in girls here.
ADHD Medications for Girls
ADHD medication is a tricky, tricky thing for girls. Most ADHD medication is designed to quell hyperactivity and improve focus. But along with these benefits, most ADHD medication also has side effects.
And one of the frustrating things about medicating girls with ADHD is that some of the side effects actually make a girl’s ADHD symptoms worse. ADHD medication can have side effects like irritability, depression, mood swings, and decreased appetite.
If your daughter is struggling with anxiety, mood swings, eating disorders, and depression already due to ADHD or co-morbid disorders, traditional ADHD medication might make these things worse.
For us, we’ve chosen not to medicate our girls at the moment. We medicated my eldest daughter for about a year before she was a teen, but we found that although her moods were stabilized and her attention improved, she had horrible stomachaches and nausea that made her have to miss school a lot.
However, every child is different, and we will revisit the idea of medication if necessary.
Parenting tips for Girls with ADHD
When it comes to parenting girls with ADHD, there aren’t any rules. But if there was a rule, that rule would be de-escalate.
You never want to find yourself going head-to-head with your ADHD daughter because that will only end in pain for everyone. Read these quick dos and don’ts for parenting girls with ADHD, then dive in-depth for further reading.
Do- Have Structure
Girls with ADHD thrive on structure. They like to know when things will happen, in what order, and at what times. This is why summer is one of the hardest seasons in our family because it lacks the structure and routine of the school year.
Do- Limit Task Lists
Nothing overwhelms a girl with ADHD more than a long list of things to do. She had trouble remembering things, and is overwhelmed easily by the thought of piles of work. When possible, give tasks to your daughter one at a time.
Do- Keep Organized
Organization is the key to running a smooth ADHD household. Insist that your daughter keeps an ordered room, backpack, and routine. Everyone will be happier for it.
Do- Limit Distractions
Your ADHD daughter might say she can study with the TV on. Don’t believe her. She can’t. My girls are so distractable that they can’t hold conversations and do chores at the same time. It’s best to eliminate all distractions from your daughter’s study space (which can be tiny, tiny things, like the sound of a clock).
Do- Stay Positive
ADHD is not something to be sad about. It’s just a different way for a brain to work. Sure you daughter would probably be easier to raise if she didn’t have ADHD, but she also wouldn’t have her personality or flair. Girls with ADHD are just so perfectly human, it’s so much fun to be around.
Do- Get Help
ADHD is tiring. It is tiring for parents and it is tiring for the girls, too. There is no reason to deal with things alone. Seek out the help that your daughter needs, even if the system says she doesn’t need help.
Have your daughter get counseling, read all the ADHD books, set up an IEP plan with the school, give your daughter medication, do whatever you need to do to get help.
Don’t- Worry about Small Things
If you worry about small things you will be angry every day. As an ADHD parent, you have to learn to let things go. Your daughter will likely get in trouble more. She will likely look like a bit of a mess most days. She will probably be disorganized and procrastinate. But that’s OK.
Don’t- Lash Out
Girls with ADHD tend to be impulsive, which means they talk back. A lot. You’ll probably get more sass and mean comments from your daughter than you ever thought possible. But you have to remember that she’s the child and you’re the adult.
Getting upset back won’t many anything better, and it will probably make things worse. So take some deep breaths, step away if you have to, and keep your emotions in check.
Don’t- Feel Sorry for Yourself
Your daughter is awesome. She is a rare, beautiful soul and she is more likely to change the world than almost anyone else.
Don’t- Let Chaos Have Control
Choas can easily take over your life. Try not to let it. Provide a structured framework as much as possible, and go with the flow.
Parenting Tips for Girls with ADHD
Need more detailed help? I’ve got you covered. Read on for in-depth info on parenting a girl with ADHD.
How to Motivate a Girl with ADHD
Girls with ADHD sometimes struggle with procrastination and motivation. Read these tips on how to motivate a girl with ADHD.
How to Create a Homework Schedule for Girls with ADHD
The homework struggle is a familiar and critical struggle for parents of girls with ADHD. Over the years, I’ve figured out a schedule that works for our girls, which might also help your girls, too! Read how to create a homework schedule for girls with ADHD.
How to Support Your Daughter in Her Daily Struggles with ADHD
Every day, girls with ADHD struggle. The struggle with things that neurotypical girls just don’t. Here are a few ways to support your daughter’s struggles with ADHD.
How to Be a Proactive Parent to a Daughter with ADHD
Bening an ADHD parent means that you are prepared for anything and expect nothing. But if you take a proactive approach, you can sidestep many of the issues that girls with ADHD face. Read these tips for how to be a proactive parent to your daughter with ADHD.
How to Help a Girl with ADHD Succeed
If you want your daughter with ADHD to succeed, read on tips on how to help a girl with ADHD succeed.
Non-Distracting Fidget Tools for Girls with ADHD
Does your daughter need to fidget? These fidget tools for girls with ADHD are non-distracting and are a lifesaver for my girls.