Prague, Czech Republic --- Portrait of children wearing clown noses --- Image by © Denisa Haldova/Corbis

Prague, Czech Republic — Portrait of children wearing clown noses — Image by © Denisa Haldova/Corbis

A home with ADHD is a lot like a three-ring circus. There’s constant activity in every direction, with emotions running high and low, all over the place. There’s always someone vying to be the center of attention, and others trying to impress and amaze. And then there’s the smoke and mirrors  — what it looks like on the surface is almost never the real story.

As the mom in an ADHD family of 5, for years it felt like I was performing a circus high-wire act — without a net. With my kids on my shoulders, all eyes were on me, expecting me to get us all down to safety! I had little confidence in any step I took.

Not all parents are terrified to take a step, though. Some are more like lion tamers, in control and in charge, directing and instructing. They need to make sure everyone is jumping through the appropriate hoops, and keeping all the spectators amazed and safe.

In both cases, the circus life for families with ADHD is complicated, demanding, and just not a lot of fun. Maintaining balance on a high-wire and constant vigilance in the lion’s cage takes its toll.

Worse than that: Parents (and kids) are missing out on the joy of family life.

So what’s a parent to do? Living in a constant state of performance anxiety is not exactly sustainable for 18 years. Something has to change.

By the time I met Diane, I was down off the high wire and had discovered a secret to transforming my family’s circus. Through coaching, I had learned to take a strength-based approach to parenting, and started setting realistic expectations – for myself, and for my kids. I understood the value of lightening up, and tried to stop taking things so personally.

It’s not that I closed down the circus. You might say I learned to join the clowns.

The clowns’ role in the circus is to do the juggling, keep all the balls and plates spinning in the air – and keep a positive energy going. At one moment scared out of their wits, and the next moment hysterically laughing at the antics of another, the clowns are not vying to be the center of attention, but keeping things moving, supporting the rest of the show. Just like parents.

Clowns do exciting things sometimes (like getting shot out of a cannon), but they manage to do it with a smile on their faces. Sometimes they make mistakes, and when they do they clean up and move on. They have the run of the circus, and for the most part, they seem to be having a pretty good time. Most importantly, they’re never really in any real danger. Their job is to let it go and enjoy the ride.

As parents, it’s up to us to decide how we want to manage the circus life of a family with ADHD.

Do we want to “wow” the world with daring, death-defying feats? Or do we want to ride around, safely near the ground, enjoying life and making people laugh from the comfort — and joy — of a clown car?

At ImpactADHD, Diane and I spend all of our time working directly with parents on the phone and online, and creating programs that are a combination of coaching and training – all with the single goal of helping parents turn their circus from a nightmare into a joyride!

With ADHD in the family, you’re going to live in an interruption-driven environment.  There are going to be ups and downs, excitement and terror, laughter and tears.

How you approach the “chaos” is all a matter of perspective. Are you ready to trade-in your mini-van for a clown car? Take if from our experience – that’s a sure way for you to learn to enjoy the ride!

BIO: Elaine Taylor-Klaus and Diane Dempster are the co-founders of, a parenting resource that provides direct support and training, online and on the phone. Experts in the fields of both coaching and ADHD, personally and professionally, Elaine and Diane are certified professional coaches, community educators, and advocates for families living with ADHD and related challenges. They are passionate about providing guidance to help parents reduce the stress of raising complex children.

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