What is success and how can you help your child with ADHD to feel successful?

This is not a trick question.

I honestly want to know.

Does success = happiness?


Perhaps it depends how we measure and value success.

As defined by Wikipedia

Success is the state or condition of meeting a defined range of expectations

So we need to have certain expectations in place before we can judge if we are successful or not.

In this blog, I want to examine what is success for our young people with ADHD and how we can support them to achieve their goals and make them feel successful.


Let’s first of all look at academic success. As a society, I think we put far too much emphasis on academic success. But for now, we are stuck with the system until your child is 16 years old, so we have to make the best of it.

SATs results are out. In a months time, A’ Level and GCSE results will be out too.

And then your Facebook feed will be full of other children’s achievements and the comments section will be full of gushing superlatives. Which is fine.

But for many of our young people with ADHD this may not be their reality. Many have gaps in their learning due to being inattentive, bored or simply being absent or have faced exclusion. Many have found going to school too hard, too challenging, too demanding to follow the outdated Victorian school system.

Academic success for many of young people with ADHD may have come at a cost. They may have over-compensated for their difficulty to focus and spent way too many hours studying and revising to the detriment of their physical and mental health.

Our young people need support and help with organisation, time management, motivation, purpose and reward.

Liaise with school and contribute to a really effective SEND Plan that supports your child in all areas of school life.

Your child can experience academic success and learn to their full potential, but there must be appropriate reasonable adjustments in place.

But remember, qualifications and academia are only stepping stones to the next steps.

Next steps may be more studying, a job or an apprenticeship.

For many of our young people they know the environment that suits them better than school.

They may choose college or employment that suits their need for variety, movement and interest. Then maybe they can experience what success feels like.


This is a tricky topic. Your child may find social situations awkward, challenging and they may feel sad and lonely. Our children can be too much, too demanding and end up feeling rejected and alone.

But what is the measure and expectation of a successful social life?

For some people noisy parties, clubbing, theme parks are too much. Some may thrive in this environment.

For some, going somewhere quietly and chilling with a few people is enough.

Having one friend is a success if that one friend is kind, understanding and patient.

Give your child the mantras to use and the expressions to avoid. Find ways, like clicking fingers, to alert the brain that the thing they were about to say may not be appropriate.

Encourage your child to join clubs and take part part in activities where they can find their tribe, find people like them and feel socially successful.


Too often, young people with ADHD are made to feel shamed, blamed, rejected, isolated and rubbish. So we must counteract that with finding ways to celebrate their abilities and share their wins, however small.

Frame their drawings, record their singing, share funny stories in the family WhatsApp group.

Draw positive attention to how their unique brain enables them to think creatively, come up with imaginative games and different ways to tackle a problem. Their energy means they can keep going even when the Duracell bunny has stopped.

Have realistic expectations of how things will turn out, so that you can reward that success when they meet those expectations. Reward with smiles, high fives and little notes tucked under their pillow.

It is difficult to imagine your child’s future.

As a parent you want them to feel successful.

What are your expectations of their success?

They are living a life full of joy, kindness and love.

They have relationships where they feel safe and respected.

They are in a job they feel valued.

Yes, for me, that is success.

And that success would equal happiness.

Let me know your thoughts.