The ADHD Sibling Effect

Raising a child with ADHD usually requires a great deal of patience and understanding on the part of the parents. But for the siblings, having a brother or sister with ADHD can also be quite a challenge. For example, brothers and sisters may feel added stress if they have a sibling with ADHD. They may feel neglected when parents seem to give more time and attention to the child with ADHD. They might also feel guilty because they don’t have the condition, or wonder if they did something to cause the other child’s ADHD.

Some of their reactions may include:

  • Making themselves sick with anxiety, or worrying they might get an illness
  • Trying to take attention for themselves
  • Getting angry because they have to help out more around the house
  • Feeling embarrassed when non-family members see them with the full family

Keath Low, writing for Very Well Mind, suggests these tips for parents who are trying to maintain a family balance:

  • Schedule regular one-on-one time with your non-ADHD children to ensure they receive the positive attention and nurturing they need.
  • Let them know you understand how challenging it can be to deal with their ADHD sibling when he or she is struggling to manage ADHD symptoms. This can give the non-ADHD siblings a safe place to vent their feelings and be heard.
  • Work with the non-ADHD children to give them techniques they can use to deal with problematic behaviors from their ADHD sibling. Brainstorm, role play, and practice these coping strategies so the responses begin to feel more automatic and natural for them.
  • Be empathetic and understanding with your non-ADHD children when they have trouble dealing with the ADHD sibling. Understand that it may be difficult for your non-ADHD children to resist acting out when their ADHD sibling engages in provoking behaviors.
  • Structure the home in ADHD-friendly ways – e.g., clear house rules and consequences, specific routines, tight supervision, frequent feedback, lots of praise, etc.. This helps all the children but especially the ADHD child who must manage difficult symptoms.

If your children who don’t have ADHD seem depressed, lose interest in friends, and act out to get attention, talk to their pediatrician. Though going through the daily challenges may be difficult, there can be positive long term benefits. Having a child with ADHD may give the whole family an opportunity to learn positive lessons about empathy, creativity, sharing, and more.

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