Three Ways to Talk to Siblings About ADHD
To this day I don’t know what it was that upset my son with ADHD; it all happened so fast. Finally off with our three kids on our cross country driving trip, we stopped for lunch in a small country town. Angry and upset, our son disappeared at a brisk pace across the street and out of sight. Frightened, the remaining four of us drove around, hearts pounding, projecting the serious things that could happen. After what felt like an eternity we finally found my son and coaxed him into the car.
Fear subsided, his siblings had mixed feelings of relief and uncertainty. They couldn’t understand why yet another family gathering was centered around their brother.
ADHD is a Family Matter
Brothers and sisters may feel confused, angry or left out when parents like me need to devote extra time and attention to the child with ADHD.
What did I learn:
Having a discussion with siblings about ADHD can be helpful. Talk about ADHD as a way the brain is wired, and that we all have different brains. The sibling with ADHD is capable; even so, he may need more time to do his homework, extra help organizing her backpack, or more support controlling his anger. We all need help with different things.
Ask siblings to help them understand what they need help or support with, and to normalize that we all have challenges with different things.
Although ADHD can be transferred genetically, acknowledge sibling concerns about "getting" ADHD. Explain that their sibling with ADHD has many gifts, such as being creative, fun and adventurous. When relevant, recognize that “wild” behavior in the ADHD sibling can often be fun, but sometimes too much when it feels out of control.
Share the strengths unique to your child with ADHD with his or her siblings, such as his ability to think outside the box, her creativity or his wonderful sense of humor. Discuss the strengths of each sibling that make them inidividual and unique.
When wild behavior feels overwhelming, problem-solve alternatives, such as taking a break.
Create Special Attention Time
Kids who have siblings with ADHD can feel left out when extra time and attention is given to the child with ADHD. Homework time, morning routines, or extra driving for doctors and tutors can be focused on the child with ADHD. Explain to the sibling without ADHD that when he or she has a special need or concern, the attention is on him, but it’s a different kind of attention. Check in with siblings to gain a clear understanding of what kind of attention and support they need or want.
Create “special time” with each sibling. Put language to that time, by calling the time “special time,” so the child recognizes it as special time between you. This could be as simple as having special “alone time” in the car to talk, getting an ice cream together, or doing something fun that the two of you enjoy.
ADHD is a family matter. Include siblings of kids with ADHD in the conversation:
• Be transparent about ADHD
• Acknowledge Feelings
• Create Special Attention Time
Experiment with one or all of these and observe any changes in your relationship with family.
I’d love to hear how it goes for you!
P.S. Whenever you’re ready, here are 3 ways I can support you in getting the results you want for you and your family:
Contact me for an ADHD Strategy Session and we can talk about a plan to create calm in your family.
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