Strategies to Help Siblings of Children with ADHD

February 16, 2020

Did you know that an estimated 6.1 million children in the US have been diagnosed with ADHD?

Yeah. That’s a lot.

Let it sink in for a sec.

Did you know that many of those children have siblings? That’s not something we think about very often, do we?

We talk a LOT about how to help our kids adjust to a new diagnosis. We talk almost as much about how to cope with our own feelings of fear, overwhelm, and exhaustion as the parent of a special needs child.

Those are all valid topics. But what about the siblings?

 

Siblings of Children with ADHD

Siblings often fade into the background as our primary focus tends to be on meeting the more complex needs of our child with ADHD.

This isn’t intentional, of course. It doesn’t mean we love them any less. There’s only so much of our time, energy, and attention to go around.

Between receiving a diagnosis, researching available treatment options, doctor’s appointments, therapy, IEP meetings, and other added responsibilities, something else has to give.

Often, too often, that “something else” is our other children who seemingly need less. Need less of our time, energy, and attention. Truth is, they don’t.

They need you. They need you more than anything. Possibly more now because they are dealing with the reality of their sibling having a diagnosis, just like you are.

 

Belonging and Significance

We know that our ADHD’ers are rockstars. Being uniquely wired is a gift. We love their creativity, intelligence, and zeal. But those differences can also present challenges - for the entire family.

Siblings of children with ADHD often face many such challenges - feeling unsettled because home life can be chaotic and unpredictable, jealousy when a brother or sister with ADHD requires more care, pressure to be the “good child” in order to lessen a parent’s load.

This can often result in a lower sense of belonging and significance within the family.

It’s important to be proactive and take positive steps to make sure siblings feel seen and heard and don’t just fade into the background.

Here are some practical and actionable steps you can take to help children cope with the challenge of having a special needs sibling in the home.

 

7 Common-Sense Strategies to Help Siblings of Children with ADHD

 

1. Provide consistent routines, expectations, and consequences for every child.

This provides ALL children with a sense of stability which is key in order for kids to feel safe and secure within the home.

2. Spend one-on-one time with each child on a regular basis.

Doing so will strengthen your relationship and their overall feeling of belonging within the family.

3. Reward siblings for their help and patience.

Honor their contribution to the family by rewarding them when they take on extra responsibility in order to lighten a heavy load.

4. Encourage and support individual extracurricular activities for each child.

Doing extracurricular activities alone can provide a child with a strong sense of self by allowing them to make new friends and find a hobby they enjoy.

5. Dedicate time each week to family activities and discussions.

When a child is facing the difficulty that can come with an ADHD diagnosis, a dependable support network will give them a solid foundation to stand on.

6. Encourage open communication by acknowledging and empathizing with your child’s feelings.

Be your child’s safe space. Allow them the freedom to talk about their feelings openly and without judgment. Help them to feel heard.

7. Seek out therapy and/or sibling support groups.

Therapy will give kids the tools they need to help them cope with the challenges of having a sibling with special needs. Support groups can offer them the chance to make friends and form a camaraderie with others in a similar situation.

 

Your kids know you love them. They do. Don’t doubt that for a minute.

However, a new diagnosis requires an adjustment period for the entire family. And as a family, it’s important to stand strong and make sure everyone’s needs are met….even if those needs aren’t quite as easy to see.

By implementing the strategies listed above, you are giving your children a voice - those with AND without a diagnosis.

You are setting them up for success by showing them their feelings matter and how to communicate effectively with those around them.

Ultimately, that is the most important goal.

Let’s help our special kiddos and their (just as!) special siblings to feel supported, encouraged, and ready to take on the world!

 





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