Welcome to One Small Step for Parents! Our goal is to help you find the right resources, support and information that is needed to make informed choices. Without the proper tools we, as parents and adults, don't know what will help our situation or what works and doesn't work. Here at One Small Step, we have done our best to take the guesswork and confusion out of the equation by supplying tools, resources and online support.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

ADHD and Siblings

Recently, I was asked by a reader to post an article about ADHD and siblings. Every parent with more than one offspring is well aware of sibling rivalry, but when one or more of your children has a disorder such as ADHD, (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) ADD, (Attention Deficit Disorder) ODD, (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) OCD, (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) Aspergers, or PTSD, (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to name a few, the resulting upsets can create intense feelings of dislike, parental favoritism, and loss of empathy with the affected sibling.

This does not mean that your "normal" child doesn't love his sibling. It just means the child has reached his limit regarding the sibling's behaviors. It is difficult enough for an adult to deal with the behaviors, let alone a child. Adults can, with help, distinguish between normal, age related developmental behaviors, and those that accompany a disability. Children, on the other hand, have enough of a challenge handling their own developmental stages, never mind trying to figure out why a sibling's behavior is 'over the top' and unpredictable.

These feelings are not limited to younger children, and can present themselves in pre-teens and teenagers as well. On a personal note, my daughter was eighteen when she came to live with my son and I, having previously moved to live with her father to finish her schooling in a different district. As her brother's behaviors became harder to handle, she reacted by distancing herself from him, to the point where she refused to have anything to do with his care and attention.

I share this information with you to illustrate just one of many reactions siblings can have to continuous, intense behaviors. Unfortunately, when these events were taking place, I was overwhelmed, with little to no support, and had no knowledge of what was happening and why. I felt like a referee of a title bout between two heavyweight boxers!

Needless to say, every family member is affected by the behaviors of a child with ADHD/ODD (or any of the others listed above,) but none more so than the child's siblings. As parents, we need to provide them with a safe, loving, understanding environment which is sometimes easier said than done.

Understanding the disability helps to a certain degree, as does having someone other than a family member to talk to. (It is a good idea for all family members to learn about the disability!) Scheduling some one-on-one or alone time for the siblings also helps them to 'recharge' and de-stress. They need to be reassured that you are doing your best to meet their needs and not simply expecting them to cope without your support and guidance.

Setting firm and consistent boundaries regarding their privacy and personal possessions will also go a long way to helping them deal with the actions of the ADHD/ODD child. Try not to place any responsibility on the siblings for the care and attention (ie: babysitting) of the ADHD/ODD child, as this will likely cause stress, avoidance and resentment.

As the ADHD/ODD child matures, many of the behaviors you are presently dealing with will abate or change, depending on the developmental stage the child is going through. However, until that happens, you still need the right information to help you deal with the present situation.

One way to get that information, is to check out the books I have listed on this blog, another is to speak to your Community Services counselor. They should be able to provide information on available programs, support services and family counseling. The more informed you are, the better you can provide the support your children need.

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