Attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are lifelong neurodevelopmental conditions that can cause a number of symptoms, including difficulty holding attention, poor working memory, and disorganization. These conditions can also have a significant effect on the family dynamics, including problems within sibling relationships.
ADHD is a disorder often identified during childhood. It affects the way the brain grows and develops and tends to have three main characteristics that include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. People with ADD typically lack the hyperactivity component associated with ADHD. Although they are life-long conditions, ADHD and ADD can be effectively treated using a range of interventions and strategies, including medication, exercise, healthy nutrition, and psychological, behavioral, and family therapy. Most people with ADHD who receive the right treatment go on to lead full and productive lives.
ADHD and Family Life
Both ADHD and ADD can have a significant impact on family dynamics. A child with ADHD may exhibit challenging behavior and naturally demand more of their parent’s time and attention than other children. This can take a toll on even the most patient, attentive, and competent parents. It can also have a profound effect on other children within the family unit.
Siblings of children with ADHD will have their own unique and important issues to deal with, which can lead to a mixture of emotions and feelings as they grow up. They may feel side-lined to their counterparts, feeling they get less attention than their siblings. They may feel embarrassed when their sibling acts up in public, or they may feel guilt that their brother or sister has certain challenges and they don’t. Regularly witnessing stresses at home may also put pressure on them to be the “good kid” to help balance things out.
The Impact of ADHD on Siblings
Rivalry between siblings is a normal and healthy part of childhood. It is how children develop the necessary skills to sort out problems and develop strategies to cope with conflict situations. It is also a part of how a child works out their place within the family. A child’s temperament and personality can have an impact on their ability to manage their feelings, especially anger and frustration. Some children find it difficult to manage these feelings, which can trigger a reaction in another sibling.
ADHD and ADD can affect sibling relationships in a variety of ways according to factors such as boundaries at home and the child’s character. In some cases, there may be an increase in the level of conflict between siblings when one has ADHD. This can be due to a lack of understanding of what is acceptable behavior, or frustration or anger. A sibling of a child with ADHD may also feel resentment and jealousy towards their sibling if they feel they are getting less attention from parents.
In direct contrast, parents may notice that sibling rivalry, such as arguing and bickering, decreases in a home where one child has ADHD or ADD. Although this may seem ideal, it may mean your typically-developing child is actually dealing with some difficult emotions of their own, such as guilt or a feeling of needing to keep the peace within the family home. A child may also feel they will get the blame if they provoke an episode of challenging behavior with their sibling. They may even come to accept that their sibling’s behavior, even instances of clear bullying, as a natural part of life. This can lead to feelings of low self-esteem, frustration, and resentment.
Siblings need guidance to navigate their relationships with their brothers and sisters. This involves clear rules to be followed by everyone, and the knowledge that certain behaviors are not acceptable. This ensures that each child knows that their feelings matter.
Seeking Support for ADHD and ADD
Coping with ADHD and ADD can present challenges and put a strain on family and sibling relationships. However, pursuing necessary support and effective long-term treatment can significantly improve things at home and help your child with ADD or ADHD and their siblings. This can lead all siblings to live happy and healthy lives.
Appropriate interventions, such as behavior management and family counseling, can help to open the lines of communication within the family and provide strategies to help deal with the unique challenges that ADD and ADHD bring.
Developmental Pediatric Care in St. Petersburg, Tampa, Florida
Dealing with ADD and ADHD can be challenging for families. If your child has a condition such as these, contact the experienced developmental pediatricians at Children’s Medical Center. Our caring, compassionate staff provide the medical and psychological support families need to cope with these challenges.
Our comprehensive service is dedicated to providing the highest pediatric healthcare for patients from birth to 18 years of age. To find out more about the services we offer, contact us at one of our four convenient office locations in Palm Harbor, Trinity, Westchase, and Lutz. Alternatively, you can schedule a consultation with one of our developmental pediatricians using our convenient online request form.