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ADHD and Siblings

The sibling in a family managing ADHD can be in an unenviable position because the child with ADHD demands more attention and their needs seem so much more urgent. The sibling is often overlooked and will even minimize their needs as they try not to over burden their parents. This unbalanced cycle of care can result in the sibling feeling somewhat ignored and overlooked, leaving them with a sense of loss and sadness.

Siblings may feel guilty that they can easily do the things their brother or sister struggles with. Sometimes they will put a lot of pressure on themselves to do more and achieve more in the hope that their achievements will allow them to be seen above the disruption caused by their sibling with ADHD, and give them the recognition they long for.

The disruptions caused by the symptoms and behaviour of their sibling with ADHD may create the uncomfortable feeling that their family is completely disorganised and chaotic. They feel as if they cannot predict what will happen next and they long for the peace and quiet that they perceive in other “normal” families. The sibling may long for a “normal” sibling relationship too, one in which they do not feel victimised and marginalised by their ADHD sibling’s behaviour. They would like to feel safe in their relationship with their sibling and not resentful of how much of their life is controlled by their sibling’s needs and impulsive outbursts. An environment where there is not such an imbalance of mom and dad’s attention, where they do not have to take on the role of a caretaker, helping with homework, keeping their sibling out of trouble at school, or including their sibling in their friendship group.

The sibling can often feel powerless and perceive themselves as unworthy of attention. However, with the correct support and assistance, respectful of their compromises and willing to deal with their frustrations, they could develop genuine empathy and compassion and embrace an understanding that everyone is different and that in some way we all have special needs.

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