How to Help Your Children Cope With an ADHD Sibling

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As a parent of a child with ADHD, you’ve likely learned effective coping strategies for dealing with the erratic and stressful behavior that can result. If that child has siblings, however, they may face their own set of difficulties. They may struggle to understand why your family dynamic is different than their friends’ families and why their sibling seems to get away with more bad behavior.

The Impact of ADHD on Siblings

Your non-ADHD child can feel baffled and frustrated by their brother or sister’s behavior, feel pressure by the expectation to be a “good” child, or even get jealous at all the extra attention they perceive you to be giving the other child. It is common for the non-ADHD sibling to take on more than they should to try and help, especially if they are the older sibling, and that can lead to feelings of resentment. In addition, they may feel stress over any change in routine-such as a vacation- because of what it can do to their brother or sister’s mood and actions.

How to Help Your Child Cope with their ADHD Sibling

Here are a few ways you can help your non-ADHD child cope with his or her sibling and with your family dynamic:

  • Let your child know that you do understand the frustration they feel and reassure them that it is okay to feel that way. Allow them to have a safe place to vent when they need to.
  • Try to maintain a reasonable schedule and strict family rules despite of the disruption the ADHD is sure to cause. Providing structure will help.
  • Encourage the sibling to help, but don’t let them take on too much extra responsibility. The goal is to make them feel like they’re a valued part of the family unit without feeling pressured to do all the chores or keep their brother or sister in line.
  • Schedule plenty of one-on-one time with your non-ADHD child. Give them plenty of positive attention and reassure them that they are special too.
  • Just as you work with your ADHD child so they will have coping strategies, work with your non-ADHD child in the same way. Come up with creative ways for them to respond to their feelings and role play these solutions with them.
  • Arrange for both (or all) of your children to pursue any sport, lesson or activity they are interested in. Whether they have ADHD or not, participating in group activities and learning new skills are great for their self-esteem.

If your non-ADHD child seems to be struggling a great deal or show any signs of anxiety or depression, setting up counseling sessions with a general psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD treatment can help them learn to cope.