An Introduction to ADHD and the Family
Children with ADHD experience symptoms such as impulsivity, inattentiveness, and hyperactivity. However, there are also other negative side effects of ADHD, such as family strain and parent, child, and sibling conflict. This article discusses ADHD and the effects on family life.
ADHD and the Effects on the Family: Parents
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can affect families in different ways, depending on the severity of ADHD symptoms, family make up, and knowledge of the illness. Even with adequate knowledge of ADHD, managing a child with the symptoms can be very frustrating. Often, this frustration can spill over into other parts of the lives of parents and affect their other roles, such as being an employee, son or daughter, husband or wife.
Children with ADHD require extra attention, as they often have therapy or psychiatric appointments and planned and unplanned school meetings. In the home setting, these children receive extra attention because they are often being redirected or parents will use some type of reward system to entice their charges to follow parental directions and complete chores and homework.
The extra time that the child with ADHD receives sometimes results in taking time from the parent’s work schedule, and time from their other relationships such as with their partner, their own parents or other children. This may lead to parent fatigue, resentments, guilt and disputes with their parents over how to bring up children.
Single parents who have ADHD children may experience the same effects as two parent families. The extra time that the single parent gives to the child with ADHD may be even more significant if there are fewer supports in place. Further, the single parent may have an additional parental role to play in the child’s life, thus causing more family stress.
ADHD and the Effects on the Family: Siblings
It can be challenging for the siblings(s) of a child with ADHD, as they may experience a loss of time (or perceived loss of time) with parents. These children may believe that they receive less attention and that they are treated unfairly at times. Siblings of children with ADHD also experience the disruptive behaviors of their brother or sister and may not understand why they can be so irritating. The non-ADHD sibling may develop resentments toward them and their parents.
Helping Families with Children who have ADHD
The first thing that parents of children with ADHD can do to improve their family functioning is to understand ADHD and how to treat it. Next, it is important for the family to teach other family members about the illness. Sometimes younger children may have difficulties understanding, so they must be related to on their terms. Support groups are a great way to help families with children with ADHD. Although these groups may be another time constraint, the benefits far outweigh this as it is important to share, support, and receive support from other families who have children with ADHD.
It may be a good idea to have a family ritual around the support group meetings, such as dinner out or another fun activity. Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (CHADD) is a great place to start looking for support groups.
And finally, it is also important to have family members participate in therapy with the ADHD child and request some type of family therapy to address family stressors, roles, and labels.
This article was written from knowledge gleaned by the author during eight years of professional experience working with children with ADHD and their families.