Family Travel & Holidays

When Relatives Don’t Accept ADHD: Stories of Family Drama & Holiday Stress

For some, holiday gatherings are merry, bright, and filled with cheer. Others find themselves staving off judgment and criticism from relatives who don’t understand or accept ADHD. Can your family members be unapologetically themselves, or are you fighting off unsolicited advice? ADDitude readers share their experiences, below.

Do you feel your children with ADHD are understood and treated fairly by grandparents and other relatives at family gatherings? Of the 1,025 Instagram and Facebook users who answered this question from ADDitude, an overwhelming 89% said no. Here are some of those comments:

“I have a close relative who doesn’t understand ADHD and, honestly, seems to nearly bully my child. Another family member doesn’t believe ADHD to be real. They seem to think ADHD is just an excuse for crappy behavior. I avoid them like the plague. My dad, who was a skeptic about the disorder years ago, has since become a strong supporter.” — An ADDitude reader

Family gatherings are among the only times when we can all just exist, since everyone in my family has ADHD to some extent. It’s nice to be with our own unapologetically.” — An ADDitude reader

[Get This Download: Your Free Holiday Survival Kit]

“After trying to educate relatives and being met with judgment, condescension, and disrespect, I had to walk away.— An ADDitude reader

“My family is fairly supportive and understanding. My in-laws, on the other hand, think ADHD is a made-up diagnosis and that my daughter is just spoiled and disobedient. I have limited our time with them because of this.” — An ADDitude reader

“Once my daughter was diagnosed, my family became more open-minded about why certain behaviors happen.” — An ADDitude reader

“My daughter is 14, and I reflect on how her ADHD has complicated family events over the years. There was a learning curve for everyone, but I was also burdened by my own expectations of how I wanted things to go.” — An ADDitude reader

[Read: House Rules for the Holidays]

“We get a total lack of understanding and/or a disbelief that ADHD is even a real thing, combined with an abundance of unsolicited parenting advice.” — An ADDitude reader

“An ADHD diagnosis opens a floodgate of criticism toward parents. The key is to keep open communication with your spouse. What’s most important is to be united in your approach and support of your child. Agree beforehand about your limits (of tolerance) and when it will be best to leave.” — An ADDitude reader

“Family members don’t understand my son’s picky eating, or the times when he doesn’t eat at all. They also don’t understand when he’s feeling overwhelmed and the behaviors that come with that.” — An ADDitude reader

“My family can’t stand my son and they make rude comments. He’s a ball of energy and so wonderful. I’ve had to battle for him because he’s ‘that kid.’” — An ADDitude reader

“It took many years, but we got there.” — An ADDitude reader

Family Drama and ADHD: Next Steps

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