What About Me?
Brothers and sisters of kids with ADHD need attention, too.
Nine-year-old Jen recently came in for her appointment — along with her younger brother, Sean. I said they could both choose a snack from our box. Jen said, “This is my time. You shouldn’t get a snack.” Sean tearfully asked why he couldn’t have “Dr. Brady time,” too.
This pattern played out in other aspects of the family’s life. Sean waited during Jen’s appointments with her tutor and therapists. Their parents let Jen choose the movies they saw, to avoid “meltdowns.” After Sean had his own meltdown, his parents realized that their ADHD child claimed so much of their attention that they counted on their non-ADHD son to defer his own needs.
Are you parenting ADHD and non-ADHD children? You might not be able to divide your time evenly, but there are ways to keep things fair — and peaceful:
- Talk about ADHD at home. Explain the difficulties and differences that come with ADHD, and why some children need extra time and attention.
- Hold family meetings, or consider family therapy sessions. Provide a forum for every family member to voice his or her concerns.
- Make special time for your non-ADHD child. You can build in talk time while you run errands together. Depending on your children’s ages, try staggering bedtimes, to give each child more focused interaction.
- Expect your ADHD child to learn to wait. This is what it takes to be a “team player” in the household.
- Find talents that your children can share with each other. Bring your ADHD child to his sister’s soccer game, so he can cheer her on, and vice versa. Each child knows he’s important, even when he is not the center of attention.
When ADHD is “contagious”
Five-year-old Sue idolized her older brother, John — and began throwing tantrums alongside him when he had an ADHD outburst. How did Sue’s parents keep her from “catching” ADHD?
- Don’t bend the rules. Explain that certain behavior is against the rules for everyone, but that big brother (or sister) sometimes can’t control himself.
- Enforce consequences. Sue’s parents explained that she would go to time-out if she joined John in a tantrum, just as he would for losing his temper.
- Make a plan. Sue and her parents discussed what she could do to avoid getting caught up in John’s tantrums, and came up with “three R’s —Running to her Room to Relax.”
- Expect to be tested. Sue tested her mom’s resolve on two occasions —and got two time-outs. After that, she followed the three R’s consistently.