Siblings of children with ADHD

If someone's belongings go missing in our house.. Joe gets the blame. If food has disappeared.. Joe gets the blame. If something is broken in our house.Joe gets the blame! When the all too familiar screech of "Joe" reverberates throughout the house, it also serves another gives Joe the attention he craves. All of you parents with children with AD/HD know there is nothing they like more than attention - whether it is positive or negative, any attention will do! Most of the time it is probably Joe who is the perpetrator of such 'crimes', however I am sure that there are many times when Joe has been blamed for something he didn't do and all this does, I am sure, is lower his already battered self-esteem. As parents, it is our job to make our children feel loved, cherished and full ofworth - something I try very hard to do. Children with AD/HD experience an onslaught of negativity that makes building their confidence akin to building a house upon the sand.. .once the floods of negativity begin - down it tumbles. Whilst my job is to build up the self-esteem in Joe and ensure that he sees his own worth, potential and beauty, others, whilst not purposely knocking him down, often do so. his siblings especially!

Whilst many of the tips I have given for siblings in general and indeed, siblings with autism, may apply to families with a child with AD/HD, children with AD/HD have their own particular qualities that have an enormous impact on the rest of the family. In our house and I am sure in many others with an AD/HD child, Joe is more often than not the aggravator. Like lighting a touch-fuse to a firework, Joe dashes around the house and amuses himself, sometimes by sneaking up to Luke and closing down one of the programmes he is working on then running off and waiting to be chased, sometimes by teaching Ben to do inappropriate things such as kick or bite someone and sometimes by poking at the girls or Matthew. In these scenarios he is often merely spoiling for a game of cat and mouse but I can fully understand how infuriating their noisy and mischievous little brother can be.

The siblings of children with AD/HD, in my opinion, get a tougher deal than most, as the nature ofAD/HD means that children seldom stop to consider the consequences oftheir actions. Impulsivity coupled with the endless hyperactivity, noise and inattentiveness make an AD/HD child very hard to live with. Whilst there are definitely positive sides to having a child with AD/HD in the family (without Joe, who would say all the things that his brothers and sisters are thinking and daren't say, or break the ice in uncomfortable situations by donning his wig and performing a hysterical version of the moonwalk?), these tips may help to reduce the hours you need to put in as a referee and mediator.

• Ensure that each sibling has his or her own place to lock away belongings and that all scissors and marker pens are locked away. By removing temptation from your impulsive child, you will save a lot of family disharmony (isn't that putting it politely?).

• Remember that AD/HD or not, all people are responsible for their actions. AD/HD will not make someone above the law so don't excuse inappropriate behaviours. As parents we must teach our children that they are accountable for their actions, however difficult it is for them to control them.

• Set up 'debriefing' meetings in order to establish how the strategies being used to eliminate unwanted behaviours are working. In our house I aim (not always achieved but I try) to have such discussions at least once a week, usually after Sunday dinner. The aim of this family meeting is not only to air grievances, but in the main, to focus on the positives and encourage each one of the other children to forgive.

• Encourage the child with AD/HD to think him- or herself of ways to put right any wrongs.

• Ensure that your other children have time away from their AD/HD sibling. Children with AD/HD can be very tiring and often aggressive too. However difficult it is, try to spend some time alone with each sibling, doing things he or she likes to do.

• Encourage family games where all family members can be involved. Games such as Twister and Charades can create wonderful family times and let the beauty of AD/HD shine through, whilst encouraging turn taking and listening skills.

• We have a trampoline which has worked wonders for all of my multicoloured family. Once on the trampoline, Joe is respected and revered as he flips the highest, has the most energy and performs the most daring tricks. All of the children can go on together and combine physiotherapy with fun. Well worth getting if at all possible.

Here they all are with Luke outjumping Joe for once!

Here they all are with Luke outjumping Joe for once!

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