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ADD: Dealing with Siblings

A child with ADD, regardless of the severity, will have an impact on all family members, not just parents. The purpose of this section is to address some of the issues related to siblings, and to provide parents with resources for their children who do not have ADD.

Much has been written about the siblings of a disabled child. The responses to the disability vary tremendously, depending upon a number of variables, such as age, sex, and severity of the disability. However, some general issues involving resentment, embarrassment, and guilt present themselves.

Children may resent the time parents must spend with their sibling with ADD. They also may feel that the money spent for medical expenses, counseling, or special camps could be put to some other use in the family. Some siblings have told us of the different set of rules for their siblings with ADD. All of this can lead to resentment and anger if not handled appropriately.

As siblings get older, one common theme is embarrassment. How do they explain their brother's or sister's behavior to their friends? When they are on a family outing, do people stare at them? Adolescence is an age where almost anything parents or other family members do can bring about a feeling of embarrassment. Therefore, it should not be surprising that acting out or impulsive behavior may cause sisters and brothers concern.

Not surprisingly, many siblings have discussed the guilt involved in having such feelings. But guilt is not the only feeling. The wide range of feelings experienced by siblings is complex and defies easy categorization. What is clear is that they must be dealt with in a nonthreatening manner. Many siblings can benefit from short-term counseling or family counseling to deal with these issues.

You shouldn't be discouraged, because the picture is not so gloomy. There are numerous accounts of very positive interactions and relationships among siblings. Many families report extraordinary examples of caring, warmth, and compassion, as well as a willingness to help out when needed, on the part of their children who do not have ADD. And research on siblings of children with various disabilities, from mild to severe, indicates that the impact on their lives includes many positive aspects.

Where does this leave you? Siblings of children with any disability or disorder will be affected. They will experience a wide range of emotions that may change throughout their lifetime. Some will be positive, some will be negative. What is most important, however, is how parents deal with this situation. In addition to individual counseling and/or family counseling, there are sibling support groups throughout the country. These are not geared specifically to ADD, but you may find one that is appropriate. Because ADD is a "popular" topic, you may begin to notice a number of books written expressly for children. A word of caution: Read the books yourself first, to see if the message is one you are comfortable with. There may be specific interventions employed with the characters in the book that are not appropriate for all children with ADD, and you need to decide on the appropriateness before giving it to any of your children. Also, you may find some of the descriptions of behaviors associated with ADD to be inconsistent with those of your child. Select books with care.

More on: ADHD

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From Keys to Parenting a Child with Attention Deficit Disorders by Barry E. McNamara, Ed.D. & Francine J. McNamara, M.S.W., C.S.W. Copyright 2000 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with Barrons Educational Series, Inc.

Buy the book at Barron's.


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