The sibling effect. A special needs child has a dramatic effect on the entire family.

Meet Emma … Luke’s big sister, tween, gifted student and batgirl extraordinaire.

Emma, and I had a “girl’s day out” yesterday. She has been saving her chore money up to go to Build A Bear Workshop to make a dog (she is obsessed with dogs). I am well aware that the extra attention paid to Luke because of his ADHD has really been bothering her so we made a day of Build A Bear. We had lunch together at the mall, built her dog, Maddie, and did a little shopping. My favorite part was we two girls in the dressing room trying on clothes together at Old Navy. It was pretty cool to try on clothes with my daughter, despite the fact that I loathe trying on clothing and it is a sad reminder of just how fast she is growing up. It brought a smile to my face nonetheless.
You may be asking yourself why this entry is applicable on a blog about ADHD. Hold you horses, I am getting to that.
You see, we’ve noticed a lot of changes in Emma since Luke began school last year, more to the point, since he began doing poorly in school. She has been more protective, more anxious, more jealous of attention paid to Luke, and more disgusted by school overall.
Now, I certainly don’t blame all of this on the ADHD factor. Her disgust with school comes from the fact that she changed schools this year and that 4th grade is when the work starts getting serious – she is also very disorganized and it causes her to have trouble with the accountability introduced in 4th grade.
She is protective of her brother. No complaints here. That makes me happy. They don’t always get along so well. The ADHD causing her to be more protective is frankly just fine with me. I welcome it as long as it doesn’t become obsessive (it was borderline obsessive before Luke started school — she would parent him to try to keep him out of trouble with us).

I can’t say I really blame her for being jealous of the extra attention Luke receives. I am not going to feel guilty about it either. Right now, he is struggling and he needs extra help. I am certainly not neglecting her to give him extra help, despite her sometimes steadfast belief in the contrary. This is why I made a point to have a special day with her. I will make a point to do it more often too. I wish I could find a way to ignite her compassion when it comes to this. How do I help her understand it is necessary that he receive extra help until we learn how to live with the ADHD in the room?
Lastly, her anxiety. I can’t say for certain it is a result of the ADHD factor. In fact, I am more certain it is not a direct result of the extra attention paid to her brother for the ADHD. I know part of it comes from changing schools. I am sure part of it is a result of walking the line with puberty too. She has cried in school and gets a stomach ache for what often seems like no reason. Again, I am not sure how to help her stop sweating the small stuff. Teaching gratitude to a tween is like trying to climb an icy mountain in heels!
I should mention too that we do not have an angry, chaotic home. Luke’s ADHD is mild, it is mostly evident in his school failures and only realyl a problem with hyperactivity at home. He is not OCD or violent or anything of that nature that would drastically change Emma’s home environment and cause her stress.
So what is your experience with siblings of a special needs child? How do you strike a balance? How do you help them grow from their special family dynamic instead of suffer from it?

 

COVER3D_400sq_bestsellAward-Winning Blogger. Freelance Writer. Author. Warrior Mom.
A self-described “veteran” parent of a son with ADHD, Penny Williams is the author of the Amazon best-seller about her parenthood in the trenches, Boy Without Instructions: Surviving the Learning Curve of Parenting a Child with ADHD. She is also the creator of the award-winning website, {a mom’s view of ADHD}, a frequent contributor on parenting a child with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications, and co-founder of the annual Happy Mama Conference & Retreat, a weekend away for moms of kids with neurobehavioral disorders. Look for her second book, What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting ADHD, in late 2014. Follow Penny at http://BoyWithoutInstructions.com.

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parenting/FAMILY, school failure, siblings ·

About the author

COVER3D_400sq_bestsellAward-Winning Blogger. Freelance Writer. Author. Warrior Mom. A self-described “veteran” parent of a son with ADHD, Penny Williams is the author of the Amazon best-seller about her parenthood in the trenches, Boy Without Instructions: Surviving the Learning Curve of Parenting a Child with ADHD. She is also the creator of the award-winning website, {a mom's view of ADHD}, a frequent contributor on parenting a child with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications, and co-founder of the annual Happy Mama Conference & Retreat, a weekend away for moms of kids with neurobehavioral disorders. Look for her second book, What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting ADHD, in late 2014. Follow Penny at http://BoyWithoutInstructions.com.

One Comment

  1. my3sons says:

    I can’t help with a tween daughter! I only have sons! But, can relate to the sibling feeling like they don’t get the proper attention. My 8 year old has ADHD, his 6 year old brother will tell us that his brother gets all the attention. You do feel a bit guilty, but know that the easier child usually does. My husband and I try to do things alone with him also. He loves the extra attention! I really don’t think child 2 is thinking that the ADHD is the reason his brother is attracting the attention. He just thinks we are favoring him. My son with ADHD is mainly hyper at home also. He does great on his meds and is a great student. Never any behavior problems at school. Our sons sound similar! The hyperactivity is enough to drive you crazy though. Our mornings are pretty rough until the meds kick in. Once they do, he is a very different child. Thanks goodness:)

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