Your living with a child with ADHD. How do you manage family life? How do you explain to the people around you whats going on?
For those of you who don’t know ADHD does not just affect the child involved. It affects the whole family. From parents to siblings to even other members of the family who do not understand what ADHD is. The most affected relationship I feel is the one between siblings.
- How do you begin to explain to your other children that one of them has ADHD?
- How do you answer questions like what is it?
- How do you get it?
- Why don’t I have it?
- how do you deal with the daily arguments about how one of your children seems to get away with everything because she has ADHD.
The simple answer is you can’t. What you can do is simplify the explanation as best you can so that they have some understanding.
While writing this blog I have been talking to my 11 year old and getting her feelings as a sibling. Sitting listening to her is quite a revelation. As a parent I tend to go into autopilot when dealing with L’s disabilities. I research and blog but seeing ADHD through a child’s eyes is something completely different.
“ADHD seems to be something that messes with your brain, it don’t work like it should do. Its really annoying and i hate it when L is naughty as she always seems to get away with it but i get told of if i am naughty. I m a little bit worried its like L is being controlled by something. She’s always screaming or shouting and you don’t know what she’s going to do next. I worry that she don’t eat cause of her medication. Would she be boring with out her energetic? Inside i feel sorry for her when i am not angry at her. Wish ADHD would go away”
I was blown away after speaking to her about this. Even after all this time i selfishly never bothered to ask my other children how they were feeling. Guilt trip aside I asked if she thought the Story Massage was helping. My daughter said yes mummy, she feels that it calms her sister down and mummy does not shout as much. (love her honesty)
when our daughter was diagnosed she was 7 so at the time her sisters were 9, 10 and 4. They didn’t understand what was going on. They were worried and scared about what was happening. We explained that their sister has a brain that works differently to theirs. It works faster like a galloping horse ( very much horse lovers in our house) constantly zooming forward which is why L finds it hard to concentrate and to sit still. L is impulsive, demanding, methodical. She also finds it difficult to process emotions and feelings. For us in addition to the ADHD there is also something wrong with L’s working/short term memory.
Now two years later for my older two girls this explanation is now starting to wear a little bit thin. The simple explanation no longer suffices. A great and informative website I have recently found is www.adhdkids.org.uk Theres lots of amazing information and advice on there.
- Do you ever get that uncomfortable feeling of not knowing how to answer a question as a parent? I do
- How much information do you impart? No idea do you give them medical terms or simplify it
- What about answers to questions that you are asked by an 11 and 12 year old? Erm what if you don’t know the answers
- Do you give them an in-depth answer or tailor it to how you think they would best understand? How do you know until you start how much they will understand
I find this age fascinating. They are no longer happy with the simple answer. For them the difficult behaviour associated with ADHD means that their sister gets away with things. Some ways that we are coping as a family are
- Trying to not give into naughty behaviour. This is difficult for any family wether you have one,two or four children. I have learnt as a mother to pick my battles. This is extremely hard especially if you have a child that does not understand what they are doing is bad. Reward charts are a great way of getting a compromise. We use lots of them from counting down the days to an exciting event to completing mundane chores at home. The reward is always the same. Now that we have integrated Story Massage into our routine the reward could be either a massage just for them or to be able to make up their own story. My children love it.
- Giving the older girls time out either a trip out to shops, an afternoon with family or friends or having art time at the dining table
- Make sure that we give each individual child attention. This is always hard for anyone with more than one child.I am defiantly guilty of at times not giving my children the attention they need due to other commitments. We do this by making sure that we spend quality time with each of them doing something they enjoy or reading with them and more recently Story Massage
- we do outside activities. This is the best place for them to run of some steam and ensures they have plenty of space. It does not have to be expensive: a walk in the woods collecting leaves or playing at the park.
- calming down potential explosive arguments before they start: this is one of my most difficult ones. This is where story massage has become a huge help. If any of the girls are feeling tense, upset or tired massage is a great way to diffuse the situation calmly and peacefully.
So my daughter and I sat down together and wrote a Story massage together. Actually this one is mostly C’s work. With the wonderful advice of one of the founders of Story Massage my daughter has written this story for other siblings who like her may struggle living with ADHD.
Living with ADHD
By Charlotte Brown aged 11
I love my little sister (calm)
But sometimes i find it hard. (the squeeze)
She gets lots of attention
And she’s really loud. (the drum)
I feel like being naughty
So i can be just like her (the walk)
But no one understands.
So instead i feel sad and angry (the bounce)
Its scary when i think too much
My tummy feels mixed inside (the circle)
Cause i’m worried a little bit too.
Yes its scary when i think too much (the bounce)
About what she might do next
I feel a little alone inside (the sprinkle)
I wish this would go away (the fan)
My sister has ADHD (the calm)
I don’t understand but i hate it (claw)
She’s always shouting and angry
She never stays still in the day (wave)
I wish ADHD would go away
But mummy makes me feel safe (the calm)
She’s there holding my hand
She protects and helps me to (the circle)
Make sense of this sister of mine
I have a little sister (the calm)
This little sister of mine (the walk)
Cause even with ADHD
She’s my sister my heart just mine (the circle)
This is really emotional for us as a family to read and by sharing my daughter hopes that it can be passed onto other siblings who are maybe struggling with their feelings like she does.
The story has been written as a story massage hence the massage moves in the brackets. Story massage is just 10 simple massage moves that can be set to any favourite story, nursery rhyme or a story you and your child make up yourselves. Its a fun and calming way to share positive touch with children of all ages and abilities,disabled or not. As with my daughter it can be a channel for them to give meaning to their feelings and to express what they going through. The possibilities are endless and it’s a great way of spending time with the children.
we wish you all a merry and healthy christmas