ADHD and its Impact on Siblings - My Brother
I love my big brother very much. He is quite a few years older than I am and we grew up together until he moved away - when I was still relatively young. He kept an eye out for me and I tried to follow him everywhere - even when he told me not to. I followed him to his friend's house, I followed him to a swamp behind our home, and I followed him onto a 'frozen' pond. He even rescued me from at least two life threatening events - once when I walked onto the 'frozen' pond and I fell through leaving him to pull me out and once when I stepped into the street in front of an 18-wheeler and he grabbed me out of the way. The truck was so close that it hit my lunch bag right out of my hand, but I was untouched.
My biological father left before I turned 2 and my brother stepped in and took the role of a father figure in my eyes. He did not ask for that role and I don't even think he wanted it. But my little girl mind gave it to him. And like a child thinks of her father, my big brother could do very little wrong. When he did indeed do something wrong, I forgave him instantly. I suppose you can call it ‘hero worship' as my Mom sometimes did. All I knew was that my big brother could ride a ten-speed, stay outside longer without checking in, climb a tree all the way to the top, and win almost every board game we played. To a little kid, that is cool.
Unfortunately, not everyone saw my brother in the same light as I did. He had a knack for finding trouble and diving in with both feet. He was diagnosed early on with ADHD/ADD, but I didn't know either term or prognosis. All I knew was that he started taking some medicine that turned him into a zombie. I remember him begging Mom not to make him take it anymore and I remember it smelled like poo once you opened the medicine bottle. He and I shared a good laugh about that one many times. I didn't blame him one bit for not wanting to take the stinky medicine! Evidently, neither did Mom. She gave in and told him he could stop taking the medicine if he felt that strongly about it.
It was difficult growing up with a sibling with ADHD/ADD. There was a lot of bad behavior and lecturing that is difficult for a young child to comprehend. I knew that something was making my small family miserable and I couldn't do anything about it. I remember promising myself that I would try to help my brother stay out of trouble while also promising myself I would be the perfect daughter in order to keep Mom happy. It broke my little girl heart to see the two most important people in my life so unhappy, and it began to take its toll on me physically.
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Zsa Zsa Gabor
I began developing ulcers in first grade from the stress I placed upon myself. Looking back, I would go to the office every day while at school and rest on a cot in a dark room. I would rock side to side, holding my stomach, and wishing I hadn't been born to escape the pain. For some reason, I took it upon myself to try to fix what was wrong. However, I still didn't understand the turmoil at home and try as I might, it didn't get better. I figured out that my brother was very angry about something. But I had no idea what. I would much later learn the anger was directed internally since he was unable to aim it at the father and grandparents that had abandoned him so many years ago.
I wish someone would have taken the time to explain to me what was going on and why my brother always got in trouble. Although I was young, I was a bright and mature girl. I would have understood and it probably would have made a world of difference for me.
I will admit that I have a deep sense of empathy and I am very sensitive to my surroundings, so ADHD/ADD may not affect all siblings like it affected me. But if you have one child with the diagnosis and another child without it, please be aware of the possibility that the child without the diagnosis may be scared, confused, and hurting inside. Fortunately, there are many more treatment options for ADHD/ADD than there were when I was a young child. Therapy and medications have improved over the years and have fewer side effects while providing better results.
I am proud to say that my brother has done very well for himself and his two young boys. He has a great career in the military and I bet he never runs out of steam while chasing his sons. However, I still have a lot of emotions that I need to sort through that developed during those years. I know my brother feels a lot of guilt about his childhood and I wish he wouldn't. After all, he took a lot of the focus off of me so that when I actually did do something bad, it wasn't noticed. What a nice big brother...
My experience growing up with a sibling with ADHD/ADD differs dramatically from experiences shared in a study conducted in1999. Apparently the study found that siblings of children with ADHA resented the diagnosed sibling for causing disruptions in the home. The ADHD disruptions lead to 3 primary effects on the siblings. The first effect was a feeling of being victimized by the aggression displayed by the sibling with ADHD. The siblings felt unprotected by parents because the parents were too exhausted and weary to notice the aggressive behaviors. The second effect was feeling pressure to take on the role of caretaker to the sibling with ADHD. Siblings, younger and older, felt like they were expected to protect, supervise, give medication to, and help their ADHD brothers and sisters with their homework to lessen the parental load. The third effect was feeling a sense of sorrow and loss. The siblings longed for a ‘normal' life and regretted that they would never have that. The siblings felt saddened by the burden placed on the parents and attempted to be "invisible" so as not to overburden anyone. The siblings felt a sense of loss for quiet and peace in the home.
I never felt any resentment towards my brother, not when I was younger and not now. The best thing I can recommend to any parent who has a child with ADHD/ADD and a child without it is to talk to your child, make your child feel more secure while at home, and help your child understand what is taking place. Even if you are exhausted, drink another cup of coffee and have that talk. It will be beneficial to everyone involved.
You can find more information about the effects of ADHD on siblings by reading Judy Kendall's work in Family Process, 38, published in the spring of 1999. The following link will take you to a site where you can download the article if you like http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119935175/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0. But remember that all situations are different and you are the closest source to the effected sibling.
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