My nine-year-old son was recently diagnosed with ADHD. He seems to be responding well to treatment and discussions of what ADHD is and how he can work to manage his problems. However, his older sister, who is thirteen, has responded to the news much more negatively. She resists going anywhere with the family where she might be seen by classmates in the company of her brother. At home, she calls him “weird” and yells at him to stay away from her and her friends. I understand that it can be difficult for an adolescent to deal with anything “different” about her family, but her behavior is rude and is damaging to my son’s self-esteem, hard as we are working to build it up. What can we do to persuade our daughter to be more supportive of her brother?
It may help to look at a situation like this as more of an opportunity than a problem because it gives you an opening to work with your daughter on general issues relating to sensitivity to others, respect for family members’ rights and feelings, and acceptance of the challenges that each person must face, as well as issues directly related to ADHD.
As you are already doing with your son, your daughter needs to be educated regarding what ADHD is and is not, which of your son’s behaviors are typical of children with ADHD and which are just part of normal sibling conflicts, and how her responses can help him achieve better self-control and improve general family functioning.
If you have not already spoken directly with your daughter about these issues, be sure to do so—you might do some of this in the context of a “family meeting.” Your family may also benefit from one or more sessions with a family therapist or from a support group for families of children with ADHD that may help your daughter understand that the problems that she faces with her brother are common, and provide her with positive approaches for interacting with her brother.