10 Tips for Parenting ADHD Kids and Their Siblings

From the WebMD Archives

When one of your kids has ADHD, it can be a challenge to make sure your other kids are OK, too.

"It's so important for parents to show all of their children -- both the child with ADHD and the kids without -- that they are equally loved,” says Terry Dickson, MD, director of the Behavioral Medicine Clinic of NW Michigan and an ADHD coach. While it can take work, balance is possible.

Here are some tips from Dickson and Mark Wolraich, MD, a pediatrics professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, on how to share the love and help everyone learn, adjust, and grow.

Manage expectations.

Parents may expect immediate obedience from their kids who don't have ADHD, Dickson says. It's common for them to think that their child should know better because they don't have the condition. But remember, they're still kids. Help them understand boundaries and rules. It is just as important for them as it is for the child with ADHD.

Be fair.

Be clear about the house rules, and enforce them equally with all the kids. Just like you shouldn't be extra hard on your kids who don't have ADHD, you shouldn't be too lenient with the one that does, Dickson says.

Make it personal.

Treat your children like individuals, Wolraich says. Approach each child based on his or her needs -- just like you do for your child who has ADHD.

Carve out time.

Make time for each of your children. Make them feel special and important, Wolraich says. Quality time with each child helps maintain balance with your kids. It can also minimize any resentment they might feel toward a sibling who needs extra attention.

Keep them active.

Get your kids involved in extracurricular activities. For siblings of kids with ADHD, these can provide an important outlet. It can give them something that is just about them. It can boost their belief that they can do things and reach goals, Berman says. It can benefit kids with ADHD as well.

Talk about it.

Keep the lines of communication open all the time, Wolraich says. Don't hide your child's ADHD. Help your kids get comfortable with it, understand it, learn about it, and adjust to having a sibling with it.


Focus on school.

Watch your kids' grades and their reports from school, Berman says. School can be a good way to see how your kids are doing and whether they need extra support at home.

Build sibling trust.

Help your kids spend time together. Having a sibling with ADHD is their "normal," Berman says, so they need to learn how to make it work.

Teach empathy.

As your kids get older, a healthy home environment in which one child has ADHD can help the others learn empathy and understanding, Wolraich says.

Enjoy the good times, too.

There will be moments when having a child with ADHD is hard for everyone in the family, but those moments are not all bad, Dickson says. You have to adjust, learn, and be patient -- with each of your kids equally.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 24, 2016


Jenn Berman, PhD, author, The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids.

Terry Dickson, MD, director, Behavioral Medicine Clinic of NW Michigan.

Mark Wolraich, MD, chief, section of developmental and behavioral pediatrics, Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center; director, Child Study Center, Oklahoma City.

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