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ADHD And Extended Family: Increase Understanding Among Relatives

As awareness grows, we are better able to address the challenges people with ADHD face at school, at home, and in the workplace. Self-help strategies abound, but the focus is usually on help for the immediate family—the child, mom, dad, and siblings. The impact of ADHD symptoms does not stop with the immediate family, however.

What about the concerns and reactions of grandparents or uncles and aunts? Research is lacking on the role and dynamics of the extended family when one or more members have ADHD.

In Taking Charge of ADHD, Russell A. Barkley, PhD, writes, “Parents of children with ADHD also may be deprived of the encouragement, warmth, and assistance of a supportive family. They tell us that they have fewer contacts with their extended family members than in families without children with ADHD, and that these contacts are less helpful to them as parents and more aversive or unpleasant.”

As parents, we want to help our children to become well-functioning and socially successful people. Our own anxieties are sometimes triggered when our children with ADHD act out and misbehave. We desperately want them to behave appropriately and to be accepted.

We all know those painful and awkward moments when everyone at family gatherings is affected. We feel embarrassed and defensive for our child when he gets reprimanded or described as “spoiled” by a relative, and we feel guilty for being unable to prevent these stressful occurrences.

It is painfully clear that misunderstandings, social expectations, unspoken rules, and unresolved family dramas keep us stuck in uncomfortable, maybe even dysfunctional interaction patterns within the extended family.

How do we respond to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins when our child becomes symptomatic at family functions? How can we advocate for our children, but also validate our extended family members’ experience while respecting their opinions and decisions?

Keep reading ADHD & Extended Family Ties: How to increase understanding and move forward for strategies that could help your family.

This article appeared in ADHD Weekly on January 11, 2018.

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