parent opinion

'I was so focused on my son's ADHD, I completely dropped the ball with his little sister.'

Can we take a minute to talk about the siblings of children with ADHD

I imagine in most families with both ‘neurotypical’ and ‘non-neurotypical’ children, the children that give us the least worry tend to fade a bit into the blur of everyday life. 

Let’s face it, if that child isn't screaming and demanding our attention, it’s easy to ‘forget’ about them hovering about in the background until we get a minute to stop and breathe. 

Giving them a quick cuddle between the wars, a heartfelt but fleeting “You did an amazing job!” when they have shown bravery or compassion or done a task we asked of them. 

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If this sounds far from your family dynamic, I absolutely and wholeheartedly applaud you and love that difference between us. If this does sound like your family, I am right there with you.

My eldest son was diagnosed with ADHD in 2019, but his super brain was charged and raring to go from birth. 

He cried all the time, had meltdowns at the drop of a hat, and was very difficult to reason with. He would do the opposite of anything I told him not to do and seemed to never, ever slow down. 

He couldn't switch off to go to bed at night and sometimes it could take three hours or more for him to fall asleep. He would then be restless all night and wake up and be the whirlwind of a boy he was all over again. 

My daughter came along exactly two years after her big brother and was a little dream. 

That in no way takes away from my son, but almost everything with her seemed ‘easy.’ She slept well until about age four when she decided she needed to sleep with Mummy (which I secretly love. Apologies to the husband). 

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She was chatty and observant and brave and independent. Everything about my little girl was in contrast to my boy. 

She had her moments, like all children do, but overall she was like a cool breeze on a hot day. 

I couldn't quite understand how different children could be but I had little capacity to actually fully appreciate that. 

I was too tired dealing with the ups and downs of raising my super-brained, energy-charged son to really, fully take in the gentle unfolding of my daughter's early years.

I remember being so very in love with her; she was my little shadow - but I have much more vivid memories of my son. 

This is most likely true of any second child but the thing is, my daughter is now seven and a wave of guilt and regret has washed over me. Our family has spent nearly all of her life fixated on helping her big brother. And in this time our youngest son arrived, splitting my focus again. 

For every time my eldest son had a meltdown and needed my undivided attention whilst a baby hung off me, she was quietly playing in the background.

For every time I had to take my son aside to explain how to play nicely with other children whilst making sure the baby wasn’t eating a dead insect, she was independently forming friendships. 

For every time my son needed me cheering him on to the absolute fullest, she was quietly confident in her own abilities. 

I feel like I gave so much of myself to my eldest son’s early years and not nearly enough to my daughter’s.

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I was always there for her, holding her hand if she needed me, but the amount of times my energy was focused on her big brother was incomparable. 

And now that things with my eldest are much more manageable, my youngest son is at home with me and has my undivided attention. 

In the constant juggling act of parenting my eldest son, my daughter and my youngest, I feel like I have dropped the ball with her the most. 

And I can’t help but wonder if this happens to many other siblings of non-neurotypical children? 

Perhaps my daughter just simply didn’t need me as much. Perhaps her independence was not an outcome of her circumstance but an organic part of who she is. Either way, I know I need to be more present for her.

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The brothers and sisters of ADHD children are unsung heroes, real troopers who adapt to whatever life looks like for their family. 

They grow up knowing there is a difference between their brain and their ADHD sibling’s brain, readily taking on any changes that need to be made to accommodate that difference and the challenges that come with. 

They know no different and love regardless. They are tested on a daily basis, just like we are. They feel frustrated and anxious, just like we do. They wonder why their sibling is slightly different from most but see their bright shining side too, just like we do.

I like to think that while our ADHD children will one day be armed with resilience and confidence, our neurotypical children will exit the fray with kindness, patience and appreciation for those who are different. 

They really are vital to the journey we are on with our ADHD child(ren) and I know for a fact that I need to do more to show my daughter, and now my youngest, that they are every bit as visible in our family even without all the flashing lights. 

Feature Image: Getty.

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