What’s it like having a sibling with ADHD and how does The other child cope by Cathy Pinnock

One of the biggest responsibilities The other child faces is their desire to be “the good kid.” They tend to want to please their parents and do well in school and sports to help alleviate some of the stress they see their parents experiencing. They accomplish this by overcompensating; always listening and doing as their parents ask, leaving their ADHD sibling feeling sad and sometimes angry because they lack the ability to do the same.

Topics surrounded around fairness, inclusion, and avoiding responsibilities oftentimes leaves the The other child feeling guilty and frustrated, resulting in resentment, and added sibling conflicts. They also find their household tasks can be greater because their parents have more confidence in their ability to complete them without arguing or little supervision. In many cases, they may be the younger sibling, but are expected to behave as the older one because their ability to follow directions is greater than their ADHD sibling. This can lead to a burden for The other child in always feeling like they need to perform at their best.

A key complaint The other child faces is witnessing their siblings’ impulsive behaviors as they sometimes feel embarrassed by their brothers/sisters conduct in school and in public. On the flip side, their ADHD sibling may have feelings of resentment towards them for the ease in which they navigate school, develop lasting friendships, receive invitations to birthday parties and don’t seem to get in trouble as much. All these scenarios lead to fighting and tensions and can result in a battle of competition for the parents love and attention.

There are no easy solutions to resolving some of these challenges, however, some things that have worked in easing these family tensions are:

  1. Create routines which hold each child accountable. Being responsible for making their own lunch or doing the family dishes or walking the dog helps each child feel a sense of ownership in contributing to their family’s needs. It also helps build up the child’s self-esteem, especially for the sibling with ADHD.
  2. Enforce consequences – help the children understand there are consequences for their actions. Write down what these consequences are and place them in a jar. As a family rule is broken, make them take a consequence out of jar and expect them to perform it. Accountability is important for children to learn, and this will help reinforce it.
  3. Help the other child understand that their ADHD sibling does not have the executive functioning skills they possess. Teach them to develop more compassion and patience towards their sibling, desiring to help them in areas they may need more assistance. This can build great rapport amongst them and give the ADHD sibling a sense of security in knowing they have an advocate in the family.
  4. As parents, it is important to help each child feel valued and important so pointing out their strengths, instead of focusing on the weakness of each child, is highly encouraged, and received well from all the children.
  5. Have a consistent family activity planned each week. Whether it’s watching a family movie and allowing each child to rotate out the movie selections, or just taking a family walk, it helps build unity and ease the tension of the otherwise stressful daily challenges. Most important, it helps build memories and children love being able to recall fun times and enjoyable activities.
  6. Engage in family therapy. In my therapy practice, I have had a lot of experience in helping families navigate the challenges of living with an ADHD child and teaching them new coping skills. Please feel free to contact me for a consultation at cathypinnock@simplybrave.com.


Cathy is a Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern at Simply Brave. She is motivated to help people find the answers they are looking for to enjoy happiness, find hope and regain personal strength. ⁠