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Family Dynamics and ADHD

Family Dynamics and ADHD

There are several key areas where a child's ADHD can have a profound effect on the stability (and sanity) of a family. Those include the marriage, sibling behavior, and social situations. The exercise in this article can help parents identify factors that may be at work in a family with a child who has ADHD.

Family dynamics are at play in every family. The following list includes some possible problem dynamics associated with ADHD family situations. Your assignment is to review the list and watch for them over the next week. Are any of them present in your family? If so, how are they influencing family relationships? Are they disrupting the safety and security of your family? How are you addressing these dynamics?


This means making excuses for your child's negative behaviors and not holding the child accountable. This makes it easier for the child to repeat the unwanted behaviors. I've heard some parents say, "It is not my child's fault. He has ADHD!" But even though a child has ADHD, the window he or she "accidentally" shattered with a rock is still broken. And the child is responsible for breaking that window. A good, consistent mantra for parents to use with a child who has ADHD is, "You are still responsible for your behaviors."

Excuse Making

Once enabling occurs, it sets the stage for everyone in the family to make excuses for the child's behaviors, including you.


One family member feels like he or she is being blamed for everything. This makes everyone else the enemy.


Sometimes one family member will join forces with another for various reasons. This frustrates the person or people they are allied against. So if a dad and his son constantly team up to make decisions that go against what mom wants, it can create tension in the family and make mom feel left out and resentful.


A child with ADHD is often blamed for all of the family's ills. Although his or her behaviors do influence the family dynamic, blaming him or her for all the stress in the home does not help reduce it and may lead the child to develop a poor self-image.


Enmeshment means that people in the family don't have their own individual identities outside of the family. They are exclusively dependent upon each other. If one person tries to separate from an enmeshed family, that person is pressured to "get back into the fold." For example, in an enmeshed family, a child may have very few friends because his or her life is dominated by a parent's expectations and demands. The child might feel obligated to check with the parent on everything he or she does, from what he or she wears to who he or she dates. Even as an adult, the child may be compelled by a sense of "loyalty" to seek approval from the parent on decisions he or she must make.


This occurs when one or more family members separate themselves emotionally, psychologically, and/or physically from the other family members. When a parent disengages, this makes it much more difficult for the other parent to successfully parent the child with ADHD.


This usually means not allowing a child the space to explore and learn. Many times, parents of children with ADHD are overprotective because they don't want their child hurt by things like teasing or rejection. Overprotection means the parent is not recognizing the child's developmental level and is not helping or allowing the child to develop the life skills needed to be successful.

A child with ADHD brings numerous and varied challenges to a family. The effects of the child's behavior continually ripple through the family, influencing interactions and relationships between all members. With greater awareness and a focus on consistency in your parenting for all your children, negative behaviors can be replaced by positive behaviors and the negative impact bad behavior has on the family can be reduced. As a parent, you must act with confidence and clarity as you identify and address the challenges your family faces.

Click here for more information about a Brief (and Helpful) History of ADHD.