ADD & The Dysfunctional Family


                 The A.D.D. Resource Center, Inc.       646/205.8080      addrc@mail.com

 

ADD is Frequently At The Root Of Dysfunctional Family Situations

A Dysfunctional Home Does Not Cause ADD; Although Such an Environment Doesn't Help. We Now Know That Having a Child or Spouse with ADD Can Cause a Dysfunctional Home.

ADD can be very destructive to a family. From an early age the child with ADD is demanding and difficult (and often sleepless), putting stress on parents, particularly mothers. Siblings frequently get ignored by parents (and sometimes abused by the child with the disorder). Many children with Attention Deficit Disorders live in single-parent (mother) homes. Breakup of the family is often partially due to the problems inherent in raising a child with ADD.

Husbands and wives usually do not concur on how to treat the child. The father frequently complains that the mother is too lenient and the child isn't disciplined enough. When mothers seek diagnosis and treatment for the child, fathers often say they were like that as a child and grew up fine, brushing off the severity of the child's problems by saying he is just a "chip off the old block" (probably true, as the father may have undiagnosed ADD). So there is continual conflict between parents, which the child picks up on and reacts to.

The mother often finds it difficult to stick to set routines and rules
(especially if the mother has ADD),
yet these are necessary for helping a child with ADD to stay focused. The home may be cluttered and disorganized, which has a negative affect on the child.  Discipline may be erratic. Follow-through may be inconsistent. This is detrimental to any child, but a lack of order and consistency is devastating to children with ADD.

Parents fight. Relatives join in. The parents are doing their best, but it isn't working. They feel like failures and suffer from deep guilt -- they can't "control" their child and they think it's their fault, or resent the child for "willful" behaviors.

The child also feels like a failure, so exhibits symptoms of guilt and low self-esteem, including depression, tantrums, and behaviors that are progressively more negative and provoking. 

The child usually has problems with social relationships (usually due to a lack of impulse control and an inability to understand social "cues"), so playdates and family gatherings are major problems. Families of children with ADD tend to avoid social gatherings, which in turn fosters a feeling of isolation -- particularly with mothers
whose youngsters are not welcome playmates.

A high percentage of children with ADD (according to informal surveys at parent support group meetings supported by some recent clinical research) have been suspended or expelled - from nursery school!  Mothers usually spend more time with the children than do fathers, so they feel particularly trapped. They see the child in social settings such as the playground more often, and so are more aware of the child's problems. They gave birth, and have the self-image of "nurturer," so they'll often feel more guilt-- even though they were not responsible for the occurrence of this disorder.

By the time the child is in grade school the family is often in turmoil. It gets worse when the child can't keep up with schoolwork. Parents are stressed, knowing that many of their child's academic problems are due to ADD-symptoms, such as distractibility, difficulty with organization and transitionsl. And the subtle learning disabilities that often accompany ADD make things worse.

Parents and teachers cannot understand why some things are so very difficult for the child, and attribute the problems to an intentional lack of compliance or effort: "You could if you just tried." But in most cases the child is trying, often "harder" than his or her peers -- at least until they stop trying due to frustration.

Often the child with ADD will act out in class, taking attention away from his or her difficulties with the subject matter being studied. So add to the family frustration level the issues of poor school performance and the inordinate amount of time and energy spent helping the child complete homework.

When the child doesn't understand his or her own behaviors (why they can quickly grasp a complicated concept but have difficulty with basic spelling or writing) he or she is more likely to rebel against an academic environment.  It becomes less stressful to be "bad" then be "stupid."  So they may begin associating with other "problem" kids and progressing with unacceptable behaviors.

Even leisure activities may cause family dissension and contribute to the child's sense of failure. Parents, particularly fathers who are sports-minded, are often annoyed their child doesn't excel in team sports or those requiring fine motor coordination (frequently a problem for children with ADD). Some children with ADD are superb athletes, and use sports are a healthy channel for their excess energy.

The parents are angry and frustrated, but aren't supposed to show it. So they vent on each other. They try, but nothing seems to work. Negative reactions are overtly or covertly communicated to the child, who feels they've caused all of the problems. This doesn't bolster an already fragile sense of self-esteem. However, children with ADD can be superb manipulators, and they are not above playing one parent against another, which also contributes to the lack of unity and harmony in the family.

Children with ADD require a great deal of attention, from getting them up and dressed, preparing them for school and getting them there on time to sitting over them while they do homework (which is often a daily debacle for the child and parent). There's always the conflict of "She can't help herself" vs. "She could do it if she wanted to."
The truth is a combination of both, with issues such as motivation, age and other factors playing key roles.

Couples have little time for each other and siblings often feel neglected. Single parents are simply overwhelmed. And it can be a major production just to find the time, money and a sitter (assuming there are sitters willing to watch the rambunctious child), in order for parents to get out of the house and "recharge" themselves and/or their relationship.

The financial cost of treatment is high which puts additional stress on the family. Many children with ADD require therapists, doctors, tutors, special schools and medication that is expensive -- and not usually covered by insurance. (Which means that treatment is less likely in lower socio-economic groups.) Some mothers who want to, cannot work. They must be there for the child, causing additional economic hardship on the family. Divorce rates are high.

Plus there is the hereditary issue. Studies show that more than 50% of first-degree relatives of a child with ADD are also likely to have ADD - moreso on the maternal side. Thus, many of the parents have ADD themselves, which complicates things even more. (Individuals with ADD are often attracted to other ADDers.) It is difficult to provide a structured environment, teach a child to remain calm and learn self-control, help them with their organizational skills and boost their own self-esteem when the parents are suffering from many of the same problems.

Frustration is high, sometimes leading to violence in the family. Even non-ADD parents wind up yelling (an understatement) at their child, and some parents wind up hitting a child out of long-term and pervasive frustration and anger. This especially applies when parents either don't know or don't believe the child has a "real" disorder, which means they think the child is in control of actions that, in actuality, he or she isn't.

THE RESULT:  A dysfunctional family where everyone is in pain, from the child with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder to his or her siblings and parents.

Early intervention and proper, multimodal treatment for both the child and family can make a positive difference, either helping to prevent many of these problems or helping to improve the existing situation.  Education about ADD/ADHD is critical in understanding this disorder and changing perception of the problems from moral failings to a medical issue.

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ADD-Dysfunctional Family.doc   07/2006       Written by Susan Lasky

     The A.D.D. Resource Center provides proven, practical tools and strategies to help individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity  and related disorders to succeed.                 Our programs include  coaching, parenting classes, home and office organization, time, project and paper management, study skills, group seminars, career   and business development, couples workshops and more.


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Attention ezine editors and website owners:  This article may be reprinted in its entirety, in your ezine or on your site, but only when proper credit is given to The ADD Resource Center. Content may not be modified, and all links must remain in place.

The following must be included with each use:

      "Copyright © 2006 by The ADD Resource Center.  All rights reserved.
Visit  http://HaroldMeyer.org for additional resources. Contact addrc@mail.com for additional information."

All other reproduction or transmission requires the written consent of The ADD Resource Center. Please send a copy of the publication along with a note referencing the reuse. Unauthorized Duplication and/or Distribution Is Strictly Prohibited. We reserve the right to withdraw this permission at any time.

© 2006 The ADD Resource Center. All Rights Reserved.   

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