Children with ADHD and their Families

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Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

I was really pleased to see that a piece of research confirmed what so many therapists who treat children with ADHD and their families already knew from experience. What we already knew was that having a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can have devastating effects on marriage and on the other children in the family. Researchers at the University of Buffalo discovered that by the time ADHD children reach the age of 8 there parents are extremely likely to divorce. In fact, marriages are most vulnerable when the child is between the ages of 1 go 8 years of age. For this reason and more, the researchers conclude that the treatment of the ADHD child must include the treatment of the entire family. The article reporting the research was printed in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Other recent studies demonstrate the fact that ADHD puts strains on the relationships between parents and the ADHD child, between the child and other siblings in the family, and among all the family members.


While the studies now clearly prove that having an ADHD child greatly increases the risk of divorce, those families who cope with this problem are more than aware of how their lives are affected. This is not to say that they do not love their child. Rather, it means that parents and siblings feel over whelmed, battered and out of control.

Everything that the average family that is raising children take for granted is difficult for the ADHD family. Daily routines, engagement in play with other children, doing homework, watching television and family meal times, are disrupted by the ADHD child who can be impulsive, demanding, loud, disorganized and disruptive.

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My attempt here is not to vilify these unfortunate children. They are unable to control themselves and that is the reason they are sent into treatment with psychologists and psychiatrists. Anyone who has lived through or who is currently living through this type of thing knows who torturous this can be.

In my experience, treatment for the ADHD child has included treatment for the entire family. Over the years, I worked with many families struggling with this problem while the child was being treated by the child psychologist. The purpose of therapy for the family was/is not to bitterly complain about the child, but to learn specific behavioral strategies to cope with the child while lending support to one another rather than engaging in mutual blame. It is also important that parents learn to give attention to and listen to the needs of their other siblings.

Family therapy is also geared towards learning about this disorder so that parents not blame themselves for what has happened to their child. Hope is also important as many parents mistakenly believe that their ADHD child is doomed to a life of being handicapped. In fact, people with ADHD are able to go on and have productive and happy lives once they learn how to cope with the disorder and to use the particular talents that come with ADHD.

If you are in this situation and have a child with ADHD it is important that you seek help for the child as well as for yourself and the entire family.

Your comments are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, PhD.

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