You’re living with a child with ADHD. How do you manage family life? How do you explain to the people around you what’s going on?

For those of you who don’t know, ADHD doesn’t just affect the child involved. It affects the whole family. From parents to siblings to even other members of the family who do not understand what ADHD is. The most affected relationship I feel is the one between siblings. How do you begin to explain to your other children that one of them has ADHD? How do you answer questions like what is it? How do you get it? Why don’t I have it? How do you deal with the daily arguments about how one of your children seems to get away with everything because she has ADHD?

The simple answer is you can’t. What you can do is simplify the explanation as best you can so that they have some understanding. While writing this blog I have been talking to my 11 year old and getting her feelings as a sibling. Sitting listening to her is quite a revelation. As a parent I tend to go into autopilot when dealing with L’s disabilities. I research and blog but seeing ADHD through a child’s eyes is something completely different.

Here’s what my daughter had to say:

“ADHD seems to be something that messes with your brain, it don’t work like it should do. It’s really annoying and I hate it when L is naughty as she always seems to get away with it but I get told off if I am naughty. I m a little bit worried it’s like L is being controlled by something. She’s always screaming or shouting and you don’t know what she’s going to do next. I worry that she doesn’t eat because of her medication. Would she be boring without her energetic behaviour? Inside I feel sorry for her when I am not angry at her. Wish ADHD would go away”

I was blown away after speaking to her about this. Even after all this time I selfishly never bothered to ask my other children how they were feeling. Guilt trip aside I asked if she thought the Story Massage was helping. Story Massage is just 10 simple massage moves that can be set to any favourite story, nursery rhyme or a story you and your child make up yourselves. My daughter said "yes mummy", she feels that it calms her sister down and mummy does not shout as much (love her honesty).

When our daughter was diagnosed she was seven, so at the time her sisters were four, nine and 10. They didn’t understand what was going on. They were worried and scared about what was happening. We explained that their sister has a brain that works differently to theirs. It works faster like a galloping horse (very much horse lovers in our house) constantly zooming forward which is why L finds it hard to concentrate and to sit still.

L is impulsive, demanding, and methodical. She also finds it difficult to process emotions and feelings. For us, in addition to the ADHD, there is also something wrong with L’s working/short term memory. Now two years later for my older two girls this explanation is now starting to wear a little bit thin. The simple explanation no longer suffices. A great and informative website I have recently found is there’s lots of amazing information and advice on there.

Do you ever get that uncomfortable feeling of not knowing how to answer a question as a parent? I do. How much information do you impart? No idea. Do you give them medical terms or simplify it? What about answers to questions that you are asked by an 11 and 12 year old? Erm... what if you don’t know the answers?!! Do you give them an in-depth answer or tailor it to how you think they would best understand? How do you know until you start how much they will understand?

I find this age fascinating. They are no longer happy with the simple answer. For them the difficult behaviour associated with ADHD means that their sister gets away with things. Some ways that we are coping as a family include trying to not give into naughty behaviour. This is difficult for any family whether you have one, two or four children. I have learnt as a mother to pick my battles. This is extremely hard especially if you have a child that does not understand what they are doing is bad. Reward charts are a great way of getting a compromise. We use lots of them from counting down the days to an exciting event to completing mundane chores at home. The reward is always the same. Now that we have integrated Story Massage into our routine the reward could be either a massage just for them or to be able to make up their own story. My children love it.

I am definitely guilty of, at times, not giving my children the attention they need due to other commitments. This is always hard for anyone with more than one child. By giving the older girls time out - either a trip out to the shops, an afternoon with family or friends or having art time at the dining table - we can try and make sure that we give each individual child attention. Outside activities are the best place for them to run off some steam and ensures they have plenty of space. It does not have to be expensive - a walk in the woods collecting leaves or playing at the park. It also helps calm down potential explosive arguments before they start -  one of my most difficult tasks.

This is where Story Massage has become a huge help. If any of the girls are feeling tense, upset or tired massage is a great way to defuse the situation calmly and peacefully.

So my daughter and I sat down together and wrote a Story Massage together. Actually this one is mostly C’s work. With the wonderful advice of one of the founders of Story Massage, my daughter has written this story for other siblings who like her may struggle living with ADHD.


Living with ADHD by 'C' aged 11

I love my little sister (calm) 

But sometimes I find it hard. (The squeeze)

She gets lots of attention

And she’s really loud. (The drum)

I feel like being naughty

So I can be just like her (the walk)

But no one understands.

So instead I feel sad and angry (the bounce)

It’s scary when I think too much

My tummy feels mixed inside (the circle)

Cause I’m worried a little bit too.

Yes it’s scary when I think too much (the bounce)

About what she might do next?

I feel a little alone inside (the sprinkle)

I wish this would go away (the fan)

My sister has ADHD (the calm)

I don’t understand but I hate it (claw)

She’s always shouting and angry

She never stays still in the day (wave)

I wish ADHD would go away

But mummy makes me feel safe (the calm)

She’s there holding my hand

She protects and helps me to (the circle)

Make sense of this sister of mine

I have a little sister (the calm)

This little sister of mine (the walk)

Cause even with ADHD

She’s my sister my heart just mine (the circle)

This is really emotional for us as a family to read and, by sharing, my daughter hopes that it can be passed onto other siblings who are maybe struggling with their feelings like she does.

Story Massage is a fun and calming way to share positive touch with children of all ages and abilities, disabled or not. As with my daughter it can be a channel for them to give meaning to their feelings and to express what they going through. The possibilities are endless and it’s a great way of spending time with the children.

For more information or to learn Story Massage at home or in the work place please see their website Or you can contact me at