"It's Just Not Fair" — Supporting Non-ADHD Siblings

In honor of #ADHDAwarenessMonth, we’re exploring a topic that is often overlooked when it comes to ADHD support: the perspective of non-ADHD siblings. Clinical Director Lesley Todaro offers her advice below.

The sibling perspective

“I am so sick of all the attention my ADHD sibling gets from my parents. Not only is the extra attention leaving little for me, and annoying, but also they get away with everything. If I did what he/she does my parents would kill me!!”

Sound familiar? According to many siblings, “ADHD is just an excuse, not real, he/she could do it if he/she tried harder; he/she is so lazy. I know other kids with ADHD that do just fine.” 

Explanations regarding the challenges experienced by those with ADHD do not quell this line of thinking; asking siblings to show compassion and understanding also does not work. It all just feels unfair and unjust.

Most of all, the non-ADHD sibling is craving connection, not leftover tired connection, real connection where they come first. 

What you can do

Parents are so often exhausted from managing the life of the child with ADHD that there is very little left over even for themselves. There is frequently much to do to help the child with ADHD to overcome challenges. School visits, testing, and therapies, coaching- all take time. Not to mention the time the parent needs for his or her own work or life. If emotional regulation is an issue, managing “melt-downs” can take hours and can at times be scary for all.

With so much energy spent on the child with ADHD, it’s not surprising that siblings often feel left on the sidelines. Here are three simple ways you can address this:

✓ Ask your non-ADHD child “Do you treat both your parents the same all the time? Don’t you change your behavior based on the parents mood or personality?”

✓ Ask your child if they can think of independence, trust and freedom that they enjoy while the ADHD child may not be given the same.

✓ Most importantly, find time as often as possible (even 15 minutes) to connect one on one with your non-ADHD child. Praise them, highlight their success too. Make time for each parent to have one on one time and activities with the non- ADHD sibling. When the non- ADHD sibling feels seen and important, then it may be time for them to have compassion not resentment for their sibling.


Lesley Todaro is the Clinical Director and owner of the Hallowell Todaro ADHD Center. The experience of facing some of these challenges in her own family prompted Lesley to deepen her understanding of ADHD through intensive postgraduate training with Dr. Edward Hallowell, a national leader in in the field of ADHD research and treatment. Together, they founded the Hallowell Todaro ADHD Center in 2015.

Contact us for more information on ADHD support for families.