Family Dynamics and ADHD: EXTENDED FAMILY

Having extended family can be a lifesaver.  Nothing negates the blessing of extra helping hands and hearts to make a difference for you and your kid.  Unless you count them second guessing the use of meds or questioning the very existence of ADHD .

Maybe you’ve learned to navigate these minefields. Or maybe you don’t have extended family available – which in turn means you don’t have folks looking to weigh in one way or another.   Either scenario has some definite pluses and minuses.  And like everything on the ADHD journey, you learn to figure it out, adjust and find your own way.

Norrine’s Extended Family: Someone Who Understands

My husband and I both come from large families, with lots of siblings. Historically, he’s been closer to his family than I have been to mine, but time and distance and finances and family dynamics and special needs parenting has taken its toll and we rarely see either side. 

One person I have been especially thankful for is my SIL, whose dear friend has a son with Asperger’s, which helped my SIL have an idea of what we deal with.  This has helped her be able to accomodate us for visits. Her constant invitations for holidays, her willingness to turn her cherished family rituals upside down to accommodate our son’s sensory issues, and her sheer delight at seeing my husband and kids is a bright spot in an often bleak extended family landscape.

Ali’s Extended Family: It’s Not Always Easy, But It’s A Gift

Being Puerto Rican means family is everything and there is plenty of it.  I have twenty six first cousins – some of which are brothers and sisters to me in every sense of the word.  My aunts and uncles are like second sets of parents and my own parents and brother are involved in our lives in meaningful ways.  This means our children have loads of people to love them. Yeah!!  This also means we have loads of opinions, questions, debate and negating of the realities of raising an ADHD+er. Boo!!

Our boys have grown up alongside many of my cousin’s children and they share deep friendships. My cousins have been right there from births to high school graduations and every milestone in between.  They cheer my kids on and make them a priority.  Also, my ADHDer especially loves time with my parents and often spends the weekend with them.  He takes care of all their IT needs and they make sure he feels important and appreciated.  These relationships make my kids feel valued and loved.  What an amazing PLUS!

The flip side is, it’s been a process to educate my family on the realities of ADHD.  For instance, my mother still asks how my ADHDer is doing only to answer herself with: “He seems much better now.  I think he’s doing great.”  There’s a certain implication that ADHD is a curable cold.  And it’s hard to be understood.  My cousin accused me of worrying about nothing when I confided about my son’s anxiety. This was after sharing about his daily panic attacks (which thankfully aren’t happening anymore).  I felt unheard and dismissed. What an overwhelming MINUS!

Like we’ve said before here at Two Moms and ADHD, raising ADHD+ers can be VERY isolating because it’s hard for people to understand if they’re not walking this road! But here’s a caveat:  for special people who are a part of your lives it’s worth the effort to continue to share and pull them into the weeds of your life long enough to build understanding.  They may never fully get it, but they likely have a desire to support you and that helps everyone involved.  

Everyone has different family dynamics.  Whatever they may be, look for the pluses – they matter.  For those of you with little or no extended family, please check out tomorrow’s post about CHOSEN FAMILY.  You know – those extraordinary friends who become cherished family.

Do you have extended family that plays a central role in your lives?  Tell us what you find to be the pitfalls or benefits?

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