Sometimes the people in my family get on my head.

They interrupt you. They don’t always pay attention to what you’re saying. They leave things until the last possible minute, stressing themselves out for no apparent reason.

Oh, wait a minuFamilyte. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Even though spreading ADHD awareness is part of what I do, I have to remind myself to apply my knowledge of ADHD to my interactions with my family. ADHD awareness isn’t just about getting other people to understand our symptoms – it’s also about becoming more empathetic in how we respond to other people’s symptoms.

The reason this takes work is that even if you have ADHD, other people’s ADHD symptoms can still be frustrating. When people forget things, don’t pay attention, and create chaos, it’s not necessarily easy to deal with just because we share the same behaviors. For sure, people with ADHD are predisposed to be more understanding of other people’s ADHD symptoms than people who have no experience with ADHD at all, but I’d guess most of us have some room to develop more patience with the behavior of other ADHDers too.

That’s why I think ADHD awareness has a powerful role to play in the family. In families where some members have ADHD, strong knowledge of what ADHD is and how it works can do all of the following:

  • It gives people without ADHD a basis for understanding behaviors of people with ADHD that might not make sense or might be misinterpreted otherwise
  • It gives people with ADHD insight into why aspects of their behavior might be frustrating to other people in the family
  • It helps people with ADHD relate to the behavior of other family members with ADHD and see parallels between their own experiences and the experiences of these other family members

Basically, the more ADHD awareness there is in the family, the fewer misunderstandings there are and the more all family members are able to see where each other are coming from.

This is the ideal. Of course, families are complicated, and ADHD awareness in the family can be complicated too. For example, what if some family members simply refuse to acknowledge the validity of an ADHD diagnosis? Or what if, as is the case in my family, some family members are diagnosed but others who have clear signs of possible ADHD have never even talked to a mental health professional?

Still, it’s at least worth trying to apply ADHD awareness to family interactions, partly because if there’s one person in the family with ADHD, there’s a good chance they’re not alone.

Families are a place where it’s easy for small frustrations to chip away at goodwill and for misunderstandings to arise over time. The good news is that in many cases there’s room to apply your insight into ADHD in the family by using your knowledge of ADHD to better understand the behavior of other family members and to help them understand yours.

Image: Flickr/dawnnakaya