Category: ADHD

Father and son on a hike can be a way to connect when parenting an ADHD adolescent.

Parenting ADHD Adolescents

Parenting teenagers is challenging enough, but when parenting ADHD adolescents is part of the equation, that challenge is almost always greater. As a psychologist who has tested, consulted and counseled for many years with ADHD teenagers and their parents, here are some thoughts, tips and encouragements (some light-hearted, some not so much). A general principal that runs through these suggestions is that neither adolescence nor ADHD are to be “fixed” or cured, but more to be experienced, processed and managed with understanding, support…and a healthy sense of humor.

General Survival Tips for Parenting ADHD Adolescent

  • Buy more liability insurance
  • Invest in the stock of your teen’s ADHD medication
  • Recommit to a life of prayer and regular church attendance
  • Have brochures of military schools on coffee table
  • Build your airline miles for parent trips only
  • Get over ethical concerns about bribing teachers

What To Expect from an ADHD Adolescent

  • Hormones and ADHD create confusing mix
  • Hyperactivity will likely diminish; inattention and impulsivity…not so much
  • Likely twists and turns on medications
  • Even more academic inconsistency
  • Higher risk for acting out behaviors including alcohol, drugs, sex
  • Lots of “knucklehead”moments
  • Entertainment, creativity, surprises
  • ADHD “spillovers” (emotional, social)

What To Try

  • Let go of control/power
  • Focus on influence that comes from relationship
  • Insist on physical activity
  • Pick fewer battles but hold forth on the few
  • Seriously reduce lecture, nagging, debating
  • Set clear expectations, limits and predictable consequences
  • Lose the emotional drama (yours, not theirs!)
  • Shorten list of things worth the battle
  • Work on your marriage
  • Don’t lose your own life/identity
  • Break negative cycle of behavior/response
  • Be open to creative options (with school, sports, activities)
  • Be intentional about finding “good news”
  • Help them find their gifts and talents

What To Remember

  • This is a season of life, not the rest of life
  • Adolescence for our kids recycles our teenage years
  • Goal is for them to leave home
  • Often parent/teen conflict is a good thing
  • Bridge to adulthood requires many travelers
  • Most likely, all will survive

If you’re parenting an ADHD adolescent, and you’d like to explore the ways you can better prepare for the associated challenges, contact Brentwood Counseling Associates and connect with one of our experienced therapists.

Resources

ADHD in Adolescence, Robin and Barkley

Driven to Distraction & Delivered from Distraction, Hallowell, Ratey

Surviving Your Adolescent, Phelan;

Smart but Scattered Teens, Guare et al

Taking Charge of ADHD, Barkley

parenting adhd kids

Parenting ADHD Kids and Teens

by David Elkins

To Understand

ADHD is not just an immature, overly active child; a passive, defiant middle schooler; or an unmotivated, lazy teenager.  ADHD is a neurobiological condition that presents with deficits in self-regulation (attention, focus, over-activity, or impulsivity) starting in early childhood and at times may create impairment in school, relationships, or daily activities.

ADHD is a continuum disorder, not yes/no or black/white.  The Executive Functioning area of the brain (prefrontal cortex) is not fully developed until mid 20’s.  The “ADHD brain” often lags several years behind.

ADHD often co-exists with other behavioral, learning, and psychological concerns (e.g., learning disability, cognitive processing deficit, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, low self-esteem).

ADHD is a lifelong challenge with Age/Stage Implications.  ADHD kids and teens often

  • Take the scenic route
  • Display “quick twitch”
  • Act like “knuckleheads”
  • Act clueless and don’t make connections
  • Are high maintenance, high risk, and high reward

…and where do you think this comes from?  (Whose family tree gets “credit”?)

To Remember

  1. The system is the solution (develop a program-e.g., points for positive behavior)
  2. Surprise is not your friend (plan ahead and tell them about the plan)
  3. Kiss the third request goodbye (one or two is enough)
  4. Being right is highly over-rated (power struggles miss the point and will not work)
  5. Keep your mental illness to yourself (control your emotions and language)
  6. If it is not written, down, it doesn’t exist (lists, notes, charts, technology)

To Try

Behavioral/Psychological – Environmental/Life Style

While there is no magical parenting formula, parenting ADHD kids and teens needs to be more proactive, more intentional, and more thoughtful in their approaches.  These strategies apply to parenting all children; however, they are especially helpful with children who have issues of inattention, impulsivity, and over-activity.

  1. First, get their attention (eye contact, prompts)
  2. Structure, structure, and more structure (routines, consistency)
  3. Catch them being good #1 (to reinforce positive behaviors)
  4. Talk and fuss less, behave more (clear expectations, clear consequences)
  5. Run for your life! (or walk, swim, kick, jump, climb, move, exercise)
  6. Teach “executive functioning” skills (study strategies, organization)
  7. Catch them being good #2 (to build confidence, self-esteem)
  8. Find the best school fit, then advocate (504, IEP, Learning Services)
  9. Offer academic tutoring (to build basic skills)
  10. Seek counseling or coaching (for you and your child)
  11. Catch them being good #3 (to shape your behavior)
  12. Teach emotional self-control (don’t assume it)
  13. Don’t over-schedule (to provide down time, rest, and sleep)
  14. Catch them being good #4 (to help break the negative cycle of behavior, punishment, anger, avoidance, loss in self-esteem, depression, acting out)

And finally…

  1. CELEBRATE THE GOOD NEWS OF ADHD (intelligence, creativity, independence, out-of-the-box thinking, “quick twitch” athleticism, sense of humor, energy, enthusiasm)

Books

  • Taking Charge of ADHD, Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, 3rd Edition, Barkley
  • ADHD Workbook for Parents, Parker
  • Spark, Ratey
  • The Gift of ADHD, Honos-Webb
  • ADHD in Adolescence, Robin & Barkley
  • Smart But Scattered, Dawson & Guare, and Smart But Scattered Teens, Guare, Dawson & Guare
  • Give your ADD Teen a Chance, Weiss

Websites

Father and son on a hike can be a way to connect when parenting an ADHD adolescent.

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