Tips for dealing with ADHD in teenagers
ADHD in teenagers usually mean ADHD in the family in more than one way. It is not just that the presence of ADHD affects the relationship among family members, including parents and siblings, but that ADHD also runs in the family. This means that it is quite possible for a parent or another family member to have either been diagnosed with ADHD or to have symptoms of ADHD.
Patterns of parenting and family interaction may make ADHD symptoms worse or may help reduce the impact of symptoms of ADHD in the teenager.
Reducing impact of ADHD in teenagers
It is important to find out whether the teen has another underlying cause for the negative behavior such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Conduct Disorder (CD) and any other mood disorders (depression, anxiety or bipolar disorders). Teens with ADHD are often more likely to experience symptoms of such behavior disorders and many teens with ADHD are diagnosed with these disorders.
- Feelings about ADHD:
- teens may feel different to their peers and may know that their behavior is out of the ordinary.
- parents of teens with ADHD should normalize the teen’s feelings and explain to the teen that having ADHD is not a result of some wrongdoing of the teen but that it is a medical condition such as asthma.
- teens should also be educated on ADHD, its symptoms and treatment plan.
- Social interaction:
- teens with ADHD may have low self-esteem and may be stressed with the thought of interacting with peers and friends on a daily basis during the school term.
- counseling and therapy focused on ways for the teen to cope with such anxiety is usually a part of the treatment plan for ADHD.
- apart from counseling and therapy, engaging teens in activities they enjoy and where they can be successful at are some of the more powerful ways to boost the teen’s self-esteem.
- positive experiences from structured social activities such as sports and youth groups may also help offset negative experiences from difficult social interactions.
- encourage friendship and teach the teen social skills such as reading people’s body language, taking a deep breath before saying or doing something.
- Home interaction:
- teens with ADHD may not be able to comply with demands placed on the teen in the home environment for a number of reasons – lack of attention, lack of interest and lack of ability.
- rather than making demands and creating a cycle of escalating demands and angry reactions from the teen:
- negotiate with the teen;
- secure the teen’s agreement on rules before establishing them;
- do not have too many rules as the teen is more likely to rebel against a long list of rules;
- have defined expectations and consequences communicated to the teen; and
- talk through problems and issues.
- pick your battles instead of nagging constantly and creating a hostile home environment through such nagging.
- focus on positives and keep a sense of humor.
- show your love for your teen and express that love in words – communication is even more crucial for teens with ADHD than their non-ADHD peers.
- ADHD and academic performance:
- teens with ADHD may benefit from attending a study skills session including learning about organization, time management and note-taking skills.
- teens with ADHD may also qualify for study assistance (e.g. individualized education program (IEP), classroom accommodation, extra time for exams and note-taking assistance).
- ADHD and drugs and alcohol:
- teens with ADHD are at risk of substance and alcohol abuse. Encourage the teen to form friendships with those who do not use drugs or alcohol. If necessary, get to know the teen’s friends.
- control the teen’s aggression or impulsive behavior with ADHD medication if need be.
- watch out for warning signs of substance abuse e.g. money missing, lying and secretive behavior, mood changes, loss of appetite and loss of interest in school.
- provide facts on substance abuse to the teen.
- ADHD and teen driving:
- ADHD and safe sex:
- there is some research showing that teens with ADHD may be more likely to start having sex at an early age and less likely to use contraception.
- encourage the teen to use contraception and teach the teen about safe sex.