Help Your Teen Navigate ADHD On His Own Terms

How can parents best help treat their ADHD teens? On diagnosing and treatment for ADD/ADHD teen behavior challenges and symptoms.

ADHD Teens, Part 2

It's a good thing to let your child make and deal with "safe" mistakes in situations that won't cause irreparable damage. Let him learn from the natural consequences that result from his behavior. To learn responsibility, there must be accountability.

Perspective: If your son insists on wearing an earring to his part-time job and he ends up losing the position because of his fashion statement, don't call up the boss and try to persuade him to rehire your child. Discuss the issue with your child and suggest some other employment options, but let your son deal with the situation.

Monitoring your child's behavior at home is a basic parenting responsibility, but it can be overdone. Excessive fears can turn you into more of a cop than a parent. Every child or teen needs personal space.

Perspective: Closed doors should be knocked on before entering. Remember the irritation and anger you feel when you're interrupted during a quiet moment. In addition, don't search your child's room or go through his or her possessions. Many children equate snooping with smothering. If you're suspicious, talk with your child about your concern. Teens with AD/HD need to be heard because others are always telling them what to do.

This strategy almost always backfires, particularly with teens. Identifying with one's friends and sticking up for them if they're criticized is a normal part of maturation. It may be better in the long run to tolerate the friendship than to fight over it. One exception: Any friends who place your child in danger, as from drug use or criminal activity.

Perspective: That certain friend you think is a bad influence on your child will not necessarily remain his buddy forever - or may not be as "bad" as he looks. Have your son invite the friend over for pizza and a movie or offer to drive them to the shopping mall to get a better idea of his character.

Most children with AD/HD need frequent monitoring and supervision; it's a fact that maturity comes more slowly to AD/HD kids. Take your cues from the child's behavior. Too little monitoring increases the chances of problems being overlooked or repeated, or of the child getting into situations that hold unacceptable risks. Too much monitoring may cause excessive conflict, resentment, and rebelliousness.

Perspective: Change your tactics when it comes to monitoring your child's schoolwork. Instead of visiting the teacher daily or weekly, stay quietly involved by e-mailing the teacher or calling when your child isn't home. Instead of rifling through your child's assignment pad, just drop a question in passing about a test or project deadline that is coming up.

As your child demonstrates his ability to behave responsibly, increase his freedoms. The parent who is overprotective holds the reins too tightly. "If you abuse it, you lose it" is a good rule to lay down. On the other hand, restricting freedoms that the child is ready to handle may stunt his emotional growth.

Perspective: Allow your son or daughter to go away on sleepovers or to a concert with friends as long as another parent or an older, responsible teen supervises. That way, you're giving your child the chance to stretch his or her wings without personally crimping his style.

Our job is to raise a child who no longer needs us. Most parents would agree with this statement on a cognitive level, but accepting it on an emotional level can be tricky. Confidence, self-esteem, and the ability to manage life's responsibilities come from a sense of being competent and self-sufficient.

Perspective: Assign your child a job - painting the shed or washing the car - give him basic instructions, and let him find a way to complete it. Parents of children with AD/HD are accustomed to telling their children how to do things. As children mature, parents need to accept the fact that they'll find their own way of completing tasks. When the job's done, praise him, even if it's not perfect.

Developing a sense of identity is the major developmental task of adolescence, and it is often expressed in disagreement, conflict, and simply being "different" from the parents. Given the impulsivity that comes with AD/HD, the process of adolescent maturation can become very lively indeed!

Perspective: A child who says no to everything you suggest - not spending his allowance in one swipe, wearing a jacket when it's 30 degrees out - is often merely exercising his independence. Recall the times he unloaded the dishwasher, took out the dog at your request, or surprised you with that CD on your birthday.

Not everything is worth fighting over. Being overprotective virtually guarantees more conflicts between parent and child. Take a stand on the important issues and don't sweat the small stuff.

Perspective: Remember that, while you don't like your son's green hair or twin earrings (and might be embarrassed sitting next to him in a restaurant), the color will wash out and the earrings can be removed. Heavy cigarette smoking or repeated thefts from the convenience store, however, are worth sweating over.

Meet other parents of ADHD teens by joining ADDitude's teen support group on ADDConnect: Parents of ADHD Teens

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TAGS: Teens and Tweens with ADHD, ADHD in High School, ADHD and Discipline

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