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Keeping Kids Safe

Expert tips to help parents avoid some common risks to their ADHD children.

Healthy ADDitude, Part 2

Accidental poisoning

Children with ADHD love to explore. Between their normal curiosity and their impulsive nature, they are at risk for accidental poisoning. Keep all medications, cleaning materials, bug killers, garden supplies, and so on locked up or out of reach.

Automobile accidents

Studies show that people with ADHD are less skilled than others at steering a vehicle and more likely to speed and to ignore traffic signals. Studies also show that they are more likely to be involved in accidents, including those that result in injury.

If your teenager has started driving, I urge you to learn as much as possible about his habits behind the wheel. Spend time with him in the car. Does he seem inattentive? Does she fiddle with the radio, talk on her cell phone, drive too fast, or change lanes recklessly? Ask others what they have observed. Do they say that your child shows off while driving, or that he expresses road rage?

You may have to set rules about how many young people can ride with him. You might need to forbid listening to the radio in the car. You might even require your youngster to take additional driving instruction.

Don't be afraid to take away the keys until you're sure your teen is ready to drive safely. Saving his life is by far more important than anything he says to you or threatens to do.

Smoking and drug abuse

Teens with ADHD are more likely than other teens to start smoking. In fact, 25 percent of these kids start before the age of 15. So it's smart to start warning about the dangers of tobacco and other drugs around the age of 12.

All adolescents are at risk for experimenting with marijuana and other illicit drugs. Yet study after study has shown that adolescents with ADHD who receive appropriate treatment, and who are successful at school and with peers, are no more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol than other kids. The message here is clear.

Sexual activity

The combination of low self-esteem, lack of success with peers, and impulsivity can lead adolescents to exhibit poor judgment regarding sexuality.

One long-term study showed that adolescents with ADHD have more sexual partners and are more likely to contact a sexually transmitted disease. They also have more unplanned pregnancies.

Most parents are careful about what their teens do with their friends on weekends. But with more parents working outside the home, many teens are unsupervised during the after-school hours—3:00 to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Not surprisingly, this is when they are most likely to have sex, abuse alcohol or drugs, or engage in other risky behaviors. Do you know where your teen is after school?

In parting, let me remind you that many of these risks pose a threat to adults with ADHD, as well. Impulsivity can lead to a personal, financial, professional, or legal crisis. If you observe that you or your partner does not drive safely - or is having trouble with gambling, substance abuse, sexual addiction, or other problems—acknowledge the difficulty and get help.

This article comes from the June/July 2006 issue of ADDitude.

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TAGS: Safety for Children with ADHD, Teens and Tweens with ADHD

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