Ask the Experts

Q: “How Do I Convince My Teen She Needs an ADHD or EF Coach?”

You’re certain your teen’s college readiness hinges on executive function and/or ADHD coaching, but your child is not convinced. How can you get a high school or college student on board with coaching? Read on.

Q: “How do I convince my 17-year-old she needs coaching for executive dysfunction and CBT or similar therapy? Also that she may not be ready to go away to college? She seems vulnerable given past relationship struggles.” — Florida Mom

Hi Florida Mom:

As an ADHD/student coach for teens and college students, the Number One question I receive from parents is how to convince their child that they need coaching. And the consistent response is: You can’t.

A good coach supports the student through the process of developing their own critical success skills. Coaching helps students stay focused on their goals, gain clarity, and function more effectively. It’s also a safe forum for students to share concerns or struggles, and to get support without judgement or criticism.

For the process to truly work, you need trust and collaboration — two essential ingredients for building responsibility and accountability.  When appropriate, coaching also provides additional resources to help create personalized solutions that fit the way a student thinks. Coaching helps to keep students on track, to transfer skills, and to ensure they are working toward THEIR goals. In other words, it’s about making deliberate intentions to bring about significant change.

Or as I like to say to my students, “Be successful by choice and not by chance.”

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And therefore, it’s not something in which they can just participate; to work, coaching requires total commitment. And as you already know, it’s nearly impossible to convince someone to do something to which they are (or think they are) vehemently opposed.

So here are a few of my suggestions:

1. Most coaches require a telephone or video consult with a prospective student before committing to the coaching process. Therefore, I advise parents not to say to their student, “You need to work with a coach!” but instead take a small-step approach and ASK their student if they would be willing to meet with a coach for a one-hour conversation to ask questions about coaching and how it might help them. This subtle difference in the parent’s approach can make all the difference in the student’s reaction.

2. Explain the coaching process in terms your child can understand. I often compare an ADHD coach to an athletic coach or music instructor. No child is expected to just go out onto a sports field and play without learning the rules of the game or to go on stage without training, so why should a child with ADHD be expected to learn critical life skills all on their own?

[Q&A: How Can My Teen Find an ADHD College Coach?]

3. If your child is still shutting you down, try going for the big questions. Nothing brings a conversation to a screeching halt faster than nagging or intrusive questions. So instead of approaching the conversation with what you want her to do, try dialogue starters such as “So how do you feel about…?” or “What’s your plan to…?” or even “What’s getting in your way?” Starting conversations like this takes a softer approach and may avoid that shutdown syndrome.

The best advice I can give you is to be honest with your teen. Explain to them what coaching is and what it’s not. Gather websites for them to check out (ours is, resources to explore, articles to read. Remind her gently that coaching is not someone telling her what to do, but someone guiding her toward building the necessary problem-solving skills she needs in learning and in life.

Good Luck!

College Readiness: Next Steps

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