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It’s Time to Land Your Helicopter

Have you been accused of being a helicopter parent? Well, it’s time to try these things.

It’s common for parents of kids with ADHD to become helicopter parents without meaning to. The hovering, the reminding, the checking up on, the taking care of things large and small—it feels necessary due to your teen’s ADHD-related challenges. But the fact is that, at a certain point, it becomes detrimental to you (it’s stressful and exhausting), and detrimental for your teen. The more involved you are, the more your child is missing out on the opportunity to learn valuable skills and lessons.

By the time your child is a teen, it’s best that you are not involved in every little thing. Your overall goal as a parent of a teen is to prepare him/her for adulthood, right? This means that during the tween and teen years we need to loosen the reins a little bit and let our teens do things for themselves.

Before your have a full-fledged panic attack, be assured I’m not suggesting that you give up and let your teen with ADHD fend for himself. What I am saying is that daily nagging and micromanaging will not help your teen in the long run.  (Not to mention how crazy it makes you.)

Instead of being a helicopter parent, try to be an ABCC parent—Advocate, Biggest fan, Concierge, Crossing guard—to help him while allowing him room to learn and grow:

Advocate. An advocate is someone who plays a support role. An advocate represents your interests, “has your back,” and are there to chime in to help you when you need it (In a health insurance company, an advocate helps you navigate the system and helps you get answers.)  As your teen’s advocate, you have his best interest in mind and are there to represent him when he has tried everything he knows how to do but still needs help. It’s a fine line between advocate and helicopter! The way to stay on the right side of the line is to always ask your teen first (or wait for them to ask) before you get involved. Stay in a supportive role, not an in-charge, controlling role.

Biggest fan. Despite the ADHD, your teen needs the same things we all do: to be liked and to be accepted. If your relationship with your teen is not what you’d like it to be, try shifting your focus to finding things you like about your teen. Let her know that you not only love her but you like her, too.

Concierge. If you’ve ever stayed at a hotel, chances are you’ve seen and maybe even used the services of a concierge. This person is an expert at connecting guests with services— recommending restaurants, making reservations, and suggesting places to see. As a parent “concierge,” your job is to find and arrange expert help for your teen so you can let those things go. It’s a win/win: Your teen will listen more to ideas from peers, ADHD coaches, school counselors, or school psychologists than to you. And you will get a break from the exhausting micromanaging.

If you want a happy relationship (and restore your own sanity), one of the best things you can do is to remove the nag factor and stop hovering. Raising a child is a marathon, not a sprint. When you’re raising one with ADHD, it’s actually more of a relay race. You don’t have to run it yourself. Take advantage of the help that is out there.

Crossing guard. The main goal of a crossing guard is to help the kids at the most dangerous parts of the street and let them walk the safer parts by themselves. Even during the teen years, you have an important job regarding boundary setting and enforcing, but the rest of the “way” you give them the amount of freedom they can safely handle.

This isn’t easy because, according to the teen, he’s ready for no rules and all the freedom in the world. However, just like you wouldn’t let a child walk to school on his own without being sure he knew how to look both ways before crossing the street, it’s important that you gradually increase freedom according to what your teen is ready for developmentally. This is even more important when your teen has ADHD. Studies show that a teen with ADHD is up to three years younger developmentally than he is chronologically. So your rules and curfews, privileges need to reflect that. In other words, a 15-year-old teen with ADHD should have limits equal to what you would give a 13-year-old, until he shows you he’s ready for more.

In conclusion, more control is not always better. As an ABCC parent, the role you play is a supportive one rather than a controlling one. When you stay in a supportive, loving role, you are allowing your teen to learn some important life lessons and helping prepare him for adulthood, and ensuring that your relationship with your teen stays positive and strong. When you resist the urge to be too involved, you give your child a gift: the opportunity to make mistakes and to suffer the natural consequences and learn from them now, when the stakes in life are still low.

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