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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.)

[How to Stop Fighting Your Teen with ADHD]

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.

[How to Motivate a Teenager with ADHD]

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.

[Plan. Trust. Hug. Your Mantra for Raising a Tween with ADHD]

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.



Updated on April 2, 2018

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  1. This is a great article. As a mom of a 16 year old with ADHD its difficult to remember sometimes that developmentally he is more on the 13-14 yr. old level. I am aware he has some definite maturing to do, but where is the line? Of a supportive role or helicopter mom? I do way more for my son than I should and not sure if its all ADHD issues or he just prefers I do everything because he knows I will. I’ve tried to enforce chores with allowance as a motivator but to no avail. I need help with ways to set more rule and chores and get him to follow through or deal with consequences. The start of the school year is always a nervous time, but I’m happy to report that he is doing really well academically and the transition to high school has so far been a truly positive experience. He is taking music class and seems too enjoy it a lot. His grades are really good to. I think in any parenting role but maybe even more with ADHD parenting its a give and take. You really have to pick your battles, and let a lot of the little, not so important issues go. Like maybe a messy room! It drives me crazy, but some things just come with the territory!!

  2. Ok, well I have a 23 year old that my husband and I are still trying to parent. Some days I feel like a helicopter parent and some weeks I feel like I’m following ABCC. He has always wanted to go to college, this is his goal, we have always kept all the options open to him( tech school, apprenticeships, etc). We have tried to support him in this decision by guiding him to a local college starting out with a couple classes building up to a full load. He’s done alright. The last 2 semesters we have seen a down turn which I believe comes from too much gaming and not enough studying. We have a house rule about internet cutting off at 11 on school nights 12 on week ends. We guide him in proper study habits, at times lecture him on too much screen time and not enough studying, I have listed other ways for him to get educational support study labs at school, tutoring center, study groups. He says he has it so back off but he is now on academic suspension.
    We struggle with basic hygiene issues. I try to advise but admit when he doesn’t smell the prettiest, I demanded because he doesn’t take a hint. That goes for laundry too. He’ll go 3-4 weeks without doing laundry until I tell him it’s time to do laundry. He can’t take time away from gaming.
    Then there is money. He wants to move out, which we support but want to want to make sure he understands how to manage his money, so we have ask him to budget his money and show he can stay close to that budget. We have had him buy cars in his name to establish credit and guided him as he paid them off to help him make sure his credit is good. He has a good job( although he doesn’t have a great track record due to time management, being late, and focus on the job) so is making decent money. We have him pay his bills(car, insurance, his part of family plan phone bill, cc) but these are not always managed well and whatever is left he blows. We have shown him a good app to budget and track spending but not sure how much he uses it. He flies by the seat of his pants as far as knowing how much money he has.
    Through all this I would say we follow ABCC he may say micro manage. I know we slip up and become a helicopter at times because it is frustrating and he doesn’t seem to be getting it. He wants to be an adult but he is acting like a teenager. Most of his days He works, comes home and games. He has sooooo much more potential!
    Does anyone else struggle with adult/child problems like this? It would be nice to know we’re not the only ones out there!!!!

    1. Wow- you have just re-affirmed every parent’s deepest fears that your teens wont just “get it!” someday when they are older. ADHD is SO real. And it exists upon a spectrum of severity. You sound as though you are doing all you can for your son, and then some. May I ask if he takes medication, and if so has it been effective in any way? I have a 15 year old with many of these same challenges you describe. We are not medicating (now) as we just never found the right one, but in your case I wonder… Perhaps this is a situation where you need to let him truly “fail” to feel the consequences. This is a very hard thing to do. I dont have the answers but empathize with you and your husband and all that you have done for your son. The topic of helicopter parenting when it comes to ADHD kids is a whole different scenario. I found the article a starting point but it did not have concrete examples and ideas. This would be a great thing to explore within this community. Best of luck!!

    2. Hai there,
      I am from outside the US so my English could be not that good if I wanted to be, excuse me for that. I know what you mean, we have a 21 year old son and it’s difficult to draw the line when I fall in hovering. The gaming is definitely a problem and if we want to controle it things get worse. To help the whole family we search for good help and support. For a little time we have a special adhd coach for the whole family. She comes on a weekly basis at home! She helps us with understanding the adhd and what happens on the brain. And she helps with the way we can stop controlling things that we can’t control because there is the desire to become autonomous for our son and that’s a good thing. We can better understand more what’s behind the behavior. The coach helps our son to trust her and to learn more insight and to learn skills he didn’t learn yet. it’s a long run but the coach says that eventually he will find a way. The coach works like the family is in one system, so we are involved. Not one person can be worked with. We are all part of it. So I can really recommend such a coach, our coach is coming at home and when we have questions about a difficult situation or have frustrations we can contact her. My son can do that also. When I get frustrated its because I feel fear and have fearful thoughts and that’s my problem to understand and get the help I need. The coach is really a relief to get out of things that is not our business because what the article says, not being the concierge. The article is very good and the how we can do it is very helpful with the coach. I really understand you, it’s a marathon! Best regards, Jacqueline

  3. I can totally identify with srice. Our 22 year old still needs lots of guidance. We have learned that people definitely do not “outgrow “ ADD/ADHD. It is/was hard for me to stop being a helicopter parent , but it was equally difficult for my husband to realize that our child’s chronological age did not match his developmental age. Our child too , has been in and out of college , at great expense, and we are directing him to tech school as a possible alternative . He has a minimum wage job ,but a great work ethic. We hav come to accept that the path for this type of person may be very different from their peers, but we are dedicated to being supportive! Great article!

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