Teens & Young Adults

“Get Out of My Face.”

Parenting a teenager is hard — simple as that. But if yours has ADHD, then you are facing a special set of challenges. Learn how adjusting your expectations and making time for her can help you find peace — and sanity — at home.

A defiant child refuses to do her homework.

Is there no end in sight to the fighting in your household filled with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) teenager anger? “My daughter always screams at me, ‘Get out of my face. Leave me alone,'” says Kathy, from Salem, Oregon. “I know I need to give her some room, but who’s going to help her if I’m not around?” A mom from Arkansas says: “My son keeps saying he can’t wait until he turns 21, so he can drink. It’s tough living with a teen who has ADHD.”

Parents who survived the teen wars know that the battles become fewer and farther between as an adolescent reaches adulthood. But until then what does a mom or a dad do to live with a strong-willed teen with ADHD? Several parents offer their best strategies to stop fighting with a teenager.

Get Closer to Your Teenager with ADHD

Examine your fears. A parent’s anxiety about her teen creates tension between them. “Analyze how realistic your fears are,” advises Jolene, from Madison, Wisconsin. “Ask yourself, ‘What is the very worst that can happen, and how likely is it to occur?’ Talk about your fears with others in a parent support group or with a therapist. This will help you work through your fears and take control of your feelings.” A calmer parent often results in a calmer teen.

Adjust your expectations. Remind yourself that your teenager has ADHD, says one dad, and you are less apt to expect perfection. Focus on your child’s assets and abilities rather than his shortcomings. Believe in your child, even when he doesn’t believe in himself.

Listen to her. Teenagers who talk to, but are not heard by, their parents often drift away from their families. Be open to what your teen has to say. Don’t be judgmental. Teens with ADHD need to be heard — possibly more than other teens do — because they are always listening to others’ instructions.

Be available. Set aside 15 minutes a day and give your teenager your undivided attention. Like youngsters, older children appreciate special time with Mom or Dad.

Repeat rules. Although establishing, and periodically reiterating, rules about sex and dating works with most teenagers, those with ADHD need to hear the rules more frequently — possibly before every date.

Boost Your Teenager’s Self-Esteem for Better Behavior

Give him credit. “There is more than one way to do something,” cautions Faith, from Marietta, Georgia. “Our way is not always the best, even though we’d like to believe it is.” As children mature, we must accept the fact that they may have found their own ways of handling life’s challenges.

Teach her to stand up for herself. A confident teen is often a better-behaved teen, so anything that boosts her self-
esteem is a good thing. “Parents need to teach their teenagers to advocate for themselves in school,” suggests Judy, a former high school teacher, in Toledo, Ohio. “What’s more, teachers are impressed with older students who can come to them and say, ‘I have attention deficit problems, and I can’t organize my schoolwork very well.’ They are willing to help in any way they can.”

Make him part of the team. Elicit your teen’s cooperation at home on the principle that everyone is responsible for the family’s success. For example: “If you limit your time on the telephone, I’ll make arrangements to have your friends over this weekend for your sister’s birthday party.”

Discipline Don’ts for Parents of Teens with ADHD

If your teen has a special talent or interest, such as playing the guitar, don’t forbid it as punishment. A teen who is pursuing a passion is more apt to feel positive about himself.

If your teen has a part-time job she enjoys, do not force her to quit if she’s working too late or falling behind on homework. Have her reduce her work hours instead. A job lets a teen gain valuable skills and learn to manage money, while boosting her self-esteem.

If you have the urge to argue, nag, lecture, or preach, leave the room immediately. He’ll tune you out anyway. Address the problem later, when you and your teen have settled down.

Adapted from The ADHD Parenting Handbook (Taylor Trade), by Colleen Alexander-Roberts.

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