Raising a teen with ADHD


Teen years create new challenges for all parents. But, for parents with children who have ADHD, teens years can come with a twist.

Teens with ADHD are more emotionally sensitive and easily frustrated than their peers, according to psychologist Peter Jaksa, PhD, clinical director of ADD Centers of America and a member of the scientific advisory board for ADDitude magazine.

"[They're] dealing with the usual challenges of becoming more independent and responsible," he explained, "but because they have ADHD, being organized and doing things on their own isn't something most of them can [handle] well."

Why is it harder for teens to deal with ADHD?

Combine the physical and emotional changes of puberty with poor impulse control of ADHD and you can understand why. Girls and boys with ADHD may fall behind in social and emotional development, and this will likely cause issues with self-esteem.

"When teens were younger, they usually had a lot of parental support and structure, both at home and school," according to Jaksa. "When they become adolescents, they're suddenly expected to maintain a schedule, keep track of their stuff and independently get things done – that's tough when you're forgetful and not used to being organized."

How do boys and girls differ?

Girls tend to be inattentive, while boys tend to be hyperactive. Girls in adolescence also tend to get more depressed and have low self-esteem. Some girls may react inappropriately in order to get attention or approval. Impulsivity can get them into trouble with their friends and lead to more depression.

What can parents do to help?

The best thing a parent can do is keep communication open and leave all topics on the table. Encouragement and compassion can help a teen, especially one with ADHD, get through these difficult years.

"Parents need to get a sense of how much help their child needs and how much they'll accept," Jaksa explained. An organizer or day planner is one tool teens can use to write down their schedule and to-do list in one place. This also helps to review the next day and start planning ahead. Sleeping for eight hours each night will help their bodies recover and their minds be prepared. An active exercise routine will also help.

Source: Lori Newman/Lifescript

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