Lessons to Survive Parenting a Teenager With ADHD
Are you parenting a teenager with ADHD?
If so, I want to share with you three profound lessons that can help your family.
So many people talk about ADHD these days without really understanding what it is. We try not to label our kids, but sometimes it is helpful to know what we are dealing with.
Does your teenager . . .
- Show up late to everything
- Struggle to simply listen when you talk to him
- Seem to be capable of so much more than he accomplishes
- Have a shockingly messy bedroom
- Seem capable of being incredibly annoying and also amazingly sweet
- Try to do everything at once and then accomplish nothing at all
- Have a history of being hyperactive, as early as age 3
If you can relate to these things there is a good chance that you end up repeating yourself all the time. You lose your temper and feel badly about the way you react. It often seems like there is nothing you can do to help your teenager.
Maybe you blame yourself even though you know it isn’t entirely your fault. Sometimes you feel like you don’t know what to do anymore.
If this has been your experience, therapy can help your teenager and your family.
We know that people with ADHD struggle with what is called executive functioning.
The formal definition for executive functioning is a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal.
In our culture it is easy to believe that solutions should be instant and everything should feel good right now. Our fascination with technology certainly doesn’t help! Everyone wants a quick fix and a solution in the form of a pill. However, this is not always the best route to go.
The truth is that your teen will have to learn to solve problems, develop healthy daily habits and learn patience. Personally, I think our entire culture needs to learn these things, but it is even more pressing for people who live with ADHD.
Here are three profound lessons that can help your family.
1. Learn how to slow down.
A good place to start is by helping your teen to create daily routines and possibly even use checklists for completing tasks. Also, making sure that his leisure time involves a variety of activities, such as sports, board games and time away from technology.
Mindfulness can be an extremely helpful practice to develop. The intention with mindfulness is about learning to be present and experiencing life as it is happening. This helps to stop our senses from becoming overwhelmed by the fast pace of our intense lives.
Through the process of learning to slow down, teenagers and adults find life can be more satisfying, enjoyable, and even less stressful.
People with ADHD experience life as though everything is happening at 2x speed. They take in much more than other people and they can feel overwhelmed easily.
The vast majority of people with ADHD can also be considered highly sensitive people. Their sensitivity to the world can be too much at times. The way some teens with ADHD manage this sensitivity is by learning to focus on something they love, like video games.
Depending on what they focus on, this can be helpful or harmful, especially if they are avoiding personal responsibility.
This situation may be complicated by the fact that your teenager probably craves intensity and excitement in his life!
It is important for him to . . .
- Learn how to slow down
- Experience healthy intensity through honest, interpersonal interactions
- Be responsible and accountable for his actions
- Work to accomplish personal goals
- Develop a sense of pride from things he has accomplished
2. Life doesn’t always feel good, but your teenager CAN handle it.
In today’s society, our youth are often given the message that there is a cure for pain. This is true sometimes, but it is important to be able to deal with discomfort. Often, teens with ADHD have a tough time handling frustration. Some of this comes from a belief that nothing should hurt. The reality is that sometimes life is painful.
Teenagers need to learn to cope with stress, calm themselves down, find distraction when necessary and heal from the emotional pain that is a part of life.
That is a tall order for sure, but the good news is that your teen has a supportive parent like you!
3. You can support your teenager without solving all his problems for him.
As a parent of a child with ADHD, I can tell you that it often feels like things are hard enough for my son simply because he has ADHD. It is tempting to rescue him from his suffering and solve many of his problems. I have certainly been guilty of that at times (Arrgh!).
Your teenager will learn best when he knows you trust he is capable, that you believe in him and you will help him to accomplish his goals. Learning to tolerate my child’s suffering has been one of the most difficult things I have experienced.
ADHD is a collection of symptoms and symptoms are a form of suffering. Your teen needs to be supported to manage his symptoms so he can adapt to the world in healthy ways. The world won’t adapt to him and it won’t help if he expects this to happen.
The good news is that people with ADHD tend to have higher IQs than the general population. For this reason and many others, your teenager can absolutely learn how to manage his symptoms.
You can apply these lessons much easier with the help of an experienced teen therapist.
At Guilford Family Counseling we offer individual teen therapy, family therapy and parent coaching to support you and your teen with ADHD.
Are you ready to take the next step?
Get in touch with us today and find out how counseling can help your teenager and your family.