“I got a detention for forgetting my book three times in a row.”
Michael sent that text message to his mom. She wasn’t surprised since she received similar messages previously about how Michael forgot to do his homework or misplaced it. At age eight he was diagnosed with ADHD. Now that he is thirteen, she hoped that he would be more organized. She also wonders if this normal “teenager” behavior or is this due to his diagnosis of ADHD?
One of two million
Michael is one of two million American teens diagnosed with ADHD. According to ADDitude (attitudemag.com), compared to an average teen, teens with ADHD are four times more likely to get into a car accident. Also, 45% of teens with ADHD have been suspended and the majority of special needs teens diagnosed with ADHD report being bullied. A parent of a teen with ADHD will need to find ways to help them deal with these additional challenges.
“Everyone has ADHD behavior at times,” says Dr. Sarah Cheyette, a pediatric neurologist and author of the book, ADHD & The Focused Mind: A Guide to Giving Your ADHD Child Focus, Discipline & Self-Confidence. She says the difference is that the person with ADHD is unfocused more of the time.
Task focused results
“Most people become more focused when they decide they want to do something,” says Cheyette. By making a decision to do an activity you take responsibility for doing that task. If a teen is interested in doing that task it will be easier to do.
But if your teen doesn’t like doing a task such as homework, then changing their mindset can help. Cheyette explains. “If you say to yourself, ‘I don’t feel like doing this,’ then you probably won’t.” She further explains that by changing the thought process to a more positive thought, teens will become more focused and complete the task.
Importance of Health
Cheyette also stresses the importance of receiving adequate sleep, exercising and eating healthy foods. Lack of sleep has been correlated with poor impulse control and memory which are issues already experienced by a kid with ADHD. She adds, “You need to manage electronic device use and make sure they have friends who are not distracting.”
Cheyette says another way to help teens with ADHD is to create goals. Once a goal is achieved then it will help them to feel successful which will lead to achieving more goals. It is important that the teen is an active participant in creating the goals so they “own” them.
As a parent, you may be tempted to provide directions or “nag” your child to make sure they are working towards their goals. Instead, Cheyette says “Make observations and ask questions such as ‘How can you help yourself?’ or ‘How can you act differently next time?’ to allow your child to think about and own their behaviors.”
Cheyette says, “There are differences between a child and a teen with ADHD.” When a child has ADHD, parents tend to be more forgiving and help them with their unfocused behaviors. A teen with ADHD wants to be independent yet they may lack the skills. A teen’s unfocused behaviors can often lead to more severe consequences such as getting arrested or causing a car accident. It is important to understand these differences when trying to help your child deal with ADHD.