This post is sponsored by Adlon Therapeutics L.P., a subsidiary of Purdue Pharma L.P. Personal opinions expressed within this post are my own.
The teenage years can be baffling for both parents and teens. When we notice behaviors that are troubling, we parents ask ourselves: ‘Is this normal teenage behavior?’ Then many of us hit the parenting books, online articles, social media groups, and rapid-fire our fingers to our phones, calling our friends who also have teens and ask: ‘does your kid do this?’
Having a teenager with diagnosed ADHD complicates the picture even more. School can be extra challenging. Relationships change- you may fear your teen is running with the wrong crowd. Self-esteem often plummets.[i] Many adolescents may intensely compare themselves with others… and those with differences such as ADHD might find themselves on the sidelines.
To make matters worse, hormones kick in, causing mood swings in many girls, and confusion in both boys and girls[ii]: who am I? Will he/she reject me if I ask them out? Many explore their gender identity, often secretly, for fear of rejection. It’s such a mixed-up world for many of these young people.
But the focus here is on parents; how can parents help their teenager with ADHD?
A mom once asked me: “I don’t get it. My son is so smart. Brilliant, in fact. He can take apart an entire computer and put it all back together, working hours and hours at a time, yet he can’t or won’t touch his math homework- it would take twenty minutes total to complete, but he says he can’t stay focused. He’s failing. It makes me feel like a failure because I don’t know how to help him.”
I remember those days well, as I tried helping my daughter navigate the school system with her ADHD and other special needs. I felt so helpless. So inadequate, tired, and worried.
Do you find yourself in this scenario? Your teen has already been diagnosed with ADHD and is currently following a clinician’s treatment plan which may include medication and therapy. You may already be seeing improvements- your son or daughter is showing good progress in school and his or her social life is expanding. But something is still nagging at you. It’s still a challenge- they continue to have trouble remembering to do their schoolwork. They procrastinate getting started on that long-term science project. Their room is a mess, and they still lose everything, even things that are important to them, like the housekey and their tennis racquet. You find it hard to control your anger and frustration.
How can you help both your teen and you? Start by learning more about ADHD and how it affects your child. Until you take a deeper dive and understand ADHD, it’ll be a real challenge to help your teen.
Start by reading this article on parenting your ADHD teen. You’ll learn how ADHD impacts teenagers, the special challenges they face at this age, and very specific tips on helping your son or daughter manage their ADHD symptoms.
Since ADHD treatment often includes medication, it’s also important for you to know how to keep your child safe- how he or she must follow the doctor’s directions carefully, keep their medication safe, and never share it with anyone.
This short interactive course will provide you with strategies to have a conversation with your teen about responsible prescription stimulant use.
Parents Need Help, Too!
We spend so much energy on helping our teens: school meetings, doctor and therapy appointments, helping with homework, and more. But our kids are different and have different needs. Our job is to teach them to be safe and to use good judgment, whether it’s choosing good friends, eating healthfully (not easy at that age!), staying safe, and so much more.
For kids taking prescription stimulant medications for their ADHD, it’s never too soon to teach them how to use good judgment here as well. But first, it’s imperative for you- as a parent- to educate yourself on how ADHD medications are used and why.
I rarely hear from parents that they’ve had serious discussions with their teen about the danger of sharing their prescription stimulant medications with friends, partly because parents often don’t have the tools they need to impart this information to them. This video may help you to initiate this important discussion with your child. An open dialogue, starting early in your teen’s life, is imperative.
Many teens with ADHD benefit from working with a therapist.[iii]
Therapy can help a child with difficulties in making and keeping friends, managing impulsive behaviors, and even learning pragmatic skills to help get themselves organized.[iv]
Therapists can- and should- include you, as a parent of a minor- to help you help your child with various parenting strategies.
You should feel comfortable talking to your teen’s doctor, therapist, teachers, and school staff to help you help them. Stay in touch regularly to make sure schoolwork is up to par and to check to see if extra help might be needed.
Keeping a close eye on the friends your child hangs out with is crucial. This is a time of transition and experimentation and with impulsivity and poor judgment at times, it’s essential to know who your teen is hanging out with and what they are exploring.
It can be a lot of hard work, but extremely rewarding, as you watch your child move from daily struggles to empowering themselves with new tools to improve their life.
As a parent, you need more. You need to share your frustrations with other parents who understand your situation. You need guidance when the going gets tough. When one person in the family has ADHD, it affects everyone. As a parent, it’s essential to get a handle on the situation so that family life, as well as your own emotional well-being, is tended to.
Where to Find Help
Here are other ways you can educate yourself about ADHD and where you can get help and support:
As a parent, you need emotional support. There are support groups throughout the country. Google ADHD parent support groups and you will find many options to consider. Many of these groups invite ADHD experts who cover a variety of topics at these meetings. But best of all, you’ll meet other parents who are going through the same things as you. There is so much help out there for you and your teen. The best way to help your child is to become proactive by not only getting him the help he needs, but by also educating and getting support for yourself.
 Clinical Practice Epidemiology Mental Health. Self-Esteem Evaluation in Children and Adolescents Suffering from ADHD. Luigi Mazzone, Valentina Postorino, Laura Reale, Manuela Guarnera, Valeria Mannino, Marco Armando, Laura Fatta, Lavinia De Peppo, and Stefano Vicari. July 11, 2013. doi: 10.2174/1745017901309010096. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3715757/
 Neuroscience. The influence of stress at puberty on mood and learning: Role of the α4βδ GABAA receptor. Sheryl S. Smith. September 26, 2013. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2012.09.065. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3586385/
 Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Adolescents with ADHD. Kevin M. Antshel PhD and Amy K. Olszewski. DOI: 10.1016/j.chc.2014.05.001. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25220089/
 National Institute of Health. ADHD, Multimodal Treatment, and Longitudinal Outcome: Evidence, Paradox, and Challenge. January 1, 2016. Stephen P. Hinshaw, corresponding author, L. Eugene Arnold. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1324. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4280855/.