Teens with ADHD

Though hyperactivity levels decrease from childhood to adolescence, teens with ADHD still tend to make impulsive decisions and struggle to pay attention.

However, these symptoms can develop into behavioral issues during adolescence. Their distracting behavior can cause a rift with teachers and result in detention, lower grades, or even expulsion. This can cause them to lash out in frustration, argumentativeness, and even violence.

Connecting with Teens with ADHD

However, understanding where ADHD comes from and how it manifests in teens can lead to solutions that benefit the whole family.

Where Does ADHD Come From?

The American Psychiatric Association recognizes attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a mental health disorder. It is where people experience abnormally high levels of hyperactivity and inattentiveness. People with ADHD struggle to focus and stay still, making things like completing schoolwork or listening to lectures seem impossible. They’re also prone to being unorganized, making impulsive decisions, and forgetting important things.

Experts believe that ADHD can be linked to lower dopamine transporter density (DTD) proteins within the brain. ADHD brains do not produce enough dopamine, a neurochemical that regulates emotional responses that allow us to feel a sense of pleasure and reward after accomplishing a task.

The Challenges of ADHD Teens

Many people believe that kids with ADHD grow out of it by the time they reach adolescence. However, this isn’t the case, as many people with ADHD still struggle to manage it in their teen years. In fact, adolescence is often a time when the side effects of ADHD are at their strongest.

Teens are already struggling with peer pressure, getting good grades, and changing hormones. Maintaining a healthy mental state on top of this is even harder for teens with ADHD. In fact, they are five times more likely to experience depression than their non-ADHD counterparts.

Finding Motivation

As a parent to an ADHD teen, you must explain that ADHD is not a choice, punishment, or burden, just like any other pre-existing medical condition. It’s not something that should make them feel less smart, driven, or capable than their peers. Many teens with ADHD turn out to be extremely intelligent, talented, and successful individuals. They need to find something that captures their full attention.

To overcome the feelings of incompetence that your ADHD teen may be facing, encourage them to pursue activities they’re passionate about. Exploring new hobbies and interests allows your teen to channel their extra energy towards discovering talents they never knew they had.

If they like to paint, enroll them in an art class at the local community college. Perhaps they like to perform, tell them to audition for a theater company. If they like to swim at the beach, encourage them to take surfing lessons. Giving teens a way to express themselves outside of school can boost their confidence and encourage them to focus on activities they excel at.

Connecting with Your Teen

Connecting to a teen struggling with ADHD can be challenging. They’re overwhelmed by the added responsibilities of adolescence and feel like parents couldn’t possibly understand. So rather than offering them advice right off the bat, give them a comfortable space and let them do the talking. Listen to the challenges they’re facing, the insecurities they’re feeling, and the problems they’re having in school.

Once you’ve given them ample time to share, focus on showing empathy to your teen, emphasize that what they’re experiencing and feeling is normal. That anyone, ADHD or not, struggles to keep up with the demands of adolescence. Showing compassion towards your teens demonstrates that you’re not just trying to tell them what to do but that you genuinely care about their struggles and want to help them.

Once you’ve listened and empathized, help your teen come up with productive solutions to their problems. Teens need to feel like they have control and agency over their own life. So let them take the lead (while still offering insight from an adult perspective) improves your chances of coming up with useful solutions.

Key Points:

  • ADHD could come from a dopamine deficiency in the brain
  • Children do not “grow out” of ADHD
  • Teen ADHD can manifest in behavioral problems and agitation
  • Motivation can significantly improve the attitude of teens with ADHD
  • Connecting with teens with ADHD requires letting them talk first

Looking on the Bright Side

Adolescence is a trying time for all teens, not to mention those who struggle with attention and hyperactivity. Without the proper guidance, teens with ADHD are at risk of putting themselves in danger of jeopardizing their future. However, with proper parental guidance or ADHD specialist tutors, your teen can become a more organized, motivated, and focused individual with a bright future ahead of them.

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