Dr. Carrie McMillin is a naturopathic physician that specializes in treating adults and children with ADHD and anxiety.
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Welcome to part 2 of my blog post on how to effectively communicate with and motivate your ADHD teen. Here I will cover principles 6-10 (for the first part of this article, click here).
6. Realistic/appropriate consequences
When rules are broken, consider what the appropriate consequence is for the behavior. For example, you may have a rule in your home that lights go out at 9:30 PM. One night you find her wide awake at 1:00 AM watching videos on her phone. Your first instinct may be to ground her from hanging out with her friends this weekend. A more appropriate consequence for this would be that she has to give her phone/tablet/laptop to you at bedtime. Also explain that the reason you have this rule in place is because sleep is important to her physical and mental health.
7. Encourage independence
Our goal as parents is to raise children that grow into positive and independent members of society. Adolescence is a time when most of the independence training happens, and teens with ADHD are going to need extra time and guidance when it comes to learning these skills. Seek out opportunities that your teen can practice being independent as often as possible, but without loading too much responsibility on at once. You may put him in charge of setting his own alarm to wake up each morning, or give him the job of packing his own lunch. As he gains some skills, move on to some bigger responsibilities such as doing his laundry, or making dinner one night per week. Not only will being familiar with how to do these tasks help when he moves out of the house, they also can give him a sense of pride and improve self esteem-- which are opportunities that should always be taken advantage of!
8. Involve adolescents in decision-making when possible
When you are creating rules or guidelines for what you expect, include your teen in the conversation. Let her know that your priorities are her safety, mental well-being, and supporting her so that she can become an independent and responsible adult. For example, she may ask to hang out with friends in the evening. Have an open conversation about what rules make sense to have in place, keeping her safety in mind. Perhaps you are comfortable with her going out as long as she has an app on her phone that allows you to see where she is at, and that she is home by midnight. She may ask if she can stay out until 12:30 because they are going to a movie which will run late. Consider the request, and whatever your decision is, let her know what your reasons are. Of course, she may still be unhappy with your decision, but it is important for her to feel like you’ve heard what she has to say.
9. Frequent feedback
“Good job remembering to bring home your jacket today.” “Thank you for remembering to clear your plate after dinner.” “Awesome job working on your essay after school!” Be vocal and give frequent positive feedback when your teen is doing something well, even if it seems small. Everyone likes to hear that they are doing a good job, but those with ADHD need it even more. Frequent positive feedback is another self-esteem booster and a good motivator. Even if your kiddo doesn’t act like he cares about the pat on the back, keep it up. He does.
10. Mindfulness for parents
You are human. Teens are frustrating. There’s a good chance you or your spouse has ADHD, which can make keeping your cool even trickier. Practicing mindfulness can help you to stay calm in the difficult moments. Simplified, mindfulness is really about being present in the moment and observing your reactions without judgment. One of my favorite, simple mindfulness activities is called a sensory scan. Take a moment to close your eyes and focus on your senses. How many different things can you hear right now? What can you feel? What do you smell? Want more resources for how to practice mindfulness? Check out my upcoming post on quick and easy mindfulness exercises.
You're probably thinking that parenting an ADHD teen is a lot of work. I hear you, loud and clear. I am on the front lines with you and each day I have to remind myself of almost every one of the points I listed here. But take a breath, commiserate with a parent who gets it, (scream if necessary), and try again. Because your kiddo is worth it.