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Give your ADHD teen the gift of understanding

What is your mindset around their intentions, strengths, and wins?

Mindset shifts for parents help build partnerships with their teens.

Many of my clients talk about feelings of shame or embarrassment about forgetting things or not meeting deadlines. They often get embarrassed about not returning phone calls or emails and then get into a cycle of avoidance and negative self-talk. Many wonder why everyone else can follow through on their intentions but they cannot. This shame, embarrassment and negative self-talk comes from years of feeling they can’t keep up with their peers or meet academic conventions.

I believe one of the best gifts parents of ADHD teens can give their kids is the gift of understanding. Understand that your teen has intentions to follow through and get things done, but their fast brain gets in their way.

i. People with ADHD often get labeled as lazy, unreliable, unmotivated, disruptive, messy. These labels imply that ADHDers intend to get distracted or intend to procrastinate. Puppies don’t intend to ruin the furniture, in fact puppies are eager to please. ADHDers don’t intend to ignore their teacher’s email, they legitimately struggle with executive functions like task initiation, sustained attention, and working memory. This is where structure and routine can help.

Recognize their strengths

We all have strengths we can all our own.

I worked with a quick-witted and entertaining young man whose imagination is vivid. School was painful for him because sitting still and attentively for a 50-minute class periods did not work for him. He spent years creating an entire comic series in his head. Writing for long periods of time was a challenge which meant the story stayed in his head. Together we looked at his strengths (creativity and storytelling) and worked with his limited attention span by breaking the storyline in segments that he could capture in 15-minute segments. We also set up a dictation tool. He ended up writing a pitch bible for his comic book which he used for his college admission. I would not be surprised if we see his name in print someday.

Celebrate their wins, no matter the size.

This can be tough for parents because we have expectations rooted in neurotypical standards.

For some people, sitting down to write an essay might be really challenging. If they are expected to spend 3 hours writing a history paper, they probably won’t get through it. The task might make them feel hopeless or resigned to failure. Breaking the essay into 5 bite-sized chunks that require 15-20 minutes of attention could lead to 5 wins. First create an outline and collect supportive evidence, then write the introductory paragraph, and so on. It takes planning but the assignment is more likely to get done. It could take a couple of days to complete. Celebrate each segment as a win not just the finished essay. The overarching goal here is to catch your teen doing something right every day.


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