AD/HD Tweens And Teens Tips

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How can I feel less anxious about my teen's request for more freedom?

The Paradox of Parenting

All parents, including highly credentialed 'experts', can doubt their parenting abilities with an AD/HD youth. As your teen demands that you exert less control over his or her social life, your natural instinct will be to exert more control. It is natural to want to know who your child is socializing with and how they spend their time together. It is understandable that you are concerned about the decisions that they make in the present may bring consequences for the rest of their lives. But parenting teenagers isn't joyless. In fact, these can be some of the richest and most enjoyable years of your teen's life. A few precautions are reasonable, though.

Know your teen's friends. Companions that break the law and abuse substances or drink are not good influences on your teen, but their impact on your teen's behavior can be significant.

Keep your teen occupied after school. A part-time job, sports practice, babysitting, cutting lawns, working in a store - these are structured activities that help build good work habits and accountability for one's actions.

Attend to problem behaviors as you always have: identify the issue, create an intervention strategy, and remain confident that both you and your child will cope with the current situation successfully.

When your teen practices good judgment in situations that are ambiguous, say, declining to attend a party in the home of a friend whose parents are out of town, comment on her good judgment and reward her as you would when she demonstrates that she can make good choices in difficult circumstances.

When house rules are broken impose reasonable consequences. When you threaten to ground a teen or take away social privileges for a very long time, these consequences are difficult to maintain especially when you realize in hindsight that you overreacted.

Remind your teen that driving is a privilege and connect driving privileges to responsible behavior. For instance, a teen's grades tend to do down when they first begin driving. Withdraw the driving privilege until grades improve.

If your teen is on medication that may impact reaction time responses, check with your doctor to see if the medications do not interfere with operating motor vehicles.

Avoid scare tactics and threats. Hire a driving instructor or enroll your child in the school's Driver's Ed program. This way another adult, experienced and objective with new drivers is in charge of all the "thrills" that come with learning how to drive.

Sometimes, impulsiveness can create a situation where law enforcement officials become involved. When this happens increase your vigilance and provide more guidance and supervision. Usually, the nature of the event and the subsequent natural consequences imposed on your teen will be adequate to remind your teen to make a better choice in the future.

Provide supervision, especially after school. Avoid angry, hostile interaction when the rules are broken, and seek to teach your teen something useful when you give consequences. Punitive actions designed to punish are rarely effective. Teens can and will rebel against this kind of treatment. It is better to teach your teen how to use consequences to improve deficits, rather than punish him for lacking essential life skills. Dr. Russell Barkley gives parents comfort when he stated, "The good news is that most parents of children with ADHD are doing things right...typical parenting mistakes are not irreparable or long lasting."

Can movies be useful in helping teens learn life lessons?

Cinema Therapy

Since AD/HD youth are so visual and creative, learning about social interactions, cliques, and peer pressure from films on these very topics can be
very helpful. It helps them identify with others facing similar social and academic challenges. Teachers and instructors frequently use film to teach about diverse topics such as the psychology of sports, medical ethics, law, and human interest stories. Film has a way of depicting subtle and not so subtle information that shows us the nature of real people when they interact in particular situations. There are many positive lessons to gain by choosing films that depict situations of interest to your teenager.

"Napoleon Dynamite" is a good example of a film that gives the movie goer a close-up glimpse of the dynamic tension often found in their own high school when it comes down to cliques, clubs, and student elections.

"Election" is a more detailed movie of how being a part of clubs and the student body president and the overall drive to excel in every subject can motivate a certain kind of student. Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick shine in this film.

One good place to look for movies categorized by theme, say, sports movies is called "SPMD," which stand for Sports Psychology Movie Database. Another good source for finding material is's "Movie's for Psychology Majors." There are many different kinds of movies available, and you may feel that some of them may not be appropriate for your teen. By all means use your own discernment in guiding your selection. NMT Psychology Club has a site listing movies with psychological themes. A quick search of "movies with psychological themes" will bring up numerous sites.

Check the public library. Many of the larger ones are a rich source of classic films with psychological themes, as well as the books the movies were based upon. They can also borrow these materials from the Interloan Library System.

How do you help a teen who feels rejected by peers?

Social Rejection

Even the most socially skilled adolescents find this time
of life to be challenging. AD/HD combined types may be more at risk for social
rejection because they misread social cues or interrupt conversations
frequently. One of the sources of this kind of "relationship stress" is the inability to understand the complexities of social interaction. Take, for example, social cliques. The rules for various cliques are often complex, and sometimes invitations to join a clique is merely a ruse to humiliate someone. The movie "Heathers" and "Mean Girls" depict this type of behavior in a skillful manner. Additionally, there may be other issues that cause many teens report feeling feeling anxious, depressed or afraid of the school environment. Bullying may be the reason why this is so.

The urge to "fit in" and be part of a group is what the world of most adolescents is all about. To achieve this goal, some teens are pressured to conform to group standards that they might not typically be drawn to. Feeling like part of the group is very important to teens, and they are often willing to be psychologically uncomfortable in order to achieve this goal. And then there is bullying.

Bullying is a significant source of concern for students, schools, and parents alike. Teens who experience verbal taunts or find abusive writing on the school locker can feel very insecure and become anxious about returning to an environment that feels risky. Schools can help by establishing programs about bullying, encouraging pro-social behavior, and create clear rules about preventing and managing this type of behavior and its consequences. Further, schools can teach students how to distinguish between teasing, normal conflicts, and bullying. Bullying is very serious and understanding the reasons behind the behavior help teens make good decisions about how to manage an event.

Parents can help by teaching that bullying is about many things, including: an inability to manage frustration, abuse at home, a lack of interpersonal skills for conveying feelings, poor role models or no role models, neglect, unchecked aggression, undue influence, or perhaps conduct disorder. The goal is education, not diagnosis. Sometimes teens can walk away, other times they cannot. Parents can reassure their teen that bullying is a very significant problem and that the teen is not expected to "go it alone." Be concerned and responsive. Let your child know that you will be proactive on this issue.

Now more than ever parental support and encouragement will make a
difference. Here are some activities that may appeal to your child and build prosocial skills at the same time. These might include:

Joining the Drama Club . Even if acting isn't their intention they can put their artistic and carpentry skills to good use. If acting is a goal then finding successful techniques for memorizing lines will be useful in working with short-term memory. Learning to read plays, public speaking, following set and script directions, and working as a team member to produce an evening's entertainment is a fun way to master many social skills.

Youth groups are often associated with places of worship. These kinds of groups offer an opportunity to "come as you are," which is useful for learning the "how tos" of social interaction in a place where expectations for behavior are clearly established.

Some communities have professionally supervised organizations that specifically teach social skills and promote social interaction. Check the Internet to see if this kind of organization is in or near your community.

Scout Troops are a great way for your younger teen to "find a place" of belonging. School resource offices may have a list of the troops in your area.

In smaller communi

What one tool would help my teen become more organized?

Getting Organized in High School

By the time a teen enters high school the focus on academic performance becomes heightened. At this level of classroom work organization is the key to
success. One really useful tool is an appointment calendar that shows the month in both block form and
also in 15 minute intervals throughout the month is a great tool for the AD/HD teen. At a glance, it is possible to see an entire week's worth of assignments, projects, social function, and special events. A smaller version for purse or pocket is easily carried can serve as the note minder until the larger calendar at home can be updated.

Help your son or daughter learn "how to" set up color coded files and devise a memory tickler pegboard using different colored pegs to keep track of daily schedules a month at the time. Here is how to create the board:

Paint a pegboard and divide it into sections using a 31-day calendar as a template. Leave enough room on the left side of the board to write out tasks, chores, and activities. Paint wooden dowels with bright colors and use the differently colored dowels to denote each activity, practice, and project on the board and the days they are due. For example, use red for school activities, blue for projects, green for social outings, yellow for special events. At a glance, it is easy to keep track of a month's worth of activities.

Install a dry-erase memo board near the backdoor for impromptu messages such as "Mom. I went to the pool with Jack and Jill. I'll be home by dinnertime." Encourage your child to use time wisely.

Homework is a priority. Other activities can be scheduled around homework time. Offer to be available to answer questions. Encourage study groups and host them at your house. Take care not to let them degenerate into anything other than studying.

Small handheld tape recorders work well as a source of electronic memory. Because they are fun to use and convenient for quickly summarizing important information it helps with organization and recalling details. A strip of Velcro on the back should help hold them in place in a bookbag.

Why are teenagers so hard to connect with?

Standing Guard Over A Teen's Vulnerabilities

The adolescent years are notable for the "changes" that accompany this age: physically, emotionally, and socially. The academic pressures of getting into a good college adds an additional challenge into the mix. Perhaps the fear that your adolescent will not graduate from high school at all concerns you. In either case, parents are concerned for an adolescent's future, and his or her ability to earn a living to sustain self or a family.

Adolescents face several developmental tasks, including establishing a stable identity and becoming a complete, productive adult. To achieve this they try on different behaviors and seek new experiences that will give them feedback about themselves, their influence on others, and how people respond to them. Parents can be supportive by creating an environment that encourages open discussion or else systematically creating the time to sit down and discuss what is going on in your adolescent's life on a regular basis.

It is helpful for parents to remember the developmental tasks that face adolescents. These involve:

1. Achieving a level of mature behavior and interactions with both girls and boys in their age group. Parents assistance here is vitally important because teens may look like adults physically, but they are not adults and they rely on parents to place limits on behavior. Boundaries are still important at the age. Teens still need parents to monitor their activities despite their protests to the contrary.

2. Adolescents must establish their social roles. This category encompasses discovering what it means to be male or female. Parents can be supportive here by encouraging sons to articulate their feelings, especially when they feel hurt or sad, and encourage their daughters to assert herself by stating her needs, wishes, and preferences rather than accept what life deals out in a passive manner.

3. Accepting one's body type. Adolescents are vulnerable to the idea that there is a "perfect" body type. Girls especially are more likely to engage in disordered eating patterns to attempt to gain a perceived "perfect" body. Boys may try products that "enhance" the masculine physique. In either case, parental support and feedback is important. Body types vary and genetics play a role in determining how the body is shaped. This is something to teach your adolescent. Good health ought to be the goal. Encourage better eating habits, if possible, join a gym where body work can be properly taught and supervised, and be mindful of how you comment on how they look.

4. Adolescents must achieve emotional independence from parents or other adult caregivers. Moving toward self-reliance and autonomy is not easy. As the adolescent gets older, personal independence increases to include a variety of experiences, perhaps, including trips to out of town locations on a school break, and how late to stay out on prom night. Parents set boundaries and curfews, but it helps if there is some kind of mutual agreement between the teen and the parents about checking-in to notify of a safe arrival, chaperon supervision, and the like.

5. Preparing for an economic career. Today's market demands a higher level of education, technical skills, and other related training before entering the job market. Parents can encourage their teen to consider different ways of accomplishing this goal. Not everyone is interested in a four-year institution, and technical schools provide both academic and hands-on training opportunities. Technical colleges mandate core curriculum including Mathematics, Writing Skills, Science, and Psychology in addition to the technical classes. Other young adults choose a two-year college for core classes and then move up to complete their degree at a four year college or university. Sometimes an apprenticeship to a trade is the best route to achieving a good living. Be open to the options your adolescent suggests.

6. Achie

What is the best way to teach my child to drive?

Connect Responsibility to Privileges

When it comes time for your teen to get behind the wheel of the car, it can be a scary time for parents. Driving is a privilege and most teens don't want to lose this one so they tend to obey the rules. Likewise, social events mean the world to them, so make sure that you tie inappropriate and/or unacceptable behavior to the loss of privileges. Consistently following the rules is the path back into the driver's seat and into a busy social life.

Breaking house rules, "forgetting" to turn in homework, losing the house keys or money, and living in a very messy room; these are typical of the challenges associated with ADD. You may threaten consequences that prove to be difficult or impractical to enforce: for example, not using the computer for a month. Since the computer is useful for research, an educational tool has been removed. By connecting responsibility to using the computer, it is easier to limit computer time, say, for doing research for homework, but this time will be monitored for using it for a dedicated purpose.

Some adolescents have a sense of entitlement. They want all the perks and privileges that you can bestow, and little if any of the responsibility that comes with being a contributing member of the family. When a teenager has been obnoxious, lazy, or disrespectful it is OK not to do them special favors. Teens can and do survive such refusals.

Don't be afraid to ask your teen direct questions. Pay attention to
unusual or erratic behavior. Be mindful of your teen's gradual
withdrawal from activities and pay attention to sad moods that don't
lift in a few weeks. If you need to find professional help, check your
health insurance carrier's manual for physicians and therapists in your
area. Ask a friend or your hairdresser for the names of professionals
they may know, or call your family physician for assistance.

Parenting is hard work. Saying "no," enforcing boundaries, and refusing to do special favors for the entitlement minded comes with the territory. Taking away car keys is sometimes necessary. It is hard to hear that you are a bad parent or that you don't understand anything important to your teenager. Connecting responsibility to privileges is a great gift. You are teaching responsibility. So give yourself a break when you lose your cool. Your good intentions are enough and require no defense. Apologize for inappropriate behavior. It sets a good example.

Be observant. Encourage conversation. Set aside time to take your teen to lunch and have a casual chat. It helps to spend some quality time with your teens individually. They can learn a lot from you, and you can learn from them. Even a drive out for a snack or ice cream can do wonders for bonding. Tell you teen every day that you love him or her. They appreciate hearing "I love you."

How can I help my teen understand the impact of her behavior on others?

The Impact of Behavior

Educate yourself and your child as to how his or her
behavior impacts themselves and others around them. Oftentimes, teens are not
aware of how their intensity affects the perception of others. One of the most effective ways to help your
teen recognize the impact of behavior on people generally is to visit a mall
and ‘people watch.' Discuss how quickly people form perceptions of strangers
based on their appearance, body language, wardrobe, and mannerisms. Watching
videos with your child, pizza, and peers has been proven to impact in a
positive way teen behavior.

My teen seems much younger than others his age. Is this typical?

Age after Age

Chronological age and developmental ages do not always match up. Work with the behavior that shows up, maintaining the pattern of connecting actions to consequences. For example, boys with ADHD tend to mature socially much later than their physical body may indicate. A strapping football player (age 15) may be much closer to age 12 in social skills. Girls with ADD or ADHD may tend to look and act maturer than their chronological age would indicate. Physical development does not always correspond with psychological age.

How can I get to know more about my teen's friends?

Know Your Teen's Companions

Be aware of your teen's friends. Encourage your teen to
choose healthy companions and teach them what healthy relationships look like.

Invite your teen's friends over for snacks and a
visit. Talk with them. Ask about their family if you do not know them. Make an inquiry about
where they live, family and school interests. Soon, you will have a sense of
the appropriateness of the friend's relationship with your teen.

Adolescents are drawn to popular websites that encourage teenagers to post pictures of themselves and divulge personal information, so educate your teen about the importance of using good judgment when chatting with people they do not know online. Predators and victims that were lured from online chat rooms or websites make make the news often. Sometimes with tragic results. Share your concerns about this kind of activity and the possible risks associated of believing people are who they claim to be. Monitor online activities.

Be clear in explaining that house rules apply to guest, too. The rules can be presented in a warm and friendly manner.

When teenage houseguests are visiting and the noise or busyness is getting to be more than you can bear, set up in advance, a signal with your teen that indicates the need to calm down or the party will be over. This is easily done by having a code word or a seemingly innoculous sentence prepared. "I can hear (or see) that you are having a blast." "Blast" might be the code word for too much noise or too much boisterous activity. By using the code, your teen is not embarrassed and this gives them the opportunity to be socially responsible.

What is the best way to chaperone social events?

Chaperoning and Supervision

Provide supervision in a respectful manner. Avoid using threats or scare tactics. Middle School parents can volunteer to chaperon school dances or off-site activities. Most schools are very clear about the rules for behavior when students are on site for extracurricular activities. The parents of High School students need to set firm limits on the age and experience of newly licensed drivers. They may also discuss with their teen curfews for special events such as proms and graduation night celebration parties. Don't hesitate to obtain car tag information for safety reasons when teens travel together for social outings. Don't hesitate to ask for other parent's mobile and home telephone numbers. Don't embarrass your teen by threatening a new companion with “going to jail” if they are a few minutes late from an outing. Don't hover over teens or comment loudly about “get a room.”

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Guru Spotlight
Patricia Walters-Fischer