Fact: For the child with ADHD, the difficult teen years are doubly hard. That’s because all the adolescent problems—peer pressure, the fear of failure both in school and with peers, low self-esteem—are harder for the ADHD child to handle. The desire to be independent, to try new and forbidden things—alcohol, drugs, and sexual activity—are ways that many teens with ADHD self-medicate. And you may wake up one morning to realize that the household rules that were working for years have been thrown out the window.
Know that now, more than ever, rules should be straightforward and easy to understand. Clear communication between you and your teen with ADHD is vital. Make sure they understand the reasons for each rule. In other words, when a rule is set, it should be clear why the rule is set. Sometimes it helps to have a chart posted in the kitchen that lists all household rules and all rules for outside the home (including social behavior and school).
When rules are broken—and they will be—respond to this inappropriate behavior as calmly and matter-of-factly as possible. Use punishment sparingly, but let your teen face the consequences of his or her actions. Even with adolescents, a time-out can work, though you might want to call it something different. Impulsivity and hot temper often accompany ADHD; a short time alone can help.
Know that as your teenager spends more time away from home, there will be demands for a later curfew and the use of the car. Listen to your child’s requests, give reasons for your opinion and listen to his or her opinion and negotiate. Communication, negotiation, and compromise will prove helpful.
I believe parents can help their teen with ADHD function successfully by coaching them in the following:
One last word of advice: although your child most probably has been periodically evaluated through the years, adolescence, with its raging hormones and physical changes, is a good time to have your child’s doctor do a complete re-evaluation of their health.