ADHD Support for Your Teenager
By Barbara McRae, MCC
ADHD is often misunderstood, ranging from the symptoms to the treatment and other general perceptions. No wonder parents are confused! Let’s first start with the difference between ADD vs. ADHD. Both are generic terms that are used interchangeably. ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is easier to say and an older term.
According to Dr. Vincent Iannelli, there are three ADHD types based on specific symptoms:
ADHD, Inattentive Type (forgetful, distracted, doesn’t pay attention to details)
ADHD, Hyperactive-Impulsive Type (restless, fidgeting, excessive talking, interrupting, impatient)
ADHD, Combined Type (inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity).
Do you recognize some of these traits? Most of us can relate. Who doesn’t get forgetful, distracted, restless, or impatient at times? So whether you or your child have been diagnosed or not, you can benefit from knowing what you can do to maximize your strengths.
When I was a child, no one ever heard of ADHD. But my mother did let me know about the complaints she received from my teachers. I was much too restless in kindergarten and never took naps with the other kids. And in grade school, my mother begged me daily to please be quiet to avoid getting bad marks for “unnecessary talking!” But I still functioned well, getting nearly straight A’s all through school.
Later in life, I realized that in today’s world, I would have been diagnosed ADHD, hyperactive-impulsive. I still juggle multiple projects; not everything gets done, but the important ones do! Having effective systems help me stay organized.
ADHD as a Blessing, a Gift
My ADHD tendencies have been a blessing, not a handicap. As a child, I often felt different and these differences were not valued. Most of the kids I coach encounter similar experiences. Therefore, it’s vital to help kids understand how they can use their ADHD traits to their advantage. With plenty of affirmation and encouragement, they can be just as successful as anyone else.
I made peace with being different when I understood that my hyperactivity allows me to be a high-energy person and quick-witted as well. I love variety, creating, and being inquisitive. My creativity has many expressions: poetry, photography, watercolor/oils, cartooning, creating recipes, writing, decorating, dancing, and coaching! Some people have commented that they feel exhausted just hearing me talk about the multiple ways I delight in my creativity. (Sometimes I even amaze myself!) The point is to learn to feel good about who you are.
Tapping into Hidden Strengths
It’s often difficult to identify strengths when others harp on shortcomings. And school can be especially challenging since the typical classroom is not designed to address individual needs. The upside is that those with ADHD generally have a strong need to focus on what they love to do in order to feel happy and “right with the world.” And due to this inner need, they are far
more likely to find their perfect niche and ditch a job that doesn’t fit them. That’s an advantage!
Learning to channel their energy effectively, can lead to great achievements. Some of the most creative and innovative people have ADHD. Famous people considered to have ADHD are: Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and photographer Ansel Adams.
How Parents can Help
The ADHD symptoms referenced earlier can definitely be frustrating for everyone. It can be especially difficult for a parent to know what to do. So how can you support your child?
1. Accept and embrace ADHD.
If you have the “this is so unfortunate” mindset, then it will make it much more difficult for your child to feel worthy and confident. Focus on the benefits rather than wishing for life without ADHD.
2. Emphasize your child’s talents.
If you don’t, children are bound to use ADHD as a crutch, keeping them from having the rich and full life they deserve.
3. Stop comparing your child to others.
ADHDers wish for a sense of “belonging.” They yearn to fit in, be “normal” and feel “good enough.” Don’t contribute to their insecurity by implying they don’t measure up.
4. Help your child relax.
Share your relaxation, conscious breathing, and/or meditation techniques with your child. Start slow, just a few minutes, then add more time to reach a minimum of 10 minutes of uninterrupted relaxation.
5. Teach focusing skills.
Without proper training, the mind races ahead, taking the human for a wild ride! Introduce simple focusing skills (i.e. practice observing only one color at a time). Eventually, your child will learn to manage a seemingly overactive mind.
6. Make wise food choices.
The food we consume can either boost or deplete the body. Eliminate foods or supplements that contain nitrates, artificial colors, aspartame, and MSG. Studies indicate that these additives can lead to or aggravate hyperactivity. Conversely, Omega-3 supplements can lesson ADHD symptoms.
7. Identify tools and systems for prioritizing tasks.
Help your child get organized and stay organized by creating a customized system. Stop nagging. Use creative and fun reminders; get input from your creative child.
A common trap parents (especially those without ADHD) fall into is forgetting that you are not your child. And your child is not you. Your child is not “broken.” We are all unique. The ADHD brain is just wired differently and if this difference is perceived negatively, it can bury amazing strengths. To tap into the beauty of your child’s reality, focus on the positive.
I have accepted my hyperactivity and live a balanced life. I’ve learned that it IS possible to relax, even meditate, and focus. It was a slow process for me but I stuck with it. (I started in the late 80s!). Eating fresh and unprocessed food has made a huge difference in my life. And I credit my father for insisting on healthy eating for all of us! I still fidget, cross and re-cross my legs (especially in the movie theater), but not nearly as much.
I often don’t finish reading all the books I’ve started, and I’m never at a loss for creative ideas. Sometimes I take on too much (a typical overachiever). I’m thriving and I love my life! That’s what I want for you, and your family, too. A unique and beautiful life you love!
Barbara McRae, MCC
Teen Parenting Expert, Campus Calm
© Barbara McRae