Positive parenting: Supporting your teen with ADHD

Teens with ADHD face a unique set of challenges in school and at home. Here are some strategies their parents and carers can use to help.


Understanding neurodiversity

Neurodiversity is a term that refers to the differences in how people's brains work; there is no one, "correct" way for the brain to function. Neurodiversity emphasises that there is more than one-size-fits-all approach regarding the human mind. Instead, people perceive and respond to the world in various ways, and these differences should be embraced and encouraged.

Neurodivergence is a natural part of the human experience, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is just one example of the many variations of the human brain.

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition. The symptoms, behaviours and traits associated with it are caused by the brain developing differently during the key stages of development before birth or during early childhood. Rather than seeing ADHD as a deficit, it should be recognised as a unique way of processing the world.

Every neurodivergent individual, including those with ADHD, brings specific strengths and valuable contributions. Rather than focusing solely on challenges, it's essential to highlight the positive aspects. For example, individuals with ADHD might demonstrate heightened creativity, exceptional problem-solving skills, or intense focus in areas of passion.

What is executive functioning?

Executive functioning refers to the cognitive skills that help us manage our daily lives smoothly. Think of it as your brain's mental CEO, responsible for tasks like organising, planning, and prioritising. This skill set develops during adolescence, and all teenagers require some support in this area.

For your teenager with ADHD, these skills might need some extra support, making it necessary for you to explore strategies together with your teen to navigate these everyday challenges. Your ADHD teen may find it challenging to control their concentration, activity levels, and impulses, which can make it harder for them to perform these tasks.

How can you help your ADHD teen?

It's important to recognise that ADHD affects each individual differently, so any interventions need to be customised to suit your teen's specific needs. Additionally, individuals with ADHD may also experience symptoms of other neurodevelopmental conditions like autism, dyslexia, and dyspraxia. Hence, it is essential to consider these when deciding what would be most beneficial for your child.

Strengths-based approach

When raising a teen with ADHD, it's important to focus on their unique strengths and talents. Instead of resorting to nagging (which can lead to frustration), try to create a positive environment by consistently reinforcing positive behaviour. Celebrate their achievements, no matter how small, and encourage their interests and hobbies. This boosts their self-esteem and builds a foundation for them to build on their strengths.

Developing coping strategies

Provide practical tips and coping mechanisms to help your teen navigate daily challenges. This can include time management techniques and organisation skills to help anticipate potentially challenging situations. Providing a toolbox of strategies empowers your teen to proactively manage their responsibilities. It boosts their confidence in handling various aspects of daily life.

Encourage self-advocacy

To help your teenager become more independent and confident, it's important to guide them in effectively expressing their needs and preferences. This process not only builds their independence but also nurtures self-confidence. Encourage open communication and help them articulate what works best for them at home and in other aspects of their life.

Create a supportive environment

Creating a stable and supportive home environment is crucial for the well-being of your teenager. This involves setting clear expectations, implementing routines, offering positive reinforcement, and creating a space where your teenager feels safe and valued. 

Take a collaborative approach

It's essential to take a collaborative approach when helping your teenager. Work with your teen to identify strategies that work best for them and their unique strengths. You can also work as a team with your teenager's school to develop the best solutions and strategies for their success. Your teen must be central to and actively involved in this process so they feel empowered to work out their own way of being.

Many aspects of society are based on the assumption that one type of human mind exists. So many systems such as education, employment, health and social services have been designed to cater to neurotypical individuals. However, it is not only fair but also beneficial for everyone to create an inclusive and accessible society for people who are neurodivergent.

Each individual's neurological makeup brings a unique blend of perspectives, skills, and talents, and we can create a more vibrant and enriched society by recognising and appreciating this diversity. The world is a better place because of neurodivergent individuals.

Are you ready to find a deeper understanding of how to help your ADHD child? Counselling can help. Look for a therapist who affirms neurodivergent individuals. I am a counsellor who supports and affirms neurodivergent individuals, and I can guide you on how to best support your teenager with ADHD. If you want to learn more, please contact me.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Seaford, East Sussex, BN25
Written by Jennifer Warwick, MSc Psych, BACP Registered | Counsellor and Parenting Expert
Seaford, East Sussex, BN25

I am a BACP registered counsellor working online. I work with people who struggle to balance work, home and family life. People constantly rush, looking after others over themselves and are exhausted.

I specialise in supporting parents and carers as they navigate their child's tween and teenage years. Contact me for an introductory chat by phone

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