Whether your teenager was diagnosed with ADHD recently or many years ago, you know that the condition often changes and evolves as kids grow toward adulthood. Although it was once commonly believed that teens “grow out” of ADHD as they mature, recent research has shown that this is not necessarily the case. If your teen is still struggling with the symptoms of ADHD, what does this mean as he or she grows up? Here are five common issues that can accompany teen ADHD, along with suggestions on helping your teen cope with them.
1. Dangerous Driving
It is well known that Teen ADHD causes impulsive behavior. This can get teens into trouble in school, at work, and in relationships with romantic partners, friends, and family members. It can have far more serious effects, however, once they get behind the wheel of a car. Impulsive behavior while driving can lead to car accidents and even death. In addition a inattention and distractibility are other dangers that can lead to a crash.
Since most people do need to drive and most learn as teenagers, this is something that you’ll need to help your adolescent work around. First, make sure that he or she is sticking to the treatment prescribed for ADHD. If your teen is supposed to take medication, make it a stipulation that it must be taken correctly in order to keep the privilege of driving. Also, help minimize distractions. His or her cellphone needs to be in the glove compartment every time he or she is driving, and it must not be taken out until they arrive at the destination. Make it a rule that there will be no other teens in the car until you feel comfortable allowing it. And encourage your teen to keep the radio turned down.
2. Substance Use
There are some studies that have linked childhood ADHD with drug and alcohol abuse later in life. Many teens will experiment with alcohol and, in some cases, other substances. It’s important that your teenager knows that he or she might be at increased risk of developing an addiction. Also, mixing ADHD meds and alcohol can be dangerous. Certain ADHD medications can block the sensation of having had too much to drink, and this can lead to alcohol poisoning.
Talk to your teen about these dangers. Scare tactics usually won’t work with teens, though, so don’t let it stop there. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids recommends identifying myths surrounding alcohol, talking to teens about why they want to drink, and pointing out that much of alcohol’s effect is actually the placebo effect in action. These strategies might help dissuade your teen from ingesting dangerous combinations of ADHD drugs and alcohol.
3. Trouble in School
As teens grow, their need for medication may change. While their doctor is figuring out whether a different medication or a different dosage is in order, your teen might have a hard time keeping up with schoolwork, finding motivation to get his or her work done, and sticking to an organized routine that allows for time management. If you notice your teenager’s grades are slipping and it seems that his or her teen ADHD might be to blame, talk to your child’s doctors and teachers. If your adolescent has an IEP, it might be time to tweak it. Make an appointment with the guidance counselor and work together to find a solution. Also, encourage your teen to stick to a solid routine when it comes to getting his or her work done.
4. Social Issues
People of all ages with ADHD tend to speak impulsively and interrupt others, and this can lead to strained friendships. As teens move from middle school to high school, or from high school to college or the workforce, the new people that they’re meeting might not be as understanding as childhood friends once were. This can lead to snubs, and your teen might develop low self-esteem.
While some strategies, such as attending playdates with your child, are obviously not appropriate for teens, you can use some of the same methods you’d use with a younger child to help your adolescent. Role-playing can help, as can encouraging your teen not to interrupt when he or she is with family. Counseling can also help older children and teenagers learn the social skills needed to navigate approaching and interacting with new people.
5. Anger, Depression and Anxiety
Sometimes, individuals with teen ADHD go on to develop other types of mental health issues. They are often dealing with the frustration of not being able to handle everything that they’re expected to do, higher expectations from teachers, and social difficulties with friends. All of these circumstances can lead to angry outbursts, anxious thoughts and, in some cases, depression.
Talk to your teen about his or her feelings. Don’t be afraid to have them see a therapist; cognitive behavioral therapy can be helpful. If you are concerned that your child is developing a mental health disorder, talk to his or her doctor. It’s possible that a different type of medication is needed or that an additional medication can be added to help control these new symptoms.
Managing Teen ADHD
For many with teen ADHD, symptoms can persist in some form through adulthood. Learning to manage the condition is going to be important, and the teen years are an appropriate time to begin taking charge of treatment. Giving your teen the tools needed to manage their teen ADHD on their own will help them cope with the condition for as long as necessary. If you aren’t sure how to help hand the reins over to your child, talk to a counselor or your teen’s doctor. It’s often difficult for parents to know how to help their kids transition into taking care of their own medical or mental health needs, but this is something that you’ll need to do during this phase of life.