Having children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be a challenging experience. And when these children grow to be teenagers, the task of parenting can get incredibly more intense.
However, because of the rise in ADHD diagnoses over the last 20 years, there has been more and more research on effects, coping tools, and treatments. One expert is Thomas Brown, Ph.D., author of The Unfocused Mind in Children and the Associate Director of the Yale Clinic for Attention and Related Disorders. He points out that there are six major areas of a teen’s life that is going to be impaired:
- Getting started on tasks – Organizing prioritizing, and getting started on tasks is impaired. There will be excessive procrastination to the point where they begin to see completing the task as a minor emergency.
- Focus – Focusing, sustaining and shifting attention to tasks is impaired. Those with ADD/ADHD may experience being distracted very easily and an inability to stay focused on the words when reading.
- Effort – The ability to stay alert, sustain effort, and process information as quickly as others is impaired. Those with ADD/ADHD report that they can complete short-term projects well but have trouble with longer projects that require sustained attention over longer periods of time. They may also experience problems with regulating sleep patterns.
- Emotion – The ability to manage frustration and modulate emotions is impaired. Those with ADD/ADHD describe that certain emotions tend to take over and gets in the way of thinking and as a result their communication is flavored by the emotion, whether it’s frustration, anger, worry, disappointment, or desire.
- Memory – Utilizing working memory and accessing recall is impaired. Often, those with ADD/ADHD tend to have long-term memory but forget what they had for breakfast that day. They have difficulty holding pieces of information while focusing on a specific task.
- Action – Monitoring one’s self and self-regulating action is impaired. Even those with ADD (without hyperactivity) might experience acting impulsively. They may jump too quickly to conclusions and have problems with regulating the pace of their actions.
The above is a list of common symptoms seen in teens with ADHD. However, there are some basic ways to manage these symptoms. Although it’s true that taking medication, participating in therapy, and sticking to a routine can be helpful for ADHD teens. The following are some basic ways to regulate the challenging symptoms that ADHD teens experience:
1. Diet – Many parents and teens do not realize that 95% of the production of neurotransmitters is influenced by what happens in the stomach. If we are not digesting well, eating the wrong foods or even eating at the wrong times, then we will not be able to absorb the micronutrients needed for the healthy production of neurotransmitters. Taking your teen to a nutritionist can begin the process of finding a diet that best heals any imbalances that may exist.
2. Sleep – It’s essential to maintain a healthy sleep pattern, regardless of whether a teen has ADD/ADHD. Even adults need to find a healthy sleep schedule in order to prevent illness, manage stress, and feel rejuvenated to start a new day. Although this might be difficult to establish at first, a teen who goes to bed and rises at the same time every day might feel the difference in his or her mental health. The hyperactivity in ADHD can inhibit a regular sleep schedule; it will either cause little sleep or oversleeping. Yet, having a regular schedule can help with getting the right amount of rest.
3. Physical Activity – Physical activity can release endorphins, which alone help to boost positive feelings. Exercise can also help with long-term mental health, including making new connections in the brain, which alone can facilitate long-lasting change. Furthermore, to experience these benefits from exercise, your teen doesn’t have to run three miles a day; taking a walk regularly can boost mental health.
4. Quality Time Away from Technology – One way to facilitate a healthy sleep schedule is to limit the use of technology, such as television, cell phones, and Ipads. It’s typical for adolescents to get lost in their smart phones, forcing their attention to shift from one piece of technology to another. And the shifting of attention from homework to a text to the television to the Ipad can be straining on an already challenged ability to focus. Furthermore, much of the media, including television and movies include a large amount of violence, which can aggravate feelings of depression, fear, anxiety, and hyperactivity.
Although ADHD teens might have challenges to bear, the above list might make those challenges lighter and more manageable.