Help Your Teen With ADD Get Organized

One of the core symptoms of Teen Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is the inability to get and stay organized. It is clear that for a teen with ADD there is a wide gap between what society, school, and family expect of them and their ability to meet those expectations. However, there are unique methods to assist your teen in getting organized. Which in turn, can facilitate closing that gap and supporting your child in meeting life’s responsibilities in a healthy way.

Teen with ADD

In addition to difficulty with organization, ADD is an impulse control disorder that includes other symptoms. Such as difficulty paying attention, excessive talking, and fidgeting. Of course, these symptoms can impair a teen’s functioning in school, at work, or at home. There are 18  symptoms in the DSM that would facilitate a clinician in diagnosing an adolescent with  ADD or ADHD. The symptoms are divided into two groups: inattention and hyperactivity. Those teens whose symptoms indicate attention impairment are diagnosed with ADD. Whereas teens with symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity are diagnosed with ADHD.

In the book ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life, authors Judith Kolberg and Kathleen Nadeau discus a variety of ways to support an adolescent with ADD. They emphasize to their readers that in order to get organized, don’t work against ADD. But rather work with the disorder in order to find stability and structure. For example, one way to do that is to avoid “shoulds” and “musts”. Instead, find something that stimulates your teen in order to access the energy that is typical of a teen with ADD. If your child’s attention is focused and if he or she is authentically engaged in the task, it will likely get done.

Make it Fun

So, say the authors, make it fun! Of course, you might be asking, how can homework, chores, or errands be fun for teens? One way to do that is to create 5 minutes of competition among your children. Who can finish their chores thoroughly first?  You can create these five minute challenges on a daily basis. If you’re willing, provide a reward if the challenge is met.

Another way to use the ADD versus working against it is to ride the energy your child has when it’s available. Surf the wave of his or her increased energy and apply that to getting tasks done. Also, a teen with ADD can usually switch from having little energy to high energy within minutes with the right stimulation. When the time is right, take a few minutes, sit down with your teen, and write down the triggers that would stimulate energy. It could be exercise, companionship, music, and rewards. You might also have to think about what would keep your teen motivated while he or she is completing a task. Not just what will stimulate energy to get started.

However, when your child has an excessive amount of energy, he or she might want to accomplish everything. As a parent or caregiver, you can teach your child to focus on one task at a time. The authors, Kohlberg and Nadeau, make it easy to remember: “Choose just one, then get it done.” Attempting to tackle everything at once is the least successful.


These tips clearly are ways to use the ADD diagnosis of your teen rather than work against it. This can facilitate your teen’s organization that might otherwise be difficult to achieve.