Understanding ADHD | For Parents & Caregivers | Teens | Parenting Teens with ADHD | Questions and Answers
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Questions and Answers

From Ask The Expert Webinar 

How can I communicate effectively with my teenager?

You can use a three step communication process to help keep the relationship in the forefront. First, you want to acknowledge their experience. Teenagers want to be seen and heard. Start by acknowledging the situation and normalizing their experience. Try saying, “It’s perfectly normal for you to be going through this,” “It makes sense that you’re going through this,” or “I know it’s hard.”

Next you want to connect with compassion. Show you can relate to their experience and the challenge they are facing. Compassion helps enhance your acknowledgement of the situation and makes you a human piece in the puzzle rather than just someone telling them what to do.

The last step is to explore solutions together. You want teenagers to start making their own decisions and doing their own problem solving. Thinking of multiple solutions together allows you to help them problem solve in a practical way. By collaborating to find solutions rather than starting with them, you’re no longer putting your teen on the defensive. You’re giving them the opportunity to learn how to figure it out on their own.


What can I do to motivate my teen to do things, such as chores, exercise, take medication, do homework, etc.?

Motivation is a key part of telling the ADHD brain to engage in action. However, one of the common mistakes parents make is trying to motivate our kids to do what they want them to do. Instead you need to focus on the five things that really motivate the ADHD brain: novelty, urgency, interest, competition and enjoyment.

Focusing on these five things helps you gain buy-in from your teenager. Rather than approaching a scenario from why you want it to happen, you really want to look at how interested your teenager is in doing what you want them to do. They need to know what’s in it for them. The best motivation is going to be them wanting to do things for their own reasons. Through open conversations, find the interest and engagement for them.

For example, if you want to get your teen to go to bed earlier have a conversation about the situation.  While they may not be interested in going to bed earlier, you might find that they are interested in a related situation, such as getting to school on time in the morning. Once you find out what they are interested in, then problem solve that particular scenario. One solution that they come up with could be to go to bed earlier.


I want to support my teenager. How do I know when to offer help and when my support may be too much?

The most important piece of supporting teens is to not see them where you want them to be, but where they are. You want to meet them where they are and raise the bar from there. Let them try some different things such as chores or homework without offering support.  If they can do it independently 80% of the time with whatever systems they use, then they can do it on their own.

On the other hand if they are struggling with something, fall back on the three step communication strategy. Sometimes our teens can’t do what they know they should be able to do. It’s maddening and frustrating for them. Offer support in the form of a conversation that begins with acknowledgement and compassion. Then invite them to grow in little steps.


How do I know if situations are my child’s ADHD or typical teenager behavior?

The bottom line is, it’s about loving and supporting your teenager through their teenage years. If whatever’s happening in their brain is neurological because of their ADHD, neurological because of their hormones or the result of their girlfriend breaking up with them yesterday, then it really doesn’t matter if it’s the ADHD or not. It’s more important to stay connected with your teen so you can help them problem solve through situations, support and empower them.



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