Supportive or Overparenting? Helping Your Teen with ADHD Develop Independence

 ADHD Weekly 2016-04-14

How can you best help your child affected by ADHD be successful? And what is the difference between supportive parenting and overparenting, often called “helicopter parenting?”

When your child struggles with executive function challenges—remembering homework, gym shoes and being able to make good decisions about the present and future—it can become a challenge to straddle the line between fixing the problem for her or holding tight and allowing her to experience the consequences. This is especially true with ADHD symptoms since these can cause more problems for your child with behavior, grades and decision-making than what your child’s peers might be experiencing.

In an attempt to make life smoother for your child, you can take the risk of doing too much for her. Children with ADHD often have delayed maturity. It is hard sometimes to know when to let go or when you are needed to direct your child or work with someone else on your child’s behalf.

Researchers at the University of Arizona and California State University at Chico took a look at the concept of overparenting versus supportive parenting. Their results are helpful in understanding how helicopter parenting and supportive parenting affects teens and young adults.

The researchers worked with college age young adults and found that overparenting was linked with psychological distress and performance anxiety for them. In addition they found that the students had a sense of entitlement, along with increased self-importance, due to their parent’s over praise and involvement. By overparenting, they concluded, a parent unconsciously interferes with the age-appropriate development of competence, independence and a sense of connection to others.

Parents “helicopter” from the desire to improve their children’s success at school and in future life, the researchers noted, but it also happens when parents are highly critical of their children and fail to maintain a boundary between their lives and that of their children. The result is teens and young adults who become overly dependent on their parents and lack the ability to be self-starters or develop problem-solving skills when faced with challenges. The young adults told the researchers that although they resented the over-involvement from their parents, they hadn’t had the chance to learn how to overcome difficulties on their own and continued to need parental direction.

Parents who allow age-appropriate independence in day-to-day life encourage creativity, exploration and learning responsible choices in their children. How can you encourage independence and problem-solving for your child with ADHD? Some parenting tips to be a supportive parent without overparenting:

  • Listen to your teen and respect her thoughts and opinions. She can disagree with you but still follow your rules and directions. Help her learn to clarify her thoughts and opinions by asking why she holds them.
  • Allow your child to pick her own extra-curricular activities, rather than selecting those activities for her.
  • If your child makes a mistake, let her know you will be there to support her efforts to correct it. Talk with her about ways to fix the problem, but step back and let her decide which solution to use. Let your child experience the consequences.
  • Encourage your child to have downtime. Not every day has to have an activity scheduled. Young people need time to explore their interests without structure.
  • Allow your child age-appropriate independence. Establish basic family rules and expectations for behaviors.
  • Have your child take an active role in her ADHD treatment plan. Listen to her thoughts on treatment and encourage her to talk directly with the doctor.
  • Help your child develop a routine and planning system or calendar. Let her plan her activities and work with her system to stay on track.
  • Teach your teen how to prepare her own meals, do laundry, create a budget and spend money. Allow her to practice these skills without your assistance.

Learn more suggestions for Positive Parenting Tips for all ages.