Podcast Transcript

Guidance for Uncertain Times: Navigating Teens at Home During COVID-19

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Podcast date: May 5, 2020

Learning Objectives

  1. Learn how parents can support their teens during this crisis.
  2. Get suggestions for conversing with frustrated teens.
  3. Find out how to help teens create new habits with schoolwork and social life.
  4. Get suggestions for creating a new schedule.
  5. Find out how to give teens autonomy and collaborate with them.


Announcer:  Supernus Pharmaceuticals is pleased to sponsor the ADHD 365 podcast. ADHD can be complex. This resource and those you will find at MORETOADHD.com are designed to help.

Susan Buningh:  Hello, and welcome to the ADHD 365 Podcast. I'm your host, Susan Buningh, and I'm here today with Alison Dankner. Welcome, Alison, it is very nice to speak with you today.

Alison Dankner:  Thank you, Susan.

Susan Buningh:  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Alison Dankner:  Absolutely. I have a master’s degree in education, and I have a bachelor's degree in psychology. I’ve helped open schools, I've written a district-wide curriculum. I support parents directly and children directly—teens, young adults, one on one.

Susan Buningh:  I'd like to talk with you today about teenagers. Having teenagers confined at home with them for some parents might not present as many challenges as having younger kids home right now, but parenting adolescents will probably require some different kinds of awareness. What are some tips you can share?

Alison Dankner:  I want to actually start with a question for your parents, because I think this is so very important. These are where my tips begin. Parents, ask yourself how you are, because right now you're under so much pressure and so much is changing daily. I want to suggest that you give yourself a break. You do what you enjoy. You find ways to self-soothe, because so much will come from you finding a little bit more balance, and it will be reflected in your ability to find more comfort in parenting, and your kids will feel it.

Validate the disappointment that your teens and your young adults are feeling, because I think you all know. Did your kids have clubs they were looking forward to, teams they were looking forward to, perhaps performances? We all know that teens were really engaged in behaviors to help with college that many of our teens are still missing out on. They're missing out on prom, on graduation, and we can't change this for these teens. We can't, we can't tell them we can change it for them. But what we can tell them is that we believe in their ability to rebound and we believe they will be okay.

The second thing I want to talk about is to speak directly at your teen's frustrations at not being able to see their friends, social distancing, and the absurdity they see in washing her hands. The third is, we want your teens to create new habits right now in this new normal; new habits around their friendships, distance learning, and new emotionally and physically healthy habits. The last thing—we have to offer clear expectations to our teens and our young adults if we are going to change their behaviors.

Susan Buningh:  Let's talk about this social distancing piece. We know that the teens feel invincible, and they can't see why the guidelines apply to them. So, why are parents having struggles with their teens about not seeing their friends?

Alison Dankner:  Susan, kids think they're invincible, we know that. Kids, also your teens, are intelligent. They hear the news. They hear they are less susceptible and less at risk. So there are two things we need to acknowledge. One is your kids developmentally right now are wired to be social beings to spend time with peers. Developmentally speaking, they're supposed to be deepening their relationships. So, if we can just let them talk out how incredibly frustrating this is for them right now, frustrating that they can't see their friends. A few tips I have for that. Let's come up with strategies with them, not for them about how to connect with their friends online, perhaps loosen the restrictions on social media. And facilitate time and encourage time for them to connect with their friends. They need it right now.

Let's talk about that hand washing your kids think is ridiculous. Teenagers think it's absurd right now to be washing their hands. Science says knowing something doesn't change our behaviors, it's acting out those behaviors. Say to your teens, “Look, I know you think it's ridiculous to wash your hands. Let me say this. I'd love to see you wash your hands. If you wash your hands, I'm going to tell you I think you're doing a great job.” Because, as an aside, I can tell you something that teens tell me all the time: They want you to notice what they do well. Let's face it, they're not making the best decisions all the time. Right now, let me say this: This will not be an automatic change. You're going to have to name your kids doing it and praise your kids doing it for about two week. That will help it become a habit.

Susan Buningh:  Let's talk about some of the other healthy habits that we really need to be encouraging teens with at this time—sleep, eating, exercise. Do you have any suggestions for how parents can help their teens to get or keep those habits going?

Alison Dankner:  We all need to ask ourselves, are some of these going to be new habits? Kids came to us in this new normal having very structured lives. Your teens had structured lives from about 6 AM. to 6 PM. A lot of that has changed. Teenagers don't want to go to bed early or get up early. Their brains are sort of encouraging them to stay up late and sleep late. What I would suggest is helping them decide how much sleep they need and helping them set some boundaries for themselves. Teens need to know they're making their own decisions.

I would suggest creating daily plans, get up at this time, have a healthy breakfast, review what you need to do for school, perhaps get some exercise at that point, take a look at your classes, do an assignment, and then do something you enjoy. I'm trying to give them structure in these new habits. We want to schedule for our teens, and we can't do it for them at that age. So, we want to offer them options, and we want to have them decide when they're scheduling it, because the lack of structure may have your kids shutting down. So, if we can encourage them to sleep when they're ready—but encourage it—if we can encourage healthy eating, because it will help them be more prepared to deal with the disappointments.

So if you can encourage them to take walks, and Facetime with their friends while their friends take walks, or if your kids like to work out, let's encourage our kids to develop new habits with friendships online. Let's encourage them to develop the healthy habits around distance learning, but we've got to help them develop these new emotional and physical healthy habits.

Susan Buningh:  Wonderful. Let's talk about remote schooling for a minute. What challenges are there for teens with ADHD?

Alison Dankner:  It's that structure, Susan. School presents so much structure, and when we're talking about an ADHD human being, we are more comfortable knowing what's coming up. We are more comfortable with structure. I've created something, a real structure for kids. The first thing is to help your kids think about this, they're probably overwhelmed. They may be shutting down. Help your kids divide and conquer. Ask them how many assignments do they have each week and what their teachers expect. I'm suggesting kids do two to three planned lessons a day. One of those is a daily assignment that comes in. We want them choosing which ones they're doing every day. We want that autonomy. Help your kids come up with a flow that frees either Saturday or Sunday, because it's so important to convey to your teen that you know that they value a free day. We want your kids not feeling overwhelmed and then having your ADHD teen reward themselves with something else.

Susan Buningh:  Thank you, those are great tips. What do teens with ADHD want their parents to know?

Alison Danker:  They want you to know that they'd like some control and autonomy. They want you to know that they feel your fear and your uncertainty and they feel their own. They want you to acknowledge what they do well. Let your kids know what chores and expectations are in the home. Don't tell them when to do it. Let them create a colorful list they have in front of them. Don't tell them to do these. Just let them decide.

Teens report to me again and again, if they don't tell me to do it, I feel awesome that I did it and no one asked me to do it. But when you tell them to do it, it's a job. So if you can apply this to many things in the home, you know, set your clear expectations. We expect you to do this. Praise when you see them doing it and ask them after how it went. Don't tell them, ask them. What we’ll be doing is we'll get—you'll get—less pushback. You'll get your teens being more responsive. You'll be growing some self-confidence that may have been pushed down in school because they'll be succeeding. They want to please you, even though they don't want to show you that, they do. They want to please you. And you will be strengthening your relationship with them and their self-regulation. It's changing the way we parent, and not reprimanding for what we don't want to see, but positively pulling out what we do want to see.

Susan Buningh:  Alison, thank you so much. These are wonderful tips for our parents. Thank you so much for your time today.

Alison Dankner:  Oh, thank you for giving me the opportunity. Stay safe and we will get through this.

Susan Buningh:  Thank you.

Announcer:  You will probably agree that teens can be complicated., Add ADHD and home quarantine, and things likely can get even trickier. The Navigating Teens at Home podcast provided some new strategies for navigating the new normal that's anything but normal. Supernus Pharmaceuticals, the sponsor of this podcast, has a comprehensive website dedicated to supporting and educating ADHD families. Visit MORETOADHD.COM today to download the Hot Topics for Teens in the ADHD toolbox section. Stay safe and healthy. Thank you for listening to another episode of ADHD 365. Stay up to date on the latest ADHD information by connecting to CHADD’s social media page at CHADD.org/social.