Being a teenager is hard. We all remember the awkward years of middle school. Meeting new friends, trying to figure out how to use your locker, all while going through puberty. The stress of going into middle school is a whole new ballgame after being in elementary school where things seemed much simpler.
Being a teenager with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)… can be really hard. On top of all the challenges for teenagers, teens with ADHD are often struggling to keep up in a world that is built for children who are neurotypical. They are stuck trying to make the most of what they have been given while dealing with the feelings of doubt that come with being a teen.
As a parent, you may have noticed your teen with ADHD isn’t who they used to be when they were in elementary school. Things are different and have changed, but it’s hard to put your finger on it. Deep down, you can tell they are the same child as they always were, but it’s harder to know what they are feeling and thinking. You are worried about how they’re doing and still want to help them.
6 years ago, I became a therapist where I started working with families of kids with ADHD. I have seen how the teenage years can lead to more challenges for both parents and kids with ADHD. Many families are trying to keep their heads above water with everything going on in their lives. Parents and teens are struggling together, but they don’t always realize it. I’ve come to realize parents and teens are often on the same page about the struggles that are happening. Teens sometimes just have a harder time expressing it.
Based on my experience of working with families of teens with ADHD, here are 5 things your teen wants you to know about what they are going through, even if they aren’t able to express it.
1. Middle school has made things tough for me.
I’m sure you remember how tough middle school was. There are a lot of changes during this time. New schools, more work, and meeting new friends all through the awkward years of being a teenager. Your teen with ADHD wants you to know these changes have made things even more difficult for them at times. Some of the challenges of ADHD include difficulties with organization and managing multiple responsibilities. Well, in middle school, they may be having more trouble keeping up with more responsibilities and homework, all while feeling like they’re trying to keep their head above water.
They want you to know this is why there may be a change in their grades when they go into middle school. It doesn’t mean they aren’t trying. It means the opposite. They are trying their hardest, but the demands are even more challenging. Asking your teen how you can support this transition means so much to them. They feel like they have someone on their side knowing you want to help them and advocate for them.
2. Even though we may argue more, it doesn’t mean I love you less.
Teenage years can lead to more conflict between parents and kids with ADHD. Did you know emotion dysregulation is associated with ADHD? Combine that with the hormonal teen years and you’ve got a recipe for some difficulties controlling emotions and more arguments. I’ve seen this firsthand as a therapist from families coming into therapy. You may have gotten into a routine when your child was in elementary school, but you’ve seen things change ever since your child became a teenager. Teens feel stressed and don’t like these arguments just like you don’t. Just like you, these arguments do not mean they love you any less. They may have a harder time expressing their feelings of appreciation towards you during this time, but they may show it in more subtle ways. Look out for these subtle signs as teens are often trying to say something important in a subtle way.
3. I appreciate your reminders before I forget.
I get it. You don’t want to be that nagging parent, always giving reminders to your teen to do their chores and complete their homework. I’ve heard from parents how it is stressful to give their teen reminders and they wish their teen would be more independent. On top of that, your teen may not always respond the way you wish they would when you provide them with gentle reminders. When they snap back or make an off-handed comment about your reminders, it is not because they are mad at you for giving them reminders. They are mad at themselves. Teens with ADHD know they are struggling to keep up with everything and they know others are noticing. Even if they don’t seem happy about your reminders, they know they need your reminders right now. You are helping them succeed by giving them these extra reminders.
4. I am trying my best, even if it doesn’t always seem that way.
Teens with ADHD may procrastinate on doing their homework because it stresses them out. Or they may forget to turn in their homework because they were distracted and left it at home. They know this may look like they don’t care, or they aren’t trying their best in school. They may start to have missing school assignments or put off big projects until the last minute. On the outside, they know this looks like they are being lazy or don’t have motivation. They’ve heard the negative feedback from the teacher too and they want to make things better.
Teens have told me when their parents understand the challenges they are going through and validate them, it goes a long way. They feel appreciated when you do notice they are trying hard on their homework or do well in schoolwork. Knowing they have someone who believes in them and sees what they can do helps motivate them.
5. I know you are trying your best too.
And on top of everything they’re going through, they’ve seen it can be hard for you too, and they want you to know that. They may not always know how to show or tell you this, but they see how much you are helping them every day, and they appreciate it. Parents are superheroes to teens with ADHD. You are their strongest advocate for them at home and at school. On top of that, you are their person, the one they can go to after having a bad day at school or difficulties with friends. Even though they may not always show it, you mean the world to them.
Being a parent of a child with ADHD is a journey, with many changes along the way. This is why I work with parents of kids with ADHD. To support parents through this journey, I created a free guide for parents of kids and teens with ADHD with information on how you can continue to be their advocate. Even with all of the strengths you have as a parent, I know you also need your own support. Finding others who have gone through it, gives you the hope things will turn out alright and you are on the right track. You will make it through this and you and your teen will come out stronger than you realized.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Dr. Carrie Jackson. You can follow their journey on Instagram and their website. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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