If you are the parent of a teenager with ADHD, then you probably see some weaknesses, as well as some strengths, in the area of executive skills.
What are executive skills? They are the skills that your teen needs to be able to manage different tasks, problems and emotions that he/she will confront on a daily basis. Some of these problems may include distractions and temptations they may face with their peers.
Executive skills are skills such as decision making, planning, time management, organization, task initiation and emotion control.
It is important to identify both the strengths and weaknesses of your teen. Finding the strengths in your teen (and sharing them with them) is so important as it can allow for positive behavior change. An excellent resource for parents and teens is “Smart, but Scattered Teens” (Guare, Dawson and Guare). In this book, you will find helpful information as well as questionnaires/tools to assess the areas that we are talking about here.
Once you feel confident that you have identified the areas that need to be addressed, you will need to help your teenager learn the skills they are lacking. This can be done by sharing some of the techniques you use for certain tasks. Guare, Dawson and Guare note that this will not be the same as teaching a younger child as your teen will most likely not tolerate you telling them how to do something on a daily basis. They also have a strong need for control and independence.
It is also suggested that you work with your teen, keep them included in what you’re doing, and help to organize and structure the environment to promote learning. As we all know, we have to find a balance with supporting our teens. Here are a few final tips:
- We need to identify their style along with their strengths and try our hardest not to make them make them feel singled out or to push too hard.
- Remember to keep in mind where your teen is at developmentally.
There are many situations that arise during these years that will be considered normal or typical as well. Once you see that your teen has mastered a skill, fade out the support gradually.
If you are the parent of a teenager with ADHD, the Center for NeuroPotential in Branford, Connecticut can offer additional support.
Smart, but Scattered Teens (2012) Guare, Dawson, & Guare The Guilford Press.