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Parents of ADHD Teens and Young Adults

Do we explain ADHD to 17 year old son?
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Hi there everyone! 

I’m new to ADDConnect.  My step-son is 17 years old and was diagnosed ADHD on the 21st of March.

We sought the advice of a psychologist after his behaviour had become unbearable and was causing immense tension and heart ache in our home.

I’ve successfully raised a 21 year old daughter with very little issues and living with my step-son has been a challenge to say the least! 

Since his diagnosis I have been doing research on how to raise a teen with ADHD because all my usual parenting skills just don’t work with him.  I have learnt that the usual discipline rules etc have absolutely no effect on him and that according to most web-sites we need to be more encouraging and make sure that there are always immediate consequences for his actions.  Good consequences for good actions and bad consequences for bad actions etc etc. 

My issue is, how do I go about changing the whole process of discipline with him?  I desperately want him to become more independent, happier, and I want him to contribute to our family so that he can feel a part of the family.

Do I explain exactly how ADHD works and why we’re changing everything at home?  Is it okay to explain that he has a disorder and that he just doesn’t function like other “Normal” teens?  Would that not make him feel even more alienated? 

We think that he may have ODD as well as ADHD but the psychologist wants us to get the ADHD under control (He’s gone on to Concerta now) before we start to tackle the ODD.

Replies

Absolutely explain things to him, but weren’t things explained to him when he saw the psychologist? What about when he started taking the Concerta? Didn’t he ask what it was for? The more we understand ourselves, the better we are able to navigate life. That said, he is 17 and just diagnosed. In other words, he is a teen with 17 years of bad habits as well as a teen who is young enough to still think that he knows everything, so he may not take advantage of the knowledge of his ADHD and how it effects him. However, frequent open, kind and honest conversations over time about his behavior, good and bad, and how the concerta has made changes or not are very important to helping him have insight into who he is so that he can start making wise decisions (hopefully.)

Posted by Abner on Mar 28, 2017 at 12:08pm

Yes.
For myself, as well as the research and children that I work with… we know we are different, having a name, explanation, and - most importantly - a game plan and examples of success are extremely important…

Listening to the Drive to Distraction audiobook was extremely formative and gave me hope as a college student.

I would need more info on the discipline stuff.
I don’t understand what you mean by the usual discipline rules.
Positive reinforcement works.

Posted by Dr. Eric on Mar 28, 2017 at 2:09pm

Thank you so much Abner,

Yes, he knows he has ADHD, but he truly doesn’t have a clue what that actually means!

In all honesty, I didn’t really know what that meant until I did some research.  This is new to all of us as well.  Hubby is NOT a reader and neither is my son so I have to basically do the research and then try to feed the information to them.

He is ultra sensitive about just about everything and I’m so scared of doing more harm than good.  That being said, he is pretty out of control and has made life a bit miserable for everyone at home….himself included.

Dr. Eric, my daughter NEVER back chatted me, we had the usual ups and downs of raising a child and on occasion, she had to be punished.  Usually by having privileges taken away.  This always worked with her.

In the case of my son, nothing like that works.  He argues EVERYTHING, from eating supper to showering, going to school, brushing his hair, the volume on the radio etc.  A “no” to a request, ANY request turns in to an hour or two hour long argument and fight.  Trying to firmly say “No” and even giving a reason and then walking away to signify that there is no more room for discussion simply does not happen.  If we say no, he will follow us all over the house and not stop arguing his point.  Even if we stop, look him in the eye, listen to his argument and then still say no….he will then argue that we don’t listen to him.  If we call him up on that and tell him that we just did, the argument escalates, usually at this point he will bring up some other thing to argue about….some evenings we’re arguing three to four hours long over something like saying no to letting him play on his play station the night before an exam.

That being said, he has only just started on his Concerta, we’re waiting, and praying for a miracle on some level.  Just a calming in order to be able to speak with him…..that hasn’t happened quite yet.  He goes back to the psychologist on Thursday and I’ll be sending a journal of my observations of his behaviour since he started the Concerta, I think he might have his dosage raised a little?  (I imagine the psychologist will do some tests?)

Posted by SallyBee on Mar 28, 2017 at 3:01pm

Definitely explain to him why he is taking the medications and that it is because his brain works differently.  I explained it to my son that is you have a thyroid problem, you take medication to compensate and/or fix the problem.  Same goes for ADHD, you take the meds to fix the problem.

Regarding discipline,  It is a challenge.  And I hate to say that starting at 17 will be very very difficult as we started at 4 and still have issues with it with our son.  A positive reward system works really well with ODD/ADHD kids (my son has both as well).  Reward them for all the behaviors you want to see and catch them being good and give lots of praise.  Try to avoid scolding and lectures.  Swift consequences for bad behavior and don’t drag on the consequences too long.  Find something they want and let them earn that as a reward but take it away if they aren’t complying.  We found a good app that tracks reward points and we assigned rewards to certain point values and each behavior or chore we want done they earn points.  It is called OurHome - Chores and Rewards.  Hope that helps.

Also find a support group (CHADD is good) near you to help you with ideas.  We also go to group therapy with our son so he learns and we learn better how to work with him and not be yelling at him and pulling our hair out at every turn (although it continues to be a challenge).

Being unemotional helps as well.  I found my son doesn’t throw the tantrums as much and calms down faster when I am not yelling or scolding him.

Posted by bigmidget on Mar 28, 2017 at 3:13pm

Unfortunately, the Concerta will likely help with focus during school hours but (for my son at least) it likely won’t help with the back talk and arguing.  The medications also typically wear off in the evening so unlikely that you will see much of a change in the night when you are having the issues with him.

Posted by bigmidget on Mar 28, 2017 at 3:17pm

I recommend that you handle this with him as a team. He’s old enough for you and his dad to sit down with him and have an honest discussion about what the diagnosis means, and to talk about how to move forward as a family in the best way possible.

An ADHD diagnosis does not have to be approached as a terrible thing. In fact, you could approach it as “this is good news; now we know why you’ve had some of the challenges you’ve been having. Now we can move forward and become more informed and find some things that will work better for you and for all of us.” You could also tell him that you want to set goals together—behavior expectations as well as consequences. It’s important to include him in these discussions so he has some input and therefore some ownership in it.

Also, the goal with all parenting is to raise our kids to be responsible, productive adults and at his age, he only has a few more years until he’s out on his own.  This diagnosis and your reactions to it (and your discussions with him) will show/model him some important things he’ll need to know and do as an adult:  the fact that we all have obstacles or shortcomings to overcome in one way or another (his just happens to be ADHD), and that all that means is that we just need to find ways to deal with what comes our way (i.e., he needs to find the tools and techniques that work for him- which will mean trial and error). He will see first-hand by your actions that when an adult realizes something isn’t working, they simply regroup and reassess (as you are doing now that you realize your former parenting and discipline plan isn’t working).

He will learn a lot by seeing how you handle this: how to deal with obstacles, how to research and learn as much as you can about something, how to make changes and adjustments as you go, and how to apologize and course-correct when you make mistakes.

He may end up being very relieved that there’s a “reason” for him feeling so bad and having so many issues (many teens with ADHD feel really bad about themselves because they feel like they can’t “do anything right”. This could be an opportunity for him to see that he’s not “bad”, he just needs to find some better ways to deal with some of the challenges this disorder brings.)

In terms of parenting techniques (including discipline), I recommend “Parenting teens with Love and Logic” . Even though it’s not geared toward kids with ADHD, many of the parents I work with have a lot of success with it, especially with kids who want to constantly argue. Overall I think it’s a great program for helping prepare kids for adulthood while also developing a strong, mutually-respectful and loving relationship.

Joyce Mabe
Parenting Coach, licensed school counselor, mom of adult son with ADHD, author
website: http://www.parentcoachjoyce.com

Good luck!

Posted by parentcoachjoyce on Mar 28, 2017 at 3:29pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I live in a small town in South Africa, there is not much in the way of support here so no support groups…I’ve looked! 

We’ll work with his psychologist and try get together as a team, him, my hubby, my daughter and I and work out a parenting plan of sorts.

I have something to go on now and I’m almost looking forward to a new challenge.  As mentioned, it’s almost a relief to have a diagnosis of something that is genuinely wrong that has solutions, albeit a lot of hard work…there are answers…thank goodness!

He goes to his mum for the school holidays on Friday and is only back with us again in two weeks….so we’ll leave it all until he gets back.

(I’m convinced his mum is ADHD with ODD or something along those lines too….so a bit concerned about his behaviour when he gets home as that’s also always been a huge adjustment for all of us)

Thank you for the advice on reading material too….I’ve just ordered “The Defiant Child” from Amazon and I’m waiting for that to arrive.  Any opinions on the techniques in that book?

Posted by SallyBee on Mar 29, 2017 at 5:54am

Definitely explain to him what ADHD is and how it makes him different. This article will help you: http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/10117.html. The knowledge will likely be a relief to him.

Here’s more on raising teens with ADHD:
http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/5310.html
http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/8663.html

Remember, “Kids do well if they can,” says Ross Greene, author of “The Explosive Child” (which you should read - changed our lives).

Penny
ADDconnect Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

Posted by adhdmomma on Mar 29, 2017 at 2:04pm

SallyBee, I haven’t read “The Defiant Child,” but there is another book that helped me a lot with my son: “The Explosive Child” by Ross Greene. Good luck to you, I know first-hand how challenging this is!

Posted by fortuna33 on Mar 31, 2017 at 12:48pm

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