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ADHD in adolescents: a guide for parents

Arrière-plan

August 2, 2023 Well-being

Parents

Par Simon Aubin

School Prevention Promotion Advisor

Attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects many teenagers.  Unfortunately, ADHD is often surrounded by prejudice and misunderstanding.  It is essential for parents to understand the facts about ADHD in teenagers, so they can provide them with the support they need. 


What is ADHD?

ADHD is characterized by problems with attention, impulsivity, and/or hyperactivity. In adolescents, these symptoms can be particularly disruptive, interfering with academic, social, and emotional functioning. According to the Association Québécoise des Neuropsychologues, approximately 5-7% of Canadian children and adolescents are affected by this disorder.  

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

Symptoms of ADHD in adolescents can vary, but the most common include:

Attention difficulties

Adolescents with ADHD have difficulty paying attention for long periods of time. They may have trouble following instructions, completing homework, or staying focused in class. Their attention is easily diverted. Adolescents with ADHD may also have problems with organization and time management, which can make daily tasks more difficult to accomplish.

Impulsivity

Adolescents with ADHD may act without considering the consequences of their actions. They may interrupt others, make impulsive decisions, or be impatient.  

Hyperactivity

Although hyperactivity may diminish in adolescents, some maintain a high level of physical activity. They may find it difficult to sit still or channel their energy constructively.

The impact of ADHD on daily life

The symptoms of ADHD can have a significant impact on teenagers' daily lives.  Problems often arise from a significant gap between the expectations of the environment (at school or at home) and the young person's ability to meet those expectations. The responses to these discrepancies can sometimes be awkward (shouting, blaming, repetition, power struggles) and reinforce the young person's sense of low self-esteem in relation to their diagnosis. 

As a result, they may lose interest in their studies, experience conflicts with teachers, or be marginalized, labeled, and rejected by their peers. The same is true at home; as instructions often need be repeated, which can lead to feelings of impatience and distress on the part of the parent, who may raise their voice to make themselves understood. In response, the teen may respond impulsively, escalating the conflict.

This vicious circle of constant conflict brings the young person back to focusing on their difficulties and can affect their self-image and self-esteem. The constant criticism, devaluation, and self-criticism can lead to a loss of self-confidence.  Like any young person experiencing a difficulty, they need help and support, rather than reprimands, to get through it.


It's important to remember that ADHD is not laziness, a moral failing, a lack of interest, or an excuse to avoid certain tasks or activities. 

Support strategies for parents

1- Education and awareness 

It's essential for teenagers to learn about ADHD so they can better understand the challenges they may face. The Canadian ADHD Awareness Centre and the PANDA Association can provide valuable information and adapted resources. It's also important to surround yourself as a parent with supportive family and friends. 

2- Open communication 

Encourage your teenager to express their feelings and concerns. Create an environment of open communication where they feel safe to share their experiences and ask for help when needed.

3- Structured routine 

Establish a clear and predictable daily routine for your teen. This can help him manage time more effectively and minimize distractions. Establishing clear rules in advance can also help reduce confrontation and conflict. 

What's more, healthy lifestyle habits should always be a priority: eat regularly and healthily, and be physically active on a daily basis. Make sure your child gets enough sleep, since fatigue aggravates ADHD symptoms.

4- Academic and professional support 

Work closely with teachers and school professionals to implement appropriate classroom accommodations, such as regular breaks, extended exam time, or extra help with homework. If your teenager's ADHD symptoms are having a significant impact on their daily life and are accompanied by major difficulties, it may also be worthwhile to consult a healthcare professional. 

Doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists specializing in ADHD can offer specialized support and recommend appropriate treatment approaches. Medication may be an option. A psychosocial professional (social worker, psychoeducator) can help reduce the impact of ADHD symptoms by helping you implement coping strategies at home and in other areas of your teen's life.

5- Encouragement and positive reinforcement

Praise your teen's progress and recognize their efforts. Encouragement and kind words can motivate them to stay focused and complete tasks successfully. You can also help your teen recognize their strengths and their areas of interest.

Overcoming obstacles


ADHD can present significant challenges for teens and their families, but with the proper support, they can learn to manage their symptoms and thrive in different spheres of their lives. 

As a parent, it's crucial to understand adolescent ADHD and support your teen both at home and at school. 

Drawing on reliable sources, you can gain the knowledge you need to help your teen overcome obstacles and reach their full potential. We invite you to consult the referenced sites for more information on the subject.

Reference(in french)

Association quebecoise des neuropsychologues , TDAH
Centre de sensibilisation au TDAH Canada, TDAH (trouble du déficit de l'attention avec/sans hyperactivité
Association PANDA, Le TDAH chez les ados
Fondation Philippe Laprise, Outil pratique