• Coping Strategies for Teens with ADHD

    For teens with ADHD, it can feel upsetting when someone says, “we all have a little ADHD.” While it is true that ADHD is a spectrum, for teens and their families experiencing the challenges of ADHD, it can feel like no one really gets it.

    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological condition, and while it has no “cure” it can be effectively managed through evidenced-based therapy, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), executive functioning skills coaching, and at times the addition of medication under the care of a child and adolescent psychiatrist.

    Getting a diagnosis of ADHD does not dictate a teen’s future. On the contrary, knowing and understanding your ADHD and the tools needed for success can help you thrive. 

    If you have ADHD, there is nothing wrong with you. It just means that your brain works differently and some things, like paying attention and focusing, may be harder for you. You also have many strengths. The teens we work with who have ADHD are bright, engaging, and often deeply passionate about their interests. We can channel this passion and energy to help you create the life you want. 

    An important component of therapy for teens with ADHD is helping them identify what matters most to them and using this as motivation (i.e. values clarification). In addition to therapy, other helpful strategies for coping with ADHD include:

    Mindfulness as a coping strategy for ADHD 

    If your idea of mindfulness, like many teens we talk to, is sitting in silence listening to a bell chime, we’d like to offer a new perspective! For teens with ADHD, increasing awareness and slowing yourself down is mindfulness

    Getting bored and thus easily distracted can occur frequently if you have ADHD. By using mindfulness to increase your awareness when you begin to get bored, you can curb this behavior by labeling it, “I am starting to get bored,” and then think of how you can re-engage in the task and make it less boring. 

    • For example, if you must make your bed, can you play music while you do it and sing? 
    • If you are at school and you notice yourself starting to drift, can you create a visual with pictures in your mind of what the teacher is saying? Can you relate it to something you care about?

    Mindfulness also helps with impulsivity. Instead of acting on the impulse, you can use mindfulness to slow yourself down and notice when you have the urge to do something. 

    By labeling “I am having the urge to do XYZ,” you are buying yourself time to decide if acting on this urge brings you closer to the life you want or the person you want to be. With mindfulness, you may decide to not act on the urge after all and do something different.

    • For example, If you have the urge to yell at your parents, you can use mindfulness to notice feelings of anger and frustration building and then say, “I am feeling frustrated,” which might help to release some emotional pressure. 
    • You may decide to not yell at your parents and instead express how you are feeling calmly, which could increase your connection and reduce conflict.

    Learn to be your own coach: how we speak to ourselves matters!

    In life, it is easy to fall into the trap of speaking critically to ourselves. We encourage teens (and all of our clients) to motivate themselves with compassion instead of criticism.

    For example, try saying, “this is really tough for me right now, but I will get through this like I have before,” or, “I am feeling really distracted right now but I have the ability to re-focus my attention and engage, you got this.” 

    Doesn’t this sound better and more effective than berating yourself and saying, “you never focus and you’re going to fail this class and then life.” 

    How we speak to ourselves matters. Try being gentler on yourself and use positive affirmations and self-talk, just like a coach would give a pep talk to a team before a game.

    Set an intention and acknowledging your successes

    For anything you want to work on and master, setting an intention and understanding your “why,” can increase the likelihood of success. When you set an intention, you clearly lay out what you plan to achieve and can ensure the small goals you set will help increase your focus and support your success. 

    For example, let’s say your intention is to make and keep friends. Ask yourself the following?

    • What is my motivation for this? Example: I care about relationships and being connected to others. 
    • What goals do I need to achieve my intention? Example: consistently interact with my peers, share interests, invite others to hang out, think before I speak in social situations.
    • How will achieving this intention make my life more meaningful? Example: If I have friends, I will be living in line with my value of connection, which brings me joy. 

    Acknowledging your successes may look like praising yourself for consistency in a new behavior, such as hanging out with peers or thinking before you speak. The more you practice, the easier it gets. 

    ADHD is manageable with the right toolset, kindness and compassion towards yourself, and figuring out what drives your motivation. If you think therapy for you or your teen’s ADHD would be helpful, we invite you to contact us at [email protected] or https://mythoughtpartners.com/contact/ for a free consultation.