Parenting a child with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is often a roller-coaster of emotions, and the thought of them beginning to take those first strides towards independence is usually enough to evoke sheer panic. Becoming self-sufficient and accountable for your own actions is hard for any teenager, but throwing ADD into the mix makes it all the more challenging. However, if you start to implement routines and offer help from early adolescence (if not sooner), your child will find the road to independence far less bumpy.
How to Guide Your Teen with ADD towards Independence
Allow Them Room to Grow
Teaching your child life-skills is daunting at the best of times, but teenagers with ADD are more likely to struggle with certain aspects of independence such as planning, decision making, and prioritizing. Although it can vary substantially, in most cases, teenagers with ADD will seriously lag behind peers in relation to maturity and responsibility, with their ability to plan, remember, and organize impaired, which can make their journey towards adulthood and independence rocky at times.
As your child grows, so does their independence; it’s an inevitable part of becoming an adolescent. Some well-meaning parents of ADD children can unwittingly stifle that growth, but it is importance that you allow your child to stand on their own two feet, even if they inevitably stumble and fall to begin with.
The Importance of Personal Care
One of the most crucial aspects of personal care is sleep. The symptoms of ADD are often exacerbated by poor sleep hygiene, so it is imperative that your teenager not only gets into the habit of going to bed the same time every night, but that they have an adequate amount of sleep.
Your teenager should also be responsible for setting their own alarm clock, and getting themselves up in the morning. Encourage healthy eating and exercise from a young age, so that the importance of good nutrition becomes second nature to your teenager. The majority of younger adolescents need some encouragement where showering, and other personal grooming are concerned, but children with ADD should be guided towards self-sufficiency from an early age: If personal-care routines are not second nature, a teenager with ADD may fail to see their importance when no longer under your wing.
Let Them Be Responsible
It’s often very tempting for parents of children with ADD to do everything for them, but there has to come a time when your child needs to take responsibility, and understand that there will be consequences when something hasn’t been done. Many teenagers, and those with ADD are no exception, believe that dirty clothes are magically replaced with clean; as they get older, teenagers should take care of their own laundry. Young teens should also become responsible for packing their school bag, carrying a wallet, having a phone and looking after house-keys.
The Importance of Money Management
Often, children with ADD believe that money grows on trees, and with no real understanding of it. Help teenagers grasp the concept of money by making them responsible for their own allowance, or asking an older teenager to contribute to household costs. Explain the importance of budgeting, handling credit appropriately, and saving.
Encourage Organizational Skills
The planning and organizational skills of teenagers with ADD are often severely impaired. Therefore, it is crucial to help them establish ways to deal with these from an early age.
Where school work is concerned, help your child set up filing systems where everything is labeled and in a set place. Show them how to compile a check-list, so that tasks can be ticked off when completed. Most children with ADD struggle with time-management, and these are life skills that will take time and patience to develop; you can help by encouraging your child to wear a watch, and to understand the importance of being on time. Your teenager may also need help with schedules and learning to prioritize, especially if they have school activities, or a part-time job to juggle. Children with ADD sometimes find it hard to envisage anything other than the immediate future, but the ability to plan is an important life-skill. Give your teenager the opportunity to think further ahead by completing a long-term assignment, or making a start on their lengthy college application.
When guiding your ADD teenager towards independence, it is important not to rush things; if you throw too much in their direction in one go, your child is likely to experience information overload. Accept that they will learn more slowly than their contemporaries, and try not to be frustrated by this. If you stay positive, reaffirming their strengths but playing down their weaknesses, at the same time keeping your sense of humor intact, you are half way there!