A primary complaint of many parents of teens with attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) is that they feel that they have to constantly remind their teen to do homework, chores, and other tasks in order for them to be completed. Constant reminders certainly help teens complete these tasks in many instances. However, this strategy does not always have desirable long-term outcomes, since it becomes harder to remind teens of things when they go off to college or move out on their own. Thus, it is important that teens begin taking responsibility to complete tasks on their own.
Getting your teen to complete homework and other tasks independently is obviously much easier said than done. The real secret to long-term success for teens with ADHD is giving them the tools they need to complete tasks themselves rather than constantly reminding them.
There are several different types of resources available to help your teen:
- ADHD, executive functioning, or organizational coaching/tutoring: Professionals who work individually with your teen on time management, organizational, and other executive functioning skills.
- Therapy and formal assessments: Therapists who specialize in ADHD or executive functioning issues can often provide “ADHD coaching” in terms of practical skills while supporting any underlying emotional or behavioral issues. Formal assessments, the same ones used to qualify for services in school, can provide a wealth of information about your teen’s functioning in different areas (i.e., working memory, processing speed) that can be used to develop interventions that help bolster strengths and reduce the impact of limitations.
- Self-help books: For teens who have at least a minimal interest in making changes, self-help books can help in some cases. Books used need to be fairly short and should provide simple strategies that can be implemented easily without reading the whole book.
In addition to the types of resources discussed above, here are a few general suggestions. The guiding principle with any strategy is making it simple, and something that can easily be incorporated naturally over time into one’s daily routine:
- Encourage your teen to use calendar and task-list apps to keep track of appointments and tasks. While the idea is simple, many teens won’t make good use of these apps because they haven’t tried out different ones to find one that works well for them. Thus, my suggestion is encourage them to download a few different ones, plug in a few items, and see what works best for them. A few ones worth trying in addition to apps that often come standard are EverNote, Wunderlist, myhomework, and To-Do 6.
- Help your teen use visual prompts to remind them of things. Sticky notes placed strategically (fridge, video game console, TV, computer) can really help.
- Encourage your teen to create and hang a visual schedule in his or her room or place where a lot of time is spent. Frequently viewing his or her schedule and tasks will likely help the teen to better remember to complete things.
No matter what strategies you try, usually the follow-through is the toughest part of improving skills needed for independence. Thus, it is important to not get discouraged, nor to let your teen get discouraged. If a strategy or intervention does not work, figure out why. Was it too complicated, time-consuming, or boring? By studying why certain strategies don’t work, as well as why the ones that work do, you can help your teen to better understand how he or she functions and give the teen the tool of insight. This tool will greatly help your teen to develop strategies to make independence a reality and a successful experience.
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