Adolescent boys with ADHD are their own worst enemies because they often refuse to ask for help.  Here are 3 things to begin working on to help your teenage son recognize his strengths, take responsibility, and do better in high school.

Teen boys face their share of obstacles at school: They are often restless in the classroom, and their verbal skills lag behind those of girls. As a result, they can fall behind young women with ADHD (and girls without the disorder) in standardized test scores and rates of college admissions. This is especially true of teen boys with ADHD.  And while boys with ADHD typically have a greater need than girls for academic help from their parents and teachers, they are less likely to accept it due to their independent streak.

1. Connect him with good role models who also have adhd.

“They might not say it, but many boys with ADHD harbor the belief that they won’t ever make it in this world,” says Michael Riera, Ph.D., head of Redwood Day School in Oakland, California, and the author of Staying Connected To Your Teenager: How To Keep Them Talking To You And How To Hear What They’re Really Saying.

Knowing about-and meeting with-successful people who have ADHD can turn that fear on its head.” Riera advises boys with ADHD to shadow an adult with ADHD in the workplace for a day, to see that some jobs are ADHD-friendly. (Parents can contact local chapters of CHADD or another ADHD-related organization to find mentors.) “Adults can talk about what ADHD has done for them and how they’ve worked with it to succeed,” Riera says.

2.  Be patient with his progress and LOWER your expectations.

In the early teen years, students are given a greater workload, but some of them lack the organizational skills to handle it. Boys with ADHD tend to lag behind others in executive function skills — the ability to plan, prioritize, and organize their work.  Yet as parents, we tend to have the same expectations for them that we would have for ourselves.  This is a mistake.

In addition, the culture pushes boys to be more independent than girls, but if they have problems with executive functions, they’re not ready to be so they may become hard to reach.  Experts recommend that parents be patient.

Boys often make breakthroughs at age 15 or 16,  By that time, they are getting accustomed to handling independent work.  In their teens, many boys with ADHD start mastering techniques that help high school students get work done, such as breaking down their tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks.  “Parents should remember that a boy doesn’t need to master everything by the end of high school,” says Riera.

3.  Let him make more of his own decisions.

Riera advises parents to let their teenage sons make many of their own decisions, in and outside of school.  “From elementary school on, academic activities are selected and packaged for kids, and schools push students, to the detriment of their social lives,” he says. “When kids go to college, they may be ahead academically, but probably haven’t developed themselves socially and morally.”

Riera suggests that “parents give kids the opportunity to test their decision-making by allowing them to make bad decisions.” He believes that making mistakes gives boys with ADHD some advantages over their non-ADHD counterparts when they enter college.  Riera tells kids with learning differences and ADHD, “The good news is that, when you graduate from high school, you are going to know how to work through struggle. To me, that is the core of success.”

Any parent will tell you: No teenager succeeds at something without really wanting it.  Help your son tap into his innate (but often buried) motivation by allowing him to decide for himself to move toward what he really wants (besides video games and clothes), and to help him set those goals.


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