Having a teen who is diagnosed with ADHD isn’t always easy, and it can be a challenge to figure out what’s needed to make your home run harmoniously.
However, there’s also an enormous amount to celebrate about your teen’s ADHD. By adjusting the way you view their condition, you can make the difficult times easier for both your child and you to manage.
It’s often the smallest actions that parents take that can make the biggest difference for teenagers with ADHD. Read on to find out some of the amazing things you can celebrate about your teen’s ADHD, how to do it, and why it can be helpful.
Why celebrating ADHD is beneficial for you and your teen
While there is a lot of helpful information out there for parents that can assist with fixing difficult situations with your teen with ADHD, it can be a good idea not to think of ADHD just as something that needs to change. If you are constantly trying to ‘fix’ something about the way your teen thinks or sees things, this can reinforce their understanding that you think there is something ‘wrong’ with them.
By reframing the way you approach these situations to focus on your child’s strengths, rather than their perceived weaknesses, you can help to validate your child and the unique way their mind works.
Why ADHD can be their strength
There are plenty of positive aspects of ADHD, and many of the behaviours associated with it can actually be strengths that provide lifelong benefits. These include (but are of course not limited to) creativity, hyperfocus and resilience.
Many young people with ADHD are creative, divergent thinkers.
Your teen may excel in creative subjects at school or take an interest in creative arts and topics. They may also display ‘divergent’ thinking skills, such as finding creative new ways to use everyday objects or completing everyday tasks in different or unconventional ways.
You might notice that your teen with ADHD has bursts of something called ‘hyperfocus’, which is a state of being extremely focused on a single task, to the point that they can lose track of everything else around them.
Hyperfocus is an incredible marker that many people with ADHD experience. If it’s managed adequately, it can be a study tool that can really benefit your child. It can also be helpful for your teen in their personal interests and hobbies – ‘hyperfocusing’ on a particular topic or activity persistently can lead to incredible discoveries and work being created.
Society is constructed around how neurotypical minds work, so navigating the world as someone with ADHD can be confusing and exhausting. Plus, ADHD can make completing everyday tasks difficult, which can affect young people’s lives in surprising ways. Being able to overcome these barriers on a consistent basis therefore builds incredible resilience.
Your teen might experience some of these barriers and difficult situations in their day-to-day life. Make sure to acknowledge their resilience in getting through them, and praise their determination in working to manage the parts of their ADHD they find challenging.
Things you can do to help your teen celebrate their ADHD
There are plenty of different ways to celebrate your teen and the way their mind works as someone diagnosed with ADHD.
Encourage them to try new activities
If your teen doesn't have many activities or hobbies they enjoy, help them to try something new or to find a hobby or subject that might interest them. This could be anything from encouraging them to sign up for a sport they enjoy watching, to taking them indoor rock climbing or playing with them a role-playing board game, to buying them a book on a topic they’re interested in.
Helping your child to find hobbies and interests that they find engaging and rewarding can help them to feel fulfilled and accomplished. This may improve low dopamine levels in people with ADHD and may satisfy the common ADHD markers of creativity and hyperfocus that your teen may have.
Be their ally
Sometimes life can be overwhelming for young people with ADHD. It’s important to remind them that you are their ally, and be there to support them as they work through these situations.
Reframe the way you approach those times when you disagree with your teen. Try saying, ‘How about we try this together next time?’, rather than ‘You shouldn’t do that!’ By reframing things to celebrate how your teen’s mind works, and by being their ally when times get tough, you will help your child learn positive coping strategies for when they encounter tough moments they encounter.
"We… became a team at home, partners in managing her ADHD. Besides keeping her challenged, my new mantra became ‘Be the guardrails, not the driver'."
- Theresa Cerulli, M.D. via ADDitude.
Help them to learn management strategies
People with ADHD use various strategies to manage and utilise the unique way their brain functions. If you work together with your teen to learn some of these management strategies, you will be helping them to transform their ADHD into a personal strength.
Celebrate their victories
Make sure to celebrate when your child has succeeded at something. There’s no event too big or too small to celebrate!
There’s been plenty of studies done about the positive effect that praise and rewards can have for young people with ADHD. Make sure to praise your child immediately when they have done something well, and be specific about what they did and why it’s such a good thing.
Be their biggest supporter
Make sure you are your teenager’s biggest supporter – from the big moments such as graduating from school, to small moments such as completing basic daily tasks. Share your child’s achievements with family, friends, and support network, such as creative projects, participation in a hobby, succeeding at something at school, staying focused on a goal they’ve set themselves, or displaying resilience in their day-to-day life.
By talking openly about their successes and strengths, you can affirm to your teen that the unique way their brain works is a positive thing. You can read other parents’ stories about having teens with ADHD, as well as share your own experiences, via the ReachOut Online Community.