Helping Yourself & Others

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Helping Yourself & Others

Social networks and support are essential to our well-being.

Children and adults with ADHD, however, sometimes struggle with social skills and maintaining friendships and close relationships. Parents of children with ADHD run into people who don’t understand ADHD and who judge or criticize their parenting. Read on for ideas of how you can help yourself, your child, other parents, or someone you know with ADHD.

Support for parents

Tips for parents helping children with ADHD:

  • Create a daily schedule and keep to the same routine as much as possible.
  • Give clear directions with clear consequences. “David, finish your homework by 7:00 or there won’t be any TV time tonight” is better than “David, will you please get going on your homework?”
  • Organize everyday items, such as a backpack with everything needed for school, and a notebook with charts for keeping track of homework.
  • Choose your battles. Ignore mild inappropriate behavior in order to stay focused on bigger, more important goals. For example, you might let mild issues with table manners go, but focus on getting homework completed and turned in.
  • Praise and reward your child for accomplishing good behavior. Children with ADHD often hear criticism. Look for opportunities to give praise.
  • Children with ADHD often have hidden talents that are ignored due to the disruptive features of their behavior. Identify those talents and nurture them.


Support for teens

Most children with ADHD continue to have symptoms of this condition into adolescence; others are not diagnosed until the teen years. Treatment, including medication, continues to be effective throughout adolescence. It is helpful to think about and plan for some of the challenges that are specific to teens.

Teen-specific challenges:

  • Teens often show fewer hyperactivity symptoms, but their attention and organization skills are increasingly challenged by the greater demands of middle school and high school
  • Teens may develop other co-occurring conditions, such as oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, anxiety, or depression
  • Teens with ADHD are more likely to develop substance abuse problems
  • Teens with ADHD may have sleep disturbances (sleeping too much, or trouble sleeping enough)
  • Although most teens take risks, teens with ADHD may engage in impulsive and risky behavior at high rates
  • Teens with ADHD have more traffic accidents and tickets
  • As teens take on more responsibility for their own healthcare, they may find it harder to maintain a medication or treatment schedule
  • “Diversion” of prescribed drugs may become a problem as teens are pressured to “share” or sell their medication
  • Teens often struggle with self-esteem and social skills

Adolescence is a time for discovering your own identity and unique strengths. While living with ADHD may have some unique challenges, it doesn’t have to keep you from living the life you want and achieving your goals. Identify and develop your hidden talents. You can learn about how ADHD affects you and make plans and choices for managing your ADHD symptoms.

Support for adults

Many adults with ADHD have successful careers, but it often takes real work to make this happen. If you have ADHD, you may have chosen a career that suits you and found ways to compensate for your ADHD symptoms and play to your strengths. Some adults with ADHD still struggle with challenges such as:

  • Being easily distracted
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Hyperactivity
  • Poor memory
  • Getting bored easily at work
  • Procrastination and problems with time management
  • Difficulty with long-term projects
  • Problems with paperwork and details
  • Interpersonal and social challenges

Tips for adults with ADHD from Mental Health America:

  • Give yourself structure. This includes using date books, lists, notes to oneself, color coding, routines, reminders, and files.
  • Choose “good addictions.” Select exercise or other healthy, favorite activities for a regularly structured “blowout” time.
  • Set up a rewarding environment. Design projects and tasks to minimize or eliminate frustration. Break large tasks into smaller ones; prioritize.
  • Use time-outs. Take time to calm down and regain perspective when upset, overwhelmed, or angry. Walk away from a situation, if needed.
  • Use humor. Learn to view symptoms of ADHD with humor and to joke with close friends and relatives about symptoms such as getting lost, forgetfulness, and wandering attention.
  • Become educated and be an educator. Read books. Talk to professionals. Talk to other adults who have ADHD. Let people who matter know about personal strengths and weaknesses related to ADHD. Be an advocate.

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