Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, better known as ADHD is a developmental disorder. As parents of these kids it is common to lament about the lack of attention, forgetfulness, or the amazing energy that sometimes can not be channeled. While all of these symptoms are challenging it overshadows the real problem of the child/teens lack of impulse control.
In young children you may notice the snatching of toys from another child, pushing, biting, temper tantrums and a spontaneous eruption of behavior that leaves you confused.
In pre- and early teens you may notice more impulsive behaviors like blurting out inappropriate comments, disruptions, agreeing to act on certain peer suggestions and beginning to experiment with cigarettes, alcohol or drugs.
During the late teens there is a marked increase in high risk behaviors partly because they are now driving and partly because most teens have the “I am invincible” attitude.
The holidays offer more opportunities for teens to engage in high risk behaviors. So, today is the time to talk with your teen about drugs, alcohol, parties and driving. I suggest setting up a plan in the event your teen needs your help.
1. Whenever they go to a party send them with a fully charged cell phone.
2. Establish a curfew.
3. If your teen discovers there are drugs/alcohol at the party and they want to come home, have them go to the bathroom and call you. Then you call them back in 5 minutes and insist they come home. This way they can protest in front of their peers and blame it on you. Eventually, they will be able to stand on their own to say no.
4. Make an agreement in advance that if your teen has been drinking and they call you that you will pick them up, no questions asked. You want to get them home safely and you want to monitor their health to determine if they need medical care.
5. Keep asking the questions: “Is this what you want in your life?” “How can I help you?” “Do you know how worried I am about you?”
6. Use these statements: “I love you.” “I see a great future for you.” “I am here for you.” “These years can be tough, you can count on me.” “I will do whatever it takes to help you without enabling you.”
7. Openly talk with your teen about the long term issues with impulsive, high risk behaviors and ADHD with the possible consideration of medication.
May your holidays be a safe and happy one.
For more information on ADHD, Russell Barkley is the leading authority on the subject.