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How to Connect with your ADHD Teenager

As your ADHD kiddo gets older, it can be harder and harder to keep your relationship close. If you find yourself longing for more connection, these tips will help keep you close-knit with your ADHD teenager.

With age comes more independence.

It’s been happening slowly, over the years, you’re less and less involved in your kid’s every move.

In fact, it means you are doing a good job when your kiddo starts trying to separate from you.

But, the teenage years can be scary, with lots of unknowns, like trickier social situations to navigate, and increased pressures of school or competitive sports. 

You are still trying to manage their ADHD Symptoms

The stakes seem to be higher and their ADHD Symptoms are probably still in full view. 

And sometimes it can feel like all you are doing is nagging your kiddo to do their homework, clean their room or take a shower! 

Keep your relationship with your teen close or spending some time trying to get that connection back  can be the best way to help them! 

Your Teen Still Needs You

Maintaining a close relationship with your ADHD teen during their tumultuous teen years is vital. They will be making decisions about things that matter for their future and have higher stakes. They may be introduced to drugs or alcohol or be tempted to engage in riskier behaviors. 

Rachel Ehmke, of the Child Mind Institute, likens the teen years to the terrible twos. They are both times of pushing boundaries and throwing tantrums.

 It can be tricky to figure out how to get back into that world you used to part of nearly every minute of the day. 

But, oh is it important.

Being Connected to Your ADHD Teen Benefits You Both

 A great relationship with your teenager is so key as you help them navigate through their growing independence.  Your teen needs you to be their safe harbor. 

Feeling connected helps your teen feel more stable and better able to regulate his emotions.( A huge plus for our often explosive ADHD kids)

A feeling of connection helps continue to build self confidence and make better choices of who your teen hangs around with.

Your relationship is not about fixing and correcting as much as it’s about being there for them 

But with their moodiness, eye rolls,  and door slamming, it might be hard to tell your teen needs you.

They just need you in a different way.

As Kim John Payne writes about it, in his book Soulful Discipline, no longer are you the Governor, making all the decisions for your child’s life. You are now the Guide, as you help steer them as they continue to develop their moral compass and make important choices that may impact their futures.

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Ideas for connecting with your teen

Thankfully there are many, many ways to continue to connect with your teen – and all your other kids, too.  Have a look and decide which ones to try first for making your relationship stronger with your teenager. 

Connect with your ADHD Teen thru Food.

Using something your teenager is already into is a great way to work on building your relationship. They’ll be less nagging and cajoling. 

Most teens are constantly hungry and always seem to be interested in some sort of food. 

Yes, manage to do this, whilst still sticking (80 to 90% of the time) to our ADHD Diet.

Here’s some of the fun ways we’ve connected thru food:

  • Have your teen choose a dinner for the family every week and then help with the shopping or planning. For us this might look as easy as my kids picking out sushi from the store on 5 buck sushi night OR it can look like shopping for one of our favorite gluten free pasta dishes. You get the added benefit of eating together, too!
  • Learn to cook with your teen. Take a cooking class with them. Take a look in your area for a cooking class or take one online. We love Katie Kimball’s virtual Kids Cook classes, my youngest took last summer. But you can be the teacher, too! Teach them how to use sharp knives, follow a recipe, or cook grandmas favorite cookie recipe. 
  • Watch a cooking show together. Try watching the Great British Baking Show or James May’s Oh Cook! There are sooo many fun cooking shows. Then you can try something out, too!
  • Get into the aesthetics of food with your teen. Gathering inspiration from some shows you watch, try plating food in a fancy way.  Put your kid in charge of the veggie/fruit tray and have them get creative. 
  • Work together in the kitchen. Doing work might not sound like a way to connect with your kid, but if you do it together, they certainly can be. Have a kid help dinner prep duty and chop and stir together. Even just setting the table while your cooking can get you talking or sharing about your day.
  • Go out to eat with your teen and let them choose the restaurant. Hanging out with your kiddo while they get to eat a favorite meal will surely put them in a good mood. Read restaurant reviews together online, search out new places to eat. 

The great thing about any of these choices is it may lead to more – more planning and interest in food, checking out cookbooks from the library,  more time spent with you in the kitchen. More fun!

Connecting with your teen thru books

Building a family culture around books is something that can make it easy to connect with your kid or teen.Even if books have not been the center of your family dynamic, it’s not too late to start.

Some easy ways to connect with your teenager thru books include: 

  • Give your kids an allowance for books.  it’s something we’ve done for ages and it’s a great way to get the ball rolling if your kids aren’t used to having lots of books around. 
  • Visit a bookstore together. Give them someplace to spend their book allowance! Steer off the path of the big chains and head to a local independent book store or a used book store or thrift store for deals and lots of fun perusing. Make a day of it and visit several used book stores and go out for lunch. 
  • Find a magazine store to visit together…they are getting fewer and far between, but magazines are often less daunting than a book and kids can find something that appeals to their niche interests.  Search for one near your home – we have to travel an hour to a super one, but it makes for a great family outing and long “boring” car ride. where we listen to a great audio book. 
  • Show an interest in what they are reading – for school or even on the internet.  Often kids are assigned a book for school you’ve read.  Reread it with them.
  • Ask your kids for a book recommendation. I am reading The Martian, by Andy Weir. My son met the author at a summer camp a few years back and has read all his books. 
  • Strew interesting books around your house.  This is a technique that’s had very favorable outcomes.  Pick up books at thrift stores and the library that you think your kids may like – often fun non fiction books with lists and lots of pictures.  Then just put them on the coffee table or the kitchen table and see what happens!

Connect With Your Teenager in Nature

Nature is the salve for everything.  A study by the Yale School of the Environment showed that by spending just two hours a week in nature(at once or cumulative)participants can lower blood  pressure and stress hormones, reduce nervous system arousal, and increase mood. 

In our increasingly busy lives, we may have to plan for this time, but doesn’t it sound worth it? 

Getting in nature with your kiddo will do you both some good:

  • Stop on your way somewhere else and take a 15 minute hike in a forest preserve.
  • Join a local Arboretum or Botanic Gardens so you can visit on a regular basis and take advantage of special programs and events. 
  • Meet your kiddo after school for a few laps around the high school track.
  • Visit an adventure park to really take you out of your comfort zone.
  • Try your hand at kayaking – the ultimate silent sport!
  • Find a spot in nature to revisit together. We have a “Birthday Tree” where we celebrated my kids’ 1st and 3rd birthdays. We go visit it a few times a year and just enjoy it all over again.
  • Take a scenic bike trail or hiking trail, go a bit farther each time.

Connect with teens by showing a special interest in them.

Remember when your kids were little and they’d constantly say, “Mommy, watch me!”  

Well, teenagers still love that validation.  It’s just a little different. 

“Mommy, watch me!”,  doesn’t come as often and maybe it’s due in part to us. 

I know it can be hard to show an interest in  Minecraft or a plethora of Youtube videos and often our kids sense out disdain or disinterest. 

But trying to show interest will go a long way….this is something I am working on and have really been reaping the rewards.

Hey, I’ve even tried to play a few video games with  my boys! 

Try sneaking into their world a bit:

  • Watch what they are doing more often and ask questions.
  • Ask your kid to teach you something. This will raise their confidence and they’ll benefit from the positive attention.
  • Look for ways to give them positive attention. This can take work, but mention even the slightest thing, “Thanks for taking your dish to the sink, hanging up your backpack…” You can find something!
  • Sit close to them and do something quietly. Proximity can be magical in itself. 

Once you start, it will multiply. Kids see we are interested and they’ll want to share even more.

Did your parents ever take an interest in your hobbies or unique pursuits?  How did it make you feel? And if your parents never did, don’t you wish they had? 

More Ideas for Connecting With Your ADHD Teenager

Connect with your teen by volunteering at school!

As kids get older, the opportunities for volunteering in their world become less, but grab any opportunity you can. It’s fun to see what they are doing, meet teachers, other students and get a little glimpse into their world.

Say YES! to something outside of your comfort zone

There is nothing like getting out of your own comfort zone and into someone else’s to build a close bond. 

Are your kids asking you to join them in a fun, but scary for you pursuit, like rock climbing or skate boarding? Even just jumping on the trampoline? 

True story – One night my teenager was outside on the trampoline after we’d had a fight about homework.  I’d said, “No.” countless times before when he’d asked me to jump with him, but this night he didn’t even ask and I just went out and got on with him. 

It was magical.

He immediately lit up and said, “I thought you were mad at me.” 

I didn’t have to say anything. I just started jumping and tried to do a few of his tricks. We both ended up rolling in laughter on the trampoline. 

Finding a way to say, “YES!”, will reap countless benefits for your relationship.

Start traditions that connect.

Find ways to bring a new tradition into your family’s life.  Make up a fun new tradition to get your teens off their screens and out of their rooms! This can include just you and your teen or the whole family.  Traditions may include:

  • Friday night movie night
  • Sunday hikes
  • Weekly trips to the library
  • Ice cream after therapy
  • Thursday night Sushi night
  • Wednesday kid made dinner night. 
  • Morning walks
  • Teen’s choice on the car radio
  • Date night’s where your kiddo gets to choose a movie/restaurant

Finding more ways to connect could mean better behavior

We all know what it feels like in the moment to be connected to someone. Who wouldn’t want that feeling as often as possible?

There are so many benefits to having a great relationship with your kiddo.

Remember!! Bad behavior on the part of your teenager could be a cry for some connection, or at the very least their mood could brighten from a bit of time and attention from you!

Finding ways to spend time with them, might just prove to be very beneficial in many ways. 

You’ll still have tense moments with your kids, that’s normal

Even parents who are super connected to their kids, still have arguments and “disagreements”.  It’s inevitable: raising children means there will be with conflict. 

Your teens will not always be happy with your decisions and that is okay! 

But the more connected you are, the faster the arguments resolve themselves and the easier it is to not get stuck in a negative pattern. 

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