The best strategy for preparing your child to successfully manage the challenges that ADHD imposes during adolescence is to have encouraged him to be actively engaged in all elements of his treatment plan in his preteen years.
Changing Treatment Needs
As a parent you are encouraged to continue addressing your child’s functioning problems and to meet regularly with his treatment team to reassess his needs. Regular review sessions may become especially important as your child enters adolescence and academic, social, and emotional pressures start to increase. As the parent of a teenager with ADHD, it will be important to have an agreed-on system to keep track of homework production and grades, but also to arrange with teachers for regular, brief meetings or telephone conferences about progress.
Weekly home-school report cards and other monitoring tools used with younger teenagers can help reveal any academic or behavioral problems before they cause too much damage, and lead to helpful changes in treatment or education programs. Chances are your teenager may object at some point to this level of scrutiny, which is more than his peers without ADHD probably receive. To counterbalance this, make sure that you provide ample opportunities for him to assert his autonomy in as many appropriate situations as possible, and allow him to direct as much of the monitoring system as is developmentally appropriate.
Aside from changing academic needs, your teenager may experience greater social conflict and increased emotional stress during middle school and high school. You may hear about some of these problems—particularly disruptive behavioral issues—from school personnel. Other important changes—increases in depression or anxiety, increasing social rejection, plunging self-esteem—may remain virtually invisible to you as a parent.
As your child begins the normal adolescent process of separating from you described previously, he is less likely to confide in you about these types of problems. For this reason, it is very important to allow time for him to meet privately with his doctor during every treatment review session to ensure that he receives a careful screening for these symptoms and additional diagnostic work or help if indicated.
Keep in mind that the older your child gets, the more aware he is of the special attention he is receiving, and the more sensitive he will be to what this says about who he is and what his capabilities are. The more you can present monitoring techniques as proactive tools for his own self-empowerment, rather than limits to his personal growth, the more positive his attitude toward his treatment is likely to be.