ADHD and Teenage Meltdowns

The teen years present new challenges for all parents, because growing up and out, seemingly overnight doesn't come without impacting the entire family. 

The roller coaster of the teenage years has more gut churning twists and turns than Magic Mountain (USA).  The intense emotions, defensiveness and assertion of independence, hit you like the g-forces you get from roller coasters, the kind that are capable of transforming your stomach contents into airborne projectiles.

Its a ride you somewhat willingly embark on as a parent/passenger but as you start the descent down the first drop, the adventure begins filling you with various sensations - fear, excitement, weightlessness, nausea.... 

The explanation for the various sensations experienced on a roller coaster loop are associated with Newton's laws of motion and the physics of circular motion.  While the teen roller coaster is largely the result of 'raging' hormones, and when these hormones combine with the ADHD brains impulsivity and emotional intensity - your roller coaster will most likely come with fireworks.



As the hormones kick in a simple “no” can result in a volatile reaction, particularly as ADHD often makes it difficult to regulate emotions.   These years will exhaust your parenting toolkit, so we have compiled a few reminders and tips to help you ride the roller coaster in style and your stomach contents intact.

1. Expect outbursts. The hormones really do make kids do unusual things - "they are not themselves". Think menopause, without years of experience learning to bite your tongue when people have made you mad.  You can try to avoid the outbursts but it’s unreasonable to think confrontations are not going to occur.

2. Don’t take overreactions personally. We all lose our composure from time to time, so it’s realistic to expect that your teen will as well.  Try no to jump to the conclusion that they are being rude or disrespectful, often they feel out of control, and they don’t understand why.  This can be a confusion and overwhelming time for both of you.

3. A new 'normal'. It is upsetting when you don't feel in control of your behavior.  You can help your teen see this is a normal (albeit confusing and annoying) part of growing up.  This is a conversation best had in the 'quiet' times, rather than in the middle of an outburst.

4. Focus on learning and striving. Focus on helping them learn how to manage their emotional intensity safely and respectfully, and to recover as quickly as possible.  Again, this is not a conversation to have in the heat of the moment.  Provide an opportunity to reflect, learn and strive to manage their emotions differently.

5. I know how you feel, I felt the same way, what I have found is. Start your conversation by acknowledging your child's experience and share a similar experience.  “I remember when..."  and "It can be really hard not react...”   By first acknowledging their experience and relating it to your own, it becomes easier to understand that life can sometimes make you mad - but, there are ways you can manage them.

6. Avoid triggering defensiveness. Your child is likely to get a little reactive, even if you start with compassion and understanding.  In these instances avoid using the word “you.” Use “I language” when possible, “I can see how it was hard not to get mad,” rather than, “When you got mad, then…”

7. Don’t engage when either of you is triggered.  Give each other space to calm down before continuing conversations when either you or your child is triggered.  Identify and use strategies for recovery - whatever works, so long as it is not causing you or others harm.

8. Model good self management. This will show your child how to do it themselves, eventually.  Sometimes this is easier said than done, as stress and minimal self care will diminish your emotional resilience.

Many of our team either currently live with ADHD teens or have ridden alongside them through the roller coaster years.  So if you would like more information or support - call us today.


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