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Tips for Grandparents: How to Help an ADHD Teen

At Sundance Canyon Academy, we talk to many grandparents who have become the primary caregivers for their grandkids. For one reason or another, they are back in the role of “parenting” even though they didn’t intend to be. Raising your child was hard enough when you were younger, and technology was simpler, but raising a teen now is exhausting.

As a grandparent raising a teen with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), their energy and fleeting attention level might be more than exhausting. You might feel completely overwhelmed. Please know that it’s not just you who feels this way!

Being the primary caregiver for a teen with ADHD can be daunting for everyone. Raising a teen is always hard, but it’s even harder when they have ADHD.

Fortunately, you’re not the first person to go through adolescence with their ADHD grandson. Others have already walked this path and established some guidelines for helping an ADHD teen. If you follow these guidelines, life with your teen grandson can become more manageable.

How to help an ADHD teen

Teens are notoriously bad at decision-making and organization. They make decisions that seem completely irrational to adults, and it’s like they don’t realize that their actions have consequences. For teens with ADHD, it can be even worse. Impulse control can be almost nonexistent, which means they’ll make spontaneous decisions without thinking ahead at all.

As the primary caregiver of a teen with ADHD, you need to step in more than usual to help them learn to manage their impulses, make plans, and follow through with plans.

Here are a few things that you can do to help your ADHD grandson.

Create structure for your teen

When left to their own devices, ADHD teens become unmoored. They are terrible at time management and follow-through, so they miss deadlines and end up getting in trouble. Your teen needs structure, and they need you to help them stick to it.

Create a list of expectations and stick to those expectations. Teens with ADHD do well with a daily routine that they can follow. Include time constraints and specific directions. Keep the routine as simple as you can so that they don’t get overwhelmed and distracted. If any part of the routine requires focus (like doing homework or online classwork), give them a quiet place free of distractions to stay focused.

Notice the positive things that they do

It’s far too easy to notice the negative things that ADHD teens do. Without even meaning to, they can cause chaos in the home and make life more difficult for everyone else in the family. So, it’s important for you to notice the positive things they do and comment on those things.

Focusing on the positive will boost both your morale and theirs. Teens with ADHD are used to getting in trouble and being fussed at. They don’t mean to mess things up, so they can start to develop a negative self-image from accidentally getting in trouble so much. When you focus on the positive, you help them see the good in themselves. It also helps you see the good in them when you’re getting overwhelmed by their more difficult traits.

Encourage a healthy lifestyle

Teens with ADHD can be extra sensitive to junk food, sugary drinks, sporadic sleep schedules, and too much screen time. All kids should eat well, sleep enough, and get exercise. However, ADHD teens need to learn how to live a healthy lifestyle.

You might notice that your teen has even more trouble focusing after a bad night’s sleep or after eating too much junk food. Help him notice the trend as well, and help him follow through with positive changes. Set household rules around things like bedtime and screen time. Encourage him to participate in athletic activities that help him burn energy in a positive way.

Set clear household rules

As the primary caregiver, you can expect them to push back on your rules sometimes. They want more independence, and they want to have more say in their lives. When you have an ADHD teen, though, they might not be breaking all of your rules on purpose. If a rule is somehow unclear, it might not click for them.

Sit down with your teen and talk through the household rules. Make sure that they are clear on what is and is not acceptable. Then set consequences for breaking the rules or adhering to the rules. Make sure that the consequences aren’t so strict that your teen can’t recover from accidentally breaking a rule in the future. Then, follow through with the consequences.

Get outside help

Stay in touch with your teen’s doctor about the tactics you’re trying at home and how they’re working. Your teen’s doctor should be able to give you advice about the next steps, medical options, and therapeutic options.

Some teens with ADHD need more help than they can get at home. If your household just isn’t suited for an ADHD teenager, consider a therapeutic boarding school. At Sundance Canyon Academy, our staff provides a safe environment for students with ADHD to learn and grow as an individual. Students with ADHD receive academic counseling and therapeutic counseling to help them succeed in school and at home.

Contact us at 866-639-2856 to find out if our school could be a good fit for your grandson.

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