Land your helicopter! (and do these things instead)

Have you ever been accused of being a helicopter parent?

As I discuss in my new book, it’s pretty common for parents of kids with ADHD to become helicopter parents without even meaning to. The hovering, the reminding, the checking up on, the taking care of things large and small—it feels necessary due to your teen’s ADHD-related issues and challenges–but the fact is at a certain point, it becomes detrimental to you (it’s stressful and exhausting), and detrimental for your teen (because the more involved you are, the more they are missing out on the opportunity to learn valuable skills and lessons.)

By the time your child is a teen, even if your teen has ADHD, it’s best that you are not involved in every little thing. Your overall goal as a parent of a teen is to prepare him/her for adulthood, right? This means as parents during the tween and teen years we need to loosen the reins a little bit and let them do things for themselves and learn from trial and error.

Before I put you in a full-fledged panic attack, be assured I’m not suggesting that you give up and let your teen with ADHD fend for himself. Far from it. What I am saying though is that daily nagging and control and micromanaging will not help your teen in the long run.  (Not to mention how crazy it makes you.)

Instead of being a helicopter, here are four roles you can play in your teen’s life to help him while still allowing him room to learn and grow too:

Advocate: An advocate is someone who plays a support role. An advocate represents your interests, “has your back” and are there to chime in to help you when you need it (think about in a health insurance company; an advocate helps you navigate the system and helps you get answers.)  As your teen’s advocate, you have his best interest in mind and are there to represent him when he has tried everything he knows how to do but still needs help. It’s a fine line between advocate and helicopter! The way to stay on the right side of the line is to always ask your teen first (or wait for them to ask) BEFORE you get involved. And stay in a supportive role, not an in-charge controlling role.

Biggest fan: Despite the ADHD, your teen needs the same things we all do: to be liked and to be accepted. If your relationship with your teen is not what you’d like it to be, try shifting your focus to finding things you like about your teen. Let her know that you not only love her but you LIKE her too.

Concierge: If you’ve ever stayed at a hotel, chances are you’ve seen and maybe even used the services of a concierge. This person is an expert at connecting guests with services including recommending restaurants, making reservations and suggesting places to see. As a parent “concierge’, your job is to find and arrange expert help for your teen so then you can let those things go. It’s a win/win: they will listen more to ideas from peers, ADHD coaches, school counselors or school psychologists than you. And you will get a break from the exhausting micromanaging.  If you want a happy relationship (and restore your own sanity), one of the best things you can do is to remove the nag factor and stop hovering. Raising a child is a marathon, not a sprint. And when you’re raising one with ADHD, it’s actually more of a relay race. You don’t have to run it yourself.  Take advantage of the help that is out there.

Crossing guard: The main goal of a crossing guard is to help the kids at the most dangerous parts of the street and let them walk the safer parts by themselves. Even during the teen years, you have an important job regarding boundary setting and enforcing but the rest of the “way”, you give them the amount of freedom they can safely handle. This isn’t easy because according to the teen, he’s ready for no rules and all the freedom in the world.  However, just like you wouldn’t let a child walk to school on his own without being sure he knew how to look both ways before crossing the street, it’s important that you gradually increase freedom according to what your teen is ready for developmentally. This is even more important when your teen has ADHD. Studies show that a teen with ADHD is up to 3 years younger developmentally than he is chronologically. So your rules and curfews, privileges need to reflect that. In other words, a 15 year old teen with ADHD should have limits equal to what you would give a 13 year old, until he shows you he’s ready for more.

Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear from you!

And if you would like to learn my step by step process for feeling less stress and more calm no matter what your teen does or doesn’t do, click HERE!