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How Adults can help Teens with ADHD

In the article, “The Pivotal Role of Adults in Teen ADHD Care,” author Mark Bertin acknowledges the effects of ADHD on teens and how parents can have an important role in their child's development. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is defined as a medical disorder that affects one's impulses, concentration, organization and planning skills, and delays academic independence.

Many teens struggle with ADHD and have a hard time keeping up with their peers. Because of this, it is important for parents to understand the impact of ADHD on academic planning. Students who have ADHD usually require a helping hand from an adult until they demonstrate that they are capable of being independent on their own. For teenagers, difficulty in administrative functions such as memory, productivity, time management, and writing skills is seen to hold some back at times. This is when teenagers need their parents. They need someone to support and motivate them to keep going even though it is challenging.

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Some ways to help support students is by creating habits and routines that can get them on a schedule. Those with ADHD like to have activities planned out for them at certain times. This helps them plan out their day and have a visual of what they are going to do. If tasks and activities are repeated each day, then teens with ADHD will excel at those tasks even quicker because they are practicing it so often. Once your teenager completes a set of activities that are up to par, then it is time to introduce new ones. Slowly but surely, your teenager will be able to remember their schedule on their own and take responsibility for doing their tasks on time. By practicing, teenagers are able to build up muscle memory on their own and enhance their cognitive skills without help from a parent. Through repetition and consistent reminders, parents can step back and let their student thrive on their own once their routine is solidified. Even though it may be frustrating at times, it is part of the process of building up a child’s muscle memory so they know how to do tasks on their own. It is important to confirm that students know how to:

  • Keep track of assignments by making a to-do list

  • Break projects up into parts

  • Manage their time

  • Organize themselves

  • Study and write well  

If they need extra help, it is important for parents and teachers to know how to support teenagers with ADHD using the following approach:

  • Promote independence. Only assist students if they need help refocusing on what their routines are supposed to entail by frequently checking in. Otherwise, let them learn from their mistakes and grow as an individual.

  • Intervene early. Instead of sitting back and watching, prompt students to fix their mistakes at the moment.

  • Provide guidance. Try to collaborate more with students and give more direct instruction when problem-solving. This reinforcement will help students understand what is needed to be done when it is first asked.

  • Take the lead. If students are struggling to maintain their habits, this is the time to step in and help them.

  • Gradually withdraw supports. Slowly step away from consistently helping students when they show that they are capable of being on their own. It may take time to fully withdraw support, so be patient. Based on one’s academic skills, it may take them all the way through college to be independent.

  • Return to step one at any time new ADHD-related challenges continue.    

For more information on how ADHD affects teenagers, please contact us. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services.

-Written by Lily Schmitt and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

#ADHD affects, parent roles, teen health

Referances

Bertin, Mark. “The Pivotal Role of Adults in Teen ADHD Care.” Psychology Today. Child Development Central. Web. 24 Sep. 2018. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/child-development-central/201809/the-pivotal-role-adults-in-teen-adhd-care

Fortnite and Kids with ADHD & Social Issues

In the article “Fortnite and Kids With ADHD or Social Skills Issues: 7 Things I Tell Parents,” Mark Griffin provides 7 pieces of advice to parents whose child plays Fortnite everyday for long hours on end. An estimated 50 million people (teenagers 13 years and up) play Fortnite. 50 million teenagers spend their evenings playing a video game. 50 million teenagers are glued to their digital devices. 50 million teenagers are focusing their time on video games rather than doing their homework or trying to get at least six hours of sleep. In specific, children with ADHD may have a harder time focusing on other important activities surrounding them because they are hyper focused on the game at hand.

Fortnite can be played on any device whether it is on one’s phone, tv, or computer. Because our mobile devices are portable, teenagers can play the game at school rather than learning. However, most parents are unaware of the impact that fortnite has on kids with learning and attention issues or even those that do not have ADHD. Griffin noted that some teenagers can handle the action of the violent video game but others with ADHD may have a hard time with social interaction. However, interaction between players is required if the player decides to play on a team, providing an opportunity for your child to practice their social skills without having to speak to a person face to face. This may be good for some children because they can practice teamwork while collaborating with others without having the stress or anxiety of being judged for what they say. If teenagers have ADHD or social skills issues, Fortnite may help to develop their social skills in a sense that it is a good conversation starter that most kids have in common and can talk about.

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In addition, the same skills needed to survive (escape potential danger, think quickly on your feet, and be alert of one’s surroundings) in the game can be transferred to real life when they are not playing and turn out to be helpful skills to have. In comparison, “these are the same skills that can trip up many kids with ADHD in their daily lives” (Griffin). In this case, it is good to keep a close eye on your child’s screen time if your child has ADHD or social skills issues and is playing excessively or negative behaviors have increased.

In general, Griffin advises that “if you allow video game screen time (with Fortnite or any other game), it’s important to have clear rules and set limits about when and where.” If your child is going to spend time on their digital device for hours, be sure your child takes breaks for their eye and brain development. It is okay to have social interaction, although helping your child understand their limits of how much they can handle without increasing negative behaviors is also important. It is okay to say no and follow through if your child asks to play because you are keeping their best interest in mind.

If your child does not understand your rules and limits then increase the communication and conversations help them understand how screen time can affect their brain and behaviors. Make a plan together of when they can play the game and associated boundaries with gaming. This will increase the communication and help you and your child to be on the same page, as well as allowing your child to get a good night's rest.

Contact us for more information on how Fortnite and other video games can affect teenagers with ADHD or social skill issues.

If you have questions about tween and teen development and the effects of screen time, please contact us. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services.

-Written by Lily Schmitt and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference

Griffin, Mark. “Fortnite and Kids With ADHD or Social Skills Issues: 7 Things I Tell Parents.” Understood for Learning and Attention Issues. Expert Corner. Web. 17 July 2018. https://www.understood.org/en/community-events/blogs/expert-corner/2018/07/17/7-things-i-tell-parents-of-kids-with-adhd-or-social-skills-issues-about-fortnite

Parent's Perspective of the Tween's brain

In the article, “This mother's description of her tween son's brain is a must-read for all parents,” Annie Reneau described an example of good parenting. There is no true definition of great parenting, but one that comes close to that is someone who is willing to take the time to talk to their child. In order to gain a better perspective of what is going through your child’s mind, both you and your child should both take the time to respectfully listen to each other. This is the time to acknowledge that your child is going through a stage, called puberty, where it is very difficult for your child to control their emotions. This is not a time to yell at your child for being moody, but an instance where you can help your child understand why they are moody in the first place. Maybe they don’t even know what or why they are saying something in a specific tone in the first place.

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All mothers have to raise their child into the teen years, so why not treat the scenario the best you can? A mother of an 11-year-old boy asked a question about parenting on Quora: “How do I tell my wonderful 11 year old son, (in a way that won’t tear him down), that the way he has started talking to me (disrespectfully) makes me not want to be around him (I’ve already told him the bad attitude is unacceptable)?”

Reneau interviewed Jo Eberhardt, a mother of two, who replied with a solid answer to the common question “how do I talk to my child about their emotions and their attitude towards me when they are experiencing puberty without pushing them away?” Eberhardt recounts a discussion that she had with her 11 ½-year-old son who was experiencing what every tween child goes through, the terrible twos all over again...puberty.

Instead of Eberhardt telling her son you did this because or you did that because, she remembered that is was not her son who purposefully talked to her rudely, but his brain. We forget that it is our brain that is controlling our emotions and changing as we grow and age. She stated that “Not only is your body being transformed from a child’s body to an adult’s body, your brain has to be completely rewritten from a child's brain to an adult’s brain” because at age 5 or 6 it was fully developed for a child but not yet ready to fit an adult body. Puberty is the training process for your brain to get used to your new body and fully develop a sense of who you are.

Certain parts of the brain such as the amygdala, a part of the brain that controls your emotions, also control how much sleep one gets and how cranky one may be in the morning. Eberhardt’s son began to understand how his moodiness could come off frustrating to his mother. Not only did he come to a consensus, but so did his mother who also realized how unmanageable it may be for an adult-sized amygdala hitting all your emotion buttons at once.

This is the time when one needs to raise their child's spirit and be careful not to break it. Admit to your child that it is not their fault for not having a fully developed amygdala and frontal cortex, but instead, praise them for seeing that their bodies are changing and the hormone changes that come with it.

By explaining the physiological reasons behind their changing bodies, children may begin to understand that it is puberty’s fault that their brain is working the way it does. Eberhardt stated that it is still your responsibility to take ownership of your actions and recognize what is going on and choose another way: “You get to choose what you do with your feelings. And, when you make a mistake, you get to choose to apologize for that mistake and make amends.”

Keep empathizing and communicating with your child. This way “when we let one’s kids know that we're going through these various phases together, it's easier to work with them instead of against them” (Ebehardt). As their adult brain is developing, they need to realize that their hormones are ranging and how to control them. At least now they know it is not their fault for being moody and why. Every child goes through this treacherous stage in life, so give them some slack because you went through it too.

Contact us for more information on how to communicate with your child and how your family can function best throughout puberty. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services.

-Written by Lily Schmitt and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

References

Reneau, Annie. “This mother's description of her tween son's brain is a must-read for all parents.” UpWorthy. Web. 4 Jan. 2019. https://www.upworthy.com/this-mother-s-description-of-her-tween-son-s-brain-is-a-must-read-for-all-parents

The Effects of Screen Time on Kids

The recent question of concern considers how all that screen time impacts the physical structure of your kids' brains, as well as their emotional development and mental health. The National Institutes of Health hopes to answer this question by studying the adolescent brain development. Anderson Cooper, correspondent of CBS 60 Minutes, interviewed different researchers to get a better understanding the research we are looking for.

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 The first wave of data found significant differences in the brains of nine and ten-year-olds who spend more than seven hours a day of screen time, compared to those who don’t. These brains showed premature thinning of the cortex, the part of the brain that processes information from the five senses. The study also revealed that kids who spend more than two hours a day on screens got lower scores on thinking and language tests. While this research may take a significant amount of time to complete, researchers hope to answer not only how much time are they spending, how they perceive it impacting them, but also what are some of the outcomes. And that will get at the question of whether there's addiction or not.

 Dr. Dimitri Chrisrakis at Seattle Children's Hospital, speaks on the recommendation for parents to, "avoid digital media use, except video chatting, in children younger than 18 to 24 months." In his 60 Minutes talk, “Toddlers need laps more than apps”, Dr. Chrisrakis warns that babies playing with iPads do not transfer what they learn from the iPad to the real world. This is a critical period for human brain development. Apps on iPads with lights, colors, and sounds are more stimulating to an infant than an original toy. His research proves that kids are less likely to put down an iPad while playing with it, than they are to put down a toy. Tristan Harris, former Google manager, explains that phones and apps are being designed to capture and keep kids' attention. Apps use specific techniques to get people to use the product for as long as possible.

 Until recently, it was impossible to see what happens inside a young brain when a person is focused on a mobile device. Dr. Bagot is among scientists who believe screen time stimulates the release of the brain chemical dopamine, which has a pivotal role in cravings and desire. The idea is that people are more likely to continue checking their devices in order to keep the good feelings. Teenagers now spend on average four and a half hours a day on their phones. All that time has resulted in a fundamental shift in how a generation of American kids acts and thinks. Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University has spent years combining surveys of people since the 1960s. She discovered sudden changes in the behavior and mental health of teens born in 1995 and later, the first generation to spend their entire adolescences with smartphones. Twenge found that the percentage of teens who reported drinking or having sex fell. But the percentage who said they were lonely or depressed spiked. It's possible other factors may have played a role, but Twenge says she wasn't able to identify any that correlated as closely as the growing popularity of the smartphone and social media.

 It is difficult to say whether it's the specific things that teens are doing on their phones that's the problem. Or whether it’s just the amount of time that they're spending on their phones that is the problem. With new technological shifts, people become excited and amused without realizing the consequences until years later when it’s too late. Tech companies have created ways to monitor screen time or set time restrictions on apps, but most parents aren’t aware of these tools. Twenge believes smartphones, as well as most devices, are great when they are used for the right purpose. It is the excessive use of apps and social media that cause harm. She states, “it should be a tool that you use. Not a tool that uses you.”

 The purpose of this article is not to frighten parents, but to educate them on the effects screen time can have on kids. This is not to say remove electronics completely but beware of what part of technology is actually benefiting you, and what part is harming you. If your child is using an excessive amount of screen time, learn more about the tools that can help prevent this future addiction.

If you have questions about children development and the effect of screen time please contact us. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services. 

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD 

Reference: Cooper, Anderson. “Groundbreaking Study Examines Effects of Screen Time on Kids.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 9 Dec. 2018, www.cbsnews.com/news/groundbreaking-study-examines-effects-of-screen-time-on-kids-60-minutes/