Building Trust with Your Teen with ADHD Takes Knowledge, Patience and Structure
This post is sponsored by Adlon Therapeutics L.P., a subsidiary of Purdue Pharma L.P. Personal opinions expressed within this post are my own.
Being a parent of a child with ADHD changes the lens of how you look at child-rearing and the responsibilities that go along with shaping an independent and responsible young adult.
Development of attentional functions (skills needed to process day-to-day life demands such as emotional regulation and decision-making skills) are often delayed or develop slowly in children with ADHD compared to those without ADHD. It can feel like a burdensome job for the parent with no end in sight.
I used to say that my child with ADHD would do everything once. The learning curve for her was an experience. Good and bad. She was the first to jump in and try something out. She did not have a lot of cognitive stops in place and I was often her backstop. She was and still is impulsive. This placed a lot of stress on me as a parent navigating a teenager who wanted to be independent.
I tried to stay ahead of her journey to independence. I researched the strengths and weaknesses associated with having ADHD and considered her potential outcomes.
I joined as many ADHD support groups and associations that I could find at that time. In fact, I even became a specialist through my quest for knowledge, all to be prepared for what she “might” do. On a side note, I discovered meditation during this time, which was a savior for me to sustain mental toughness during the rough times.
By the time my daughter was 16, she wanted me to hand over the keys to her car, stop volunteering at her schooling events and let her be in control of her medication. Giving up the volunteering at the school events meant I had to give up my insight window into her teenage shenanigans. You can learn a lot about your teen’s decision-making skills by attending these events. Losing the ability to monitor her periodically reckless behavior was the most challenging part of giving her the independence she craved. I increased my meditation times from 5 to 10 minutes a day to deal with my anxiety around wanting to trust her to handle the temptations and dangers she would inevitably face. One of my favorite mantras was, “This too shall pass”. I used that a lot during those teen years.
Teenagers with ADHD are 36% more likely to get into a car accident than newly licensed drivers without ADHD, and in a study of all college students (both those with and without ADHD) almost 16% admitted to misusing prescription stimulants as study drugs.,Misusing prescription drugs is when a medication is not used the way it is intended by the prescribing doctor.  This includes not just overusing but also sharing it. Read more about one student’s story here when he shared his medication with a fellow student.
If you are worried about your teen misusing their ADHD medication, here are some things to look out for:
Being more alert and hyperactive
Acting withdrawn or hostile
Being frequently tired or depressed
Trouble sleeping, agitation, anxiety and paranoia
Saying they need higher doses than prescribed & running out of pills
Excessive mood swings
Knowledge is powerful. Here are a few tips:
Ask for your doctor’s opinion. Many doctors these days have a portal where you can ask questions directly to them.
Know how the medication should be followed: read the prescription Medication Guide carefully
Knowing what to expect with medication can help you monitor the effects and better communicate with your doctor.
NEVER allow using prescription medication other than your own (even a family member)
It sets the stage that it might be OK to share it with others.
Discuss the consequences of prescription stimulant medication misuse with your teen and reiterate that the medication is prescribed for them only.
Set rules & establish contracts
Sometimes, all it takes is setting up some ground rules and consequences for breaking them so they understand the importance of using their prescription stimulant medication correctly.
Keep their prescription medications safe
Help them to get away from temptations, keep track and lock up their prescription medications in a safe place, like a locked cabinet or box. This is also to make sure that they are not selling their medications to other people.
Leaving unused and expired prescription medications should be avoided. You may consult with doctors for the proper way of disposing of unused medications.
Through my deep breathing and in-depth research, I formalized my plan to allow for my daughter’s independence.
I gave her a longer leash but stayed close so that I could help her out when she needed it. We created a contract that entailed what she wanted while sticking to my boundaries. We agreed on what consequences would be invoked if I became aware of any violations.
We signed it together and each kept a copy. I meditated more and then let go of my fears…sort of.
The outcome was good overall. We did have to enact the consequences a few times…ok…quite a few times over the next 4 years.
Notice that I said 4 years. We maintained this contract until she was 20.
Since she lagged a few years in maturity, it took that long until she was truly independent. The point here is that it worked. I survived it.
So, what can you do to navigate building trust with a young adult with ADHD? Knowledge is the key to success. With the knowledge, I was able to stay a step ahead, notice signs of trouble and intervene quickly. I found resources for attentional issues while driving and risks of prescription medication misuse.
With my newly gained knowledge, I was eager to share it with her. The next challenge was getting her to listen to me. I mean, really listen to me. I knew she needed it broken into chunks of information with minimal distractions. I chose times that were strategic, like taking her to get pedicures where she was my captive audience for a solid hour. We can now look back at those times and joke about our conversations and how she knew that this would be a dual event when I booked the appointments. She got her nails done at the expense of having to discuss topics important to me. It was a good trade in her teen mindset!
During this uninterrupted mother and daughter time, we accomplished the groundwork. We worked through my concerns of newly found statistical information around ADHD. I would ask her questions to test her knowledge and thoughts around the issues. It proved to be very helpful to bring attention to it and talk through scenarios of what-ifs.
What if she was asked to share her prescription medications?
What would she do if she was driving to volleyball practice late knowing the coach would be upset at her?
How would she handle these and other types of situations?
My goal was to get her in the mindset, so that WHEN it did happen to her, she would have a plan of action.
Was my method perfect?
Was it a good one? I would say yes. By preparing myself with information I was able to address the biggest concerns I had at the time: safe driving and not misusing her prescription medications. I had the knowledgebase to start these conversations with my daughter. My goal was to get her thinking about these situations and how she would handle them independently. It helped me let go of some of the control I felt as she gained independence.
Over time, the contracts became less of a parental threat and more of an agreement that we both could refer to when needed. It was the beginning of helping my daughter gain independence with tools to help make decisions that had some thought.
So, dig in and find out as much as you can about the risks associated with ADHD and stay a step ahead of your teen.
In this episode Academic Coach Michelle Raz shares a story of an ADHD student who came close to failing out of college, Through grit and hard work, she managed to pull it together and pass her classes. It is a true story of how one student was on the verge of shutting down, but through coaching and self-determination, she pushed through.
Do you ever feel like you need to survive every day? Do you sometimes think of just getting through a day?
If you have ADHD, it can be easy to feel this way daily. Putting too much pressure on yourself can cause trouble to organize things, create mistakes, lack focus, unfinished tasks, and emotional turmoil. So instead of getting yourself into survival mode, try thriving.
Thriving and surviving are often being mistaken as the same words. These two words are the total opposite of each other. Surviving is stressing yourself out on how to get through the day. Thriving is doing things according to plan, with the flow, and with a positive outlook. Be the person you want to be without pressuring yourself, allow yourself to grow and make progress, and the most important thing is to always don a happy heart. Thriving is a process of planning for the future, being the best version of yourself, creating experiences, and doing the most significant work that you should do.
Having ADHD can sometimes keep you away from the will to live life fully, but you can always make a change. You just have to start.
Bulletproof Your “No” to the Pressure of Sharing ADHD Medication This post was developed in collaboration with Adlon Therapeutics L.P, a subsidiary of Purdue Pharma L.P. Personal opinions expressed within this post are my own.
As a continuation of my mini-series on sharing prescription medication, I will give you some tips on how to say NO to the pressure of saying YES.
Have you ever felt tempted to share your prescription ADHD medication with others? An option that you almost gave into? The whisper and teases of your friends urging you to do an unwise thing just once AND you seriously contemplate it. You might feel torn and conflicted to be chill and just go along with it but feel scared of the consequences. Can you relate to these feelings?
For a thoughtful answer to these questions, we should first consider why people would do it in the first place. Turning someone down by saying no may feel unnatural, like you’re rejecting that person as a friend.
Saying yes is easy. It can make a person happy, which can trigger feel-good brain chemicals called dopamine. It is in our human nature to want to help others and make them feel good too. Take for instance, the feeling of giving someone a gift. Have you ever given a gift or done something for someone else without getting something in return and felt more satisfaction than when you have done something with getting something in return? This is that release of “happiness brain chemicals.” When you act in a way to help others, it makes you feel good.
It is in our nature to want to go along with things that make us feel happy. Think how fun it is to be in a group situation where everyone wants to do the same thing. The expectation is to go along with whatever the group wants to do. Many find themselves saying yes to things that are out of their element. This is often referred to as peer pressure. It can be a powerful dynamic for the good…or bad.
Let’s face it, “No” stings and hurts. Think back to a time in your childhood when you wanted something, and you got the big “N-O” word. If you are like me, the words N-O echoed in your eyes and vibrated down to your sinking heart with a slight tinge of pain in your stomach. You may have felt devious enough if the something you wanted was big enough or had substantial pull for friend power, prestige or coolness factor that you planned a way to get it without them knowing. The N-O means NO word has a lasting effect that many do not want to project onto other people. We prefer to avoid these feelings for ourselves and others. So, a yes mentality prevails for most people as we could have developed an oversensitivity to what an N-O NO stance/mentality means to us socially. The person may compromise values and healthy boundaries. Going along with a yes mentality can harm your mental well-being, leaving you conflicted with your values and even in danger of getting you in legal trouble when it comes to sharing prescription medications.
But…. Saying No Has Its Perks
Establishes Your Inner Value Compass
When you have strong values, it can feed into your identity and leave you in charge of your life outcome. It will command a level of respect from people if you set clear values with boundaries around them. The key here is to know your boundaries and be consistently firm with them.
Establish your own art of conveying those boundaries with a style that gets the point across. If someone asks you to cross that boundary, they know what the answer will always be… NO!
For example, you can be direct and courteous with a request to share your prescription medication when someone asks you.
You can say, “I am not allowed to share my medication, but I can help you get in touch with my physician if you are struggling.” A referral does not guarantee that someone will be diagnosed with ADHD or prescribed a stimulant medication, but it can steer the conversation in a better direction. Ultimately, only a doctor can make those determinations.
Another option is
“I hope this doesn’t offend you, but as a rule, I do not share my medications.”
Both of the statements are examples of how you can acknowledge their situation while establishing a boundary to protect your values. Establishing a clear value message with the person asking you to do something illegal will curtail any chance of them coming back to you in the future. In my article, Selling or Sharing Your ADHD Meds https://www.razcoaching.com/selling-or-sharing-your-adhd-meds/ I share a story of how a student shared prescription medication to help a friend study for an exam that mushroomed into a drug raid in his college dorm.
It is not easy to be a NO person…. But the benefits of defining your boundaries and values are worth it!
Look at the true cost of saying yes to giving or selling your prescription medication. The potential cost is not worth it. Give yourself the motivation to set ways to say NO to your friends who want your prescription medications. So, here are a few more tips.
A friend may say, “C’mon man, IT IS ONLY 1 pill.” You know the true cost of that pill can get you into a whole lot of legal trouble.
Find your voice by saying,
“Let Me Hook You Up……”
Your reply should include a strong stance that means No. Say, “I don’t share my medications.” You can then follow up with an alternative for the person. “But, let me hook you up with my awesome psychiatrist if you are struggling.”
“My psychologist is a great resource, if you are struggling, though; I will hook you up and text them to you.”
It is important not to apologize about your stance. Just simply state it and the more you practice saying it, the less emotion you will have in your voice. Remember that your self-worth does not hinge on being a yes person, in fact, quite the opposite. Knowing your values and establishing your boundaries will promote your self-worth and show personal responsibility and maturity.
Here is another resource for developing powerful ways to help you, say NO. Pick a few that work for you and practice them, so you own it and feel confident to say them when asked.
“You are putting me in a really awkward situation. I don’t appreciate that.”
“Wow. I’m surprised you would ask to use one of my pills.”
“If I give you one of mine I will run out before I go to the doctor again.”
“My parents count my pills. They will know if I’m missing one.”
“I’m only given a few at a time by my doctor. She will know if any are missing.”
Or, you can simply be straightforward in saying no.
“Let me think about that for a minute…no.”
“Not a chance.”
“I’m not going to do something that is a federal crime.” 1
Think of your own greater good when confronted with the request to share your prescription medication. It will send a message that you know who you are, what you value and what boundaries you have set to live your life by. In the end, you will be gaining the respect of your friends and demonstrating that you are a leader and not just a yes person.
Michelle R. Raz, M.A. Ed., is a professional executive function coach and educational consultant. She specializes in helping people with executive function challenges associated with ADHD be the best version of themselves in their academic and career journeys.