5 Ways to help teens with ADHD succeed in school

You want to help your teen with ADHD succeed in school. Teens with ADHD struggle to keep up in school. They struggle with finding their internal confidence that they are good enough when it comes to school. The teenage years are hard enough. Between trying to find themselves wanting to fit in with their friends they are often judging themselves. More than just judging themselves they oftentimes are really critical of themselves. Now adding an extra component of having ADHD symptoms can make it much harder on your teen. 

Your teen with ADHD may struggle with turning things in, organizing their workload, time management, focusing, and impulsivity. All of these make it rather difficult to feel successful in school especially since they so often compare themselves to their peers. And all you want as their parent is for them to feel successful and believe in themselves. You want them to succeed in school and have a bright future. You don’t want anything to limit them from being all they want and can be. 

woman leaning over to point at the notebook a boy is holding with a pencil

Maybe your teen with ADHD looks like this: 

Your teen comes home from school and heads straight to his room. Door shuts. You worry if he is going to get to his homework or if you’re gonna have to nag him again. When you go and check up on him you notice the folder out but he hasn’t started. You’re not surprised. The folder looks like a tornado. Papers popping out. You ask yourself “how does he find anything in there!?” Treading lightly since there have been so many battles in the past around homework and studies. 

You decide to pop into aeries to take a look at how he’s doing. Noticing 10 missing assignments and it’s just the start of the school year. You get the courage to ask him about it. And of course, he snaps and says “he’s got it under control.” You know that he’s struggling with remembering to turn things in. On top of all the other struggles with friends. Confidence etc. You are feeling at a loss on what to do and how to help. You’ve tried so many things already. 

The truth is that many parents struggle with knowing how to help their teen with ADHD succeed in school.

Many parents feel that they keep on trying to make it better but the same old cycle pops back up. And many times they want to keep the peace. After all we value our relationship with our kids and don’t want it to be all this tension all the time. 

You end up feeling stuck. Frustrated. And unsure on a next move. All you want is for them to feel good about themselves. And for you to get some relief knowing that they are going to be okay. Your teen has struggled in school for a long time. Maybe for as long as you could remember. Possibly there is an IEP in place but it’s not feeling as helpful now that your teen is in high school. 

teen in blue sweatshirt reading a book

You want to help your teen but you aren’t sure what to do. Check out my 5 Ways to help teens with ADHD succeed in school

First way to help your teen with ADHD: Set up a consistent tutor 

There is something about working with someone other than the parent that is really helpful. Your teen may be resistant to this. But ultimately if you set this up consistently and have someone that your teen vibes with help them out this can help build their confidence. Someone to help them get organized and keep up with their assignments. Also to help understand the material that they are struggling with. 

Preferably bringing someone that isn’t just a math tutor but an overall support for school is best. This way you also get some reassurance that they are on top of things. You can also have someone to check in with reducing some of the conflict between you and your teen. 

Second way: Ask questions. Listen. Validate. Empathize. 

Many times it becomes an instinct to educate and tell your teen what’s best. You do this from the very best place in you most of the time. You want what’s best for them. But your teen with ADHD likely already feels that they aren’t good enough. That they aren’t satisfying the expectations that you have for them. Try to slow things down and ask questions. Ask questions like “how are you feeling in school?” and “Is there anything I can help with?” They may say no. But ultimately you are planting seeds for them to talk to you rather than being talked to. 

Make sure you listen to what they have to say. This will set the foundation for further conversations and for your teen to know that you are a safe place. Take in what they are saying and validate them. “I totally get how hard it is to….”  Try to empathize with where they are coming from. Ask yourself “what is it like to be him?” Or “what is he truly feeling and how can I get him more?” 

In teen therapy in Simi Valley, Ca or online therapy for teens we work with you and really slow things down so that you can connect with your teen. Ultimately we want to help you understand and change the ways in which you communicate with your teen with ADHD. 

girl with blonde hair wearing a blue shirt sitting at a desk

Third way to help your teen with ADHD: Help them organize their world. 

Many teens that struggle with organization in one area of their lives (school) struggle with other areas (their room). When you have an organized living environment then it’s easier to allow yourself to be organized in other areas as well. Also, the living space organization is often reflected on what’s going on in one’s internal world (the mind). 

You may consider coming up with an organization plan for their room. You may get a bunch of resistance around this but it will be helpful for your teen. There can be a strong sense of relief when their space around them is organized. This can also help them get the momentum that is needed to have more organization with their school work. 

At Simi Psychological Group we help your teen in teen therapy and family counseling get the internal motivation and understanding to better organize their lives. Oftentimes one needs to understand the connection between how one area impacts other areas to get motivated. So how can getting organized help their confidence? How can it impact their anxiety? 

Fourth way: Family time. Get them out and about getting some exercise. 

Teens with ADHD often struggle with mental clutter and overwhelm. Exercise is a really good way to utilize a positive coping mechanism to deal with all the overwhelm. It helps them get the relief they need to make clearer decisions. And to feel more confident in themselves. One way to encourage more exercise is to do family hikes. Or camping. Something outdoors. 

Fifth way to help your teen with ADHD: Work with a mental health therapist and educational therapist

You can send a very important message to your teen about the importance of filling in the gaps in life where we need them. We all need help in our own ways. And we could all benefit from getting the support we need to grow into the people we want to be. And to get to how we want to live our lives. Working with a mental health therapist will help your teen deal with anxiety and overwhelm of first and foremost being a teen. And also with struggling with ADHD symptoms and how this can impact all parts of their lives including school.

 An educational therapist can also be a very valuable resource. This is someone that specializes in helping with organization, executive functioning skills, and keeping up with school as a whole. Oftentimes a mental health therapist and an educational therapist are able to work together to best help your teen and family. 

At Simi Psychological Group we believe in working with an entire system to best help the teen.

We make sure to help you as a parent be the parent you want to be to your teen and to best help them. We also work with others in their system including the school, educational therapists, and extended family when needed to best support your teen. 

There are many ways to help teens with ADHD succeed in school. There needs to be a good plan in place to help your teen however. Having a consistent tutor, listening, asking questions, validating and empathizing, helping them get organized, getting exercise, and working with a mental health counselor and education therapist are some of the ways to help. You don’t have to do it alone. We’re here to help. 

Please share this article if you found it helpful! 

Donna Novak, Psy.D. 

Simi Valley Psychologist Dr. Donna Novak

I specialize in working with anxiety and in helping adolescents and their families, adults, and couples better their relationships and find direction. Rather than shy away from the tough stuff in life, I prefer to face it head-on, together. I believe that challenges are part of being human and that everyone has the potential to become their own life’s navigator. So they never have to feel out of control or at the mercy of their circumstances. Learn more

Therapy services offered at Simi Psychological Group 

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At our therapy practice in Simi Valley, Ca we offer Child therapy and family counseling, Teen therapy, Anxiety Treatment, Depression Therapy, Marriage Counseling, and Neuropsychological Testing