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ADHD: 7 Life Skills Your Child May Need to Master

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WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Patricia Quinn, MD

Most adults take life skills for granted, like knowing when to wake up for work or take medication and how to balance their checkbook. Yet to a teen with ADHD, those tasks can become huge hurdles.

Kids with ADHD tend to be much slower than their peers to develop skills needed to organize, plan, and prioritize, says Cindy Goldrich, EdM, ACAC. She is a certified ADHD coach and parenting specialist with PTS Coaching in Long Island, N.Y.

Kids and teens with ADHD know what they need to do. They just have trouble doing it. The good news is that life skills can be taught. 

"This is not a challenge of intelligence, this is a challenge of performance," Goldrich says. "They need more structure and more skill support."

With college or a first job on the horizon, here are seven life skills you may need to start teaching your child today.

 

1. Independence

You may have gotten used to doing everything for your teen. Break that habit.

"The teen years need to involve a gradual shift of responsibility to the teen," says Kathleen Nadeau, PhD. She is a clinical psychologist and director of the Chesapeake ADHD Center of Maryland.

Let your child start doing things for herself now, like doing the laundry, cooking dinner, or setting her own dentist and haircut appointments. She'll need those skills in a few years when she's out on her own.

2. Time Management

Kids with ADHD have a false sense of time. "They don't always accurately judge how long things should take," Goldrich says.

During middle or high school you make sure he finishes his homework. Once he gets to college, you won't be there to do that.

Goldrich recommends teaching time management skills with a timer. Figure out how long it takes your child to finish each assignment. Then, break up the total time into chunks.

"Set the timer for 20 minutes and take a 5-minute break. Do that a few times and then take a longer break," Goldrich says.

Use the timer on your smartphone to help him remember other tasks, such as when to wake up for school, take a shower, and eat lunch.

3. Organization

Resist the temptation to pick up the piles of clothes, books, and other messes in your child's room.

"If you keep organizing their room, they will not learn what works and what doesn't," Goldrich says.

Find a system that works for your child, such as bins or a bucket to hold their school supplies and shelves for their books.

Nadeau suggests keeping a "launching pad," a spot to put things kids regularly use, such as their keys and phone, if they have one.

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