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ADHD: 7 Life Skills Your Child Needs to Master

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WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD

Most adults take life skills for granted. You know when to wake up for work, when to take medication, and how to balance your checkbook. Yet to a teen with ADHD, those tasks can be huge hurdles.

Kids with ADHD tend to be much slower to develop skills needed to organize, plan, and prioritize than their peers, says Cindy Goldrich, a certified ADHD coach and parenting specialist 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 to start teaching your child today.

1. Independence

You may be 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, a clinical psychologist and director of the Chesapeake ADHD Center of Maryland.

Let your child do things for herself now, like 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 she finishes her homework. Once she gets to college, you won't be there to do that.

Goldrich says to teach 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 her remember other tasks, such as when to wake up for school, take a shower, and eat lunch. Then, have her set her own timers.

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