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ADHD in Children Health Center

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Teens, ADHD, and Risky Behavior

Dangerous Sports

Some sports can cause serious injuries, so DeAntonio emphasizes safety gear, such as helmets, for biking and skateboarding. Parents should also insist on protective gear, he says, or tell their child, "Otherwise, you can't do it."

He also warns teens against taking part in risky sports alone. Parents should be alert to such hazardous situations, for example, if your teen says, "I'm going out rock-climbing by myself," DeAntonio says. Rock-climbing -- maybe. On your own, where there's no one to help you if things go wrong? No.

You might not have to ban an activity. You might just need to redirect your teen -- for example, to a team sport where there's supervision, he says.


Teens with ADHD are two to four times more likely to have traffic accidents and three times more likely to get injured than teens without the disorder, according to the organization Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). 

Teens with ADHD can still learn to drive, but again, parents should approach it with greater caution and make sure their teen is taking ADHD medication as directed whenever they're behind the wheel.

"Usually, most [teens] can drive fine," DeAntonio says. "But again, you're more concerned about issues of texting or using cell phones, about other people in the car distracting them, about drug and alcohol use while driving that will affect their impulsivity even more. I think the rules for driving are no different than for any other kid, but I think you have to be more thoughtful and be more specific with a kid with ADD to make sure they're following the rules."

As a parent, you can't control your teen's every move. So you must allow him or her take responsibility for the consequences. 

For example, let your teen know that if he breaks the driving rules, he can't borrow the car, Meyer says. "Bring it to the consequence: If you do that, you're telling me that you're not ready to drive the car." Follow through if your teen tests you. 

You can also stress that your teen may drive as long as they don't get traffic tickets, Meyer says. If they get a speeding ticket, they should pay for it themselves and not expect you to come to the rescue. "One of the problems that many of the parents have is that they feel guilty for their child's risky behavior, so they don't enforce it," Meyer says.

Put consequences in writing ahead of time. That cuts down on arguing in the heat of the moment, Meyer says.

Cutting the Risk

When your child has ADHD, DeAntonio says, "check in with them more... go over their plans in more detail than you may do with other kids."  

For example, rather than banning your teen from going to parties, make sure that responsible adults will be there, he says. "It doesn't mean, ‘You can't do it at all,' but you just have to be more concerned about supervision at activities."

If your teen does something truly risky, rather than blowing up at him or her, Meyer encourages parents to impose consequences and talk about what they could do differently next time. "Make it more [about] problem-solving," he says. 


Reviewed on November 22, 2012

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