5 Ways to Help Your Teen Find What Makes His Brain Light Up

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When your teenager with ADHD or ADD heads off to high school, both of you may feel anxious. School can be difficult for anyone, and most people have no desire to be back in high school. But for your kids with attention deficit disorder, back to school is stressful.

Let's look at the upside of ADHD and ADD: If you have kids with attention deficit disorder, it helps to remember the benefits. The Wall Street Journal reports that these kids are often more creative. They have talents and you can help them discover their talents. Dr. Hallowell, in his book, Delivered from Distraction, points out that:

"the goal of treatment is to bring this talent to light and put it to work. You build a life on your talents and strengths -- what is right and good about you -- not on your weaknesses, however skillfully they might be corrected." (p. 178)

Working with Talents and Strengths

This may be the furthest thing from you mind as you're getting your kids back to school. But it's a good time to look at the big picture and build on the positive attributes that will help your kids become successful. I find it helpful to step back, tack a deep breath and focus on this five-step plan recommended by Dr. Hallowell:

  • Help you son/daughter connect with a teacher, coach, mentor, friend, or spiritual leader. Sometimes this is hard -- but you may recognize one coach or teacher that believes in your kid. If not, you may be the one that has to step up to the plate.


  • Provide opportunities for your child to discover what they like to do -- what makes their brain light up. This will point you to their talents and strengths. Look into sports (both team and individual), music, computers, theater, art, filmmaking, photography -- what prompts that play activity where they become engaged and focused.

  • Next, encourage them to practice, practice, practice that activity.

  • Practice leads to mastery and brings you to the last step...


  • Recognition, where other people will recognize your son/daughter has talent and value. Which in turn leads to connecting with others (number one step).

  • Just remember: Don’t jump in at step three and just push the practice. The cycle must begin with connecting and finding a possible talent, which generates its own enthusiasm. Your kids have a seed of talent that will become a skill. Everyone can be good at something. And those with ADD have that ability to daydream and be more creative.

    There are other ways to help your ADHD kids -- lifestyle changes such as reducing their use of electronics (video games, TV, computers) and increasing more family time. Make sure your kids are getting daily exercise. One of my sons with ADD jogs everyday. He didn't get involved in team sports, but I provided him with the opportunity to exercise. First it was swimming, then golf, and then he latched on jogging daily. Maybe it was the music on his iPhone that was the stimulus to start running, but he has continued for years. Daily exercise helps everyone, but it is especially beneficial for those with ADHD.

    As much as possible, add some structure in your family life. This helps everyone, but it’s imperative when you have ADD. Think of it as adding some external filling cabinets. Lots of parents complain about their kids losing things, or not remembering where they put their work or their keys. We have a basket on a table just inside the front door. Everyone learns that "this is where the keys go." We don't single out just one person, but we say that we all need it.

    Help your kids find someone who believes in them -- which certainly can be you. Then help them identify their strengths and talents. Those can become their focus. When they build those talents through practice, they’ll become accomplished, which after all is a life long goal for all of us. We all need a little success.


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