“Our 13-year-old son was diagnosed with ADD and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) four years ago. My question is how can I tell the difference between typical teenager behavior and ADD behavior? We have four other children (both older and younger than our ADD son) and you would think it would be easy for me to distinguish, but at times it is so difficult and I doubt myself on the way that I parent certain issues. Lately he is more inattentive and distracted and showing some hyper signs that he has not shown before.”
Parenting and ADD
As parents we are always second guessing ourselves. Sometimes I think it simply comes with the territory! The one important thing to remember is that you will maintain the same type of positive parenting style no matter if the behavior is ADD related or not.
If you are concerned that your son’s symptoms are worsening – he is more inattentive, distractable and is beginning to display behaviors that you have not previously seen like the hyperactivity – share your concerns with the counselor and psychiatrist. Get information from the school. Are they seeing an increase in problems, too? If he is involved in an afterschool program, are they seeing differences?
You know your son has ADD, as well as anxiety issues, so you must maintain structure and predictability at home. You will continue to have clear rules and consequences whether or not the problem behavior is related to ADD. You will also continue to work hard to catch your son being good and give him lots of positive reinforcement.
To add even more uncertainty to the mix, symptoms of anxiety can look like ADD. If your son is anxious, he may appear more restless and hyper. He may have more difficulty concentrating. His mind may have lots of thoughts racing, so he appears more inattentive. To complicate matters further, anxiety may certainly exacerbate his ADD symptoms. Sometimes it is like a puzzle trying to sort out what is contributing to what!
There are times when ADD behaviors become more evident as a child reaches the middle and high school years. Sometimes kids who are really bright are able to compensate for their deficiencies during the earlier years, but once they reach middle school more demands are placed on them and they just can’t keep up any longer. Often it is in the school setting when increased problems are detected. As children get older they are expected to work more independently, the structure is looser as they change classes and teachers, responsibilities increase, etc.
Being a teen is hard enough with raging hormones, changing bodies, increased self-consciousness, up and down emotions, and peer pressure…and your son has the additional challenges of ADD and GAD.
When your son is settled and able to talk with you, sit down together. Listen to him and let him share with you what he thinks is going on. Your bond with him is very important. If the behaviors do not appear anxiety related, talk with your son about setting up a behavior management plan to help him. Pick two or three main rules. Make them clear. Get his input on consequences and rewards. A positive approach is always more effective.
You have a big family, so be sure to take care of yourself, too! Lots of time, we parents neglect our own self-care.