This post speaks to my parents of teenagers with ADHD, who often initiate counseling because they’re at the end of their metaphorical rope trying to help their kiddo get back on track, stay on track, follow the rules etc. With or without an ADHD diagnosis, teenagers can test every nerve in your body that you never knew you had! Goal setting is often where I start with my clients to help us hash out where their strengths and struggles lie. While the concepts for goal building are pretty general, the examples given are taken from past clients with ADHD. The list can ultimately be used to create goals for anyone. Let’s collectively take a deep breath and keep the following in mind:
1) Set and maintain realistic, achievable goals.
To start, putting goals in order of urgency. For example, it may be more important that your teenager improves his/her failing grade in math vs. making his/her bed. As to not overwhelm, work on one or two goals at a time. Create a list of goals with a few thoughts in mind;
a) Is the goal specific enough? For example: Attend weekly math tutoring session after school vs. raise math class grade.
b) Is the goal within your teen’s abilities? Start small and build toward a goal to test this out. For example a starting goal can be: After school each Thursday, throw away all items (papers, gum wrappers, broken pens etc) from your backpack. Building into a goal like: Throw away all unneeded items from backpack, re-organize left over items into correct folders, pencil holders, desk drawers etc.
2) Allow room for mistakes
It takes about 21 days to form a habit. There are going to be slip ups, and that’s ok. Notice where things fell of track and help them problem solve.
3) Listen to their input and allow them to have a say
During sessions, I usually let my teens write their own goals…with guidance. I have found that they are more likely to take them seriously if they had a hand in their creation.
4) Outsource the reminders
It has been my experience that the more I, as their counselor, and you, as their parent, can empower your teenager to be independent, the more willing they are to work towards achieving set goals. If your teen requires reminders to stay on top of their goals, or to complete certain tasks, don’t take this on yourself…outsource it. Use Google alerts, iPhone reminders, sticky notes on the mirror, whatever it takes.
5) Check in on progress/struggle often
How’s it going? I know, I know, they’ll probably be annoyed with you “budding in” and asking questions. Usually I allow my clients who are insistent that they can achieve the set goals on their own without input from others to test it out. Again, it takes about 21 days to make a behavior a habit, and even longer if you are trying to replace an already established habit. So if there is still struggle or resistance with a set goal, revisit it, does it need to be broken down into a smaller task? Would an automatic reminder (through their cell phone or calendar) help?
Progress can sometimes be hard to spot, but keep in mind how great it feels to hear encouragement. Even a small positive push, Hey, I’ve noticed that you’ve been working hard to…., can go a long way.