By Grace Friedman and Sarah Cheyette, authors of Winning with ADHD
Everyone has opinions about attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) these days, and when it comes to teens—managing, embracing, and winning with your ADHD seems harder than ever. From misconceptions about ADHD, to the uncertainty of what comes next after a diagnosis and contemplating whether medication is the right choice, authors Grace Friedman and Sarah Cheyette of Winning with ADHD share their top five pieces of advice to not only live with ADHD as a teen, but win with ADHD.
- Learning that ADHD is a biological difference, not an illness. ADHD is a diagnosis, right? So that must mean there is an illness, right? Well, we don’t think so. We like to think of ADHD as being a different way of thinking. Everybody thinks in a focused way sometimes, and everybody thinks in an ADHD way sometimes. People diagnosed with ADHD are thinking in an ADHD way too much of the time. Does that sound like an illness? No. But the outcome of too much ADHD thinking can make people feel bad. Although there can be some benefits to ADHD thinking (energy is a GOOD thing; creative thinking is also a GOOD thing), ADHD thinking makes it harder to do things. If your mind is bouncing around, it’s harder to achieve. If you keep failing to achieve, you feel like a failure—and act like one.
- You can’t win if you don’t suit up. We believe you can have a winning life, but if you are walking around feeling like a failure, it may be hard for you to believe. Our book is designed to help you take the first steps to feeling like a winner. To do so, however, may require some faith on your part—and it definitely requires a willingness to do some hard work. You are going to have to do things differently in order to get a different outcome. You will have to make some decisions and change some habits. No one can do this for you. We can give you advice, but only you can develop the intentions needed to turn things around. So, suit up and play!
- To manage ADHD, you may need to listen to advice. Grace has “been there,” having ADHD herself, and Sarah has talked with many hundreds of people to hear their stories and advise them as to how to manage. We both know that in a list of things teens and young adults like, taking advice comes somewhere between going to the dentist and having acne. But you may benefit from objective advice to help you out. We don’t mean to make you feel bad about yourself, but to support your drive to do better in a practical way. Can we help you out of the hole you are in? You betcha!
- You are going to screw up sometimes. Keep working at improving. Change does not come quickly. We can give you advice on how to handle specific situations—and we do! Want advice on how to deal with friends? What to do when your parents are breathing down your neck? How you are finally going to get homework turned in so you don’t wind up in summer school? It’s all in the book, but we get that it is a process that will take time to master. If something doesn’t work out for you, or doesn’t work out right away, don’t give up on your goals. Even winners may lose sometimes.
- Celebrate the wins! What’s going to keep you going when the inevitable failure happens? Remembering the great feeling you get when you do something right. Just like teammates high five each other when they score a goal, hit a homerun, or make a touchdown, you need to give yourself a pat on the back as you improve your ability to manage your ADHD. If you don’t learn to celebrate, then all you are doing is work, work, work. Do you think people would keep playing soccer if there was no celebration of goals and wins? Nope, it would just be people kicking a ball around.
So, to summarize: You need to believe in you and your ability to manage ADHD. And in the end, with some work and practice, you will be a winner.
Grace Friedman was diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at twelve years old and has experienced all the life-challenging effects it presents. Grace is an advocate for young people with ADHD, author, speaker, and blogger and founder of the ADDYTeen.com community, which is visited by people around the world daily. She is a blogger at The Huffington Post, and at fifteen wrote Embracing Your ADHD, a guide for teens which has been downloaded by thousands from her website. Now twenty-two, after recently graduating with a BA in Psychology, she works with teens for the State of Washington, mentors others with ADHD, and has plans to become a clinical psychologist. Grace, now thriving with her ADHD, brings a spirit of generosity and purposefulness to everything she does.
Sarah Cheyette, MD, graduated from Princeton University, and then UCLA Medical School. She did a fellowship in pediatric neurology and has been in private practice since then. She treats kids and young adults with ADHD, not just with medication but also with non-medication strategies such as those she outlined in her book, ADHD and the Focused Mind. She brings a powerful professional perspective on the benefits and limitations of ADHD medication, and the many behavioral adaptations young people with ADHD must embrace to thrive with their condition. She and her husband have four kids and live in the San Francisco Bay Area.