Family therapy is an effective treatment for children, adolescents, and young adults with ADHD. Since children with ADHD tend to be 30% behind their peers in their executive functioning (e.g., impulse control, organization, time management, self management), it can create a difficult dynamic to navigate in a family.
Family therapy is one of the most effective treatments, in addition to medication, for children with ADHD. In family therapy, parents learn how to create a behavioral system that helps reinforce the target behaviors, and extinguish problematic behaviors. Because children with ADHD/ADD need immediate feedback, therapists work with parents to create a system to help kids be successful. In addition to managing behaviors and helping kids to develop skills for school and home, family therapy also helps strengthen the relationship between parents and children, so that children can turn to parents when they're feeling bad to talk about how they're feeling, rather than acting it out. Living with ADHD/ADD is hard on kids, and the ability to turn to a parent and talk about feeling "stupid" or "different", can make all the difference in the world in helping a child to be confident and learn how to manage their ADHD/ADD. Ultimately, we want to help children get through their childhood without a great deal of shame, and instead a strong sense of resilience, so that when ADHD/ADD trips them up, they're able to get right back up again and keep moving forward.
ADHD/ADD can be especially difficult for adolescents as they are at a time in life where they're beginning to individuate, learn independence, and ultimately learn how to have a healthy inter-dependence, where they can be independent, but also turn to loved ones for help. Since adolescents with ADHD/ADD tend to be 30% behind in the executive functioning skills (e.g., organization, time management, impulse control, managing distractions), parents need to be more involved in helping them function than others their age. At a time when teens just want to be "normal", and vacillate between needing and rejecting parents' help, this can be confusing for parents and teens.
In family therapy, the therapist helps the adolescent to build executive functioning skills, and also teaches them to the parents so that they can continue helping the kids build these skills at home. We also set up systems for behavioral reinforcement, to set limits and exceptions, and shape behaviors that we want to see more of, and behaviors we want to see less of. Family therapy also shores up the resources for the adolescent, by helping parents develop their skills and connecting, and helping teens to talk about how they're feeling directly, rather than acting it out. Living with ADHD/ADD is hard, and when kids can't turn to their parents to talk about those struggles, they often can develop depression, anxiety, and other difficulties. Ultimately, we want to help kids get through there childhood without a great deal of shame, and instead a strong sense of resilience, so that when ADHD/ADD trips them up, they're able to get right back up again and keep moving forward.
Many young adults can have a successful transition to adulthood, but there are a good number that struggle and get stuck. Many go off to college and have a hard time managing classes, homework, papers, and resisting the temptation to go out all the time or play video games. This can be a real struggle for parents who are not there to see what's going on or help. Also, when young adults are living at home, working, going to college locally, there becomes a whole host of difficulties in determine what the appropriate limits are for an adult child. Do we still expect them to be in at a certain time, what if they're in their room all day on the computer and not working or going to school, etc. In family therapy, we can help to create a structure for success, and help parents strengthen their relationship to be supportive in launching their adult child for success. With ADHD/ADD, its a group effort.
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