Parenting an ADHD teenager

Hi There,
My wife an myself are having our challenges parenting our 15yr teenage daughter who has recently been diagnosed with inattentive ADHD. Her paediatrician recently said that she was borderline ADHD and agreed, with my slight pressuring, to try taking Vyvanse. Her academic performance had been very poor and she was getting into alcohol,weed and she started to miss going to school classes.

We saw an immediate benefit to her attitude towards school once she started on the Vyvanse. She went from not caring about anything to having a strong focus in her school work often doing 2 hours of school work at night times along with doing extra work for next year even after school had finished for last year.

After some discussion with her paediatrician we decided to stop taking the medication over the Christmas break as there was no requirement to focus on schoolwork. She was also experiencing some symptoms of depression as the medication wore off in the afternoons.

We have seen other behavioural issues over the Christmas break that are causing us parents great stress. She does not respond well to punishment as she just reoffends straight away. We have grounded her for leaving the house without telling us where she is going. She just breaks the grounding and leaves the house again this time without her phone as it was confiscated.

Do you think that if she remains on the Vyvanse all the time then she would be less likely to disregard any rules? We had tried taking away her freedom and then also giving her a lot of freedom however she does not make good decisions.

This morning we had a terrible situation where the police brought her home after they found her at a train station asleep on a seat with her pants pulled down. The police checked the video footage at the train station and thankfully found that she was not raped. She told me that she left the house just after midnight without permission and was waiting for a 3am train to catch to a friends house. She fell asleep while waiting for the train when the police picked her up and brought her home.

What prompted her to leave the house late at night to risk her safety to go to a friends house? She claims that she was depressed and wanted to see her friend. She was willing to undergo a drug/alcohol test to prove that she was not under any influence, just that in her depressed state she really needed the company of her friend.

This looks to be irrational behaviour but may be more typical of ADHD people. She offers no apology and I think that she feels that this was acceptable behaviour.

Any opinions on whether medication would have reduced the likelihood of such behaviour and any other advice to improve the decision making process that takes place in my daughter’s brain.

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Hi there,

I dont know if I can be of much help without knowing your daughter or being a medical professional, but I can speak from my experience of being her age and getting diagnosed and medicated around that time.

In my opinion the emphasis of ADHD only affecting schoolwork seems a bit problematic, as it can affect all areas of life. If you’re only treating the ADHD while she has schoolwork it makes sense that her symptoms would come back in the holiday periods - In my experience the lack of schoolwork in holiday periods also leads to boredom and lack of structure which could be the perfect storm for more worrying behaviour or depression.

Another point to consider is that pursuing diagnosis is often very confusing and upsetting - for me when I was that young it was exacerbated with the added stress of needing to perform in highschool, leading me to make some poor decisions out of having such strong feelings and not knowing what to do with them.

In conclusion I mean to say that medication doesn’t necessarily only apply during school, and going through the process of diagnosis on top of normal teenage angst/depression can be really hard in general.

You’re doing the best you can :slight_smile:

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You didn’t say anything about it but I’m going to assume she’s also going through puberty.
If that’s not the case then this sounds like extremely worrying behaviour.
But if she is, then yeah, that sounds about right.

It’s difficult to paint a proper picture of a pubescent adolescent, because it’s all worrisome.
But I haven’t read anything so far that makes me worry about her as a person.
Of course, the idea of a 15 year old girl sleeping in a train station by herself with her trousers pulled down scares my organs inside out, and I’m not even her parent.
And the idea of her not finishing school, getting a diploma, or whatever I can imagine as a worst case scenario makes me uncomfortable as well.

But she’ll be alright.
Just by the fact that you’re here, asking for help, telling your story and being worried about your daughter tells me you’re both good parents.
You’ve taught her all the right things and you’ve shown her, for fifteen years, that she has two parents that love her until the end of the world.
Even if she feels disconnected from you right now, she knows that.

I’m not a parent, or a paediatrician, but pubescent adolescents inherently feel disconnected from the world, that’s why their friends start being so important to them, because they feel they are the only ones that understand them, and in a sense that’s true.

She’s basically starting to learn, among other things, that life is unfair because being alive means suffering, something we have come to terms with long ago, and we’re fine with that, that’s the package and we’re constantly making it as beautiful as we can despite of that.

But we can only cerebrally understand how it is to face that for the first time, her friends are living it themselves.
Taking that connection, and freedom, away from her is one of the few ways you can punish her for doing things that are wrong, but it also increases the gap.

I’m not coming with possible solutions on that one, I’m sorry.
But maybe you can tell her you understand that she wants to be with a friend if she feels bad, and allow her to go.
That might set up a frame where she feels you’ll understand some of her difficulties, and it might make you more accessible in the future.

On the ADHD part, yeah, a lot of us are prone to feeling emotions very intensely, we either have no particular emotions about something or feel it way too much, there’s no middle ground for moderate emotion distribution.
Pretty much just like puberty.
This can make the combination of the two particularly volatile.
That and the lack of impulse control, also seen in puberty, causes a lot of us to be a bit more of a loose cannon than we’d like, or a lot.
A friend of mine, also with ADHD, made plans with me for new years, and then suddenly went to a guy she only just met a few weeks before that.
She just couldn’t curb her excitement and wait a single day, even though she’s over 30.
Only after the fact, when everything calmed down in her head (and I got angry at her for it), could she see that her ADHD got the best of her.
She didn’t do anything dangerous, but her reality did kind of mold into what she wanted for a while.

Exactly those kinds of things give people the idea that people with ADHD just haven’t matured, but trust me when I say that she is one of the most mature and responsible people I know, when you ignore or see past the ADHD part, and the same counts for me.
But that’s not important for you right now, because a 15 year old girl just isn’t mature, that’s the point of being 15.

I just looked up Vyvanse and see that it’s lisdexamfetamine, exactly the medication I am on right now.
I have been on it for a little over 6 months now and I can do things for the first time in my life!
But I do collapse at the end of the day, I am spent. And that part is uncomfortable.
I don’t know if your daughter has the same effect as I do, but that’s what’s going on with me.

Your daughter suddenly doing things like taking social normative responsibilities sounds like a good thing.
Even though she feels depressed at the end of the day, people who are depressed all the time don’t tend to do those kind of things. (Although this does need attention if you continue with it.)
Watching her emotional state is important when taking medications like this, because they can average out someone’s emotions.
Sometimes that is a good thing (like in my case), but it can also be a little bit too much on a certain dose, or at all.
And then it can sometimes be difficult to feel more than ‘average’ happiness, and not get the same response from humor or an amazing personal event.

It can be difficult to measure a sense of reality in a 15 year old girl in every way, but this can start to be an issue for a select few of us.
You don’t need to worry that this will be an issue per se, but keep it in the back of your head.

These kinds of drugs are extremely potent, going both on and off them can have pretty drastic effects.
When I forget my medication, for example, my world starts becoming very boring and grey.
I can’t get myself to do anything outside of forcing it with sheer discipline, if at all.
Then I take my meds and BAM! I’m translating software, following an online university course, drawing, and doing the dishes.

Taking her off these medications, if she has ADHD and lisdexamfetamine worked for her, can have a similar effect.
Her brain has to go through all sorts of gymnastics to even get through the day again, not just schoolwork.
But if she doesn’t have ADHD it’s basically just drugs, drugs that are ‘harder’ than alcohol or weed.

Here’s some more information on it.
And some information on lisdexamphetamine (which turns into dexamphetamine in the blood).

And finally, how did she say she felt when taking Vyvanse/lisdexamfetamine?

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I agree that your daughter sounds like she will grow up into a lovely adult, just like most people do.

I also agree that parents who question their parenting skills are generally doing a lot right :kissing_closed_eyes:

I found it really hard to parent teens, even though I promised myself when I was a teenager that I would be a much much better parent of teenagers than my mother was. Actually I think I did manage that, but the bar wasn’t set very high :joy:. My kids found me unbearable at times even though I was nowhere near as unbearable as my mother had been :wink:.

The point of that sidetrack was that my kids did some terrible and wild stuff, I had no idea how to deal with it, I did my best and tried to trust them to come out of it OK. They are now in their early twenties and becoming amazing people who I love to spend time with.

And as the years go by, the chances increase that I will one day know more about the wildest things they got up to when they were young. And some of those things I know will make me shudder with what could have gone wrong.

Back to the meds and holidays: I have no experience of parenting teenagers on meds, or being one myself, as I was only diagnosed as an adult. Since being diagnosed I have been on meds and they help me a lot. Last autumn I spent a week in a holiday cottage with sauna and didn’t bother to take the afternoon dose. I also made some bad choices about how to spend the couple of hours a day I spent working.

I have since tried to reduce the meds to take a ‘medication holiday’ but in discussion with my family doctor I have given up on that idea for now. I just function better with the meds. In every part of my life. It’s not just about schoolwork. It’s about being able to get out of bed in the morning and doing something I want to do. Yesterday I baked a quiche for a work social today. I delayed for a while but got it done. The old me would have ended up buying one from a shop and feeling embarrassed and ashamed that I had not kept my promise, and/or staying up till silly o’clock before either getting started or giving up on the idea.

If your daughter wants to take the meds in the school holidays and her psychiatrist is happy with that, you are doing nothing wrong by letting her. No one knows what the possible long term effects are of adhd meds, and that is one of the reasons for doing the term time only thing, but your daughter probably knows only too well what the definite short term effects are of stopping the meds.

Being a teenager is sometimes hard and sometimes wonderful. Being the parent of a teenager likewise. Hold on to the wonderful moments and those will help you through the morass of hard ones!

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By the way,about your very last question, about how your daughter can improve the decision-making process in her brain:

My adhd diagnosis entitled me to coaching and therapy which both helped massively with understanding why I did things and helping me to change some of that. I can highly recommend accessing that kind of help, ideally from someone who works with you to change the stuff you yourself want to change.

I still make some really stupid decisions, like cycling too fast and skidding on a man-hole cover and nearly breaking my foot - that was this week’s topper, and I am so far past puberty I am even post-menopausal :roll_eyes:. So there is no perfect solution, but there is hope for improvement (and on the plus side, I was very aware of the traffic - other cyclists entering the park I was leaving - that’s how come I wasn’t looking at the ground to see the wet metal plate).

I wish you all the best of luck!

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She went through puberty at a young age. Probably around 11.

Her soul focus in life has been her social life for a number of years. She was only on Vyvanse for one month prior to the Christmas break where she showed much greater interest in school, which was great. Her social life was still very important. We have taken away her electronic devices for breaking rules but this seems to add to her depression as she is cut off from what is most important to her, that being her friends.
She also has a track record of lying about things which makes it hard for a parent to decide on appropriate strategies. Is she really depressed? Or using that as an excuse for irrational behaviour? Is her ADHD responsible for her poor decisions and therefore should we as parents be more accepting of her decisions?

My daughter sees many benefits to the meds. More motivation, more confidence, better at learning at school. The school said that based on her last year without the meds that she will not pass school this year. With the meds I can see that the dramatic improvement over the short period of a month will likely see her progress much further academically. The down sides to the med is that she starts to feel a bit depressed when the med wears off and she can be irritable to be around. Not sure if this can be alleviated if she was able to eat better, drink more water and get more sleep. She is experiencing insomnia as a result of the med. The plan with the paediatrician was to reduce her dose of Vyvanse down to 15mg when she returns to school. I have decided to put her back on now at 15mg to see if we can temper her poor behavioural choices.

Yes I can see this change in my daughter when on Vyvanse.

She does seem to have most of the symptoms of inattentive ADHD however I think that most non-ADHD people experience the same symptoms to a lesser degree. She did have encephalitis at the age of 3 which nearly took her life. There was a study showing that 50% of kids affected with encephalitis end up having ADHD. This was the piece of information that made me look into an ADHD diagnosis. It seems that inattentive ADHD is harder to diagnose than the hyperactive type and therefore physicians and parents may steer away from the meds due to their potential negative effects and just classify the child as just lazy.

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I was just about to head off to bed so I’ll just respond to one thing now and leave the rest for tomorrow.

Going on and off Vyvanse in such a short time would probably be very destabilising for me.
I’m not sure I would function very well myself.
I would probably feel depressed and experience the world as very empty and devoid of meaning and depth, and it would increase my risk of ‘thrill seeking’ behaviour by a huge amount because my brain wouldn’t feel a reward from anything less than that.
With that I mean things like drinking, drugs, partying, sex and overeating.

The idea behind stimulant medication like Vyvanse to combat ADHD is that the ADHD brain is a little slow in some parts, causing the brain to not be able to reward a person enough for every day tasks to feel rewarding.
Instead they feel boring and devoid of depth and purpose, and everything has to be done on discipline alone.
Starting a task can cause the brain to give out a small reward, but then doesn’t give enough after that for a person to feel like the task has any meaning.
Smoking, caffeine, alcohol, drugs, sugar, driving really fast, skydiving, sex and everything else down that list will cause the brain to get really excited and start giving out reward neurotransmitters like crazy.
So you suddenly do feel rewarded.

Vyvanse will stimulate the brain to work harder in certain areas, giving people with ADHD a better neurotransmitter release on regular tasks as a result.
The brain will make use of this opportunity to make everything work as efficiently as possible with this new luxury of not having to work so hard in the areas that are effectively lame.
Going off stimulant medication, or any other medication, is tapered to minimise shock and give the brain time to stop with it’s new efficiencies and get back to the way things where before.
But this process can sometimes still be in full swing after the last dose is taken.
This can cause the issues to increase further than they where before taking the medication for a short time, until the brain is back up to speed in those areas, which weren’t doing well to begin with.

If this is done too quickly, the difference is even higher.

Of course, I’m not a trained professional or a doctor.
But going on and off stimulant medication in around a month is a big no-no for me, I don’t think my psychiatrist would even allow me to do this even if I wanted to.
Unless the side effects where severe enough to warrant it, which has happened.
But again, I am not a trained professional, I can not and do not mean this as medical advice, this is conjecture based on my experiences and information I have gathered.

This is true for pretty much every psychological disorder, in my opinion.
They are exaggerated aspects of different things everyone suffers from.
A lot of people can be neurotic and anally-retentive without having OCD, for example.

And with that I’m going to bed now, I’ve already written far more than I intended to.
I wish you and your family all the best.

[ edit ] Oh yes! The reason I quoted the second part, about sleeping, was to say that it took me over a month, I think even two, to get used to the medication enough to sleep normally again.
Actually I sleep better now than I ever did, a fulfilling life has that effect.

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It would be arrogant of me to claim I can give you a straight answer to this, for a big part because the question heavily leans towards medical advice.
However, I can tell you what I know from my own experiences.

I have been heavily drawn to narcotics ever since my early adolescence, like Winnie-the-Pooh is to honey.
For many, many, years I have been bored out of my skull for virtually every minute I was awake.
Conversations where generally the only thing that could keep my interest, when I wasn’t going through a depressive episode.

When I started my medication about 6 to 7 months ago, this all turned around 180 degrees.
I no longer have a high interest in alcohol or coffee, I drink a cup of coffee or a beer sometimes when I’m offered, but I don’t have a deep craving for anything like that anymore.

I believe that if I had this medication about 22 years ago, the chance I would have done well in school would have increased significantly, I probably wouldn’t have skipped school (quite as much), and I would have been able to do my schoolwork.
I also believe that I wouldn’t have had this craving for alcohol and other narcotics.
I was a wild one, a cowboy couldn’t have tamed me.
And wouldn’t have been kicked out when I was 16, but that was partially because I was taking Ritalin, which makes me lose my marbles fully and completely.

I hope that helps your situation instead of making you more anxious.

ADHD is famous for constantly driving people to make really poor decisions.
But then again, there is a long list of things that can cause that.

Again, like a lot of things, ADHD itself can lead to depression.
Going off ADHD medication can also cause depression, because of the difference from doing well and feeling good to suddenly not doing well again.

But whatever the reasons for her behaviour, it does sound like a sign that she’s not feeling very happy.

You said the meds caused her to have trouble sleeping, not getting enough quality sleep causes irritability in anyone.
And it’s not unlikely that the symptoms of that manifest themselves the most when the meds wear off.

However, I used to crash in the afternoon every day for the first couple months, regardless of how much sleep I got.
And I still do when I get overstimulated during the day.
These crashes can be very uncomfortable for me.

That’s why I’ve heard, yes.

This is a quote from WebMD:
“Boys are diagnosed with ADHD at least twice as often as girls are, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that more boys have it. Some experts say girls don’t get diagnosed as much because their symptoms can be harder to spot.”

Here’s a Youtube video about it: ADHD in Girls: How to Recognize the Symptoms


I pretty much can’t do short posts, but I hope it was helpful.
Again, I wish you and your family all the best and lots of strength.

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Thank you so much for your insight. It has been very helpful.

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I didn’t get to read all the replies so I don’t know if anyone mentioned their experience but I’m 20, just 5 years ago I was 15 and doing the same things as your daughter. I hate to be a debby downer but absolutely nothing my parents did worked, in fact it backfired, I got more sneaky and the shorter they made the leash the more angry and depressed I got. I know its hard to hear and sounds really stupid, but I think you need to let this stage run its course, of course keep an eye out and do what you can to keep her safe, I am a mother now and can totally imagine the worry you must feel. I would monitor her daily activities to make sure she’s not outright endangering herself, but please try to remember that when I was her age taking away my devices, grounding me, and watching me constantly made me even more rebellious, I had a secret phone that I kept hidden, I found a way out of the house. Try getting her into some sort of therapy and let her know that what she says to the therapist is between them and nothing she says will be played back to you, its important for her to feel like she can talk without consequences, thats why she goes to her friends but they have limited life expirence like she does. I know it may seem scary for her to be sharing things with a therapist that you don’t know but remember a therapists confidentially only goes so far and if they feel she is a danger to herself or others they will let you know so no need to worry about that. I know for a lot of people therapy is expensive but in most communities there are free resources for people who need support. When I was a minor I got therapy free because of my parents financial situation.

So anyways after my long tangent if that was hard to understand I’ll break it down, always keep and eye out but let this run its course, she will grow to be an amazing adult.

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I am late to the party on this one. I have a 13 yo boy with ADHD and I can confirm that restricting normal use of devices or any other arbitrary punishment is useless. He loves his electronics gaming and contact with his friends they give him. In his case and I would suggest there phones are almost the centre of the modern teenagers world. And removing that from them for anything less than a serious safety concern I think can be damaging to them. That seems a little sensationalist but in one remove you instantly dismantle their entire social structure they are isolated from there friends and own life. Remember as a teenager they have there own friends and whatever else outside of there home life and at 15 she is only a heart beat from fully forming her own existence. And if that is put at risk of course she will do whatever she can to maintain those relationships (cue lying, sneaking out, ect, ect.)

Kids are built to test boundaries. ADHD kids live in the now and crave stimulation this was a key bit of information for me it let me understand that exactly 7.8 nano seconds after I dealt out some sort of pointless punishment his little brain was already on the next thing that would fill that need for stimulation. He had all but forgotten that his gaming privileges had just been removed. And when it got to the point that I had taken away anything he was stimulated by that’s when he moved onto the sneaking or lying to get access to what he needed to be stimulated. And this turns into a revolving door and him in distress feeling isolated not only from his friends but his parents.

The only thing that I have found to be successful in getting him to respond is forcing him to engage first of all with what the root problem is and working to find a solution sometimes this can take days for the simplest things. The last one was he wasn’t doing his jobs in the morning. He has to feed the dog brush his teeth eat breakfast and a couple of other things. So we got a white board and put this little list of jobs on it so he could tick them off. This worked for a little while because it was new and he felt good about being successful at his daily tasks. But go back to the kids living in the now and needing stimulation once it was just another job to mark of his list. So the little issue came back. He was simply not remembering to do it. So the solution we found you ask? We changed the password on his phone to LIST. It’s the first thing he picks up and unlocking it reminds him of his jobs. It’s been months now and he very rarely forgets.

Sometimes actions do need a more impactful punishment. And in those rare cases it’s never anything he his isolated to do. It will be something like doing certain jobs in the yard. Or other things kids just don’t enjoy. But I will be by his side working with him on that task trying to teach him something. And talking to him about things he is interested in. He still feels the consequences of the punishment because he would much much rather be with his friends or playing or gaming or whatever. But the difference is that his little brain is stimulated and he isn’t isolated and he feels that his dad is on his side because even though I am making him do some boring terrible job I am with him when he is going through what he sees as a terrible injustice. Sometimes it will just be that I will make him spend all Saturday with me whilst I run around doing errands. He hates giving up a full day of his free time but we still get fish and chips for lunch.

Honestly I don’t think many if any kids want to be bad or take risks (If they even realise they are taking those risks remember they are kids and ADHD kids are living in the now not 6 hours from now when they fall asleep and get brought home by the police.

As for her medication I am not a doctor and this is only personal experience both mine and what we did with our boy and me was started on the meds and found the best dose and drug and then took it every day weekends holidays for 6 months. That way we knew that we where in a stable pattern. After that we tried skipping weekends and holidays on days where he didn’t need the support of the meds to get through the day. For him he likes the days off even though for his parents he can be a bit of a handful with all this hormones and adhd but giving hi that choice makes him feel he is responsible for his own medication and he often talks to us about how he is feeling about it both good and bad. For me I very very rarely skip a day because I am a jibbering mess and functioning as an adult is hard work sometimes.

Another novel from me but huge rambling posts are what I do when my meds have worn off.

M

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Oh!

I have just worked out something that I couldn’t quite out my finger on when I read ut the other day:

Going through puberty is not the same thing as starting to menstruate. It 's a much longer process. So even if your daughter was a relatively early developer, that doesn’t mean she’s done with being an adolescent already.

And the extra layer of adhd is what, to me, explains why on some level I feel like I have the brain of a thirteen year old even now. No, wait, until a couple of years ago, when I started to understand and change the way I deal with my adhd influenced behaviours.

Just wanted to come back and say that even at fifteen, even if you can pass for 21 to get into a nightclub, there’s still a lot of decision -making skills that are skewed by physical factors.

Not that that’s all negative😉

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