Help for Distracted Teens


Multi-tasking is common for teens, often doing facebook, listening to music and skyping wiht friends at the same time.  But can they really handle it?  Yshai Boussi, a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in adolescents and couples, joined us with tips to help us help our teens.

You'll find this information and more on Yshai Boussi's blog.

10 Important Things To Consider If Your Teen Is Easily Distracted
Have you seen the Budweiser Clydesdale commercials? They're surprisingly touching and sweet. One of them portrays a young horse entering a barn where it spots an unattended carriage. In an attempt to seize the moment, it steps into the over-sized harness. This naive yet determined young horse tries to push the carriage forward with all it's might, to no avail. It keeps trying until the carriage finally starts moving forward. What this young horse doesn't know is that the carriage is actually being pushed from behind by two full grown Clydesdales. The commercial ends with the owner saying, "I won't tell if you don't."
Like the young Clydesdale, teens that get easily distracted need extra support in a way that leaves them feeling empowered and autonomous. In this article, we'll share 10 key thoughts that we think parents with easily distracted teens should consider.

We don't have to tell you that this generation of teens have taken the concept of multitasking to a level never seen before. At any given moment you may catch your teen facebooking, texting, IMing, talking, listening, studying, eating, drinking, reading, walking, dancing, building, crocheting, drawing, flying an airplane and getting their chores done. OK, maybe not the chores.

For most teens, this is just how it is now. While there are pro's and con's to so much multitasking, many teens can handle it and do just fine. However, if you have a teen that has ADHD or is easily distracted, their reality is different. The world that these teens inhabit typically feels more stressful and overwhelming. If they don't get specific types of support and encouragement, they often end up wondering why they can't do things as easily as everyone else seems to. This leads to feeling embarrassed and inadequate which can end with giving up and acting like they don't care as a way to save face.

You've surely put some time thinking about this already. Below are 10 thoughts we hope you'll consider for your distracted teen.

1. Don't focus on whether or not they have ADD/ADHD.
They may have this diagnosis and benefit from medication, but that's not who they are. Getting caught up in this label can be disempowering and lead to greater frustration for everyone. Focus instead on solutions and empowering your teen.

2.They don't have the skills to do many of the things they're expected to on a daily basis.
Avoid jumping to the conclusion that they are manipulative, oppositional or lazy. Instead, focus on helping them develop the skills they are lacking which may include: organization, follow-through, stress management or social skills.  Remember it can take years for some teens to learn these skills, so be patient.

3. They're more frustrated with this than you are.
If they don't seem to care it's probably because they have given up already or they're embarrassed and trying to save face. Teens who have a difficult time focusing or sitting still often have low self-esteem. This is because they have experienced repeated judgement or rejection from peers, teachers, family and/or other adults. As a result, these teens can be very sensitive to criticism.

4. They need active and ongoing help with organization in all areas of their life.
Giving them a planner won't cut it, they'll need help learning how to use it over and over again. They'll have to develop habits which can take along time to form.

5. Don't try to do it all yourself.
Utilize school counselors, friends, family, neighbors, teachers, homework coaches or a therapist to help.

6. Figure out what their complimentary strengths are.
Many teens that have a difficult time with focus and attention also happen to be exceptionally creative, empathetic, thoughtful, eager or energetic. Build on these strengths and make sure they have healthy outlets to express them.

7. They may require movement and activity on a daily basis.
Physical activity has been found to have a calming effect on aroused and over-active brains. Make sure they have an outlet for this daily. 

8. They probably aren't as clear about your expectations as you are.
Don't assume that because they are nodding and looking at you that they understand what you've said. These kids get very good at faking it. Ask them to repeat what you've just said or look for signs that they're not getting it. 

9. You may need to take better care of yourself and have more breaks.
Parenting is stressful with typical teens, but with these kiddos, the challenges are greater because of the increased hyper-vigilance, attention and involvement that's required of you.

10. It has nothing to do with you. Reread our previous article about temperament if you're still feeling guilty. It's highly likely that this has been a struggle for your child from a young age and is just part of the way their brain works. If you've noticed your teen's struggles with attention only recently, then there maybe some external sources of stress that are contributing to it. In this case, do your best to talk with your child in an open and non-blaming way about your observations and concerns. If that doesn't seem to help than it's probably a good idea to see a family therapist.

We get how frustrating it can be when your child just doesn't seem to try or care. This problem isn't about you or them. Your teen is an intelligent and capable individual with many strengths and one who may need to work a bit harder and receive some extra support to stay focused and organized. Hang in there. We'd love to here any comments you have on our blog.


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