Teen Hormones and the ADHD brain? Helping Kids in Transition

As they enter adolescence, boys and girls with ADHD may not be able to articulate what is swirling around inside of them. Quick to react and then make inappropriate choices, they may not be aware of what triggers them or how to manage themselves differently. When the floodgates release, their feelings overwhelm them. Sometimes the intensity of these moments reflects their changing hormones; other times, it’s connected to their frustration of living with ADHD. It’s hard to tell the difference. 

The onset of puberty in boys and girls, especially those with ADHD, can also increase their reactivity and sensitivity to anxiety, anger and later, shame about how they’ve behaved. Both estrogen and testosterone have a direct effect on the brain’s neurotransmitters. Their outbursts are showing you that they need help developing skills for self-regulation and understanding what’s happening in their bodies and brains. 

Here are a few things you can do to assist them:

  1. Arrange an appointment with his or her pediatrician to discuss the behavioral changes you’ve been seeing at home and talk about how and why hormones contribute to them. It’s important that the doctor knows what is happening and may have some suggestions for both of you. 
  2. Collaborate with your son or daughter to find ways to deal with their agitation. Given fluctuating hormones and the challenges of living with ADHD, you can’t expect to stop big feelings from happening. What you can do is create a plan to deal with them before they actually erupt. Sit down together and talk about the triggers that you both notice lead up to these explosions. Look for the patterns and focus on them instead of the content. Review any signs that indicate something’s changing. What does he notice is occurring in his body? What behaviors does she start to display? Make a list of these observations.
  3. When things heat up, you’ve got to slow them down. Talk about what has helped in the past when intense feeling arose. Which of these could be used now?  Ask what you can do (and what you can avoid) that would support him or her in developing self-control in those moments? Connect these ideas to your previous observations. Write a list of  these options and post them in your kitchen.

If your son or daughter continues to struggle, consider going to see a therapist. Counseling can be extremely useful in assisting kids with ADHD and their parents to understand triggers that set them off, improve their ability to talk about what’s happening and reduce anxiety and anger and create options when emotions run high.