Guest Expert

How to Stop a Teen with ADHD from Getting Distracted

Are you frustrated by your child's tendency to be easily distracted? If so, you are not alone! But what can you do about it – especially when your child doesn't seem to care as much as you do? Can you really stop a teen with ADHD from getting distracted?

According to our Guest Expert, Michael Delman, there are actually two major categories to think about when it comes to managing distractions: blocking distractions and sustaining focus.


Take homework, for example. Delman explains, you can ease a child's stress and distraction significantly by making sure they know,  "that they will have a chance to connect with their friends, to be on social media, to play their games. Setting aside some dedicated time for that eases the anxiety," he explains. "Otherwise, they are not going to be ready" to get to work.

Next, he continues, "there needs to be dedicated time for the things that do need to be done. So, you can say, “Come home, first thing you do, let’s figure out what your priorities are, what the things are that must be done, and let’s set aside time for those things.” I’ve seen kids going from tremendous avoidance and anxious to, “Okay this is when I will do my work and this is when I get to have fun.” It just works much better if you have dedicated time."

Using Technology to Help TEENS, for a Change

As this interview with Delman progresses, it moves into a realm that may surprise you. He talks very specifically about how to use technology to actually help your child avoid distractions (and procrastination, too)! Specifically, he calls these "anti-app apps." Here again, there are two types: "the blocking apps and the sustained attention apps."

"The blocking apps are things like Forest on the iPhone, which lets you set an amount of time where you want to be distraction-free. And, once you do, you grow a tree and if you succeed, you get to see that on your phone. If you get away from it, it’ll say, “Hey, stop messing around. Go back to your work.” So those types of things are helpful. On laptops, Self-Control is a great app for Mac; Stay Focused is a pretty good one for PCs. They allow you to blacklist sites so that you can just be, really where you want to be."

Seriously. Apps to help your teens avoid distraction! Love that.

Now, what about sustaining attention?

Delman explains, "having your own reward system is fun and useful. I’ve worked with a lot of kids who have rewards-based games. There’s one called Epic Win on the phone that lets you give yourself points for doing anything; it can be doing push-ups, it can be getting out of bed in the morning without hitting the snooze button five times. When you get these points, you end up with rewards, little silly treasures that are fun. A lot of kids like that kind of thing."

Delman continues, "We also know that it’s not just the task-initiation piece, it’s also sustained attention, staying focused. So having a purpose of why you’re going into a particular homework assignment makes all the difference in the world."

As an example, he refers to one neuropsychologist who "talks about speed limits in reading. So, when you’re reading, you need to know what the purpose is. Then you need to decide, “how fast can I read this and still get something out of it?” So if it’s fluff, go through it quickly. If this is where the big quotes are, slow down. You don’t read everything at the same speed, just as you don’t drive at the same speed. We’re trying to get kids to do that so that when they are working, they sustain their attention, because they’re not feeling frustrated that they’re spending too much time."

Practical Suggestions

If you really want to stop a teen with ADHD from getting distracted, there are tons of practical suggestions and strategies Delman covers in this short, 15 minute interview. We recommend you go grab a pen and paper before you check it out! Seriously, it is jam-packed with practical advice.

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