Parenting A Neurodivergent Teen Is Not About Perfection.
Being a parent is not about perfection. It’s about learning lessons and moving forward together without judgment, shame, or guilt. This is especially important if you are the parent of a neurodivergent teen.
Neurodivergent youth with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, Tourette's syndrome, epilepsy, anxiety, and other learning differences often have different ways of understanding the world and communicating and interacting with others. As parents, you’ve probably had to employ various creative strategies to sustain deep connections with your teen throughout their lifetime. I’m sure every time you think you’ve become a master at a new strategy, your child evolves and changes, leaving you to feel like a novice and uncertain student.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed by these changes, use these strategies to help you, your teen, and your family to thrive.
Your Blueprint to Success with Your Neurodivergent Teen
Ask Yourself: What is my CDA (Chief Definite Aim) as a parent of a neurodivergent child? Grab a pen and journal or your favorite note-taking app and journal your response.
Now let’s explore strategies that can help you cultivate a culture of harmony, trust, empathy, accountability, freedom, and flow:
Hold space for your teen by showing them and sharing with them that you are there to listen to what brings them joy, wins, aspirations, struggles, and challenges.
Ask your teen how they are feeling and what they need and from whom or where to thrive.
Ask your teen how they want to be labeled. Discuss why diversity, inclusion, equity, justice, and belonging matter in your home, prospective school, and the world.
Use your time to have more fun, respect each other’s energy levels, and recharge.
Be present during conversations and try to focus primarily on them. Openly acknowledge if you have to split your attention between them and another task if it’s extremely important. Calmly and kindly tell them why, and that you very much value their thoughts.
Observe love languages, habits, hobbies, favorite music, colors, motivations, and goals so you can help make kind suggestions of ways they can design a life and learning plan of their dreams.
Seek support from schools like Wye River Upper School that offer individualized curriculums and small settings, environments that value diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging (DEIJB).
Move beyond labels and embrace that your child has a brain that helps them navigate the world differently. These divergent intelligences are gifts.
Share your child’s learning style with others with their permission. Allow for this to possibly change.
Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional separately and together for advice.
Mindfulness To Cultivate Peaceful Relationships With Your Teen
Mindfulness is a great way to cultivate a more peaceful family life and can be practiced throughout the day. Mindfulness is a practice that can help people of all ages learn to focus and be present in the moment. When you begin to practice mindfulness, the energy that you bring into each room you enter will be solution oriented, joyful, and kind.
Try this great meditation: Bloom Wellness Lab Meditations for Parents
You can model mindful behavior at home by actively showing up as your best self. Acknowledge when you make a mistake, quickly and without self-judgment, and your teens will trust you and share how they feel more frequently and mindfully. You can then work toward solutions together. Creating a positive family culture can also help neurodivergent teens with managing their symptoms and improving focus.
Dr. Stephanie Akoumany is the Founder and CEO of Bloom Wellness Lab and the Host of Agility in Bloom, a leadership, wellness, and entrepreneurship podcast that she hosts with her mom and daughter. Agility in Bloom has reached 24 countries and 94 cities around the world.
In 2009, Stephanie interned at the U.S. House of Representatives and introduced President Barack Obama at a televised White House press conference advocating for increased Pell Grants for college students from low to middle socio-economic statuses.
Dr. Akoumany is an international speaker, optimal performance consultant, interpersonal relationships expert, researcher, educator, blogger, world schooling mom, marathoner, and yogi, who helps schools, businesses, nonprofits, universities, government offices, and institutions cultivate cultures that embrace diversity, equity, inclusion, resilience, and holistic wellness.
Her mind, body, energy, and confidence coaching program, Intentionally Align, help change-makers of all ages bloom into their best selves and tap into their intuition, gifts, and skills so they can intentionally design lives, careers, and businesses of their dreams. She is a native Baltimorean.
She earned her B.A. and Ph.D. in American Studies focusing on social justice and youth and adult resilience and mindfulness strategies in the face of adversity at the University of Maryland College Park.
Her dissertation focuses on black adolescent resilience strategies, particularly self-assertion, storytelling, creativity, play, and community building to cope with daily stressors.