ADHD Teens And Career Exploration

Career Exploration With Your ADHD Teen

Career Exploration with your ADHD Teen

Career Exploration with your child often begins in the parent’s mind  before the child is even born. Will he be an accountant like his dad? Will they be a nurse like their mom? Will she become the president?


As our kids grow, we begin to explore careers with our child in unofficial ways. When a child seems to love music, we wonder if they will be a famous musician. If they enjoy helping a parent cook, we wonder if they will be a chef.


We ask kids in preschool what they want to be when they grow up. (sometimes they say a fire truck!) By the time a kid hits middle school and then high school, they have been asked approximately 17,835 times about what they want to be when they grow up (I made up that number!). 


And by 11th or 12th grade we expect our kids, with our without ADHD, to make decisions about their future that will have life-long impact. What college, what career, what path will you take, and how much debt you will be in.  Even for a completely neurotypical 11th or 12th grader that is a LOT to expect, and for neurodivergent kids who’s brains haven’t completely finished developing feels a bit….scary, to be honest. 

Career Exploration With Your ADHD Teen



Career Exploration: Differences In Brains

Through MRI images, we know that the way that the ADHD brain is formed and how it functions is different from our neurotypical peers. The ADHD brain has significant differences in the prefrontal cortex, which manages executive functioning.


There are also differences in the activity patterns and connections in our brains. The ADHD brain tends to mature on a delayed schedule which impacts things like impulse control and decision making – two important things when it comes to career exploration. Check out more about the ADHD Brain in my previous blog post HERE.

Executive Functioning Challenges

Every teen, and person, who has ADHD, struggles with some Executive Function Challenges. However, we all have areas of great strengths and weaknesses, and so none of these challenges are universally applicable to every ADHD teen. 

Here are some of the ways that teens with ADHD my struggle with Executive Functioning in ways that can impair the career exploration process.  Remember that with support and accommodations many teens with ADHD develop stronger skills in executive functioning skills with time and practice.

  • Impulse Control – This can show up in several ways – changing interests very often is one of the most common ways. If your teen jumps from hobby to hobby this may be problematic. Convincing your teen to make decisions that aren’t based on their current friend or romantic interest can be difficult
  • Time Management – Your child may or may not be thinking about “post high school” because time has only a fuzzy meaning to them. Deadlines may feel far away until they are tomorrow. Trouble breaking big tasks down to manageable tasks is common. Without adequate support, we only do things when they are very interesting to us, or are super urgent – this looks like procrastination to most people but is often other executive function struggles
  • Working Memory – this is the thing that allows you to take multi-step actions. Remembering a phone number long enough to dial it or following a simple recipe. It means remembering information long enough to act on it. Teens may struggle to remember what colleges they’ve already explored or what they learned about a career they explored, or what step they are on. Here’s a blog about improving working memory – read it HERE.



ADHD Gremlins

Here are a few other challenges that your teen with ADHD may have when it comes to career exploration.

Emotional Regulation – Teens with ADHD my have difficulty regulating their emotions, and may be seen as “too much” or “too sensitive” or “too hot headed.” Thoughts of the future may cause a variety of emotions that may be exaggerated including excitement, fear, anxiety, hope, and uncertainty.

Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria – many folks of all ages who have ADHD struggle with RSD.  Teens may fear they aren’t good enough to reach their dreams. They may be worried that college will reject them. They may be afraid their parents will be angry if they don’t follow a different plan. Or maybe they fear their peers will make fun of their choice and dream. It’s important to note that RSD includes reacting to the perception of rejection or criticism so this may be happening to your teen even if you are the most supportive parent or caregiver in the world.

Analysis Paralysis – This is a form of overwhelm that occurs for many people with ADHD when they get stuck because they have too many choices or too many options. It may look like staring at a menu unable to decide what to order. It may look like avoiding making a decision until a choice is removed or an outside factor forces a choice. With career exploration, it may look like being wishy-washy, being unable or unwilling to make solid plans, or a general avoidance of the topic all together – often by joking or deflecting. 

Career Exploration Part Two – in May!


Watch for a blog post to drop in May that will be full of tips for career exploration with your teenager. I will be talking about career paths, battling RSD, being flexible, and so much more. You don’t want to miss it. 


In fact, you never want to miss my blog – join my email list today and every Thursday you’ll get an email from me that includes a link to my blog post that day!


Join My Mailing List – ADHD Newsletter Every Thursday   Join Here

Thank you, as always, for spending your time with me today.  Remember – you are amazing!


Kat Sweeney, MCLC


🌻 Don’t Delay Joy ⁠⁠🌻

Kat Sweeney, MCLC



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