Inattention In Teenagers

Teens don't always exhibit the most focused behavior during high school. With a busy social life, a cramped schedule and some old-fashioned daydreaming, it's normal for your teen to "zone out" every now and again. But when your teen's lack of attention starts to cause problems with listening skills, grades or his social life, you may want to look into it. Sometimes teen inattention is simply normal behavior, but it could be the sign of a more serious issue.

What's Normal

The teen brain is constantly changing and developing, which means you might see some drastic changes in your teen's behavior, according to the National Institute of Mental Health 1. Even if your teen was once focused, you might find her head in the clouds at times. Changes in her body, social life and family life can all cause inattention, even when she knows she should be listening. However, other types of inattention are more than simple teen behavior.


When your teen's inattention stops him from learning or hinders his ability to have a conversation, it could be a mental health issue. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects teens heavily -- to the tune of 3 to 7 percent of adolescents, according to data from both the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry and ":Psychology Today." 2


All teens manifest inattention in different ways. In its most harmless forms, inattention means your teen occasionally isn't paying attention in school or when you talk to him, but the behavior is short-lived and he's able to focus again. If it's a more severe form of inattention, your teen might have difficulty processing communication and information at school and may find it a challenge to sit still. Those diagnosed with ADD or ADHD usually have trouble in school due to a lack of attention. Still, some diagnosed with these conditions are very smart; ADD and ADHD have nothing to do with intelligence. These teens just have a problem channeling that potential into focused tasks.


Teens who exhibit inattentive behavior tend to be fairly easygoing in nature, since they often live in their own worlds, to some extent. Use that quality as a coping mechanism if your teen has trouble focusing, notes Suggest coping mechanisms like getting up and walking around when having difficulty focusing. Some type of physical activity can also help your teen focus with her mind while moving her body, such as squeezing a stress ball in class. If you do suggest a coping tactic, make sure to run it by your child's teachers first to ensure that it's acceptable in the classroom.

Medical Intervention

If your teen's inattention is severely impacting the quality of his life in terms of his grades, social life or family relationships, talk to your family doctor; she can give you a referral to a teen mental health professional. Mental health professionals can suggest additional coping techniques or prescribe medication as a method to help calm your teen's mind so that he's better focused when it really counts.