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Parents of ADHD Teens and Young Adults

Girl Diagnosed Mid-Senior Year...How Do I Help Her Get On Track?

I’m new to this ADHD world and frankly I’m overwhelmed and at a complete loss as to how I can begin some major damage control.

My now-18 year old daughter, the oldest of my two teen girls, was diagnosed with Inattentive ADHD and Mathematics Learning Disorder in the middle of her senior year, last November. This finding capped four years of unsuccessfully treating extreme depression and anxiety, including a 5150 trip to a psychiatric facility. (I and everyone else attributed these struggles to her father’s death when she was 9. I am her sole parent.) Finally, after seeing a post on a parent forum, I suggested psychological testing to her psychiatrist. We were all surprised at the diagnosis, though, after learning about ADHD, it fits her perfectly and explains ALOT of things about her.

To make a long story short, after a whole lot of drama, my straight-A-through-8th-grade student dropped out of high school and got a GED. She loves photography and has been accepted to a photography school about 8 hours from here. She was all for it, even a week ago when we visited the school, but is now totally flipping out about moving out into a student apartment (dorms are not available).

Truth be told, she is probably not ready to do so. Fearing relapses into depression (and suicide threats), for years I have been walking eggshells, doing way too much for her and letting things slide. She doesn’t misbehave in any serious way, but she doesn’t do much except what she wants to do. Her room could be on Hoarders, she does no chores, procrastinates eternally on anything I ask her to do (and gets very angry defiant if I stand there and make her do it…not always does it get done, sometimes she leaves the house.)

In spite of all this, we actually are quite close, and she confides in me about many things and usually comes to me for advice and help. But, ever since she was a toddler, she has resisted my every effort to teach her things, help keep her organized, etc. (She is smart and survived on that until things got more complex). Now, she is more vehemently opposed to my help than ever, saying “I’m not a baby, I’m 18, I should be able to do this myself. But I can’t do anything right!”

I’ve accepted that photo school is unlikely to happen this fall. She sees that and is beating herself up (again) as a huge failure as her peers skip away to college. When she gets like this, I fear a relapse into self-harm.

She doesn’t like school, and doesn’t want to go to community college; sees that as a failure. She does’t want an ADHD coach or any more therapy; she has declared herself a lost cause, nothing will help her. She doesn’t want me to help her set up a schedule. She will probably get herself a job (she already worked at Starbucks and did surprisingly well there), then fritter away her money as fast as she earns it. She will continue to lurch from crisis to crisis.

I am not even sure where to start, but I know she needs to be on board for addressing the problem. My first thought is to get her an ADHD coach. But how can I help her see that she needs to take action to learn how to manage her condition?

I love her and want to help…but I am exhausted and my patience is very worn from all the drama she creates and all the mopping up of messes I’ve had to do. I am also feeling like a failure for not being a “stricter” mom…in trying to be nice and loving, I’ve made her situation worse!

Sorry for being so long-winded….as I said this is pretty new to me.


Hi Late2theGame!

As I read your post, my first suggestion was going to be an ADHD Coach. Someone neutral she could touch base with regularly while away at photography school. You have thought of that already.

When she’s feeling like a failure as you describe, one of the best things for her is to immerse in something she is good at and enjoys. It sounds like photography is that thing, so it may be a good idea for her to go ahead and attend photography school, even if she struggles a bit with managing life on her own. She needs to feel value as an individual.  She needs to see that she can “do something right” to boost her self-confidence and begin coping with her ADHD. It will take time, but it’s completely possible. offers some excellent advice on preparing your child to leave home (go to college): These tips would help your daughter going away to photography school too.

Children must be allowed to fail to see what they can do on their own:

Good luck to you both!

ADDconnect Moderator, Author & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Jul 22, 2014 at 1:22pm

Hi. . . My situation is similar.  I would love to communicate with you privately if you are in the Southern California area.  Let me know.

Posted by jak on Jul 22, 2014 at 3:46pm

It will take her awhile to accept the things about ADD that are true for her, yet make her different than others her age.  She will not walk the same path that her friends do.  I hope she can accept this part of herself sooner rather than later.  She doesn’t know this yet, but there is no “right” way to launch into adulthood.  It will look different for everyone.

It’s taken me awhile to get to that point.  My ADD daughter quit college after her sophomore year to work in a warehouse.  That was not the parent plan.  She also pretty much quit communicating with us.  It took several years but we are back in contact.  She is still working at the warehouse and paying her bills.  I love her dearly and still am a bit sad that she is not using her gifts and talents.  But I have accepted that she must make her own choices, and I will love her wherever she is.  My very bright ADD Aspie son did not make it into the engineering program of his choice.  College is going to take him an extra two years.  His Dad is not happy about that.  But these kids really do think differently, process differently and do make choices the rest of us wonder at.

So, my advice to you would be help your daughter understand herself, what she is good at and what she will struggle with.  She will have to learn for herself how to organize.  It will look different than it will for anyone else.  There will be things she will struggle with for a long time.  For example, I have no sense of time.  I know I am supposed to be on time, but that does not help.  Making alarms for myself does help.  It’s certainly OK to not go to school for a few years.  Maybe she would like to get a job as a school photographer this fall and see where that would take her.  I’m thinking that Starbucks had strict guidelines on how things were to be done and that is a comforting thing for an ADD’er.  Structure is helpful especially if the ADD’er chooses to take it on themselves.

As parents we all have our woulda, coulda, shoulda’s.  My advice to you is to give yourself grace.  Accept that you did the best you could at the time.  Let the yuck from the past go.  Parenting is a complicated learn as you go process.  Love yourself and your daughters.  Involve them on this learning journey you’re all on.  Celebrate small triumphs.  Look for the good things.  Learn from mistakes and things gone wrong.  It’s a healthier way to go through life.  I’ve had to do all this.  It gets messy at times, but our kids are worth it.  <3

Posted by whizinc on Jul 22, 2014 at 9:34pm

Thanks for the replies.

As my daughter has struggled over the past few years, I’ve come to accept she will walk a different path than “high school-college-job” like I did and so many kids do. I’ve made it clear to her that there are many paths to independence and that I love her for who she is. However, SHE is very hard on herself, comparing herself to peers, to her non-ADHD younger sis (who doesn’t rub in in her nose, but who excels in school and at keeping a tidy room), and never forgetting the “when you go to college” conversations of her childhood. She was straight-A through 8th grade, and her late father’s dream was to make it possible for his kids go to college. I think she hears his voice and feels a sense that she is disappointing him. All these things could be worked on through counseling, but she is stubborn about refusing that.

I really wish we’d gotten her diagnosed sooner so I could have implemented more structure, more organization, etc. No teacher, doctor, counselor, or psychiatrist even mentioned ADHD. It was ME who saw a post in a parent forum about a girl like mine, and ME who said, after three years of unsuccessfully treating depression/anxiety, “do you think she might have an undiagnosed learning disability?”. Thank heavens for that post. At least we know what we’re dealing with now, and it explains a lot.

The more I read about ADHD, the better I understand it. I wish she would learn more about it too. I realize that “helping herself” means she will need to use organizational tactics, eat more nutritiously, exercise, break away from her social media addiction, consider supplements, etc. But she won’t let me help her and she’s not (yet) open to a coach. I guess I will just keep on being there to love her, encourage her to seek help, and let her try what she feels ready to do. I’m just worn out from mopping up her messes (just lost $400 for cancelling flights for a trip she wanted to take then refused to go on) and seeing her become more lonely from lost friendships.

The good thing is that she and I have a close relationship and she mostly comes to me for advice, just to talk, etc. I will nurture that and make sure she feels loved, but I’ll need to learn some boundaries of my “help” so I don’t make this a co-dependency.

Yes, whizinc, our kids are worth it. <3

Posted by Late2TheGame on Jul 26, 2014 at 5:55pm

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