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Parents of ADHD Teens and Young Adults

Help...13 Yr old going downhill

I am a soon to be step parent of a 13 year old boy with ADHD.  His name is Cody.  His father and he both live with me full time.  I have never had children.  I am Cody’s primary caregiver as his father works nights.  Cody is being treated with medications.  Everytime his dad tries to get him in to the phyciatrist, he is forced to work and has to cancel the appointment.  Cody seems to be getting worse.  He is on the verge of being suspended from school.  We have taken away all his privelages.  We give him chore lists.  We try to give him positive feedback, but that is less and less as he just acts out all the time.  When he is home with me he contiually lies about school and homework.  We put a plan together with his teachers and the teachers don’t follow through.  He is distructive, throwing rocks at windows and breaking things.  I just don’t know where to begin to help him.  His biological mother has given up on him and I want him to know that we love him very much and will do everything we can to help him.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this and offering any advice you can give.


I am sorry you are having this trouble.. As a mom of a 16 yr old , diagnosed at 4 I can so relate.. I would suggest, first off.. the need to get him to his Psychiatrist.. the meds may need to be changed or adjusted.. Even if it means Cody missing school.. I know from experience they let you take them out od school for Doctor appointments. Just need a note showing you were there.. You do not mention if he has an IEP.. Does he? This should be in place if he does not.. This ensures that all are on the same page with school. There are many accommodations which can be initiated.. such as a daily journal, signed by you and his teacher with assignments, extended time, the list is vast and individualized for the student.. All are then held accountable..  I found with my son, he was more accountable when he knew I would/could have daily communication with the teachers ( not so easy to do in High School) Has he been tested for any co morbid dx.. he sounds angry.. I read somewhere it is common for there to be more than one diagnosis with ADHD. such as OCD, Aspegers, ODO.. I mention this just a thought.. it could be as simple as medication change and school plan. I would strongly consider making the time for the Doc as a first step.. I am sure you will have many other, responses. As a single parent, I know there are many issues with the breakup of the family structure.. I do feel, being proactive ( oh they will protest ) will reap rewards in the long term outcome.. Good luck to you.. Please keep us informed..

Posted by sunnydays on Oct 28, 2013 at 11:19pm

One more thing, some of this could be normal teenage behavior.. mixed in with the diagnosis of ADHD/ADD.. always a challenge.. feel free to email if you need to vent..

Posted by sunnydays on Oct 28, 2013 at 11:21pm

Thank you.  He is in IEP.  We have daily communications with the teachers.  Cody just seams to not even care.  We are finally getting him back into the Psychiatrist next week.  Our call from the school today included that they are on the verge of suspending him.

Posted by Cberry99 on Oct 29, 2013 at 1:18am

sounds like you are doing all the right things.. I am sure he does not like it but in time, he will appreciate the help you are both giving him.. please keep me informed on how it is going..

Posted by sunnydays on Oct 29, 2013 at 1:28am

Good on you for trying to do what you can. ADHD is tough even for us seasoned parents. ADHD kids have issues processing and expressing their emotions. I suspect he’s got some anger issues over his mom. He’s got to have a place to deal with that, be it the psychiatrist or counselor. You could also benefit from counseling and parenting classes.
Schedule and routine are needed with ADHD kids with clear rules and consequences. If you make their lives miserable because they are who they are, they will stop caring. But if you help them and provide support they need, you can get great results. But it’s a constant every day thing that you can’t get lax with.
He’s a lucky kid to have you in his life.

Posted by adhdmom2000 on Oct 29, 2013 at 8:32am

adhdmom2000, a lightbulb just went off in my head reading your post.  I think that he is now at the point of not caring so we need to start now being more supportive and helpful to him.  His dad loves to spend time with him doing father son things.  We are trying to get him another appointment with the psychiatrist. I am going to find some parenting classes.  This site is so great and gives me hope that things will get better. Today will be a test.  Cody got in a bad fight at school last friday and the school has said he gets one more chance before they suspend or expell him.  He has a fieldtrip today so I’m quite nervous.

Posted by Cberry99 on Oct 29, 2013 at 5:05pm

I would like to add two things to what the others have already said:

(1) Ask the principal/IEP team for a Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) that would become part of his IEP. Usually they start by doing a Functional Behavioral Analysis meeting with a Behavioral Specialist (usually employed by the school). The school should have already suggested this on their own, but we seasoned parents know the school doesn’t offer to help our kids 99% of the time—we have to ask, then we have to push to ensure it is seen through.

(2) Read the book The Explosive Child by Dr. Ross Greene. This book changed my family and my son isn’t even explosive. This is a must read right away—most libraries will carry it. Employing the collaborative methods in this book will show your son that you want to work with him, not against him. It will also help you teach him the skills he’s lacking so he can handle himself better. I’d guess he has low frustration tolerance from his behavior and Greene addresses how to improve that at length in the book. As well, he has a free website with a lot of the information at

ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Oct 29, 2013 at 5:53pm

I wish I would have seen your email before I went to lunch.  I just bought 2 books.  Disconnected Kids and ADHD and me.  I will definately pick up the book you suggested.  I think the more I read the better I understand and can help Cody.  I’m going to check out eh website now.  Thanks so much everyone for all your help!

Posted by Cberry99 on Oct 29, 2013 at 9:25pm

I am involved in a parent’s group for parents with prodigal children.  The leader is a respected clinical psychologist in the community who also experienced the challenges of a prodigal child.

In our group we see the same scenario over and over.  Just about all our children have some kind of diagnosis for learning disabilities, depression, etc.    It seems like 13-14 years are when the children start manifesting/acting out these and other issues they have.  It is very scary!  It is soooo easy to be in denial and let things “slide” hoping they will get better on their own, or that something “magical” will happen like a person coming into their life to “straighten” up their thinking.

I know, because I was in denial 15 years ago when my now 29 y/o daughter began to spiral out of control.  I wanted an easy fix;  took her to counseling, but it wasn’t often or enough.  Take the advice given here, but remember: you didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, you can’t cure it.  Take care of yourself. 

You and your husband need to address this even if it takes sacrifices you don’t think you can make now.  I don’t want to sound alarmist, but this won’t go away on it’s own.  From what you’ve said your son is at risk for causing everyone more heartbreak and sacrifice than you can ever imagine with a child.


Posted by nancychef on Oct 30, 2013 at 4:47pm

I am sorry for your troubles. You are in a difficult position as you are not even the step parent yet. That is a lot of responsibility for you. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is common among children with ADHD and should not be ignored. As someone who works in a school system, I want to point out that it is very difficult for schools to help these kids. If you as the parents are having difficulty finding ways to work with your child, the school has no magic. In fact, often hands are tied as to using any meaningful consequences at school, so please don’t be so quick to assume that the schools don’t want to help. Even following IEPs and 504 Plans to the letter does not mean that the child will not fail or engage in bad behavior. The school cannot make the child complete work or study, they can only provide assistance. I would take the child to the psychiatrist, but know that there is no quick fix to this problem. He did not become this way overnight and will not be fixed overnight. This is a long road. Best of luck and make sure you have support for yourself as this will make your new life together very stressful.

Posted by TB on Oct 30, 2013 at 5:19pm

Last night was such a good night with Cody.  I can tell he’s trying.  I just found out also that his mom doesn’t want to keep him every other weekend now.  She only wants him 1 day over the weekend.  Yet she wants to call and argue with our parenting.  My heart is breaking for Cody.  I’m so happy, his dad wants to read the books I bought.  I think if he and I educate ourselves it will help.  adhdmomma, I did find out lastnight that an BIP was done for Cody 2 schools ago.  If I request one from the school, do they have to do it, can they deny it?
Thanks again everyone.

Posted by Cberry99 on Oct 30, 2013 at 6:27pm

The school has no incentive to deny Cody a behavior plan. However, as I said in my earlier post, they have to find incentives that he is willing to work for as well as consequences that are meaningful and that they are allowed to implement. Don’t assume they are not trying to accomplish that. Doing a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) may be a part of their process, but again it is not going to change his behavior on its own, just like you all haven’t found a way to change his behavior at home. It doesn’t help that his own mother only wants him 1 day a week. He may be waiting for you and his father to not want him anymore either and may continue to push buttons to see how far he has to take it before you don’t want him.

Posted by TB on Oct 30, 2013 at 6:52pm

Well I have hit another road block.  I called to make Cody an appointment with his pyschiatrist and because we had to cancel his last appointment due to his dad being forced to work, the pyschiatrist refuses to see him again.  I have a call into another pyschiatrist so here we are starting over with another evaluation and taking longer to get Cody the help he needs.  This is so frustrating!  Since we aren’t married yet and I am not a legal guardian the doctors won’t let me take Cody in so his dad is the only one that will take him.

Posted by Cberry99 on Oct 30, 2013 at 9:07pm

Wow, Cberry99, you are going through a lot, but you have been given great advice from the other members who can relate and have experience with this kind of situation.  And good for you for caring so much about this kid that you are willing to do all that it takes to help him!!!  People like that are hard to find.  I wish I had had someone like that in my life when I was going through my rough years in school.

I don’t really have any helpful advice; I just wanted to say that I had undiagnosed mental illness as a child, namely ADHD (probably depression and OCD as well), and no matter how much trouble I got into, how suicidal I got, etc., no one was willing to help me.  It got worse around the time of puberty, 12-14 years old were the worst for me.  I got in trouble with the police and was told one more screw-up and I was going to juvy.  The police told my mom to get me counseling and when they called to see how it was going weeks later, she lied and said it was going good, when in reality she wouldn’t let me go.  She told me we couldn’t afford it.  She was a single mom living off of my dad’s $600 child support a month for the both of us.  But she was lying because I had good health insurance through my father (who I never had a relationship with).  A friend of mine who had gotten in trouble with me was going to the counseling and she was getting a lot of help from it, even though she was resistant at first.  I felt bad that I couldn’t go.  So maybe getting him counseling, as already suggested, would be helpful, even if he’s resistant at first.

I was self-destructive (cutting myself, using drugs and alcohol) while it sounds like your soon-to-be step-son is acting outwards.  Adolescence is an immensely challenging time.  I wish adults would have stepped in and helped me when I obviously needed professional help, but for whatever reason, they just wouldn’t.  Even the school system didn’t do anything.  They didn’t even tell my mother when they found a note I had written a friend of mine talking all about the weed we had smoked that weekend and how it had f-ed up my brain and I was talking and writing in 3-word sentences!!  I was so scared when I went into the social worker’s office and they showed me the letter.  They ended up folding it back up and gave it back to me, and said I could leave!!

Anyway, sorry for rambling, but my point is, don’t give up on this kid!  From your posts, though, I can tell you won’t.  He will definitely be very grateful when he looks back at this troubling time.  He’s probably very scared and hurt inside and needs all the support he can get.  Keep on keepin’ on!!

Posted by LittleD1981 on Oct 31, 2013 at 1:03am

LittleD1981, thank you so much.  Your story makes me so mad that noone stepped into thelp you.  There is no way I’m giving up on Cody.  I know what it is like being rejected by a parent.  Anyway, thank you for your story.  And you can ramble to me anytime you would like.

Posted by Cberry99 on Oct 31, 2013 at 1:21am

Cberry99, You are on the right path. You are making an effort to learn more and do what you can to help Cody. He is lucky. Don’t beat yourself up on how long it takes to affect change for him—the learning curve for ADHD is steep and long. Took me about 2 years to know my son and his behaviors well enough to really begin to help him.

ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Oct 31, 2013 at 4:34pm

Thank you Penny.  This is so exhausting.  Everyday is something new.  Everyday its a new email from his teacher.  I am exhausted today with all this.  But this too shall pass I hope.

Posted by Cberry99 on Nov 01, 2013 at 12:30am

Wow! Cherry99,
You are building a wonderful, safe place for this young man.

Posted by John Tucker, PhD, ACG. ADHD Coach on Nov 22, 2013 at 3:20pm

LittleD1981, thank you so much for sharing your story! I’m also very sorry that no one stepped in to help you along the way. Our 13 year old is having a lot of problems and even with counseling and therapy, supportive parents and family, he still fell through the cracks. We have since discovered that in addition to ADHD, he also has some mental health problems. Everything kind of crashed when he hit puberty…we’re all trying to pick up the pieces now and move forward.
Thank you all for sharing your stories…it helps so much.  Take care.

Posted by mick5719 on Nov 22, 2013 at 7:49pm

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