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Parents of ADHD Teens and Young Adults

young adult transition

My son turned 18 last summer. Diagnoses are ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, conduct disorder. He should have graduated last year, but literally sat in school and did nothing. He attended school through december, then dropped out. When he turned 18 he quit taking meds. In January he moved 3 hours away. He lived with friends, and after 3 months had gone through 2 jobs and couldn’t find another, thus couldn’t pay bills. He’s moving home today.

My anxiety over this is through the roof. He’s explosive (but never physically harms anyone), argumentative, and yet can be the sweetest young man ever. Trying to get him to shower regularly, clean up after himself, save any money, or hold down a job are impossible things for him. Last year he had 8 jobs in 12 months. He’d either quit because the “manager was stupid” “they won’t give me hours”, etc. or just plain get fired. We didn’t even want him to work, we wanted him to graduate high school.

I’ve told him that there are stipulations if he moves home. He agreed to them.  I don’t expect that to last. I don’t know what to do though. I don’t want him to be homeless. But I also don’t know how much we can help him if he’s not willing to help himself.

Someone, please tell me the direction to go. He’ll just tell me to quit nagging on him, and he won’t listen to anyone. I’m dreading the moment he walks in the door. How can I help??


I feel for you. I know you feel like you are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

But I think you already know what you SHOULD do, but perhaps you are just not prepared to do it.

In reading your note, it is clear that you already realize that he is not going to follow your “stipulations” (and it’s probably clear to him that he will get away with it if he doesn’t).

The reality is, stipulations or not, in all likelihood he is going to continue to do what he’s always done—until something clicks in his head and he decides he doesn’t want to live that way any more (and obviously that hasn’t happened).

And you are going to continue to do what you’ve always done, until you decide you don’t want to live like that anymore.

The way I see it, you have two choices for how you handle this:

1. You can decide that he can live there no matter what and that you"ll put up with all of it. I know you are probably thinking, “no way, I’m not going to do that.” but really, this is essentially the option you are picking if you set stipulations that you are not prepared to follow through on.  If you choose this option, then you need to choose it with the knowledge that you are not helping him by doing this; you are just helping yourself—so you can feel good about ‘helping’ him, and don’t have to feel bad about the prospect of him having to be ‘homeless’.


2. You can set some firm non-negotiable ground rules for your house (not in an attempt to change or control him but to merely state clearly what you will and won’t tolerate in YOUR house, like cleanliness issues, mutual respect issues, financial contributions, etc.) and you make it very clear today the minute he walks in the door that the very split second he breaks any of them, he must leave; no second chances, no listening to excuses. 

And then, when it happens (which it likely will), you MUST follow through. You will have to go deaf to his excuses and guilt trips and excuses. You will have to push your bad feelings aside and follow through—for your sake as well as his.

Will that be easy? No, it’ll be the hardest thing you ever do. Of course you don’t WANT him to be homeless. But the fact is, if he breaks the stipulations (stipulations that he knew ahead of time, and knew from you that he would have to leave if he broke them), then HE is deciding to be homeless; you didn’t decide for him.

The bottom line is that it’s normal that you want to help him but you need to realize that sheltering him from consequences is not helping, it’s essentially clipping his wings.

It’s time for you to let him figure his life out for himself, and time for you to decide how you want to live your life (preferably in a way that doesn’t involve you feeling stress, anxiety and dread every day! That’s no way to live!)

All of this reminds me of that saying: sometimes the RIGHT thing to do is not the EASY thing to do. I encourage you to get some help and support for yourself so you can deal with all the feelings that will come up as you follow through and do the hard (but right) things.

I wish you the best.

Joyce Mabe
Parenting Coach, mom of adult son with ADHD, author

Posted by parentcoachjoyce on Apr 02, 2017 at 4:46pm

I’m sorry you are going through this. My son turned 18 last summer. He graduates in June high school. He got accepted to UCLA. My husband worked with him or on him since 6 grade, we got him therapy then cause he was depressed in a gifted school and didn’t have friends. We would be on him daily to do homework study cause his ADHD made him very lazy. In high school he made friends and seemed happier. He is very smart but can be lazy. He got all A’s in high school but like I said we rode his a$$ about it. Finally in 12 grade he started to mature and now does his work without us telling him to. And taking his medicine daily on his own. My advice to you would be to ride him, nag to get a job and start taking medication so he can focus. Maybe get him therapy too . Good luck

Posted by Pink ginger on Apr 02, 2017 at 4:48pm

He was in counseling and was medicated from age 3-18. I did ride him every single day about homework. He’s watched his sister graduate with honors, full scholarships. She rode him every day too. He would not bring homework home. He said it was stupid and a waste to get a diploma (I have a masters degree, and he sees where it got me). He was independent with medication, knew it worked. He slid through his senior year in a school that didn’t care (and no option to send him anywhere else until we moved). The day he turned 18 he stopped meds and counseling. Started his new school in August and it was even worse than before. It is like he has a “rules don’t apply to me” attitude. he still thinks he did nothing wrong in all the jobs he had and it was always bad managers.

Posted by sdhrmom on Apr 02, 2017 at 5:35pm

Joyce, thank you. #2 is where we are. This is what led to him leaving in January. We told him education or he’s paying rent or out the door. He left in the middle of the night that night. I watched him beg for help from family (who didn’t give in) and stumble a lot. He now says life kicked him in the *$$. Thank God for that realization.

I hope he gets the help he needs. Or once again, he’ll be out. We only texted each other during his time away, and that wasn’t often. that seems to work best for us. I think I’ll type up some rules today before he arrives.

Oh and I plan to call and get some counseling for myself, hopefully my husband will attend some as well.

Posted by sdhrmom on Apr 02, 2017 at 5:43pm

Hi sdhrmom,

I understand your feelings. You don’t want to see your son homeless. I can put all kinds of limits but I would never allow my son to be homeless. I may not be as strong as I should be or as smart as I should be, but a son of mine wouldn’t end up on the street unless I have no way to keep him off the street.

To me, that is a line that I will not cross no matter what specialist with how many degrees says so. However, I would set other rules and use other bargain chips.

I relaxed my demands as much as I could so that I could focus in the most important expectations.
Even if I don’t like it, he takes a shower, cleans his room, etc., when and if he wants. I just settle for the common areas like the kitchen, the family room, etc., where he has to keep tidy and help with the chores that keep the house going.

In my case, I want my son to stay out of addictions, avoid violent behaviors (he is very strong and he needs to be careful not to damage things or people), and eventually become a productive and self sufficient adult.

My son’s behavior since he became 18 until he became 22 was pretty much what you just described. Doing nothing besides playing video games, not caring about school, etc.

Now he is 24 and he works hard. He has understood the practical value of dressing properly and doing his laundry or keeping his bedroom fairly free of garbage or dirt or mess. It may take a life time, but we are all learning throughout or entire lives. 

Also, now that he works he gets more respect from people. He used to be embarrassed by questions about his education or occupation because he had nothing to show, and those kinds of questions are very normal when our social circle is adults more or less my age that have children more or less his age.

He understands now that his income makes our lives better. He is saving for his studies, and he has put aside enough money for his tuition for a tech training that pays better than his current job and will allow him to save for the university.

However, I speak to him every day. I let him see my point of view. For example, no matter how hard I try, I won’t last forever, and he has to become self sufficient way before I am gone.

I have my own issues too. I am not perfect, but I can tell he is growing and improving even if it takes time.

Posted by najn on Apr 02, 2017 at 10:48pm

My husband and I are both professionals. We can’t stand it when someone reeks of body odor, and we have to give discipline at our jobs (manufacturing) frequently because of it. I’m not sure if I can let it go honestly. When we get “his” bedroom finished in the basement (new house and the basement isn’t finished yet) I may ease up on that issue. But right now, it’s the first room people walk by if they go to the restroom, and you can see it from the dining room. In the past he’s been so smelly that it’s embarassing and smells up the house.

Posted by sdhrmom on Apr 03, 2017 at 12:15am

I would sit down and write up a contract with him—what you expect from him and what he can expect from you. You can stipulate that he must get ADHD treatment in order to remain at home. And maybe a job or enrollment in school. And he can expect from you a roof over his head, support and help with his ADHD, treating him like an independent young adult, etc. This will show him that you’re on his side, but that he will have to do what is necessary to be a pleasant part of the household/family.

Here’s a great article on this as well:

ADDconnect Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

Posted by adhdmomma on Apr 03, 2017 at 2:40pm

I know I’ve said a lot already, but I’d like to chime in and say that I love the jointly written contract idea especially if you give him some input; that way he will feel like he has a little more buy-in because he helped create the stipulations.

In response to some other comments above, I’d like to say that one last thing about the whole “homeless” issue. I understand that to some parents, telling their ‘adult child’ to leave is a “line they would never cross”. I get it; that’s up to each individual parent to decide. All I’m saying is this: WHATEVER consequences you state in your stipulations, it’s important that you be emotionally and physically prepared to follow through. If you are not, then don’t make it a consequence. It’s much worse to not follow through on an ultimatum than to fail to set one to begin with.

(And I think it’s worth mentioning that there are a lot of ways you can “help” an adult child that don’t involve having him live in your home. Sometimes living together is just not a good idea anymore for either of you, and that’s okay.)

But in situations like the one we’re commenting on where an adult child leaves and then wants to come back, the bottom line to keep in mind is this: once a child turns 18, you no longer have a legal obligation to put a roof over his head. Therefore, after a child turns 18, he needs to realize that living with you is a privilege, not a right. That means you get to decide things for your house and your living environment, like—levels of cleanliness (and odor!), how people are treated, etc.—and he gets to decide if the pros of having the privilege to live there outweigh the cons of having to make some changes in order to meet your stipulations, or the cons of having to couch surf or whatever.

One of the most important things you can do for your child at any age, regardless of whether or not they have ADHD, is to allow him to learn that his choices and decisions have consequences (good and bad).

Joyce Mabe
Parenting Coach, mom of adult son with ADHD, author

Posted by parentcoachjoyce on Apr 03, 2017 at 4:35pm

Great points. Well, he was originally to be here friday. He stayed with BIL friday and saturday, then spending some time at a friend’s since. We haven’t seen him.

Posted by sdhrmom on Apr 05, 2017 at 12:39am

Here’s an update: He went back to the city where he was living. The next day he found out his roommate didn’t pay rent, so they’ll be evicted. His roommate has a place to go with family, where my son isn’t allowed. I’m not sure where he will end up, and oddly I’m not worried.

Posted by sdhrmom on Apr 08, 2017 at 12:57pm

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