Striking the right balance of support with young-adults during their post-secondary years is tricky business. For one, our society is chock-full of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” when it comes to launching young-adults. And yet each young-adult has unique areas of brilliance and room for growth.
So why should we guide each young-adult (ADHD or neurotypical) the same way?
The short answer is …… we shouldn’t.
I have fallen prey to society’s shoulds and shouldnts with my own son, which is part of the reason I’m writing this blog.
Here are five parenting tips I’ve learned as a parent and professional to support young adults with ADHD.
1. Kick your “shoulds” to the curb
One unfortunate truth is that the world is full of unqualified, well-meaning advice-givers. You know the type who loves to gossip about what everyone should or shouldn’t be doing?
That’s why it’s so important that we as parents learn to trust ourselves and professionals skilled in ADHD when it comes to supporting our young adults.
One thing that helps me is to maintain firm boundaries about the personal information I share about each of my “kids”. You may be snickering to yourselves given the fact that I wrote a memoir about raising my son (Raising Will: Surviving the Brilliance and Blues of ADHD) but the information I shared was vetted by family. My point is, you and your family get to decide who has the privilege of hearing your story.
2. Stop Comparing
As I said earlier, every young-adult has unique strengths and challenges. That’s why it’s so important to take your young-adult’s unique skillset into consideration and support them accordingly.
If your young-adult brightens in woodshop class, yet digs in his heals when encouraged to apply to college, this is important information to investigate. Who cares if everyone else in your family attended a four-year university?
The question you need to ask yourself is what interests your young-adult.
Why not encourage him to pursue what interests him?
And guess what? Your young-adults’ interests will evolve as he/she/they mature. Most ADHDers reach their stride a few years later than their peers.
Why are we pushing our kids to race through life’s hoops?
3. Become a Better Listener
One of the best things you can do for your young-adult is to become a better listener. Here’s an excellent short Ted Talk on Ten Ways to Have a Better Conversation and on how to become a better listener.
I often advise the young-adults I work with to set the stage with their parents when they want to have a successful, yet charged conversation.
- Here’s an email I just sent to a young-adult client who asked me for support on how to talk with his parents about his interest in attending technical school versus a traditional 4-year college setting:
- Approach your parents and ask if you can talk with them at a specific time.
- Don’t let the conversation happen until both parents are present and you have their full attention. Ask them to listen to you first before they say anything.
- Explain your feelings about a 4-year college (e.g., it triggers feelings of panic, low confidence, anger).
- Let them know that you aren’t entirely against attending a 4-year college, but you aren’t interested in pursuing it right now.
- Share how excited you are about attending technical school (e.g., you love building, you find it calming, you connect with others in this line of work) and tell them what you’ve done to learn about programs in your area of interest.
4. Foster Independence
As a mother of a college-aged son with ADHD, I understand how scary it can feel to let go. I often have to remind myself that my son (and young-adults in general) needs to have the freedom to flounder sometimes in order to grow.
My son kindly (and not so kindly sometimes) reminds me that while he understands that my desire to “help” is well-meaning, it can feel stifling as @#$% sometimes. And he occasionally needs to vent about how horrible various aspects of his life feel, without me doing anything but listen.
One expert in the area of fostering independence in teens and young-adults is child and adolescent psychologist, Dr. Bill Strixrud, PhD. His talk entitled, The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control, is excellent and well-worth your time.
5.Focus on Yourself
This has forced me to get better at taking care of myself. When I feel overwhelmed by his floundering, I try to shift my attention to something I can control, like my own life. This is where my yoga practice comes in very handy. Instead of obsessing about how my son will solve his next problem, I grab my yoga mat and head to a calm space to regroup and focus on me.
Your friend and ADHD support,