How to Help Your ADHD Teen Transition to Adulthood

The teen years are an exercise in patience, persistence, and trying to stay calm; this is true for teens and parents alike! It can be overwhelming for a teen to make the transition to adulthood, and it’s stressful for mom and dad, too. If your teenager has ADHD, this can be even more of a stress-inducing time. The good news is that if you have a plan to get your teen to the point of independence, it’s likely to work out. The majority of teenagers with ADHD are able to live independent lives. Check out this list of ways that you can help your ADHD teen take the steps needed to enter adulthood with confidence.

How ADHD Can Affect Adults

In some cases, particularly when a teen has been treated properly with medication and/or therapy, the symptoms of ADHD can resolve or become drastically reduced by the time they reach adulthood. Any symptoms that do remain can often be handled with either continued medication or coping strategies learned during childhood or adolescence. This is one reason why it’s important to get your ADHD teen the help he or she needs now if they haven’t already been receiving treatment for ADHD.

Other times, people will continue to struggle with ADHD throughout adulthood. Here are a few examples of how ADHD can impact young adults if not dealt with properly.

  • difficulty keeping up with college classes
  • difficulty maintaining a romantic relationship
  • trouble meeting deadlines
  • trouble staying organized

When young adults have never been diagnosed with ADHD but still struggle with the symptoms, it can lead to the following:

  • low self-esteem
  • depression
  • anxiety

If this happens with your adult child, you can encourage him or her to seek the care of a mental health professional or someone who specializes in ADHD in adults.

Helping Your Teen Learn Responsibility

While your ADHD teen is still in your home and under your care, you should be making sure that he or she is learning responsibility and how to care for him- or herself. Basic responsibilities that your teen should accomplish before leaving for college include:

  • waking up for school on their own with an alarm clock
  • getting themselves ready for school and out of the house on time
  • turning in homework assignments on time

Setting up routines and insisting that your teen stick to those routines can go a long way toward helping them stay on track.

In addition, your teen should be starting to make his or her own decisions about things such as:

  • what to eat
  • when to exercise
  • when they might need to see a doctor

While you should be overseeing these choices (and insisting on medical care when it’s necessary, even if your teen doesn’t agree), it’s important that your son or daughter learn to take care of his or her own body. Your teen should also be working on managing schoolwork by learning time-management techniques. This will serve your teen well for the rest of his or her life.

Teaching Your ADHD Teen How to Manage Money

Because an ADHD teen can be very impulsive, some parents find it difficult to teach them how to manage money appropriately. For example, your teen might agree to save a percentage of any money he or she receives so they can buy a car, but then end up spending it all on movies with friends or on clothes. Teaching your teen how to budget and opening up a checking account for your teen with your name on as a co-signer can help prepare him or her for this aspect of adult life.

One thing that might help your teen become more motivated to learn to manage money well is for him or her to get a part-time job. While getting an allowance and birthday money is nice, once your teen starts earning his or her own money, managing it well can take on a new importance. Work with your teen to help them find a job that will be accommodating to his or her special needs. Also, encourage your teen to talk to the supervisor about what those needs are; if necessary, you can accompany your child, but do encourage him or her to do the talking.

Coaching Your Teenager on Communication

Many teens with ADHD struggle with is communicating well with others. Sometimes the problem is that it’s hard for them to focus on difficult or challenging conversations. Other times, teens with ADHD also have social anxiety, which can make it hard for them to know what to say. There’s also the possibility that your teen is simply relying too much on electronic communication, such as email and texting, and that he or she falters when it’s time to have an in-person or even a telephone conversation.

Work with your teen on improving their communication skills. A few examples of how you might do this include:

  • role-playing for common scenarios, such as how to approach a teacher about getting extra help or how to ask a boss for a week off for a family vacation
  • encouraging your teen to get involved with social activities, such as taking a public speaking class or joining an organization like Toastmasters, which helps people learn vital communication skills.

Getting Transitional Care for Your Teen With ADHD

It’s important to understand that when a teen has a special need such as ADHD, adolescence might be drawn out a bit and that they might need help into their early 20s or beyond. You don’t necessarily have to be the one providing that extra coaching. Before your teen reaches adulthood, talk to his or her mental health professionals about how they can help your child transition into a new phase of life. Keep in mind that it will now be up to your adult child to get the help he or she needs. While you can certainly help, ask how your teen’s mental health care team can begin to transfer your teen’s responsibility more onto his or her own shoulders and off of yours.

Letting teens go is difficult for any parent, but it can be particularly challenging when the adolescent has a mental health condition such as ADHD. Talk to your teen’s health care providers about how to make the transition easier for all involved.

Further Reading