Teen son struggling with ADHD

It is such a relief to find a place to talk to people about what my son has been struggling with for years. He is 15 years old and has just finished his first quarter of his freshman year in high school. He barely got by with all Cs and one B. His teachers e-mail me regularly about him - missing assignments, seeming disinterested, etc. He is on medication and I just recently found a coach in our area that helps teens with executive function strategies. I worry sick about him and cry a lot, because I feel like no one understands what I am going through. I always feel like teachers and other adults think I am not a good parent (maybe...I'm not :-(). I just want the best for my son, who I know is an intelligent person and an amazing boy. I watch him and feel like he struggles internally. I know he wants to please, but I don't think he knows how. It feels good just to talk about it with others who might understand. Thanks for listening.

32 Replies

  • Hi,

    I have been where you are and in fact wrote an ebook about it and became a parenting coach/consultant for parents of teens with ADHD because of it!

    You can find my book on Amazon: "Parenting teens with ADHD: practical parenting and mindset strategies that will take you from chaos to calm," and my website (where I share lots of free info and resources as well as offer 1 to 1 help) is parentcoachjoyce.com.

    I wish you all the best!

    Joyce Mabe

  • Thank you, Joyce! I am going to check your website out.

  • I feel the same. Trust me your son is doing very well. Never blame yourself. Somethings we can not control. And you never know what tomorrow brings. Our kids will be stronger individuals and they will grow up at some point and will be able to understand. I wish you the best ...

  • You're definitely not alone, I have 15 yr old son and feel the EXACT way!!! Some days I see him progress with social things or school and I'm overjoyed but it's slow progression/baby steps.

    Is he open to seeing someone to help? That is awesome!!! That is a huge step!

  • Thank you! He fights me about seeing someone. We just recently signed up with an ADHD coach in our area that is going to try to help him with executive function skills. My biggest problem right now, though, is his grades and acting out to be funny in class in front of his peers. I get e-mails from teachers all the time.

  • Me too!

  • My 13 year old son has ADHD and sounds similar to your son. The Executive Skills therapy has helped my son. When I have a conversation with my son I’m so impressed with how intelligent he is. Yet his grade aren’t a reflection of his intelligence . His handwriting is barely legible. I know it’s frustrating trying to help your child to do their best to succeed . Your concerned, your getting him help and your reaching out to others . I think that makes you a wonder and caring parent. Good luck and stay strong .

  • This sounds like my 13 year life son too. His words are beyond hurtful, he is angry and so down on himself.

  • I have a 12 year old and feel the exact same way. You are not alone!! There are an army of us out there. Hang in there. It’s tough.

  • I feel the exact same way with my 10 yr old! Some days are good and some are bad..on those bad days I cry myself to sleep with the same worries. You are not alone!!! (Im worried how he is going to do middle school next year..yikes!)

  • how do you help your son socially? i cry because he has no friends. i have a couple of activities for him each week. sometimes i feel bad for him he loves having fun with kids his but his behavior sometimes puts them off

  • My son struggles immensely in his social life. He does have a couple friends, but sometimes they disappear for a while and my kid is labeled as a jerk. Which he really is- most of the time!! I think our kids get frustrated when they aren't sizing up to their peers, so they kind of lash out at them from time to time. My son has been in both positions as the bully and being bullied because he can't do some of the executive functioning skills that his friends can. It really is sad. We as parents want to fix it for them, but sadly there is no fix. All we can do is educate ourselves on how to parent them when the face these daily struggles.

  • Lindsay- how old is your son? My son is 15 and has no friends to speak of. He is in his second year of high school and has never been invited socially to do anything with a ‘friend.’ It kills me to see him excluded from everything. I’m looking for help on this site with ideas to get him help in this area.

  • We're trying Boy Scouts and a social skills group. I'm hoping it helps. He seems to be enjoying Scouts, has now had 3 meetings and is thinking about joining a winter camping trip!

  • I continue to be frustrated by the lack of knowledge and even lack of desire to understand the disorder within school systems. When it comes to brain disorders, people that don't have kids with the disorder tend to dismiss it. There's a ton of bad information, conspiracy theories, and opinions not backed by science and this is clouding the issue and confusing people. Other parents and teachers that smugly declare that "it's poor parenting" are either too lazy or too stupid to do the research. Don't respect their views until they back it with scientific evidence.

  • I am very frustrated as well. I am dealing with e-mails from teachers every day who think he is a bad kid. It is hard to read the e-mails, and it feels overwhelming at times. I don't endorse what he is doing - trying to get attention and be funny in class - but it is like the teachers have just given up on him. It makes me want to cry.

  • Totally agree, teachers are not educated regarding ADHD and ADD and the aren't listening, at least in my area. My son has ADD or ADHD inattentive, so I don't get complaints about disruptive behavior but he doesn't talk much to teachers or kids that aren't his friends in class. So he slips throw the cracks and at teacher conference EVERY TIME EVERY YEAR all I hear is how quiet my son is.

  • This is our son. Adhd inattentive. Has frustration and anger issues. Is your son on meds? Which one?

  • My son is on Quillivant XR. We are still working on getting the proper dose for him. Just getting him to take something has been a struggle.

  • I have a almost 13year old grandson who has a lot of the same problems. He also has trouble making friends and I think making people laugh makes him feel like he is connecting although it drives the teachers crazy.

    B's and C's sound good to me. At least he is passing. I regularly email his teachers. He often goes for tutorials before school where he works much better one on one with the teachers. Sometimes just the regular noise of a classroom fulI of kids is distracting for him. I must say the teachers have been great about helping him with this.

  • OMG! My 13 year old has the same problems. I wish there were get togethers where us parents could meet and talk about things. I have ups and downs. Right now I am down because my son is failing 3 classes and doesn't seem to care. Besides dealing with ADHD, being below level in reading, his dad (my husband) is deployed with the Air Force. I am worn out! We both just need to put our heads down and move forward. We, along with out kids, will make it.

  • I totally agree. I wish I could meet more often in person with people that were going through the same thing. I have found this group to be really helpful, though. It is nice just to talk to people who understand what you are going through. My son is not failing, but he regularly doesn't care about schoolwork. It is a struggle. That must be incredibly hard with his dad deployed. I can't even imagine. We just need to support each other and keep doing the best we can for our kids. I refuse to give up on my son...even on my worst days.

  • My son too below grade level reading, special needs brother and father unemployed z in addition his younger brother is very successful and organized. I️ am cryingmyself tonsleep.

  • We are always taking care of everyone else. We all need to take care of our selves too. Sometimes we forget that. Keep your head up.

  • First of all, I would insist on a 504 plan, at the very least. An IEP would be even better because schools seem to take this more seriously. I would also see if you can speak with his teachers about decreasing homework, checking for assignments, etc. It's been my experience that I had to advocate for my son all through high school because the school did not seem to care if he was there or not. You might also have to be content with C's and not insist on the A's, even if you're certain he can do better. The medication will help, but sometimes has to adjusted on a regular basis.

  • Thank you so much for your response. I am working on getting a 504 in place for him now. I think it is going to take a month to get that going, though. I have e-mailed all of his teachers, and a couple of them have agreed to work with me on assignments, etc. so that is encouraging. I definitely am having to get heavily involved. Talked to his guidance counselor on Friday, and she seemed completely disengaged from my concerns and acted like the freshman year was "just hard for kids". I am trying to alter my expectations. I know he is capable of so much more but until I can get things more stabilized, I think this is all I can ask for. He is on Quillivant, but I feel like it is not working at all. The feedback I am getting from a few of his teachers leads me to believe it is off. I have an appointment with the dr who prescribes the medication this week and hope to see what I can do there.

    It has been exhausting and hard to help my son. It definitely feels most times like we are alone on an island. But, I refuse to let his ship sink.

  • You could be talking about my 15 year old son. He has already had one suspension and two detentions this year and is flunking algebra. I am a social worker so I feel I should know how to help... not with this one! How did you find a coach? I am thinking of going to his case worker at school and asking for some more accommodations in certain classes, such as shorter tests in Algebra... I am very scared and concerned for his future as his memory and executive functioning skills are very affected by his Adhd

  • My son is also doing very poorly in Algebra. So far, he has been able to maintain a very low C but a lot of Fs on tests. Right now, I have him a tutor to try to help. So far, it hasn't done much good, but I am sticking with it. I have also had a meeting with a guidance counselor and started the process to get 504 accommodations.

    I found a coach because I was searching on Google for "best ADHD counselor" in my area. A bunch of links came up but then I cross-referenced some of the names with people on the CHADD website. I was looking for a counselor/coach for executive functioning more than just a resource for diagnosis and medication. You should try the CHADD website. There is a lot of really good information and resources out there.

    I also just recently increased my son's medication slightly.

    Bottom line: I am doing everything I can as a mom to help put things in place to help my son, but as I have been watching, I realize a good part of the success here will depend on my son stepping up and accepting responsibility for some of his success. I am waiting for it to "click" and hope it does. The coach assures me it will happen at some point but it may take longer. I have also been told it may not be a bad thing for him to "fail", as it will help him to understand the consequences. That is a very hard thing to do as a parent when you understand the ramifications of their decisions. However, I am starting to buy into that approach.

    I hope this helps. Always happy to share my experiences. I still struggle every day, so hearing from other parents is always helpful!

  • As an adult with ADHD who works in education I want to point out that your son is getting respectable grades. Cs and Bs are good. I got Ds to Bs in high school regularly because the pacing of the material and the way it was taught was just so uninteresting to me that I learned to simply pass with a minimum grade. However when I got to community college the way those classes were taught made it easy to excel with mostly As and Bs.

    Seeing the material that is currently being taught in high school, as well as how it is being taught, I can say with certainty that the repetition and focus on discipline in the class would be maddening to me. I'd probably be in the same situation as before if I were to do it again now.

    I guess what I'm trying to illustrate is that your son is doing well enough. Yeah, he could probably do better but A's and B's are, statistically, not for everyone. A grade is not a measure of ability, intelligence, or temperament. It is simply a grade. You should both be proud of this high C-average which - if maintained - will lead to easy graduation. I truly believe that at this age it is more important that he learn how to grow up to be the sort of adult he wants to be. That has nothing to do with a grade.

    If he decides to pursue college he can go to community college where he can learn what that pace is like, save some money piling up credits, and explore some academic areas which might now feel off limits without much risk. How he operates as a student now only shows how he reacts to high school.

    I realize that this is not the advice you were expecting. There is always the route of struggling more to struggle less but I really do advise that this be applied more to life management in general than to grades specifically. Having said that, learning to take good notes, be organized, keep and maintain a calendar...basic life maintenance skills can be applied to studying and improving grades if the motivation is there. But I also believe that motivation comes from more than just knowing what work needs to be done. If the work feels unreasonable or like busy work I can't in good faith tell a student with those grades that they are doing anything wrong with their GPA. Excel where he wants to and can, otherwise just try to make the most out of the other stuff while keeping an eye on having the grades not dip lower.

    I'm not saying this is the only option, but its an option. And one that kept me relatively sane getting through what I saw as the absurdity of high school.

  • Thank you very much for responding. I appreciate your insight.

  • Hi,

    Your son sounds so much like mine, and you sound so much like me, I just had to write because I'm sitting here in tears. My 14 year-old son was just diagnosed with ADHD and Major Depressive Disorder today after a long evaluation process through a local children's hospital. I just got off of the phone, leaving messages with his doctor for a prescription, and insurance to find out what they might help cover. Feeling overwhelmed, but also relieved... and crying a lot. I just wanted to say hi, and you're definitely not alone. Thank you for sharing.

  • Hang in there. As my son's coach told me, it is a marathon...not a sprint. Some days are good days and some days are terrible. Take one day at a time and be nice to yourself. Also, for the medicine, I know for us...even with insurance...the cost of meds each month was extremely expensive. We were able to find a discount card on the drug company's website that helped us save quite a bit of money. Good luck on your journey.

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