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ADHD Parents Together
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Lowering expectations to avoid disappointment

Is it unrealistic to expect my teenage son to accomplish something on a weekend? All he wants to do is watch TV and play on his phone when he is failing three of his grade 11 courses. He refuses to take his meds as he has had horrible side effects and we are on a three month waiting list for a psychiatric assessment. I’ve learned to lower my expectations of him so I’m not constantly disappointed but all he talks about are how is ADHD and OCD and oppositional defiant behaviour would be so much better if I let him take weed (now that’s it’s legal in Canada, he and many of his friends, feel they have a right to use it to help anxiety and OCD). He feels if adults can use it why can’t teens, even though I’ve explained the bad effects on the developing teenage brain. I’m getting nowhere and worried he’s going to use it at school where I can’t stop him. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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Corster- we all feel your pain.. these are frustrating times. But there are only a few years left for him to be out on his own.

If I was in your shoes ( I know this is hard to do) I think I would pick one thing and not compromise on it. Maybe it is medication or school. Then really focus on that. I am also not sure I would lower my expectation becuase then he might not be able to accomplish what you are asking.

Here are 2 suggestions, find something he loves and entice him with that. If you take your medication for x amount of days we will do xxx. Or if you improve the three grade we will xxx. If he really wants it he will do it.

I know it seems hopeless but it really would be great if a counselor could help motivate him.

Best of luck...

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Thanks for the suggestions. We have been to three different counsellors and have gotten nowhere because he is not willing to act upon their suggestions (like strategies to control his OCD). I like your idea of choosing something he loves and tie his marks to that but I found without the meds to assist his focus, he wasn’t able to get better marks and he never got to go snowmobiling which was the only thing that made him happy so thus he was miserable all the time.

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Sorry to say this is a process... and may take time and finding the right "carrot". I know it is very hard but I would try to treat each experience all by itself. Also keep at the one thing to reward him.

Best of luck..

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One last thought.. I always say I love you to our son. Those words are so important becuase not many years from now he will be grown and on his own and gone.. life is hard and then add all of the issues they struggle with, I can't imagine what they have to juggle..

Take care and the journey is not easy.

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My son is now 24, so I will give you my opinion, from a different perspective. First of all, no to the weed. I know there are different opinions on this, but your son's brain doesn't need any other substances reducing his concentration, focus, etc. (I say this as a mother and as a psychiatric nurse.) The second thing is this: it is highly doubtful that your son will graduate from high school without some sort of ADHD medication and I guarantee he will not do college without it. If he was diabetic or had a seizure disorder, would you allow him to skip his medication? I would take his phone and all his games unless he takes his medication. I can tell you from long experience that medication will make the most difference with his behavior. Teenage boys with ADHD can be very difficult and you will need every bit of help to keep him safe. I would not let him drive and I would be a nosy mom - check his backpack, room, on a regular basis. I would also be sure your alcohol, prescription meds, and any firearms are locked up. And he most likely will not be leaving home to be on his own for a very long time......!! Our boys do not mature quickly and need a lot more oversight than their non-ADHD peers. It is good to lower your expectations, but not too low - you want him to graduate from high school.

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I agree with Seller, ABSOLUTELY no to weed.

My ADHD son has been using weed intermittently for about a year, recently some alcohol. Just turned 16. We regularly drug test, which seems to help temporarily. I think he’s self medicating/has easy access (legal in our state)/so many kids at his HS use & he too thinks it’s ok for his brain. Now, he doesn’t get to continue driving with his “permit” until he tests clean. Driving and his gaming computer is his “carrot”. I praised him for being honest about the drinking when it happened. We too, struggle with him taking his “Adderall” regularly. He calls it brain poison. He’s also Oppositional, but hasn’t officially been diagnosed that. It’s extremely difficult most days, but as many on this site have reminded me, our love IS UNCONDITIONAL- - I wake up each day usually to him yelling at me to get out of his room, when he doesn’t get up for school. But I wake up again next day, and try again to be more patient & strong than I was the day before.

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I would reiterate that it is not “his” room, that it is your room that you allow him to use. I don’t want my son growing up thinking he is entitled to anything, and regularly remind him that nothing in our house is technically his unless he purchased it himself.

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Agree with everyone that said no to the pot, just mho but it IS a gateway drug and our kiddos are WAY more susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse. Regarding getting him to take the medications and go to counseling. I just didn't give her a choice. No privileges of any king if balk at taking the meds. But we really dealt with it in counseling. I've said this here before, but every day I would tell her that she had to make a choice about how she wanted her life to be, just like EVERYONE else in the world. That yes she is bi-polar and ADHD but ok....so? She said that she liked feeling that way. I said you want to feel this way forever? I don't think that's true. Her counselors and I told her she had to make a decision to get better. I told her that she was going to counseling anyway, so make a decision and yes, it was going to be uncomfortable. She finally made the decision to get better which frankly meant that I had to get uncomfortable. She is SO much better now. She still hates getting uncomfortable, but we do and we cry and cry and stuff I never knew about comes out and then I have to work on myself too!

Side note: agree with tossing the room on a regular basis. Course I'm the one who just took the internet and phone away period. Which honestly was one of the best things I ever did. I check her backpack every night and every morning (the stuff they put in there!). I took all knives out of the home, no firearms, locked up all the medication and locked up all the cleaning supplies. Sucks when you need to cut some bread or meat, but we get by.

Good luck!

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You mentioned his current medication giving him bad side effects: do you feel the medication help enough to make the side effects worth it? I definitely agree that he should see a psychiatrist to find something different, but if he can put up with the side effects until then it might be worth him continuing the current medication.

As far as marijuana goes, have you investigated CBD oil? It’s supposed to have similar effects for anxiety and OCD without the brain-cell killing high. It might be worth trying. My babysitter started taking it and was able to come off her anxiety medication.

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yes CBD oil does help for a limited time.

I won’t put him on the meds since it caused suicidal thoughts and uncontrollable rage.

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Those are perfectly understandable reasons to discontinue using that set of medications; they aren’t helping so why force him to take them.

It sounds like he has it in his head that the only thing that will help is marijuana. Until you find the right medication combination for him you might just have to go the tough love route. It sucks, but seeing as he is not contributing to the house monetarily, his “rent” is good grades. He doesn’t need a phone if he’s failing, he doesn’t need a game system or a TV if he’s failing. Also, explain to him that his brain won’t be fully developed until he’s about 25, so he doesn’t need to kill brain cells before it’s fully developed.

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good points thanks!

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Just another note to all of the above: counseling will not help unless your son finds someone that he perceives is "on his side". Otherwise, it's just someone else telling him what to do. The other part of this is that since our boys' brains don't really develop fully until about age 25, insight-oriented therapy has a very low rate of success. Our kids just don't have the ability to really see themselves clearly and to make the necessary changes when they are teens. My 24 year old son finally asked to go back to his original therapist a few months ago. Up until then, he was adamantly opposed to anyone giving him advice. So, although I know it sounds like counter-intuitive, you may want to save your money and time with the therapy at this point.

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Has he already tried weed ? If he is so convinced it will work, he may have already tried it

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Wow - so much great advice here. I don’t have a whole lot to add, just a few suggestions.

1. I’m gonna agree w/ No to weed, and also suspect he’s already tried it.

2. I wouldn’t lower expectations, but make sure you are providing tools to help him meet those expectations, as teens w/ ADHD need accommodations at home like they would at school. They need us to hold them accountable (even if they don’t like it), because they have a hard time doing it themselves.

3. It’s hard with a resistant teen/child, but I try to start & end each day with Love & positivity. Reestablishing our bond helps him WANT to work things through.

4. Hopefully the psychiatrist can find you the right meds. In the meantime, I find caffeine helps my son in a very short term in a pinch.

5. ADHD parent coaching for you may also be helpful.

You may find these books useful:

- Smart but Scattered Teens by Peg Dawnson (This book series has been recommended to us by 3 separate mental health professionals.)

- 123 Magic Teen by Thomas Phelan

- Your Defiant Teen by Russell Barkley

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