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talking to teen with newly diagnosed ADHD

Frankman profile image
11 Replies

Hello; any advice on how to get teen son to take a recent ADHD diagnosis seriously? He is taking med now and has helped but he will not bring himself to recognize that his ADHD is what has been causing his problems with poor college performance, dropping out of college, not properly looking for a job, poor money management and generally not looking after his health, Am trying to get him to consider an ADHD coach but he clams up any time I try to get him to take any steps forward even though he can see things are not working for him, any advice or resources would be much appreciated.

Very, very stressful, worrying and frustrating.


11 Replies
Jjflash profile image

Hiya frankman,if it's a worry for you,think how much it's affecting your son.He is probably so scared,he knows he's not functioning properly but might not know how to approach this himself and then with others also.Just tell your son that you're there for him always and don't pressure him too much.This way,he may be able to open upto you or others a bit more,it's a real worry when you're that young and you don't see anyone else with the same traits as himself.Its so scary when you just can't revise for example,your concentration is all over the place,you're not dealing with things.You have to support your son in every way.When he starts confiding in you,then you can both attack it head on.remember,it's a silent thing and when you see others advancing their life and he probably feels that he's trying harder than them with less results,how scared do you think he feels on the inside.There are people still affected by this throughout their adult lives,if you can work on this together as a family,you would take a lot of pressure off your son.Good luck with everything.

Frankman profile image
Frankman in reply to Jjflash

Oh you hit the nail on the head when you talk about how he sees others advancing and he is not. The funny thing is after we discovered the adhd and I started doing research I realized that I went through the exact same things as a teen. Only it was called being a “late bloomer” in those days. (Very late bloomer in my case)The regret I have is that I let my self-consciousness about my situation at the time overwhelm me when I could have relaxed and enjoyed that time of my life more. I am pretty sure I have adhd as well but have learned to live with it over the years. So I want to try to help him come to terms with it so he can relax and let things come to him naturally rather than forced. Well that’s part of it anyways. Thanks for your help.

Jjflash profile image
Jjflash in reply to Frankman

Hiya frankman,you do understand your son because you can see your son's issues in what you went through as a kid yourself.What you can do is tell your son about your own insecurities as a child when you didn't know what was wrong with you.Theres a real common theme between the two of you.In so many cases,kids won't open up to their parents but in your case,you're early teen probs might resonate in some ways with your son's now.I wish you both all the best.

jasminejam profile image

Hi Frankman. I used to be in your son's exact position, and your relationship sounds similar to mine and my dad's in the past. I clam up when my dad talks to me too. And trust me, your son's taking it seriously.

My dad is a proactive fixer, and reacts to my problems by going in and finding solutions. It made talking to him difficult because it always felt like he cared more about what to do to get me back on track and functioning properly than about how I was doing at the moment. (Which was ashamed, frustrated and full of helpless rage at myself.) If your discussions with your son are mainly centered on you talking about how get him better/ how to fix this, then it frames the whole thing as him being the problem and you being the one having to deal with it, and honestly, from the other side, it feels like being pushed down further while drowning. For me, when my dad did that it felt like he was judge and jury and I had to organise my defense myself. When he asked me questions, I didn't know where to start so I clammed up, every time without fail.

Sounds cliche, but what your son needs maybe even before an ADHD coach is knowing you're in his corner, and still will be even if he's never able to function the way you want him to. That needs to be the truth and he needs to know that explicitly. Then tell him you'll listen without making suggestions. Ask him what things frustrate him the most. In my experience, talking about the little things first opens way for the bigger stuff.

I'm pretty sure like any kid that he's bone deep terrified of disappointing his dad, and I know you're worried about the practical stuff (job, college), but that's honestly small stakes compared to what could happen if you don't build open communication and trust with him now.

It's a long process, and progress won't happen overnight. In time he'll make his efforts- the feeling of being left behind while his peers move on in life is not great. The ADHD coach can come later. If I might make another small suggestion- if he sees you've done your own research on how it feels, not as a way to fix him but as a way to understand him, it'll really help. Makes it feel like you're willing to get stuck in alongside him rather than send him off to coaching and hope it works.

Sorry if I presumed too much or wrongly, I'm mostly speaking from my own experience. I know its not easy for our parents and I sincerely wish you and your son all the best. Good luck.


Frankman profile image
Frankman in reply to jasminejam

Huge!!! What you describe is exactly what I helpful to have insight from the other side. I went through exactly what he went through when I was his age but back then it was just called being a “late bloomer”! But to me it was much much more than that. My dad did not talk to me about it at all because he was an alcoholic and had his own problems. Think I am trying to overcompensate for that.....

How has your journey been, do you and your dad communicate openly now about your adhd?


jasminejam profile image
jasminejam in reply to Frankman

Oh thank god, I thought I overstepped. Yeah, my dad's relationship with his dad was complex too, it really carries down in some ways, huh.

If I'm being honest, my dad's done the opposite to what I wished he'd do (which is what I was telling you). My timelines a little different to your's and your son's in that my dad had already done the whole intense proactive thing about my studies/ job for years and had already washed his hands of the whole thing by the time I was diagnosed.

My dad and I don't talk about my ADHD, actually . We also don't talk about anything to do with my studies, or a job, because they've become sore topics. I think he's scared of messing up and becoming my stressor again, and if I could start a serious conversation with him without my throat closing up, I'd be scared that I was confiding in him only to have him put my words through a processor and spit out a solution, without just hearing me out.

Honestly, the two or three times I felt the most open with him were the ones where he talked about his own struggles. It had been hard to talk to someone who came across as infallible, always with the answers. And though his experiences and mine weren't exactly the same, it's how I found out that my ADHD gene probably came from his side of the family, and its made me understand him a lot more. We're not as tense as we used to be.

I think if you try to hold yourself responsible for finding solutions for your son, you won't do right by him or yourself. Let yourself off the hook a little- you've had that example of what kind of parenting doesn't work so well, and now you're only feeling your way away from the other extreme. It's a learning curve for both of you and your relationship needs to adjust to that, which I think is what my dad may have missed.


Frankman profile image
Frankman in reply to jasminejam

Ok so perfect example. Instead of working on getting a job even though he knows his unemployment insurance will run out in a month he is focussed on selling his car then buying a truck. Then tomorrow morning he is going to the beach and then (he says) he will hand out resumes which to me is probably not dressing properly or grooming but just throwing resumes out to wherever. Not really applying himself to get a position somewhere. Then he will complain that all his friends have jobs and all this money and he can’t find anything. So from adhd pov this is classic avoidance and not wanting to do what needs to be done. Yet if I say anything he shuts me right out no matter how nice or objective I try to be. Really hard to just sit here and say nothing. I don’t expect miracles but at least some recognition of the reality of the situation and some true effort? He wants to do all these things yet he cannot or will not do the hard work required. He just can’t seem to make the connection. How do I respond to that? Being supportive is fine but in a way I think he sees it as me letting him off the hook so he can continue taking it easy. That is a dads point of view......

Mille_5 profile image

Honestly it will be up to him to start taking control of his life. A therapist would help but if he is not ready for that then there is not much you can do. You can be there to support him but if he is not ready then you can’t force him. You could suggest him to come here for a place to talk openly with people are in the same boat.

okkal profile image

I can relate to your son. I am 28 and the "middle-child." Both of my siblings are extremely sucessful and living on their own. I am the only one struggling to get a job for such a long time. It is the hardest. I quit my job on a whim one day in 2017 (was being yelled at and in my opinion treated very poorly) and have been stuck with my parents ever since. I just want to catch up.

Frankman profile image
Frankman in reply to okkal

Thanks for sharing that. That must be a tough spot to be in. When I was younger I always felt like I was Way behind everyone from a maturity point of view. Other guys were getting girlfriends and job offers and I wasn’t I just felt like I had nothing to offer anyone and had nothing going on. Had I known then what I know now about ADHD (pretty sure I had had it) I would have gone way easier on myself. I really beat myself up pretty badly and it was tough to get out of. So if I had to offer one thing it would be go easy on yourself if you can it will help keep things in perspective.


AEppinette profile image

First thing; it is NEVER too late.

I know what it feels like to feel left behind (in every aspect of life) and not understand why. I have worked so hard to reach a goal and then realize that I haven't gone anywhere to reach that goal. Looking at my life compared to my friends, I am disheartened and frustrated where I am at 28.

My mom is a fixer. I know she wants what is best for me, but when she "fixes" or "helps," I feel worse and lash out at her for no reason. I do more work looking for a job than she realizes because I don't want to get her hopes up and nothing comes of it. Feels like I broke an unspoken promise.

If you can afford it, get him a coach. He probably needs an outside perspective/opinion that yours. Not that he doesn't love you, he most likely feels like a failure and has let you down. It is just the way we think sometimes. He needs a plan, structure, and check ins to make this new way of life stick. This situation will not be fixed overnight. You may have to push him and he won't like it, but it will be for best.

Good Luck!

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