So hey, I’m a coach for adults with ADHD, not kids.
I often get asked whether I have ADHD myself. I was never formally diagnosed, but I experience plenty of the traits: hyper-focus related time blindness, struggling with RSD (rejection sensitive dysphoria), dyscalculia (I adapted to my math handicap by literally charming my way through high school. Prior to that, I failed basic algebra three times).
We just didn’t have any names for those ADHD-related conditions back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. And like many boomers with ADHD, the lucky ones anyway, I was able to lean into my strengths and survive scholastically.
But my husband and son were diagnosed, as was one of my closest relatives, so I’ve had to learn a lot about it. I’ve even gotten certified to coach people with ADHD and have raised a child with it. So, I guess I can weigh in a bit on this topic.
Raising an ADHD kid is definitely a learning curve. Bright, social, and funny, my son was the apple of every teacher’s eye. He did not have the hyperactive type of ADHD, so it didn’t show up due to behavioral issues. Instead, it was as though he hit a ceiling scholastically in fourth grade and couldn’t seem to maintain grade level performance. So, we had him evaluated and diagnosed. For us, him obtaining an IEP (individualized education plan) was a life-saver. We didn’t worry about stigma or any of that. Such concerns, in my opinion, are very destructive. We did the best to give him the support he needed.
Then Covid hit.
Harper was in the high school class of 2020. He missed out on all those rites of passage stuff…the prom, graduation…oh sure, there were makeshift virtual versions of those things.
But come on. He was stuck in his room.
Fortunately, given his particular flavor of ADHD, he actually did better with virtual learning than in-person school attendance in some ways. But I know it was hurtful. He grew even more sedentary than before, being the online gamer that he is. He did his freshman year of college remotely, and when he finally was able to get on campus, it seemed to me that the college he went to was clueless when it came to supporting neurodivergent kids. Things just fell apart despite his and our best efforts. Ironically, the school seemed to treat students requiring accommodations in this sink-or-swim way, providing no real practical accountability such as reminders to follow up on administrative matters, which of course is anathema to the success of a kid with ADHD.
But this was an unprecedented disaster we all lived through. Who knew.
Fast forward, he’s taking a break from college for now, and holding down a job as a barista. I’m proud of him. A lot of kids with ADHD who went through Covid as seniors in high school have decompensated to the point where their parents are understandably freaking out. A whole new niche of the psychiatric profession has emerged as a result: Failure to Launch. Now, I imagine this niche existed before, but I don’t think it was quite so explicitly searchable.
The question to ask yourself once in a while as a parent is this: what have I done right that I now see reflected in my kid? Celebrate and reinforce those developments. For instance, Harper is a born mediator and has extremely high social intelligence. He also knows he has to make money to pay for stuff. He’s street-smart. These combined qualities are what enabled him to find and hold a job. Truth be told, I could never do what he’s done when I was his age, which I think bodes well for his future, wherever it leads him.
I am at the point in the learning curve as a parent of a child with ADHD where I recognize that all I can do from here on is hold space for my ADHD young adult. He doesn’t need or want my direction, opinion, or intervention.
I just have to trust that the seeds planted up to age seven will serve him in the long term. Things aren’t perfect, but in many ways, I see that they have borne fruit.
So, stop beating up on yourself if that’s what you’re doing. In the words of a shrink friend of mine (although I believe he said he was quoting someone else) …
Keep ‘em alive ‘til 25.