What Parents May Need to Expect (and Prepare For) When Their ADHD Teen Goes Off to College

Most of raising a child is designed around helping them achieve independence, and there is no greater sign of independence than a child that is going off to college and embarking on life away from home. It is an emotional experience, but it is also typically the first opportunity for your teen to truly begin living their life – doing what you raised them to do.

However, when a child has ADHD, particularly with executive function disorder, your job is not always “done.” All children still tend to need their parents as they get older, but it may also be important for you to prepare for some of the issues that could arise that may either require planning, support, or additional professional assistance.

Transitioning to College Life

We know that no child is truly independent when they embark out on their own. But children with executive function disorder and ADHD may still have some of the same issues that affected them in high school and prior:

  • Time Management Difficulties
  • Trouble Planning and Organizing
  • Struggles with Mental Focus and Memory
  • Difficulty in Setting Schedules
  • Mood Issues/Becoming Easily Overwhelmed

Living alone can cause many of these issues to occur, especially as they need to also be responding to other changes very rapidly – something that children and teens with ADHD often already struggle to do.

Which means that you still have a role in your child’s life. There are many situations in which you’re going to want your child to learn on their own, but there are also some things that you may still want to involve yourself with. For example:

  • FAFSA – Parents should prepare for the idea that your child may have trouble filling out the FAFSA on their own. Knowing when to fill out the FAFSA, knowing what to put down, managing that time and difficulty may all be a struggle for a child with ADHD and executive function disorder. It may be tough to expect them to plan for and fill out the appropriate paperwork.
  • Class Scheduling – Similarly, registering for classes can be difficult for a child with EFD. First, classes are often competitive, so the young adult has to plan to wake up very early, knowing all the classes they want to take, and registering fast before they fill up. That is challenging. Second, teens will need to have a plan in place for all 4 years of college at the time of registration. It’s not uncommon for young adults, especially those with ADHD, to have trouble visualizing and planning these classes.
  • Behind in Work Struggles – Many children with ADHD and EFD end up falling behind in their schoolwork and studying. What happens next is complicated. Do you remind your child to do their work all the time? Do you let them learn the consequences? We can talk about this in our parent coaching sessions. But one thing you can expect, and may need to plan for, is that a child behind in work in studying may find the experience overwhelming in a way that prevents them from catching up and prioritizing the work effectively.

Living on their own at all can be a challenge. They have to learn how to clean, how to live with roommates/dorm mates, how to feed themselves, how to get to class every day, and on and on. Many of these are parts of their development, and you may decide that you want your child to learn on their own even if they have some bumps and struggles along the way.

But there may be other situations, such as helping make sure they get their FAFSA in on time, when it may still help if you had a little bit of involvement, as executive function disorder and ADHD can make this hard to manage – especially since these can be difficult for anyone to manage, even adults.

Both you and your child may also benefit from coaching. ADHD coaching can help teens navigate transitions to independence more successfully, and parent coaching can help you navigate some of the more complex situations, such as how much to help your child get through college.

If you need support navigating this major life transition, contact ADHD Training Center, today.

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