Empower Your Young Adult with ADHD in Three Inspiring Ways
You may remember those conversations with your parents as a young adult about moving out on your own. If you are currently a parent of a child or young adult with ADHD, you may be all too familiar with those discussions (and catastrophic thoughts) that often focus on whether your child or young adult with ADHD will ever leave the house.
On the other hand, it's important to recognize that the pandemic has begun to shift the stigma of young adults living at home. Rather than holding the expectation that one is supposed to become an adult at 18 or 22, it’s useful to address what they can gain from life at home as parents balance support and independence.
Young Adults with ADHD and Executive Functioning Skills
Executing functioning is the ability to plan, focus, shift attention, retain and use information, resist impulses, and set priorities. We aren’t born with these skills, but we can facilitate supportive environments to build and practice executive functioning skills.
It's also important to hold in mind that excessive stress, chaotic, unpredictable environments, trauma, and/or substance abuse can adversely affect the development of executive functioning skills.
According to Jeffery Jensen Arnett, (Emerging Adulthood, 2015), “More than ever, there is no reason to hurry into adult life and set artificial deadlines. The norms for when you get married, have children, and become fully employed, are a lot more relaxed than they used to be. Now we can use that to our advantage and take some of the pressure off.” (The Atlantic, 2020, Pinkser, The New Boomerang Kids Should Change American Views of Living at Home).
What can we do to adapt to and use these more relaxed norms to our advantage? How can we build these core executive functioning capabilities in our young adults so that they take ownership of their responsibilities and successes?
Here are four inspiring ways to empower your young adult with ADHD so they can take more ownership, develop resilience, and ultimately become independent.
Stress, anxiety, and trauma can negatively affect the development of executive functioning skills.
• Involve your young adult in family day-to-day responsibilities such as making meals, feeding your pet, and cleaning up.
• Engage your young adult in connecting with someone outside of your home, such as a cousin, grandparent, or friend.
• Encourage your son or daughter to plan a family outing of his or her choice.
Focus on Strengths
Overwhelmed by a history of failure and missed opportunities, a young adult with ADHD can struggle with low self-esteem. They hear feedback given with the best of intentions as a sign that they are not measuring up, disappointing the people most important to them, including themselves.
• Most young people with ADHD hear a lot of “no.” Aim for five positive, strength-based comments to one negative/task-focused comment.
Failure tends to have negative connotations, but there’s opportunity in failure. We need to help our young adults adopt the attitude that failure and mistakes are going to happen. It’s what we do with our failures that matters.
At the same time, it can be extremely frustrating when our young adults miss deadlines, sleep through appointments, and don’t seem to be following through over and over again.
• The less you react, the more your young adult will engage with you without fear. They will be more willing to accept that mistakes are OK and will be more open to learning from their failures.
• Ask your young adult if they want to talk about what happened. If they’re not ready, give them space. It’s important to allow them time and privacy. If your young adult refuses to talk about the situation, let them know you’re there to talk when they’re ready.
• If and when your young adult is ready, it's best to first talk about what was working. This is a good start for then discussing what wasn’t working. Ask your young adult their opinion about what went wrong. Stay open, curious, and non-judgmental.
• Allow for your young adult to stay in the driver’s seat. Ask your son or daughter, “What’s the next step?” If they need more support, brainstorm some viable options.
Set Boundaries with Consequences
It’s important to have boundaries with consequences if limits aren’t met. Know your rights and establish house rules and your non-negotiables.
If your son or daughter is up on a weekday past 2 am on the online all-night party and then sleeping in past noon, you have a right to hold your ground and set a limit.
• The contract can also include house rules concerning substance usage, rules about cars, respect for furniture, cleaning dishes, leaving dirty dishes in certain rooms, when to take out the trash, leaving lights on, leaving the front door/garage door/gate door unlocked, laundry considerations, personal hygiene, medication intake, cleaning common areas, guest visits, and overnight policy, etc.
• Support your young adult on how they will "remember to remember" the above, and what is determined as acceptable in your communication. These can include reminders on their phone and photo reminders. For example, you might want to keep a photo of a clean kitchen counter on the kitchen counter. If you see a mess in the kitchen, you can also send a photo to their phone to remind them, rather than telling them, which could be heard as nagging.
• Consequences must be established and given if rules are not followed. For example, if your young adult abused car privileges, the most natural consequence is to take away the keys for a period of time.
• Examples of other rules: no blatant lies, talk straight to Mom and Dad, be home when you say, no name-calling or swearing.
• Be consistent but flexible. For example, your young adult keeps forgetting to lock the front door after she comes in. After talking about it, your young adult decides to try a large sign as a reminder to see if it will help. You decide she are learning from her mistake and is willing to experiment with other methods to improve, so you’re willing to be flexible this time, and not provide a consequence.
On the other hand, if your son is outright refusing to clean up his room, you have a right to impose a consequence, for example, a $10 charge per day until he cleans up.
• If you are requiring your son or daughter to look for a job, be specific about how many jobs they need to apply to per week, what time they need to be up every day looking for their job, and their daily required dress. You may also want to have them keep a log of their job applications and networking information.
• Create Connections
• Focus on Strengths
• Accept Failure
• Set Boundaries and Consequences
Experiment with these and let me know how they work out for you!
PS. Need more assistance with empowering your young adult?
Contact me for an ADHD Strategy Assessment and we can talk about some steps you can put into place right away!
Transforming Parents Lives®