A Letter to My ADHD Teenager (About to Leave Home)

ADHD Teenager

I wrote this (many years ago, now) at 2:00 a.m. when a fit of panic replaced a good night's sleep. As I realized my oldest teen was about to leave home – and I was absolutely certain they were not ready for it – I tried to capture all the things they would need to know. It helped me calm down, and allowed me to support them step by step.

At one point, I even added information that was a newer challenge, like managing their digital world.

Over the years, thousands of parents have used this to calm their fears, and to guide our kids to step into their independence. Every few years I give it to my kid, now a young adult. They laugh as they evaluate their progress and celebrate their successes! Parenting is a forever journey.

I hope you’ll personalize this letter for YOUR teen, and then consider printing and sharing it as it seems appropriate. If you have younger kids, let this be a guide to the areas of independence they will need in the future. You will not likely get your teen to 100% of these items before they leave home – that’s true for ALL teens! But we owe it to our kids to let them know how excited we are for them, how much we believe in them – and exactly what they’ll need to begin to do for themselves!

My dearest teenager,

Lying in bed, unable to sleep, I realize that your impending departure is nagging at me (yes, you’re not the only one who feels nagged). It’s not that I don’t want you to soar out of our nest. On the contrary, for more reasons than I can express, I want you to spread your wings and fly.

But I must confess, it worries me just a bit. I know you’re ready to start living your own life. But are you ready to manage it? That’s a different story!

I’ve tried to prepare you for your independence. I’ve offered support and resources, structures and strategies. You’ve adopted what you were ready for. Now, I have to trust that you will remember the rest when the need arises.

You, my love, are an incredibly strong, resourceful, intelligent young soul. You are capable beyond measure of all that you put your mind to. In so many ways you have wisdom beyond your years.

The details? Well, they’re another story. I pray that your inner manager will surface and accompany you on your journey, perhaps more actively than it has in the past (this is when you laugh out loud!).

On a practical level, I must transfer certain duties and responsibilities to you upon your departure. There are so many things that I do for you now, things that might have escaped your attention. You will soon need to do all of these things for yourself.

It will take time to acquire these skills. Rather than getting overwhelmed or confused, I hope this will empower you, step by step, to take the lead in your own life. I know you can do it!

So here goes. This is what we’ve been doing for you for the last several years, though not completely. Still, I think a good list is always helpful (you know how I love my lists!). At least, it’s a start.

Job Description for Parents of Kids With Complex Challenges (ADHD, Anxiety, etc.)

Job Title: Substitute Frontal Lobe

1. Waking up

  • Determine what time you need to awaken in the morning
  • Set an alarm for myself to be your back up if you do not have an alarm set
  • Wake you up when your alarm fails to awaken you
  • Wake you up with snuggles and hugs, or sprays of water and drags across the floor – depending on your need that day (ok, and our mood)

2. Getting Ready for the Day

  • Help make sure you are focused to eat & take care of your health
  • Help prepare breakfast and/or get stuff ready to leave the house
  • Provide time awareness until you get out of the house (close to) on time
  • Provide & pay for transportation (including insurance for the car)

3. Work/School Responsibilities

  • Communicate with your educators, and help you communicate with them to stay on top of your work
  • Attend to your calendar each day, and help you remember to be mindful of what is expected of you
  • Encourage you to pay attention to your responsibilities and school expectations
  • Manage your medical, educational, personal care and work appointments

4. Health Management

  • Monitor your behavior and your mood, and help you communicate with your doctors for optimal medical management
  • Arrange for medications and vitamins (and remind you to take them)
  • Schedule routine medical appointments, including dentist, eye doctor, general physician, and any specialists
  • Encourage you to exercise and get some sleep

5. Personal Success

  • Bring awareness to distractions so you can get back on track
  • Assist you in identifying what you want to achieve
  • Assist you in planning for what it is you want to do, or are expected to do
  • Provide money, either through allowance or for chores that earn money

6. Household Responsibilities

  • Pay attention to your laundry, remind you to do it, and help with it
  • Remind you to take care of your household chores
  • Arrange for your food: meal planning, grocery shopping
  • Arrange for essentials: shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc.

7. Technology Accountability

  • Put systems in place so that your virtual life doesn't take over your real life
  • Manage your safety and security online
  • Use technology to stay connected and help build healthy relationships with others (and with yourself)
  • Balance the excitement and stress that technology and social media can add to your life

Here’s what I wish I could do for you when you are away, but I will have to figure out how to do them “virtually”

  • Make you tea when you don’t feel well
  • Bring you cookies when you are studying
  • Provide “poor baby” hugs upon demand!
  • Snuggle with you, and play with your hair, and remind you, daily, that you are loved!

Here’s what I’ll continue to do for you, no matter where you go, or how far apart we dwell

  • Love you unconditionally
  • Believe in your incredible, boundless capabilities
  • Help you identify what motivates you
  • Teach you to fail forward and encourage you to try, and try again
  • Celebrate successes, large and small

So, my love, perhaps now you have a better understanding of why I’ve seemed a little stressed, lately. That nagging feeling I have is not about wanting you to stay. Are you kidding? I’m exhausted!

It’s about wanting to do all I can to enable you to fly away safely.

Oh, and two more things. First, wherever you go, however near or far you fly, I want you to remember that you will always find a safe landing with us. Second, if you remember nothing else, remember to believe in yourself. With that belief, you can move mountains!

With all our love,

Mom and Dad