Advice every parent of a new college student with ADHD needs to know

There is a big shift in the relationship between parents and children when a child head off to college.  There are new worries for parents students who have ADHD when they live away at home and aren’t able to comfort their child in person. Even when your child is at home attending community college, she’ll need your support in moving into young adult level of self management.

We asked our coaches for advice to share with parents of new college students. Here are 6 ideas every parent of a new college student with ADHD should know.

  1. Maturity Levels: Teenagers and young adults have a chronological age, an intellectual age, and a social maturity age. These three are rarely the same.  With ADHD teens, often their intellectual age is years ahead of their chronological age, with the social maturity age three to five years, or more, behind the chronological age. It takes longer for these delightful and creative folks to reach a balanced level of social maturity. Remember the greatest gifts you can give your teen are unconditional love, understanding and patience.
  2. Staying Healthy: Support your child in establishing healthy habits away from home. For example, you may want to let her know that you would prefer she get at least 8 hours of sleep each night, even it means less study time. Or you would rather she exercise every day than get straight A’s.  Ask her what might get in the way of sleep or exercise, and come up with some strategies to protect those part of her life.  Sleep and exercise will do more than anything else can to keep your daughter (or son) happy, healthy and wise.
  3. Communicate: Set up guidelines for regular check-ins by text, phone, Skype or Facetime. Be clear about the kinds of things you want to hear about in advance (e.g., how classes are going, grades, new friends, roommates, sleep, eating, etc.). And be prepared to share news about things the college student wants to know (how the family cat is doing, what’s happening back at home, etc.). If college students are forthcoming about the things that parents want to know, it builds a relationship of trust, keeps the college student accountable to parents (and vice versa), and everyone can relax a lot more!
  4. Crisis Counseling: When your child calls you with a minor crisis, start by asking her what she thinks she should do.  Let her find her own way. Remind yourself that when she calls expressing sadness, worry, loneliness & homesickness, it is often cured by the first friend who knocks on the door. This is the time for your student to make their own choices and figure out how to bounce back from their own mistakes. Remember, parents are often still worried long after the child has gotten over it.
  5. Success Measures:  College success should not be assessed solely by an academic grade. Is your young adult developing self advocacy skills? Self awareness? Initiative? Connections? Look at everything she is learning, not just the grades she produces.
  6. Student Services: Encourage student to connect with student services and take advantage of all of their services!  They may need assistance in figuring out how to supply the proof they qualify for services. Guide them, but don’t do it for them.
  7. Prepare for grieving. Your child’s initial departure may be surprisingly harder for you than you thought it would be. Your emotions may feel similar to when he marched off with her class on first day of kindergarten.  The first couple of weeks can be a big adjustment for you.  Make sure you have others parents who are in the same boat to commiserate with over beverage or a meal.

>>Parents:  Do you have any advice you’d give to other parents of new college students?  We’d love to hear what has been helpful to you.

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