When Children With ADHD Grow Up

Most kids don’t “grow out” of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. About two-thirds of teens with ADHD will still have symptoms when they’re adults. What’s more, they'll often mature more slowly than others their age.

There are ways you can help your teen or 20-something to take positive steps toward adulthood.

Have Your Child Create a Treatment Plan

Living well with ADHD means sticking with your treatment. Encourage your child to meet with the person who treats his ADHD. Together, they should talk about how he can manage his meds on his own. If he goes to talk therapy, he should have a plan for continuing that, too.

Your child needs to know that it's important to take his medication as his doctor prescribed. Otherwise, his symptoms will get worse. That can make it difficult to study, or to perform well at work. It even raises the odds he could engage in risky behavior, like alcohol abuse.

​​​​​​​Make sure he knows that he should never share medication with someone else.

Be a Planning Partner

People with ADHD often have trouble getting organized or making plans. Set a time to meet with your child to talk about how to plan. Discuss how he can make sure to order new medication before he runs out. If he’s moving away or leaving for college, make sure he has another doctor or ADHD professional near his new home, so he can get help when he needs it.

You’ll also want to talk to your child about the daily responsibilities he'll face when he’s on his own. For example, how will he manage meals and do laundry? Which bills can he expect to pay, and how will he pay them?

Set Boundaries

Part of helping your child become an independent adult is treating him like one -- regardless of his ADHD. Don't nag about what he should be doing, and respect his privacy and wishes when he doesn’t want help. You may also want to do things that show him you’re treating him like an adult. For example, you could invite him out to dinner instead of surprising him by dropping by his apartment.

Helping your child plan is good. Make it clear to him that you’re available when he needs you. For example, he may ask you to remind him his rent is due each month. But make sure your child is making the requests.

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Let the Pros Step In

You may be used to helping your child with many aspects of his life, like managing money and dealing with tough social situations. Just because he’s an adult doesn’t mean you should stop being loving and supportive. But one way to help him make the leap to adulthood is to encourage him to seek help from others. For example, a life coach who specializes in ADHD can help him develop good study skills. A therapist can help him find positive ways to communicate when dealing with conflict, too.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on November 13, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

CHADD: The National Resource on ADHD: "Social Skills in Adults with ADHD," "Teens and Young Adults," "Treatment of Teens with ADHD," "Successfully Launching Your Teen or Young Adult With ADHD into the World."

National Institute of Mental Health: "Could I Have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?"

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and American Psychiatric Association: "ADHD: Parents Medication Guide."

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America: "Lag in maturation of the brain's intrinsic functional architecture in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder."

Labour Economics: "Sex, drugs, and ADHD: The effects of ADHD pharmacological treatment on teens' risky behaviors."

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