Ask the Experts

Q: “I’m Feeling Hopeless About My Child’s Future (and Ashamed to Acknowledge It)”

A mother is feeling hopeless about her child’s future with ADHD — and wracked with guilt and shame as a result. How can she allow herself to hope for and believe in a fulfilling life for her child when every day is so tough now?

Q: “I’m so worried about just getting my son, age 11, to the next task or the next day that I can’t even imagine what the future will look like for him. This isn’t about him but about me. How did you know that your son would be fine, be able to attend college, and make it through and succeed in life? My brain just won’t allow me to get there. I need some hope and inspiration! I’m desperate.” — LCT


I know that, quite often, I say that certain questions truly hit home. None more than this one.

As you know, (and I feel it’s an important reminder) my story wasn’t always so inspiring. I was so wracked with guilt and shame during my son’s early childhood that I never allowed myself to see his future. Who would he be? What would his life look like? All through my son’s early years, it was all I could do to make it to the next minute, hour, or day; projecting to the next 10 years was a luxury I didn’t afford myself.

I lived according to very small goals then. Tiny. “Let’s see if E can get dressed for school this morning without an argument.” “What are the odds that E will actually go to fencing this week?” “How many minutes of peace will I have before E starts yelling at me that he doesn’t want to do…?” And on it went. Sound familiar? Now not every day was like that. But many were and many were rough. Very rough. But I don’t have to explain. You already know.

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Now that my son is in his early 20s, I ask myself how did we get here? It feels like I turned my back for one minute — and when I turned back around, staring down at me was this tall, handsome, sensitive, quirky, talented, calm, love of a son. The son who would scream for hours now uses that voice to compose music and sing in his “off time.” The son who never looked where he was going is now a cautious and responsible driver. And the child who was told by his elementary school in 3rd grade that they couldn’t educate him, has graduated from college, moved across the country, and is working in the field of his dreams.

Truth be told, even during all the tough times, we always saw glimmers of the young man he might become. My husband often said, “If we can just freeze-dry him and wake him up when he’s 18, things will be different.” While I may have thought that was wishful thinking, deep down I was hoping he was right.

But beyond the hope, there was something happening that I was most certain about. My son worked hard to get here. Heck, my whole family did.

[Read: The Exhaustion Problem in Extreme Parenting]

And here’s the inspiring part: We didn’t do it alone. There were teachers, guidance counselors, professors, therapists, camp directors, friends, theater coaches, one tough fencing instructor, one even tougher driving instructor, and countless other mentors along the way. We called it Team E. People who believed in my son, his strengths, his gifts, and most importantly, his purpose.

And that team of believers allowed our son to believe in himself. Inspiring for sure!

Feeling Hopeless About ADHD Parenting? Next Steps

ADHD Family Coach Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions to the ADHD Family Coach here!

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