Reply To: My son is 19 and has not graduated high school

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I know it’s frustrating but until this becomes a problem HE wants to solve, you are not going to have much luck changing him. Right now, him not going to school is a problem for YOU, not him. What makes it a problem for him is when he sees that living the way he’s living is not working for him. Basically he has to see that the consequences of his choices are not worth it and that he will need to do differently to get different results. That comes from within him, not as a result of your pushing, reminding, etc.

Lots of things could happen that will make him see that HS graduation is necessary, like for example not being able to get a job he wants or to make the kind of money he wants. This may take awhile though because due to the ADHD, he is at least 3-5 years behind in terms of development–so he is basically a 15 or 16 year old in an adult body. BUT that doesn’t mean you have to let him just do whatever in the meantime. It’s totally appropriate for you to start nudging him toward self sufficient living. And to set some ground rules for him being able to live at home as an adult.

For example, you could say that in order for him to live there he either needs to be in school or working full time and taking his medication and seeing a counselor, etc. It will be his choice whether he does those things, but he needs to feel consequences if he doesn’t (But you will need to be prepared to follow through and ask him to move out if he doesn’t comply). You could also not provide anything other than a roof over his head and basic food unless/until he is in school or working full time and/or paying a token amount of “rent” or you could charge him money for electricity to use his video games. (But again, you need to be prepared to follow through). He needs to experience the consequences of his decisions–that will be the most powerful motivation for him to change. And will help prepare him for adulthood on his own.

So, as frustrating and hard as it may be, the most important thing you can do right now is set some bound and limits, step back and let him feel the consequences of his decisions and not make it easy for him to just coast along at home. He needs to start moving toward being self sufficient and living on his own. Eventually he will hopefully see that in order to have the kind of life he wants, he will need a diploma. Or, he won’t. Ultimately it’s his choice.

Hope this helps,
Joyce Mabe, Parenting Coach, website