I’m a teen with ADHD, and I can relate to his role in your situation- I’m sure my support network can relate to your side, lol! I was about 15 when my counselor and I first started exploring the possibility that I might have ADHD, and by 16, I started meds, which were enough to keep me on course for a while. That while has passed, and I can’t keep choosing to live as if I don’t have ADHD. I’ve had to come face to face with some uncomfortable truths that I spent years pushing to the back of my mind, and I’d be willing to bet he’s trying to keep the truths he’s uncomfy with bogged down for as long as possible- a very “ADHD” thing to do, I’ve learned.
Since I’ve decided to actively try to embrace my ADHD, I have realized that there’s a lot more to ADHD than is presented, and it shook me to my core, but in a positive way. I’ve always been painfully aware that I’m different than most people, but I didn’t know that a lot of the things I’ve spent years ashamed of are symptoms of ADHD! For example, I’d always assumed that I was lazy and had poor self discipline because of how easily I fold when tasks get overwhelming, and subsequently, consciously watch the hole I was digging myself into deepen, all the while doing nothing about it and wishing I could find the “willpower” to remedy my situation. After spending a few minutes on this website, I stumbled across an article titled “The Mystery Of ADHD Motivation, Solved” and I almost cried tears of relief, because I finally realized there was a reason for my behavior- I’m not just defective, and that success and ADHD aren’t mutually exclusive.
My two cents isn’t a suggestion on how you should parent, I’m nearly 20 and have my hands full just taking care of myself, but I know what I felt as a high schooler and now as a college student with ADHD trying to live life as though I was neurotypical, and hopefully can give you some insight on what your son might be going through. For starters, I’ve always been very very painfully sensitive to rejection (I’ve now learned this is common in people with ADHD, it’s even got a name!! Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria- “Why ADD Makes You Feel. So. Much” explains it much more clearly than I can), and taking even the smallest of chances results in paralyzing fear of failure &/or rejection. I have been known to reject opportunities, great ones, so I don’t have to deal with the constant fear that comes along with them- sometimes I’ve even self sabotaged to the point of failing myself, a very destructive spin on the “make fun of yourself before anyone else can” method of taking control of an undesirable situation. It was usually done subconsciously, and I didn’t realize the pattern I’d created until my counselor pointed it out. That might explain his avoidance towards planning for college and his half assed job applications.
Another thing I’ve learned- the hard way, of course- is that I can’t be without structure & routine and keep my grades up. This can pose a problem at college, where you’re in charge of creating your own structure. You’re supposed to be able to function without the rigid, omnipresent structure provided for you, but a lot of us just can’t, it’s literally not how we’re wired- another good article on here is “Uncomfortable Truths About The ADHD Nervous System.” By no means do I say this as if it’s a limitation of anyone’s capacity for success, it’s just a prerequisite for some people to have the chance to be successful; and a lot of people, including me, have internalized shame surrounding this subjective truth because not being completely independent can easily be construed as a sign of weakness. I know I’ve mentioned quite a few articles already, but I’m going to suggest one more, because I figured I might as well save the best for last. It touches on most, if not everything I’ve already mentioned, and would be a good TLDR for what I’ve mentioned thus far.
You mentioned your relationship with him has suffered in the past three months, and I know your intent wasn’t to damage your relationship with him and that you want him to grow to be independent just as badly as he does, but I can also remember how I used to swear that my mom hated me and was out to ruin my life, lol! One of our biggest fights was over why she wouldn’t let me go to a very large music festival with my best friend a state over, because a trustworthy adult wasn’t going with us… we were MAYBE 15, in my mind that was totally old enough to go places by ourselves! She most definitely didn’t hate me and just wanted me to be safe, but I wasn’t yet in a place that I was able to see the forest for the trees, so it translated as her trying to keep me from being happy. I imagine as your son grows up, he’ll realize you’ve only ever had his best interests at heart. I don’t know the dynamics of your relationship with him, but if you don’t already, I would suggest pointing out & acknowledging the good you see him doing as often as you tell him his behavior isn’t satisfactory/ needs to change and just generally reminding him you love him, especially if you know he’s having a bad day. It might seem counterproductive to praise him when he’s not doing well, but as always when ADHD is a part of the equation, motivation is key, and validation from a loved one that they recognize your effort has never de(un?)motivated me! Hopefully a glimpse inside the brain of another older teen with ADHD was at least a little helpful, and you can gather some insight from it! Good luck with your boy 🙂