I don’t have any answers for you, unfortunately, but can offer maybe a little hope. My kid is a senior, so we are just about to enter the stage you are in now. My son with ADHD does the absolute minimum he can at all times, so I totally get your frustration. He’s actually suspended right now for being late to school so many times. He wants to go to college, but doesn’t do the work he needs to do to get there. He doesn’t connect the boring work he has to put up with now to the reward that will come later. That’s too abstract and his brain doesn’t do abstract very well. His dad and I want him to have the college experience, but that may not be in the cards for him, at least right away. That’s been a tough one to deal with because we had to let go of that dream we had for him.
I’m not all doom and gloom though, in fact I feel generally optimistic. I think having ADHD myself gives me some perspective and some hope, because I’ve been able to improve in many areas of my own life. Two of my three sons have ADHD, and I don’t see any reason they can’t have the same success. I needed to develop certain qualities first, before I was able to really make changes, and I’m pretty sure I did not have those qualities at 18 or 20. By my mid-20s I had experienced enough failure (and humiliation), to start to be honest with myself that it wasn’t just a bad teacher or job or roommate that was my problem. I resisted taking responsibility, but finally did because I didn’t want to have a crap life. I was afraid that things were going in that direction. That was essentially what motivated me, and I think that’s what will motivate my son too. He just hasn’t had enough life experience to see how his behavior has a real life effect. It’s hard to do that when you are young and inexperienced, especially when you have developmental issues like ADHD.
One notable difference between me and my kids is that I didn’t have family I could rely on. That was a bad thing, of course, but I think I made changes at a younger age because of that reality. I knew there would be no rescue. My kids (and yours) have family that loves them and is there for them, and that’s a good thing, but I wonder if they don’t feel the fear of consequences enough. Maybe we need to figure out how far we are willing to go in supporting our adult children? I’ll always be there for my kids if they are going through a difficult or dark period, that’s a given. But I know that for me, if my kid lives at home after high school, he has to contribute, especially financially, and even then there are limits to how long he can live here. I will resent him otherwise. I don’t know how that might play out, but he seems to understand that there are limits and that I don’t have endless patience.
I think this is one of the hardest parts of having kids. Trying to guess how much to help them, when to let them fail. Really, it’s kind of impossible. There’s no immediate feedback letting you know if you are on the right track either! There’s no way I’m going to get it right every time, so I just do my best and call it a day. It can be demoralizing when your child is struggling, in spite of all your effort. When I get to that point, I try to take the long view. It’s slooooow, but there is progress.