Son 22, never had a job and living with enabling mom

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    • #117383

      This is part vent and part looking for validation/advice.

      The most important part of this equation, besides an adult child with ADD/Executive function deficit, is the grand equalizer: a tale of two houses. My wife and I had custody of my son from elementary school because of bio-mom’s mental health and addiction issues. To her, our advice, guidance, and parenting is the polarized opposite of what should be done. He’d hide his homework claiming he didn’t have any and we’d give him consequences, bio-mom says you shouldn’t be punished, everyone lies, no big deal. At every turn that’s what we would encounter.

      Son goes off to college, not far but lives on campus. Mom inserts herself when she can, basically stalks him on campus, is “just in the neighborhood” and subverts any opportunities for son to grow.

      The first semester goes terrible. He stayed in his room playing video games all day, doesn’t make connections…his roommate moved out before Thanksgiving. He was kicked out of college with a whopping 1.2 gpa. He applied to get back into school, under academic probation. We draft a behavior agreement which he agrees to. He goes back after the break and within weeks his mother gave him back his game systems and gaming computer (his mother gave him one computer for school and one for play). He starts breaking the agreement. He did manage to get his grade up but we were checking on him weekly, set up a life coach in the college town and seeing a psychologist in our town monthly.

      Summer comes and he refuses to get a job. So we said, ok work here. He stays for a week and then takes off to his mothers for 2 weeks (because, he said, no one told him to come home). He comes back for a week, works sporadically, stays up all night on his computer. He fell asleep in the car on a 90-degree day with the windows rolled up. He stays a week and then goes back to his mother’s. We tell him don’t come back with that computer. A week later he comes back, computer in hand. He tells us that he is an adult and he gets to decide these things. We say adulthood comes with responsibilities along with the benefits. In a nutshell, he chooses “adulthood,” moves out of our home into his mothers where he gets to decide.

      So, he’s there. At the grand equalizers, and has been since. He took a semester off, lived at his mother’s house and has recently graduated. Now comes the job hunt…which he still has not started. He has never had a job. His mother does his laundry, cooks and cleans, pays for his car. Everything but addressing his medical needs including the dentist. He didn’t even bother to shower or brush his teeth for graduation.

      How do you look away? We’re still the heavies…the enforcers, despite not having much contact with him. It’s sad. We’re sad. We are the devils in his mother’s eyes. He stopped going to all the supports we set up. On one level he knows his mother is mentally ill but on another not to the point to understand what she does harms him. He’s also adopting her victim status/language.

      Just wanted to add, he has no friends or hobbies beyond online. His day to day social interaction is with his mentally ill, self-medicating mother (probably BPD/ASD/NPD and active alcoholic).

      • This topic was modified 2 years, 7 months ago by Tubby.
    • #117406
      Penny Williams

      What a tough situation. You clearly care a great deal about him, but he is drawn to what he sees as an “Easier” life which is really just avoidant behavior with no oversight.

      All you can do is keep showing him that you care and keep offering to help. I would caution you about just being the heavy. In this situation, that is pushing him further and further away from you. Instead, step back a bit and just ask to see him sometimes or hang out with him on occasion or even talk on the phone to catch up on what he’s up to. No advice, no judgement, no reprimands. Just interactions that say, “We’re here for you and we care about you, and we are available to help when you ask.” This is to repair your relationship and make him feel like he can come to you without always being made to feel bad or inept (I know that’s not your intent, but that’s the consequence of focusing on what’s wrong all the time).

      Stop Fighting with Your Teen: 5 Transformative Strategies

      It’s important too to remember that ADHD is a developmental disorder. While he’s 22, he’s really more like 18 or 19, at best, in a lot of developmental areas, including day-to-day functioning.

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Trainer & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #117489

      hey, i doubt this will help but – im 25 Add/adhd diagnosed last year. i pretty much got kicked out of high school lol but i made it through college and university pre diagnosis (University was a god damn struggle though) i managed to socialise but i did withdraw a lot and play games because social stuff does something to me that i still cant really explain. i made friends people liked me but i find it hard to feel that “connection” and maintain friendships.

      My mum is the exact same kind of enabler, although im really aware of it, and fight back at least a little. i have had a couple of jobs and for extended periods of time, but ill be honest its rough, i dont know to what degree your son is functioning socially etc. but i find it so incredibly hard to look for new work, and maintain working at a place that doesn’t fit.

      – This part is all me now, so im not going to say “for me/ i feel” every time lol. in the hopes that you might be able to extract something from it ~ I tend to go on tangents, and my grammar sucks. i apologize in advance.

      I know its not the same, but depending of the games hes plays, the people he talks to, he is probably social to a certain degree online ( i realize its not the same…) I struggle with the thought of working in new places with new people, Because maintaining composure and not letting my adhd get the better of me. its scary, and am fairly well socialized and have had jobs before, we are unpredictable.

      I imagine hes ****ing terrified to be honest ( but i dont know him of course) and so hes hyper focusing on anything that distracts him?
      (sorry im jumping about alot)
      The only reason i made it through college without to much issue, is because we made an agreement that i would stay at my aunts during term time. ROUTINE is so important, jumping between houses ( like i did) when i was younger, it resets the things like habbits (good and bad)

      I cant deal with people who are to confrontational, however. you might be able to atleast get some time to talk things out OR get him to do somthing more social if you appeal to his intrest/s so like, i dont want to do alot… i just cant stomach it. eg if someone asked me to go to dinner 😉 lol sorry. id hate the idea of it. but if someone said “hey, i seen an add for this rock climbing/snowboarding place/ gaming convention/ comic convention”at the verry least, id like the idea of it, and thats a start. if you can express and ideas to him somehow, in a way that he does not feel like he is under attack some of it will go over his head, but one idea might stick around, or come back. cuz, hes guna forget some of it, but fortunately theres a good chance if he has any sort of interest in something suggested to him, he might warm up to the idea in his own time.

      i understand how much time is indeed a factor, but i cant express enough how important it is that if his mother is enabling him, you cant be the bad guy (in my opinion) if he associates you with stress and getting forced into uncomfortable situations, hes just guna recede back into his “safe space”

      (contemplating weather i should hit submit, cuz at this point i feel pretty stupid and im just talking about myself online lol.)

      “I feel way younger than everyone my age, hell people younger than me appear more competent and function in every single way.”
      and i feel like im slowly “growing up” But im still behind… and that’s rough.

      At the very least, if you keep at it. and make sure youre not the “bad guy” eventually, as he matures further he’ll reach out to you, and i obviously dont mean letting him off with everything. there is a line. i read somewhere “we need to be held more accountable for our actions than neurotically people” But for me, to much confrontation will just push me away, try to find more stuff you can both enjoy maybe – okay i could ramble forever lol.

      I really hope you can get at least something from this, isolation + enabling is rough. still trying get my self back on my feet too, It’s just a long painfull process.

      Good luck, take care.

      • #119328

        Thank you for talking about yourself online so much! Please don’t feel that you said too much – this was all very very helpful for all of us who have children with ADHD. I have ADHD and I have children who do, but it’s very different for them than it was for me, and reading what you said helps me understand what is going on for them.

    • #117492

      I was punished a lot as a teenager for my bad performance in school (to the point my parents took the door off my bedroom) and my behavior did not change with regard to how diligent of a student I became or how honest I was about my performance in school. They tried corporal punishment, taking away privileges, leaving me in a room with only my homework and forbidding me to leave, ect. They were pretty unhappy when they came back to that room hours later and found I hadn’t finished a single assignment, and I cried because meeting their expectation, for me, was hopeless. And retrospectively I’m not upset about any of it. They were faced with a weird crisis that I didn’t have intellectual deficits, performed well on tests, but was failing school and they were worried about my ongoing success as an adult.

      As an adult, things changed. I still have very symptomatic ADHD that impacts many areas of my life, but I decided personally that I was going to sink or swim. I wanted to do a lot of things that you can’t do if you have no job and live with mom and dad, so there was some basic biological forces that were telling me I needed to figure something out. One thing I knew about myself, and ADHD, is that I perform super well in any subject matter that fascinates me, both in the classroom and in the workplace. Does he like the outdoors? Computers? Puzzles? is he creative? Is he really patient with difficult people? He likely has some strength that is in some way marketable, and being reminded of that and giving him encouragement may be a game changer for him. And it might be a lengthy process before he succeeds, but it’s something he needs to start working on.

    • #117832

      I completely feel for you and I see a lot of similar situations. Based on what you are saying about the biological mom, I would not be surprised if she is ADDADHD herself which makes it really hard for her to help herself or your son. This is a tough situation for you for sure!

      I read the above responses and saw lots of good ideas from a variety of perspectives. I have mild ADD (it runs in my family on both sides), my husband has very strong ADHD, and most of our children are also ADD/ADHD (gene pool full of ADD makes it pretty hard to be otherwise).

      Recently several of us started on medication (myself included) and that helped a lot, but it doesn’t fix everything. I’m trying hard to be a good mom and for the most part I think I’m succeeding, but it would be because I am focusing on “just loving” my kids. I had to give up the dream for them to be “successful” in the way that that word is usually defined. I have a University Degree. I come from a family of highly educated people (both parents have advanced degrees). It has been hard to give up the usual idea of “success” for my kids especially since I am surrounded by people whos children are so very “successful” in the traditional sense. If I focus on the things that my children have not achieved, I can get sad and feel disappointed, but if I focus on the “successes” that my children have achieved and see how far they have come, I can celebrate with them and be happy for all that they are and all that they have become.

      I have one child who has just been through a mental break down and is on the road to recovery. They are currently unemployed, on medical leave from University, and had been living with us for 1 month after coming out of the hospital. They just returned to their own apartment in another city. This is certainly “success” for them right now. I’ve seen how hard this has been for them and I’ve seen them keep on trying even though it was really tough. I could NOT be more proud of them right now!

      I have another child who is struggling to finish their high school diploma. ADD procrastination has been a real nemesis for them. This is their 3rd time working to be ready for the exam that is holding up their high school diploma. They have left home and are employed at a “bottom of the barrel” job right now, but for them, this is progress and “success”. Maybe they will get the diploma done this time, and maybe they will need another go at it. I don’t know. I just know that I need to encourage them in the good things that they are trying to do, cry with them when things “go south”, and try to help them get to the next level for them.

      I have two other adult children with ADD who are currently employed and working on educational goals in their chosen trades. They will probably never be doctors, lawyers, or accountants, and they will probably never even attend a Univesity, but that is okay. This is “success” for them.

      All my kids are good people (for me that is a huge “success”), they are all law abiding citizens (another big “success”), and they are good to each other and to me (a wonderful “success”). So far they have all managed to be fairly good with their finances (I’m very grateful for that “success”), and they have chosen relationships with people who I can respect and appreciate (to miss on that “success” would be really challenging for the whole family). These “successes” are things that I appreciate and thank them for often.

      One of the challenges of ADD/ADHD is that you look “normal” so people expect you to be “normal”. The reality is that you are NOT “normal”. Things that come naturally to “normal” people do not happen at all naturally for you. If your son was severely autistic, you would probably already have a different idea of what “success” would look like for him. I would encourage you to look at him as a person of great potential, but also as a person with significant challenges and try to determine what “success” looks like for him. Be there for him. Help him. Let go of the normal “success” picture and work to see him as he is. If he feels the change in your perspective and opinion and it is genuine, he will respond with warmth in return. We all know when someone doesn’t think we measure up. We all resent it and move away from them. We all enjoy being around people who help us to feel good about ourselves, but it is something that can’t be faked. It has to be sincere. You sound like a caring and concerned dad. I can tell that you really want your son to be successful. I hope that you can achieve that together.


    • #119339

      Congratulations to your son on graduating! Seriously. I think you don’t realize what a major achievement that was, and just slipped by it on the way to his next failure. But he graduated. Now he’s finding it difficult to look for a job because it is terrifying. But he graduated! That’s great! I am agreed with the other respondents that if you can manage to somehow not be “the bad guy“, and manage to just meet them once a month in some neutral context for lunch, or to go rock climbing, or to do something that he would enjoy, just to keep the door open. And then when his brain has matured sufficiently you will be there to give him a hand when he asks for one. You have to meet him where he is, not stand half a mile up the road to where you think he should be by now yelling at him to hurry up and catch up to you.

      I don’t know how you would feel about this, but if he does a lot of multiplayer gaming, you could ask him to teach you how to do it. And then you could also ask him if it would be OK if you joined in sometimes. He will be very much better at it than you are, which would give him the chance to teach you how and also give him the chance to be better than you are at something, Which would be excellent for his self-esteem, and it would also give the two of you something you could do together that was on his turf. Instead of yet another thing that he is failing at. It’s another way of keeping the door open for when he wants to ask for help, when he is ready to do that.

      Or find some other activity that you can do together that you can both enjoy. Something non-threatening that he is reasonably good at.

      You don’t say if you celebrated his graduation, but if you didn’t, if there’s someway that you can acknowledge that achievement – a card, a gift, Dinner out Dash that would be good. It will have been very much harder for him to do that then you have any idea. It took me eight years to finish my BA. I felt like a useless loser and I hated myself every single day of those eight years. But then my brain matured, slowly, overtime, and I am no professional employed and have been for years. It all worked out.

      If you take him out for dinner though, don’t take the opportunity to do what would come naturally it any graduation dinner, to ask him what’s next! He doesn’t know what’s next and he is panicking. I have sympathy.

      I do not know the mother of course and if she is a drug user that’s not a good influence. But she doesn’t know what to do either and may well be doing the best she can. Your story about her just showing up on campus and “stalking” him I see from her perspective, or what would be my perspective of I were the one doing it. I would want to see my son because I loved him and missed him. I would visit him on campus for that reason. Try assuming that she loves him and then ask yourself how that affects your opinion of her actions. They may be misguided but well meant. And remember that he loves her too.

    • #119341

      Sorry about the typos in the last! I am dictating on my phone and I corrected as many errors as I saw but the text is running off the side of the screen and I see I missed a few, but now I can’t go back and edit.

    • #119387

      Danyosaur, thank you for sharing and I am glad you are having success. But I have ask – what does work? As a parent, it is crushing to see your child, adult or otherwise making poor choices, isolated and depressed over their situation. Tubby is probably relieved his son graduated, but it probably was due to the mother micromanaging (stalking) out of her own fear. A degree doesn’t solve any problem – actually it adds expectations that his son is clearly not ready to mature.

      How long should parents wait before we see a change? Medication and counseling seem like a waste when the patient doesn’t want to change. What made you want to change?

      The online world has made ADD worse and contributes to isolation and failures way beyond my generation of the 1980’s. We had no option but to participate in our world- not withdraw into video games and online chat sites. Lots of industry has been built on trying to help people suffering from ADD but to me, nothing works unless you remove the things that isolate and increase distraction.

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