Child’s Age: 18
Child’s School Level: High school
Area(s) child struggles: Attention, Emotions, Reading, Self-esteem, Social Skills
Describe how another person — a family member, teacher, or classmate — negatively affected your child’s learning and/or well-being.
My 18-year-old daughter with AD/HD and LD became involved with an emotionally abusive young man this year. Like many individuals with AD/HD, she is socially less mature than her peers. This young man manipulated her time, controlled who she saw and when, and was always angry with her for something. He threatened to hurt himself if he could not see her. He interfered with her study time at school, and he thoroughly convinced her that he needed her, that all the things he did were born of love.
Describe how you responded to the situation, including the actions you took or strategies you used to support or defend your child in the situation.
Initially we saw some red flags in terms of manipulation and talked of our concerns at meetings with her therapist and with our daughter. As things worsened we spoke to her advisor at school and the school nurse who saw her once a day for meds. When we realized the relationship was not going to end on its own, we encouraged our daughter to look closely at this young man, and we provided her with information on the warning signs of abuse. We limited the amount of time she could spend with him as much as possible and frankly discussed our dislike for his behaviors, telling her we thought she was in danger. We sought advice from her therapist and again from the school advisor and nurse. We made it clear to her that we would be supportive of the break-up.
Nothing really worked until a teacher reported what she perceived as emotional abuse (or bullying) by the young man to my daughter at school. It was the obligation of the advisor to report the incident to us, and we used this as a catalyst for illustrating to our daughter what was happening. We had her call a local counseling center and shelter for domestic emotional/violent abuse. The intake counselor was able to identify what she thought was a problem and convinced our daughter to set up an appointment and seek counseling.
Our daughter broke up with the young man, and his obsession continued to the point of him sending threatening letters. We went back to the school, provided them copies of the letters, and made appropriate arrangements to have teachers keep their eye on the situation. Currently my daughter is seeing her own therapist and counselor at the domestic abuse shelter. Our focus is on her self-esteem and worthiness. She will attend college next year at a state university and has been accepted into their engineering program. Her goal is to become a mechanical engineer.
How did your child handle the situation?
Our daughter is a bright and attractive young woman who wants to please everyone. She has overcome many obstacles with her LD and AD/HD and wrote a paper this year on the need for both medication and behavioral modification in the treatment of AD/HD. Yet, as self aware as she is, she did not respond to the obvious control and manipulation of the young man she was dating. She is non-confrontational and would break up with him only to take him back when he would plead and beg. It took several incidents and interventions before she was convinced she was in an unhealthy relationship.
Describe up to 3 things you learned from the situation?
- Kids with AD/HD and LD are not as socially mature as their peers. For years I have read the literature on this, but it took this incident for me to take it to heart.
- When a child turns 18, her AD/HD and LD don’t magically go away. This incident impressed upon me that these are chronic, lifetime disorders.
- Advocacy for your child and teaching self-advocacy to your child never stops and is still the most important tool for success.
Describe up to 3 things your child learned from the situation?
- She is not yet able to handle grownup or adult relationships.
- She needs to be less submissive, and she needs to re-evaluate her own self-worth.
- She needs to carefully choose the people with whom she associates and realize that she can decide that certain people who do not share her values will not make good friends.
What do you wish you had done differently, if anything?
At the onset of this situation, we would have been stricter and acted more quickly and thoroughly when we saw red flags. We would have emphasized her self-worth and provided more aggressive counseling.
What advice would you give other parents in this type of situation?
As your child with AD/HD reaches dating age, she will still need your input, support, and advocacy. She has needed your advice on organizing her schoolwork; now she needs your advice on choosing friends. Keep an open and frank dialogue. Discuss everything and particularly have sex education conversations and “healthy relationship” talks. Use relevant resources that provide information to her in a way that she will accept. Tell her you will be there, you ARE there if she needs to come to you. Stress her self-worth and value.
Did a widely available resource help you handle the situation or provide you strategies? If so, please provide us with either the title and author/producer of the book or video, or the website address.
The school nurse provided pamphlets on dating.
Our local domestic abuse shelter provided information about abuse identification markers.
There are articles in periodicals like ADDitude Magazine that provide guidance.