By GreatSchools Staff
Child's Age: 18
Child's School Level: High school
Area(s) child struggles: Attention, Emotions, Reading, Self-esteem, Social Skills
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.