Parenting Your ADHD College Student with Boundaries

by Andrea Wackerle

The first few weeks of college are now under way, and it can be difficult to not check up your new college student daily to make sure they are going to class (and getting there on time), managing their time properly, turning in assignments, and functioning successfully as a young adult. These feelings are common among all parents, but especially those of students with ADHD and other Learning Disabilities. Teachers are no longer going to email you when assignments are continually incomplete and the school is likely not going to keep track of your child’s attendance. Hopefully all of your hard work and encouragement up until this point has set your child up for success, but there are ways that you can still play an active role in your child’s educational success while still having boundaries and fostering independence.

Encourage Organization and Time Management

Instead of sending a care package filled with candy and snacks, how about sending some organization tools? A large desktop calendar, wall calendar, or student planner will encourage your child to document assignment due dates, test dates, and extra curricular activities and will provide a nice visual for upcoming tasks. Many students go from a very structured school day, to having free time they’ve never had before. Free time can be great when managed properly. While you can’t physically be there to make sure this is happening, you can encourage your ADHD college student to schedule basic tasks such as study times, laundry, meal times, tv/gaming time, and social events so that there is time for what needs to be done and for fun stuff.

Teach Financial Responsibility

For the first year, you may want your child to focus on their studies and not take on too many responsibilities, such as a part time job. If this is the case, be sure to set boundaries regarding an allowance. Try monthly or biweekly amounts. By setting expectations up front of how much they will have to spend, your student will be more conscious of their spending, including how much things cost and budgeting over a period of time. They may struggle with budgeting the money out over the whole two weeks or month, but this is part of the learning process. If you do want your your student to take on a part time job, encourage them to look into on-campus jobs. On-campus jobs usually have shorter shifts (4-6 hours), operate on the same schedule as the school, and are more flexible with scheduling. The school has your child’s best interest in mind, so if there is a test tomorrow and your student just needs the night off, the school will be much more understanding and supportive.

Just Ask for Help

It’s important that your ADHD college student feels supported by you and your family and understands it’s okay to just ask for help. If your child feels that you will be angry or disappointed if they begin to fall behind, they will be less likely to come to you for help when the signs begin to appear. Try to communicate that while you do expect them to maintain good grades and properly manage all of their new responsibilities, you are also available to help them find solutions. Solutions may be contacting the school’s support services, helping your child initiate a conversation with a professor, or working with a classmate to add accountability.

Support, Support, Support

There are so many resources available that your child may not know about. While researching these for them won’t help foster independence, you can certainly encourage your child to research them on their own. Make sure your student has access to a recent evaluation regarding their ADHD, especially if they contain recommendations for accommodations. This will be extremely helpful for your student to have on hand when meeting with professors, academic advisers, tutors, or campus learning centers. While we hope to live in world where learning disabilities are more understood and accepted, the school and your child’s professors will require documentation before providing accommodations such as untimed tests, note taking assistance, and other common supports.