ADHD in Young Adulthood: Helping Teens Adjust to New Responsibilities

Young adult with long ponytail sits at desk in front of laptop concentrating Many children diagnosed with ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity, experience a high level of support from the time the ADHD is realized. Parents often serve a major role in helping them organize time, manage responsibilities, and complete tasks. In addition, children who have ADHD are likely to have tutors, IEPs, and other formal or informal services designed to help and assist them.

But when children become young adults and enter college or the workforce, it can at times be difficult for them to obtain the same level of support they received throughout their years of elementary and secondary education. If in college, young adults can get accommodations, if they choose to seek them, but it is often the case that more self-advocacy is needed on their part. In addition, when young adults no longer want extra support, parents cannot force college-aged children to receive such interventions.

Coping with Transitions

Whether young adults find a job immediately after high school, work throughout their college years, or complete college and then join the workforce, this period still marks a major transition for most individuals. When symptoms of ADHD, even when they are managed well, are also present, the transition is likely to be even more difficult.

Parents can help increase the likelihood of their teen having a successful transition into adulthood by encouraging and offering support as they ease into adult responsibilities, assisting them in finding support when necessary, and helping them learn and discover tools they can use and develop on their own.

The following suggestions may be helpful to parents helping their teens and young adults settle into college, a career, or adulthood in general.

  • Young adults may benefit from therapy, ADHD/executive functioning coaching, or other counseling during this period. Not only can professional help be beneficial while learning to manage feelings surrounding this period of transition, assistance with practical tools for time management and organization—from someone other than parents and caregivers—can be vital. Individuals new to the workforce, for example, may find it necessary to learn how to employ job-related time management and organizational tools.  In the same way it may have taken time to understand how to keep track of assignments, study for exams, and do well in school, it will likely also take time to understand being successful in a job requires a new set of skills. This can be more challenging in the workplace, however, because deadlines are not always as concrete, making it difficult to know how to prioritize. This is especially true when it is necessary to work on multiple projects at the same time.
  • Young adults may benefit from learning to use tools they can implement themselves. These kinds of tools might include online money management systems for budgeting and keeping track of bill due dates, funds, and so on; calendar apps to keep track of appointments; task list apps to keep track of chores such as laundry; or timer apps to ease transitions between work and leisure time.
  • Encourage young adults to get involved in activities on campus or in the community. Community involvement is a great way for young people to develop strong connections to their community and build lasting friendships. For many teens, especially those who attend college or begin work in a new area, this period can be isolating, and this may be even more the case for those who do not attend college. Finding structured activities to participate in outside of work is often a great way to prevent isolation and reduce feelings of loneliness.
  • Encourage your young adult to develop fulfilling hobbies of interest and achieve a good work-life balance. Many young adults may have spent the previous several years with most of their days fully scheduled, between attending school, meeting with tutors, and doing homework. Thus, they may have spent little time doing things out of pure enjoyment. Some young adults find jumping into the workforce to be similar—they may work long hours, evenings, and/or weekends. In the little free time available, many young adults spend time engaged in passive activities that may help them unwind but are less likely to provide them with long-term satisfaction. Young adulthood can be a great time to take up a sport, photography, art, or a similar activity that helps generate life satisfaction outside of work.

This list of ideas is not exhaustive. Rather, it is simply intended to provide a few suggestions and help you begin thinking about the steps young adults with ADHD and their parents can take to make the transition into adulthood easier. A qualified counselor can provide further guidance.

© Copyright 2017 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Carey A. Heller, PsyD, therapist in Bethesda, Maryland

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Lora


    October 19th, 2017 at 2:55 PM

    My teen doesn’t have ADHD but she is having some tough adjustment type issues this year.
    She started high school and her dad lost his job over the summer so I think that she is carrying muchof that weight on her right now.It is taking a toll on her and it makes me worried for how this will continue to effect her over the upcoming months.
    I know that we try to do what we can to keep a lot of things from her but she is pretty intuitive so that has been tough.
    I really don’t know how much to have her involved or to keep her in the dark, which that too doesn’t seem quite fair to her either.

  • Valerie


    October 20th, 2017 at 7:45 AM

    For both of my boys it has always been about finding the right balance and outlets for their energy. I have one who literally needs to run around and move even when reading a book, and another who can’t be forced to multi task or do anything at the same time as another. It’s crazy but this is how we have to make the accommodations for them to ensure that their learning environments are the most conducive to actually learning for them. I am thankful that we have also always had teachers who have been willing to meet them at their individual levels as well.

  • tanner


    October 21st, 2017 at 7:55 AM

    My parents were always pretty cool about it all.
    They were hands on enough to let me know every day that they would be there for me if I needed them, but smart enough to know when it was time for them to step back and back off a little so that I could learn that I could manage this on my own.
    I don’t know how they found just that right balance but it always worked out pretty well for us.

  • Jack


    October 23rd, 2017 at 10:19 AM

    Many times I think that much of what helps a young person learn to succeed is having someone in their lives who will allow them to fail. I know wAy too many parents who are obsessed with making sure that their children never stumble and fall, when in the end, it is that little slip and then getting back up again which is the greatest life lesson.

  • flynn


    October 24th, 2017 at 3:28 PM

    My thoughts are that the earlier you can expose your children to the many responsibilities that go along with getting older, then the better that they are going to be able to handle life when things that are unexpected come up.

    I know it is difficult when the child has additional things going on like ADHD, but the sooner you can get a grasp on that, learn what works for them and what doesn’t, then you can start letting him or her make his own modifications to the things that have to be done on a daily basis.

  • Lorenzo


    October 27th, 2017 at 11:37 AM

    We have had a hard time transitioning from elementary school to middle school. In the younger grades the teachers were so much more understanding and helpful in any way that they could be.

    I don’t see this as much with the middle school, teachers and I suppose that they feel like they are teaching the kids responsibility by being more hands off but I think that there are some who could benefit from a little more hand holding.

  • matt


    October 28th, 2017 at 10:21 AM

    Are there any of you for whom medication to help with the problem is simply a no go?

  • Nena


    October 30th, 2017 at 1:18 AM

    Good advice, as always. I also can’t stress enough how seeking a professional help is the most appropriate thing to do. Sometimes, we as parents, busy with our own stuff, couldn’t monitor our children as much as we wanted too. And teens with some emotional or psychological pains won’t open up with you. That’s why when they find the courage to speak, drop everything. Forget your deadline for a while and listen to your child. Nothing is more important in this world than your children’s well-being.

  • Carey Heller

    Carey Heller

    October 30th, 2017 at 10:47 AM

    Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

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