Recently I spent several days with college classmates. We caught up on our lives and of course, we talked about our children. Some of us had children who had learning disabilities, ADHD, or emotional problems. But by this time of life, our children are mostly in college and beyond. It was interesting to see how these young people had found their way into young adulthood. Some have followed the fairly straight path that their mothers did. Others have chosen alternative routes, but mostly they are productive, independent, young adults.
Many times when I am working with a parents and their children, the parents ask in distress, “Will she ever go to college?” “Will she be able to leave home?” They might be asking me about a third grader. Probably they have just learned that their child has a learning disability or an anxiety disorder. And likely we are at the beginning of treatment when life is pretty chaotic. Perhaps the child has meltdowns about homework. Or the parents can’t get the child out of the door to go to school in the morning. Or the child has a terrible time getting to sleep at night and keeps everyone up late. These parents are spread pretty thin, and they are alarmed at how poorly their child is functioning.
At times like these I am glad that I have been in practice for over 25 years, that my husband and I have raised our own son. And that I’ve also supported numerous friends as they worked their way through the emotional, academic, and social challenges of learning disabilities, ADHD, and anxiety, or depression. I have seen so many children go through very tough times in school, at home, and with friends, and I have seen many of them get to a place in which they can be productive young adults.
I have been reflecting on what seems to make the difference, at least in my professional and personal experience. First, these parents kept trying to find the right school and therapist and activities and services for their children. Involved parents are always a part of success. At the same time, they did not protect their children from challenges. They believed in the child’s ability to cope, as long as proper supports were in place. Third, the parents all liked their children. They were able to get past the anger and hurt caused by tantrums and misbehavior. They found aspects of the children that were enjoyable, and the children knew that their parents believed in them. Last, these families are all at least middle class. They have the financial resources to find the services their children need.
So when the frightened parents ask me whether their child will leave home, I tell them not to rule it out and to stay in the game. And we begin where they are to address the multiple needs these children present.