Q: I have a 14-year-old daughter who is diagnosed with inattentive ADHD (meds caused her to feel panicky and scared, so she’s not on meds). She spends her days in bed watching videos on her phone and says no to every suggestion of an activity.
She has friends but doesn’t want to see them outside school (there are no issues, she just doesn’t want to get together with them). She just started counseling. I feel a lot of fear around how she just wants to lie in bed and watch videos. I can force her to take a walk with me, but she becomes extremely unpleasant, repeatedly asks to go home and becomes angry.
She is obsessed with certain shows and is extremely intelligent in how she analyzes and exhaustively discusses them but doesn’t care about school or homework. Her grades are fine but not outstanding and she is in regular level classes. I’m scared to take her phone away (I know that sounds crazy). She is extremely strong willed — more so than I seem to be — and a black-and-white thinker.
I’m divorced and her dad has half custody, but he does his own thing and generally goes left when I go right. Our communication is deliberately absent. Do you have any guidance for me going forward? I feel like I’m failing her.
A: I can feel your fear through the letter. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you can’t reach a child you love, and when you feel that way, you begin to panic that you are “failing her.”
To begin, you aren’t failing her. You clearly know her likes and dislikes, you are trying to get her out of her room and you have started her in therapy. All of these examples show me that you care and you’re trying, which matters.
Not to mention, ADHD in girls can be confounding. I found this quote to be especially telling from the Child Mind Institute: “Stigma is stronger against subtle disorders than obvious ones: ‘You’re bright. You should have it together! What’s wrong with you?’ The very subtlety and inconstancy of the symptoms fuels stigma — it doesn’t reduce it,” says Stephen Hinshaw, who chairs the psychology department at the University of California at Berkeley.
You report that your daughter is doing well enough in school and is intelligent when it comes to analyzing shows, so it can be easy to forget that she has true struggles happening inside her mind. Parenting a child with this invisible issue is challenging, so please treat yourself with compassion.
As a coach, I’m always going to want to know when the seclusion began and what factors, if any, led up to it. So often experts can say, “Oh, it’s the ADHD …” but humans are complex. Is her withdrawal pandemic related? Were there any other transitions or traumas? Bullying? Anxiety and depression related to her ADHD? (It’s typical to have these co-occurring.) Boredom? Hormones? All of the above?
I don’t want to overwhelm you with questions, but[…]
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