Supporting Parents to Step Back

Parenting neurodivergent children can be challenging, and parents often find themselves managing all facets of their child’s daily life from staying organized and maintaining passing grades to managing care for emotional dysregulation, co-morbid conditions, and medication.

In the Winter 2023 issue of Attitude Magazine, Merriam Sarcia Saunders column, “How to Raise a Self-Reliant Adult” is an excellent reminder to parents to shift from being your child’s CEO to their board of advisors. In my book, Empowering Youth with ADHD, Chapter 2, “What is Your Role?”, (2010) delves into the need for parents to step back in order to empower adolescents instead of enabling them and how coaching adolescents can help.

Coaches who specialize in working with neurodivergent teens understand that this is not an easy shift given years of dedicated support of their child. Our training participants, many of whom are parents of neurodivergent children, want to better understand how to support parents while coaching the teen directly to increase self-determination skills. In my experience the key is to acknowledge the parents and learn about their role as the former “CEO” of their child and help them see the benefit of empowering their teen by reducing their day-to-day management of tasks

Examples of stepping back for parents:

  • Let your teen ask you for help with homework instead of checking in on progress.
  • Schedule appointments for your teen with your teen and work towards turning over the responsibility to them for scheduling and showing up for appointments.
  • Teach your teen how to do laundry instead of doing it for them.
  • Provide clear expectations and structure for daily and weekly routines to promote independence and responsibility. 

Shifting from being in charge of your child to stepping back to promote their growth, learning and self-determination is a process.

Parents, be patient with your teen and with yourself. The end result of all of this is worth it.

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