Why I’m Scared to Drop My Child With ADHD Off at College

Tomorrow I’ll be driving my son to college for the start of freshman year. These last couple of months have been a roller coaster. Now we’re at the top, knowing the big plunge is right ahead of us. He’s nervous, and I’m scared.

My son has ADHD, and I’m afraid he won’t be able to handle all the demands that lie ahead of him. He’s very smart and at times very independent. But he’s also forgetful, disorganized and a big procrastinator.

There’s a lot for him to figure out at college. How the subway system works (Will he remember that it shuts down at 1am?), and how to budget his money so it lasts the semester.

I’m afraid because I spent weeks reminding him to make a list of personal items he needs to bring. When he finally did, it had soap but no shampoo…or toilet paper. I can’t tell if he’s been listening to me or if he’s so overwhelmed that he can’t hear it.

My son is a good kid, and I hope he’ll use good judgment while he’s gone. But I can’t help being a mom. So I’m worried about decisions he might make that will lead to trouble.

For instance, I’m afraid he’ll misuse his ADHD medication. Or that he won’t know how to balance his time between doing work and having fun, because he has trouble with time management.

Most of all, I’m worried that he won’t let me know if he’s in trouble until it’s too late. Will he call before he drops classes because he’s struggling to keep up? Or worse, drops out entirely? Will he ask for help with emotional or academic issues, or will he shut down completely?

Who will be there to help him think things through? I usually do that for him.

We’ve dealt with some of these problems already, in high school. But now the stakes are so much higher. He’s about to start a new life, living on his own in a student residence 30 minutes away from campus. That wasn’t by choice. He’s living there instead of in a dorm because he “forgot” to register for housing. That alone made me scared (and, yes, angry).

I offered many times to help him stay organized and on top of things throughout this process. He kept telling me he had everything under control. Obviously, he didn’t. Once I realized this, I did what I’ve always done: jump in to rescue him. Through contacts I had, we got him into off-campus student housing at the last minute.

The whole experience was typical of him and typical of me.

But now he’s leaving, and we both have no choice but to let go of all that. He needs to figure out how to manage on his own and take care of his own needs. And I need to figure out how to stand back and let that happen.

It’s inevitable that he might stumble and even fall. That’s part of learning and growing. But I still hope he contacts me. I want him to know he can trust me and share his accomplishments and failures with me. I don’t want him to think I’m trying to control his life.

I know it’s time for me to trust him and to let him go. And I’ll try to keep my fears to myself. I’ll leave him with the love, happiness and pride I have for him, as he takes this new and important step in his life. And I hope behind my tears he’ll see a big smile.

Read a high school graduation letter from a dad to his son with ADHD and dyslexia. Learn how to help your child seek out support for common problems at college. And watch a video of a man who went back to college after being evaluated.

About the author

About the author

Gaby Bobadilla, MA started her career as an editor and translator 20 years ago at Scholastic in New York City.