How much should we be asking of an 18 year old

by Tanya
(Arkansas )

We have an 18-year-old daughter who just graduated high school a few weeks ago. She has suffered from depression since middle school but has also hinted since then it was more than just depression. She is very smart and was in the gifted program until high school. Which is when her behavior really started to get out of hand. She did graduate but it was like pulling teeth to make that happen. 1 week before graduation we had to take her to inpatient treatment for suicidal threats and abusing drugs. Mostly Xanax which she does not have a prescription for and cocaine. She also smokes marijuana. She totaled her car while high on Xanax a few days before we took her. She spent a week there and come home clear headed, optimistic and on medication for bipolar disorder. She has been home 3 weeks. We have had many disagreements about the rules for her to live here. We feel she needs to be home at a certain time, let us know where she is and who she is hanging out with, also absolutely no drug use at all.

She feels she should be able to come and go as she pleases because she is legally an adult and that she should be able to use drugs if she chooses. She was also going to be given another car this time from her grandmother. She came home yesterday saying she was packing a bag and leaving. We were arguing because she hadn't been home in 2 nights and when she was here she slept the entire time. She was clearly high on something and not marijuana. She also had 2 guys with her we had never might before. We took the car from her and told her she can't have it or live here if she was not going to do what is expected of her. She left on foot with the 2 guys and says she is not coming back unless we give her the car back and let her do whatever she wants to do.

My question is the article almost makes it sound like we should just put up with her bad behavior and poor choices. I felt it did have helpful information too. So is asking your 18-year-old, that all of this has just happened, to check in with us, to have a curfew and not do drugs to live with us, have us support her and help her go to college like she wants to much to ask of her?? I don't understand what limits we are supposed to be set if we aren't supposed to expect that much out of them.

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Jul 29, 2018

by: Kristen

Hi Tanya

Your questions are really great, so thank you for asking them.

Your rules and limits are reasonable and the structure would be absolutely essential to your 18-year-old.

You ask...
"So is asking your 18-year-old, that all of this has just happened, to check in with us, to have a curfew and not do drugs to live with us, have us support her and help her go to college like she wants too much to ask of her??"

No. Absolutely not. Part of the difficulty here is that you are dealing with a child who has substance abuse issues and mental health issues so it is more complicated.

An eighteen-year-old is not an adult. And one with bipolar disorder and substance abuse issues has even more challenges than your every day 18 year old. She does not know whats best for her, you do. My advice to you would be to keep firm limits about curfew and check in and do not budge on them. Even if she is angry and defiant. It will be challenging to continuously stay calm and consistent but it's your only choice.

I am not sure which article you read, but the idea behind being flexible with your bipolar teen is that you understand and are compassionate for the struggles that face your child when they have mood swings and meet them where they are at instead of applying the same discipline that you would to a child that does not have bipolar disorder. The things that they can't handle you don't expect them to handle and you provide more support and encouragement to them then they might be expected to need at the age they are at. However, you must stay calm and in control. Being the authority and the adult is always important.

So, for example, although you might expect your 18-year-old daughter to take a full course load at college and work. You are open to the fact that because of her bipolar disorder your daughter might need to take fewer classes or work less than an 18-year-old who didn't have bipolar disorder. It may be that she can't handle the responsibility of a car or can't live on campus.

When you add substance abuse into the mix of a bipolar teen, consistency, and consequences around drug use and curfew need to tighten up.

I hope that clears things up!

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