7

So there's an interesting situation that I have with my dad. I'm going to try to explain it as clearly as I can. This should be on-topic here, as per https://parenting.meta.stackexchange.com/a/227.

A little background: I'm 21 years old, and live at home (when I'm not in the dorm in college). It's a process, but I'm trying to get my dad to understand that I'm not a little kid any more. He was an only child, and his parents doted on him very much; I'm sure it worked for him. I, however, feel like I need a little more room to be independent, and I have been trying to work this through with him and my mom.

Here's the new situation that I'm seeking solutions for: last week, I saw a psychiatrist after nearly failing a couple of important classes in school (I'm usually a good student), and she diagnosed me with ADD and mild depression. I'm pretty good at science and internet, and I am going to do my own research on what ADD is and how to work with it (besides seeing a therapist, as the doctor recommended).
What's bugging me is that my dad is trying to take care of this for me. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 5 years old, and, understandably, my dad read every book that was available so that he could take care of me. That was appropriate when I was five, and I really appreciate that he cared that much to thoroughly research the disease beyond what the doctors told him. At this point, I manage my diabetes entirely by myself (and have done for a few years now). I do not, however, think that it is appropriate for him to try to micromanage his 21 y/o son's new diagnosis in this way. Just today, he told me something along the lines of "I know you like running, so I want you to run every day while you're on vacation. I read that exercise is like medicine for ADD." I think that's over the line of how involved he should be (and also has the effect of making me not want to run).

I want to figure this out on my own, but I also want him to be there for support and answers to questions if I need it. What's a good way to try to get that across to him? He can get pretty upset if he feels like one of his children is "telling him what to do/how to parent;" his old-school parenting doesn't have much room for customer feedback. (He's in his fifties.)

  • You're correct, this is entirely on topic here. – anongoodnurse Jul 24 '17 at 3:33
  • Does he have ADD and/or depression (or symptoms which might indicate even a mild case of either)? – Acire Jul 24 '17 at 16:22
  • 1
    One comment... I'd be skeptical of nearly ANY psychological diagnosis that was done 'after seeing a psychiatrist last week', especially something that generates as many false diagnoses as ADD. That's far too quick and casual. – Ask About Monica Jul 24 '17 at 19:10
  • @Erica - Are you asking if the father is symptomatic? – anongoodnurse Jul 24 '17 at 20:27
  • 1
    @kbelder - do you have more specific information or links about over-diagnosis of ADD for adults? Or were you talking more generally? – PoloHoleSet Jul 25 '17 at 22:00
4

I want to figure this out on my own, but I also want him to be there for support and answers to questions if I need it.

This is a bit like having your cake and eating it, too. Support you should have, no problem there. But you have a decision to make on the guidance part. If you want to be able to ask for help when you need it, it makes the boundary you need to set a little fuzzier. It's a bit like saying you want to be financially independent, but still be able to ask for money when you need it. So figure out what it is you really want.

It sounds like you want independence; you've been ready for it for a while. You feel this is your problem/diagnosis to work with. Your father, however, wants to "fix" the problem. He sees this as a huge aspect of being a parent. Your diabetes either taught him this lesson or deeply reinforced it. Childhood illnesses affect not only the child, but also, psychologically, the parents. That's not undone easily.

When all is peaceful (or close to it), have a talk with your dad. Express gratitude for how he's helped you reach adulthood, for all the work and the sacrifices it took to get you there. Then tell him how you feel about your diagnosis and your independence. Listen to his answers/rebuttals, even if you disagree vehemently, and ask him about his feelings; it's easier for people to tell you what they think than what they feel. But understanding his feelings - if he shares them with you - will help you in your endeavor.

Then set a reasonable boundary. Tell him you heard and understand all that he's told you, but that you want to handle this alone with the help of your psychiatrist. He raised you to be responsible, and he did a good job (you are managing your diabetes, and you made the decision to see a psychiatrist to get a diagnosis on your own.) You'd like him to trust you with this and sit back and see what happens. Tell him you appreciate that he wants to help you fix this, but that it makes you feel (whatever it actually makes you feel: incompetent? disrespected? invalidated? x? y?) Then whenever he tries to handle things (get some exercise!), remind him only that you spoke about this and you don't want him to try to fix you. Don't discuss it again and again. Just repeat as necessary. If your mom is on board with this, enlist her help in her own way (so that it doesn't appear that you're asking your mom for help but refusing your dad's.)

You might have a problem in that you're not truly independent yet; you live at home, and presumably are financially dependent on your parents. A logical fallacy that's really easy to fall into is that if you aren't ready for financial independence, you're not ready for other types of independence. You'll have to refute that fallacy. Your handling of your diabetes and your seeking professional help, as well as all your other accomplishments, are facts in your favor.

Good luck with everything. I think you're handling things really well.

If you need a trump card, and it's actually true, you might gently point out that the way he's trying to manage you isn't helping with your depression.

  • 1
    I think the above is great advice. I'll add that you should say that you know he will be there if you need help, and you promise that if things don't work out then you will talk to him. That will give you the space you need while keeping your father there as a safety net, which is what I think you are looking for. – Paul Johnson Jul 25 '17 at 19:15
0

I think it's a hard dynamic because he is your dad. While I agree at your age telling you what he wants you to do might be a bit much, anticipating that he won't be fully invested in trying to research might be too much for you to expect too. My siblings do this all the time for one another. If someone has a diagnosis, everyone is now researching it & sharing what they find. We do draw a line that no one tells one another what to do with the info we find & share. That is up to the person. This is why being your dad might make it harder for him to learn to stop that piece of it. He does love you though & so he will be invested in your health & well being for likely the rest of the time you are blessed to have him around.

I would maybe approach it by telling him how much you appreciate him taking such an interest in it & would love to hear things he has found about ways to manage it, but that you need him to also allow you to figure out what parts of that you will choose to try & integrate & find your own way to manage this in your life. And let him know too that you will ask for input or bounce ideas off from him, but that it won't always mean you will do the thing he thinks is the best idea, but you do want his input, to help you think things through.

It is common, with & without a new diagnosis, with & without a childhood illness to manage, to have to find ways to reestablish new boundaries with your parents as you get older. Your father has a little more right at this point to have some additional input into your life as he provides for you still while you live there. When you are fully on your own, you likely will again revisit additional boundaries & things will shift again.

My parents couldn't help but constantly overstep into my life once I was in college, so I only lived at home a few months before it was clearly never going to work well for me & it was the best decision I ever made to move out. It was super hard. I had to work full time while in school full time, but it was also so much better for my relationship with them and my stress level. It can be very hard to navigate such things with adult children living with parents. In fact I found it too hard to even manage it. I could have stayed there & not worked & I would have finished school sooner (by taking more credits) and it would seem like that would be easier but for me it wasn't. I couldn't tolerate what felt like constant intrusion.

  • I am not suggesting that you move out by the way. I was merely saying, in some cases, no matter how much you tell them, some parents (like mine) can't seem to stop themselves. So you can for sure try to tell him how you feel & hopefully he will respect that & try to amend the way he is interacting. I just wanted to be realistic too that sometimes I do not think there are enough words in the language to get them to understand what you need from them. They can sometimes only see how much they love & care & want to help in the only way they understand how. – threetimes Jul 25 '17 at 8:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.