A question to those of you with non grads


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So have been looking at this forum a bit more frequently now due to the fact that my daughter will be turning 18 in the next 7 months. I want to get a little bit of an idea of how it might be like to parent a grown up difficult child. As it stands right right now, difficult child is not even close to being on track to graduate. She will most likely end up a 5th year senior, if she doesn't choose to drop out first.

I really can't see difficult child wanting to continue her education once she turns 18. Her attendance has continued on a downward spiral for the last 3 years. She has no desire to do anything but surf the net and draw. She aspires to be a chef, but doesn't want to put in the work to get there. She has had numerous interventions over the years. Nothing seems to help. She already sees a school psychologist, a social worker, and a psychiatrist. She is in a self contained classroom with only a few other kids. Her teacher specializes in ED kids, and she has an personal aide who helps her with her work. On the rare occasions that she is actually at school, classroom time is spent arguing with the teachers and aides because she doesn't feel like doing the assignments.

Let's face it, school is not difficult child's "thing." I am quickly losing hope she will ever graduate unless something drastic happens. I am not taking it well. I am heartbroken. I am grieving over the child I was hoping to have but didn't. I don't know where difficult child will be headed once she hits adulthood, but if she continues along the same path she is now, she will most likely be working minimum wage and not be able to support herself financially. I cannot afford to support her once child support stops. I am losing hope she will ever be a productive member of society. So basically I am looking for some advice or insight from those of you who have been in my shoes. For those of you who have children who never graduated, how did you get over it?


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I would draw a strict boundary with her. She either graduates or she leaves. She can't just sit home a nd work at McD's, if she does that, for ten hours a week. I am maybe a bad person to answer. I was very strict about diplomas and working. I know I could not have tolerated a non working child with no high school degree living in the house. They help the Special Education kids get the credits needed to graduate, but they do need to put in some effort. As for working, well, cut off the money at eighteen and tell her you're going to. No cell phone. No car. No internet. She needs to help you pay and if she doesn't do school after high school, then she has to help pay the bills.

I think I was so strict about this that all of my kids, even the tougher ones, gave me no trouble in this area and all are working hard and self-supporting. some Difficult Child do not want to launch to adulthodo so we have to do what we can to give them an incenive. Unfortunately, a positive incentive usually only works until t he desired object is received so I found myself mostly talking tough. bart did not like to go to school and especially was phobic about PE, although he loves sports. We bargained with the school, who knew he was bright, and if he went to school the amount of days necessary, then he got to skip PE his senior year, which was really nice. He graduated and even started college...unfortunately, as with many of our Difficult Child his mental illness kicked up big time while he was in college so he had to drop out and never went back. But he did get his high school diploma and I'm proud that he has a job with a college grad's salary now. Bart really does have some social issues too and if he can do it so can your daughter. Pep talks along with telling them the consequences for not doing what is expected of all eighteen year olds worked here.

Hugs and I wish you luck.


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We had one kid quit at 17 (they can do that here). We said: full time school, or full time work, or a split between them that was the same as full time. NO other option if staying at home.

Ours has chosen to work full time. In a few years, he can go back and finish school if he wants - if its to his advantage, depending on where his job takes him.


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Our son dropped out at the beginning of 10th grade (drugs, violence, absences, etc). Never finished. Tried Job Corps x2, but got kicked out there, too (drugs, violence, absences). We did pay for a 2-day forklift operator training which he did complete (so he has a forklift operator's license.......but, alas, no one will hire him because he has no driver's license).

After a particular police incident in our home, we kicked our son out at age 16 (obtained permission from his probation officer). He went to live with other people (birth relatives) and attended other schools in other districts and counties. Same thing........drugs, violence, absences.

CB -- I'm noting your final question...... "How did you get over it?" Do you mean how did we as PARENTS get over it? Or do you mean how did our CHILD get over it? 2 very separate items there.

As for us parents, we came to recognize (took us a while) that no matter what we did, our son's life (and education) were ultimately up to HIM.

As for our son? Welll............. I think he's still in the process of discovering that.

P4, SOT and IC all have very good comments. Clear, strict boundaries and choices.....allowing natural consequences to follow (whatever those are). Those are the rules we all have to live by.....our grown kids need to live by them too. That's society.

CB -- Wishing you all the very best! For those who will take the opportunity, Job Corps impressed me very much.


New Member
I am in exactly the same position as you California. My daughter started her downward spiral second semester of grade 10. A former honour student she began skipping, drinking and smoking weed. Her School and home life deteriorated from there. Throughout high school she ran away many times, the final one being in Dec when we gave her 2 rules...go to school and no drugs. Apparently, that was way too many rules for her so she left. She had endless opportunities given to her by the school and by Us but she blew them all. She should be graduating this June but will not be. When the school told her in March she was not illegible to graduate, she was shocked! I am not sure how she could have been so detached from her own life that she didn't see this coming. I suppose this is part of addiction. She skipped almost a year of school. I also grieve the loss of the special day of graduation and worry as well about what she will become without a high school diploma. It is so painful to watch the families around me prepare for graduation day and all the parties that will follow knowing I will not share this with my daughter.I am trying hard to accept this loss and to find joy in my heart for her classmates who worked hard through high school and will enjoy the celebration on graduation day. She could have as well had she chosen differently.


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My daughter started her downward spiral second semester of grade 10. A former honour student she began skipping, drinking and smoking weed
This is absolutely classic. Grade 9 or early grade 10 is one of the most frequent "trigger points" for kids to spiral down. It's a time of massive transition - the school work gets much harder, raging hormones, changing social rules... and some kids just don't end up making the transition well. Not all of them end up on drugs - but many do not finish school.

Scent of Cedar *

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Both my kids left home, one way or another, all the time. (Which means someone let them come back, all the time, right? Darn that D H.) Our daughter did graduate, but not with her class. I was so disappointed at the time. Our son zipped through GED testing in like, one minute, and proceeded not to go to college. You know, where you pay for the classes in a college so definitely not of your choosing and hear ten thousand justifications for why every one of those teachers is not bright enough to teach your son anything.

So you only do it one more semester.

And then, keep holding his education over his head as the reason he is still living at home again at 26.

It seems so strange now, looking back on it. But at the time, education was all I could see for them. And I was willing to do pretty much anything to see that they got it.

So I did do pretty much anything.


So, because our experience has been what it is, I know SWOT is correct about how to handle this. Neither of our kids stopped desperately needing enormous (to us) amounts of money until we stopped giving it. All at once, they began to be able to cope with the most amazing consequences without either our money or our advice.


Can send the daughter to live with her father?



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Staff member
I fought for services for my Youngest all through high school, through the IEP process and our local county team. She had severe school anxiety and didn't do well in the classroom. I got her in collaborative classes, then self-contained, then a special therapeutic day school, and finally, after multiple attention-seeking overdoses and a threat from me to sign over custody to DSS, residential treatment paid for by the county. She ended up in a wonderful therapeutic day school after Residential Treatment Center (RTC), it was a dream placement for her specific issues. She was almost caught up and was going to graduate on time. Then, she made friends with a spoiled rich girl at the school, started breaking rules all over again, got into more drinking and drug experimenting, turned 18, and promptly dropped out - 4 months before graduation. To say I was crushed was an understatement. I felt like all that work to "save" her was for nothing. However, I had to accept that this was HER choice - not mine. It wasn't a reflection on my work to "save her," but on her lack of drive or effort to do any work to save herself.

I did the "get a job or leave" rule. I gave her 3 months. She knew I meant it ... I was prepared to literally change the locks and drop her off somewhere, I'd had it. Before the end of 3 months, she had a job (grocery store clerk, they never checked whether or not she had graduated from HS). She enrolled in a community college work/study program to get her GED, but then got pregnant and dropped out of that. Again, I was crushed. All bets were off. I let her stay with me as long as she applied for services, which she did - and moved out when my grandson was 18 months old.

Lots has happened since then, too much to write here .. it wasn't easy and there were many, many bumps. Having a baby stopped her drinking and drugging, but she made many other poor decisions for a long time. She moved in and out of my house after a pretty severe crisis. But the bottom line is, she got her GED eventually years later (after a second baby - oy that was a rougher time), although she was able to find minimum wage work even without it (no one ever seems to check high school records - she would simply put her high school name and the dates attended, and ignore the "graduated" box). She definitely regrets dropping out, but she made her way anyway.

Now, at 27 years old, she is definitely a productive member of society -- heck she's downright responsible (even if I don't always agree with how she does it, she does it). She told me recently,"don't worry about me, I'm taking care of everything just fine," and she MEANT it. Wow!

When I look back, I see very clearly that the more I refused to help, the more boundaries I put in place, the more independent she became. It wasn't always easy (specially with grandkids involved), but it WORKED. 100%.

Best advice I can give you is: don't work harder than she does to get her what she wants. Let HER worry about her future. Let her OWN her decisions. If you step back and let her, she'll figure out very quickly that you don't get far in life without hard work. Be an example to her of that.


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When I look back, I see very clearly that the more I refused to help, the more boundaries I put in place, the more independent she became. It wasn't always easy (specially with grandkids involved), but it WORKED. 100%.
This is SO true! Every time I am tempted to step in and "save" my son, I have to remind myself that in order for him to grow, I need to stay out of it. He is an adult and his choices and the consequences of those choices are his to deal with. The more I step in, the more harm it does. Been there done that! And you're right CVA - it is NOT easy but it's very necessary! My son's life is still what I consider a mess, but he's finding resources on his own which is the way it needs to be for our kids. If they are not forced to experience the unpleasant consequences of their own actions, then they will choose to stay put and take the easy way out. Up until a year ago I used to step in and do everything for my son. Make the calls. Set up appointments. Nag him about when and where he needs to be on what day, etc. It did no good and my life became hell. I became physically and emotionally ill. My relationships with my husband and younger son began to suffer because I was focusing all of my energy on Difficult Child. That's when I stepped back, set boundaries firmly in place, and gave him control over his own life. Has it been easy for him? No, I'm sure it hasn't but then again life isn't easy for anyone. I've had my fair share of unpleasant experiences in life that I've had to deal with due to choices I made. I didn't have anyone to step in and "save" me and you know what? I'm 100% better off because of it and I know in the long run my Difficult Child will be better off too.

Best advice I can give you is: don't work harder than she does to get her what she wants. Let HER worry about her future. Let her OWN her decisions. If you step back and let her, she'll figure out very quickly that you don't get far in life without hard work. Be an example to her of that.
You are a very wise woman CVA :)


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If your daughter refuses to continue to attend school and graduate after she turns 18, would she be able to get a GED degree?

Would she finish up at home if she were allowed through a homebound program? They had those back in the old days for students that were too sick to attend school but could still do their work with a homebound teacher coming once per week to facilitate. Do they do that anymore?

Could she go to an online program?