Sad and disappointed: when to give up on a child's education?

DD has been on medical leave from a non-HYP Ivy since Dec 2017 for anxiety and depression (she also has ADHD). Since then, she’s been through two intensive outpatient programs and is on her third therapist. She was working but was fired from her job (for giving shifts away too often when she just didn’t feel like working). She was taking a class at the local community college until yesterday when she freaked out before a test and decided to drop the class-late, so there will be a W on her transcript. She wants desperately to return to her school, but I am starting to realize that may not happen. Now, though, she has a mess on her transcript from dropping classes at community college (this was not her first W). I don’t know what to do. My husband says just let the clock run out-at her school she has five years to return without an issue; after that, she has to talk with a dean. But the thought of three more years of her trying (and probably failing) to get to a point at which the school will let her return sounds unbearably painful. Part of me wants to suggest she formally withdraw from the school so she doesn’t have that pressure to return.

I think you should give up on her returning to Brown and just let her new educational path form. It’s not a big deal to have a W on her transcript. It’s not a big deal to have several years of not going to school. You can’t make her fit into the traditional mold.

Decide what is best for her right now - work, medical treatment and therapy, communit college? Vocational training? Maybe she will return to Brown within the 5 years, but just let that go. Maybe in the next 3 years she’ll find something she likes better.

Just letting the clock run out is no help to her ADHD. It’s something, afaiac (not a pro,) that’s common in ADHD. Waiting, wishing, not changing, then ruing, and the cycle begins all over.

And some kids are square pegs trying to fit into a round hole. Often, another path, letting go old old, is better. We don’t know.

Family counseling can help.

Hugs to you and to your daughter. Two thoughts:

  1. The FIRST and ONLY priority is your daughter getting well. Then and only then can she–in conjunction with you as her support team–make a good decision about whether she should return to her original college, attend a different college, or choose a different path. Right now, she is in no position to make that kind of decision. Sometimes you need to worry about the next 24 hours and not the next three years.

  2. I highly recommend the book The Stressed Years of Their Lives: Helping Your Kid Survive and Thrive During Their College Years by B. Janet Hibbs and Anthony Rostain. It addresses exactly the kind of situation you are looking at, as well as other variations on the theme. One of the two doctors who wrote the book has a student whose college career also went off the rails for a period of time, so this is not just an abstract topic for her; she HAS walked in your shoes.

I don’t have any advice but wanted to let you know that I’m sorry. It must be very difficult to watch your D struggling. I hope that she will eventually get the depression and anxiety better managed. Seems like that should be the priority for now and let school take a back burner. Sending cyber hugs!

A lot can happen in five years. Why shut that door? Keep it as a possibility, not necessarily a goal. BTW, I would encourage you to research TMS.

@Wellspring what is TMS?

Our daughter has been going through the sign up for class, freak out either just before or after the class starts at CC and drop it mode the last 3 years. She has managed to finish 2 classes. She has tried trade school, dropped it. Had I don’t know how many jobs and quit, got fired , or just left all of them because of depression or boy issues (leading to depression). This last time we had to tell her we were done. If she chooses to go to school she can work and pay for classes. Then if she starts showing success we will talk again. I don’t think she will go back at least for 5 years.

The good thing for you is that your daughter is getting therapy. I might try a family counseling session about college and reality. Ours refused to go to the doctor or take her meds so it doesn’t work for us buy may for you since your daughter does want to return. Set up a plan on when to withdraw or what progress she needs to keep going and determine if it is a realistic idea to do it. Good luck!

Transcranial magnetic stimulation. An FDA approved treatment for depression. It made a big difference for my daughter.

Work on getting good, evidence-based, treatment for her anxiety and depression. CBT, DBT, and also look into TMS for depression, but first and foremost, get her mentally healthy! It is hard to let go of a path that has been a given for so long, but you never know what the future holds. Get her healthy.

Has an inpatient program been considered…with a transition to outpatient? I do not even know if this is possible given your daughter’s situation, but you are saying…the outpatient programs have not helped.

Knowing nothing about depression, depending on medical and financial feasibility, you might consider to let her travel/live overseas to be in a different environment for sometime so that she can get away from academic and family/friends peer pressure and also gain different perspectives with exposure to different cultures. For example, teaching English in east Asia.

I recall your D’s struggles and wish you all the best.

I spent way too much time and anxiety wishing my under-achieving S would change his ways until I read the blessedly simple, oft-repeated advice to “Love the kid on the couch.” Different kids take different paths. Just love her, support her, and try to meet her halfway. Work to get her healthy and maybe the path forward will become evident.

No need to formally withdraw now. Just leave all options open and hopefully something will click for her.

Hugs from here too. It’s tough , I know. I agree that the focus now should be on getting your DD on even keel.

My oldest took 14 years to finish college. He left and I did not think he would return. I know of many such stories. In all cases, the main issue is getting back on track, and that doesn’t mean college. It means getting the mental demons in check, learning to live a healthy life, getting self sufficient. College just a detail in all of that.

One of my friend’s daughters going back to Cornell after a ten year absence. It took that long. It’s no longer important even; that she could make that a choice whether she made that decision or not, was a huge achievement.

Brown seems like a terrific school. Do they have any mental health support services your daughter might benefit from? They offered her a place, they want her to succeed.
Good luck to your family. Take as much time as it takes. If the clock runs out you can’t control that but I wouldn’t close any doors.

Full disclosure - no personal experience with this. I’m sure it’s quite painful to witness and not be able to do much about it. That must be very difficult.

I know several kids (including nieces / nephews and close family friends) who have a combination of anxiety and learning issues that have sidetracked them. The good news is, after years of starts and stops, they are forming what most consider to be a “normal life”. One, at age 29, decided to go back to school for a nursing degree. He’s a different person than he was at 22. FIrst time I’ve ever seen him focused and committed (ADHD and some processing issues). He did the regular 4 yr UG at a traditional school and then bounced around for years including a stint living on a friends sofa. The nursing program is at a well known for profit school and has worked out well. HIs sister is reinventing herself at 27. Others I know have just decided that although they are quite bright, traditional college wasn’t for them. One in particular has been a hairdresser for several yrs. She bought a small house (dirt cheap) and just sold it for 100k profit. She’s 28, covered in tattoos, has taken college algebra 4 times at a local CC. She’s finally decided she likes her life as is.

My point is these may not be the lives their parents sought for them, but they have become basically happy and that’s really what matters.

Good luck to you and your family. I sincerely hope she makes progress.

It’s not a matter of giving up as much as refocusing the attention. Brown, or any college , should not be in the picture at all, IMO, when focusing on getting someone on their feet. It’s a distraction. It often takes every bit of effort and attention to working out the problems in life to make headway. To have something like a college deadline hanging over one’s head is no reward when things are dire but another thing to live up to. Of course, this can vary from person to person.

I’ll chime in with my 3 kids’ experiences. My oldest and youngest (both males) are high achievers. (Oldest took a while, but youngest started that way).
Middle child (daughter) was completely different. She was very artsy, and pretty much hated school starting in kindergarten. Her grades in HS were abysmal. We were unsure she would graduate until actual graduation day.
Yet, she wanted to go to college (I suspect because her friends were all going). She left college in the middle of her first semester. She had a lot of anxiety (perhaps because she was miserable and didn’t know how to fix it).
This was four years ago. She came home, lived with us and got a job at Starbucks. A year later, she moved out of our house and in with her now business partner. They started a real estate investment company and she is renovating houses and renting them out. She now works in a very high end restaurant as a server for 3 nights a week (and makes quite a bit of $ on those nights!). This pays her basic living expenses while they build their book of holdings. She works probably 60-80 a week between her two things, and has never been happier. She is now cognizant of her inability to be constrained in a school-like environment, which translates to hating an office-like environment. She needs freedom and not structure. With the former, she can use her creative side and has found a way for that to earn her $. Her and her partner’s goal is to have enough income from their properties to stop building/working by age 40. They are on track for that to happen.
We were terrified for her when she started this as she had failed at so many things before. And this one could have really gotten her into trouble. But she found her fit and is thriving. She may, someday, tire of what she is doing now and want to do something which requires formal education. But I certainly cannot say she hasn’t spent the last four years not learning. She can replumb a house now, is an ace dry Waller and has quite an eye for design. She is her own boss, and for her, that is priceless.

It was really tough watching her struggle for so many years. And giving her the room to figure things out (even with a ton of failure) was brutal. But she came out the other end, so far.

My money is actually on her being the most successful adult of my three kids. I sure didn’t feel that way 5 years ago.

What would you differently if you let the clock run out, versus if you didn’t?

I truly think the first issue is the mental health, overall, and functioning successfully in whatever it is. Not perfection, but progress in managing life reasonably well.

And that the question of holding open her return to a particular tippy top can seriously cloud things. Maybe stand in the way of learning new ways.

Parent counseling can help identify where one feeds the beast vs establishing the right foundation to tackle today’s needs.

Imo, part of ADHD and then depression is about delaying decisions and responsibilities, (thus, delaying fulfillment,) always thinking you can pay that bill tomorrow, start another class later, or find another job, sometime. And then, no progress. “Oh well, I have x more years to get back to Brown.”

You may want to strip all the extra What Ifs out of this and just work on today, this week, this goal. And drop Brown out of the equation.