35 answers

18 Year Old Son with Extreme Behavor Problems

I have struggled through the past 10 years with my son. My husand and I were married when my son was 4 years old. His Dr and I believe he is bi-polor but we can not get him to see a therapist.
His biological father had anger problems. I am so tired and my husband and I fight over this all the time. My 10year old daughter is tired of the fights. My husband and son can not be in the same room. My son goes through our room and takes things when we are out. He even takes my daughters things just because. He hits the walls he yells and curses at me and he step father.
But he takes the blame for nothing. He says he can not help it. I love him so much but he has made my life so hard. I hate that we can not have a better realationship. Do you think he will grow out of this. I am so tired

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Well, things are still not great but they are improving. My son has recieved his GED and has enrolled in summer classes @ local college. He still plans to go into the Navy in the fall. We have our good weeks and bad weeks.

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No he won't grow out of this. He needs help. I would talk to the doctor about what options you have as his mother in getting him the help he needs.

I lived with him too. I havent' read the responses but after one extreme episode we, my husband, son(17 at the time) and I sat down and we gave him 4 choices. We said pick a bootcamp. He is in the Navy now and very successful. It worked for us but my son has anger mangement issues and ADD issues. THese are things the Navy was able to work with.
I truly hope he is able to get help in some way.

well hes 18 give him the option therapy or out by the end of the month. DO NOT SET A DATE TO MOVE OUT FOR MORE THAN A MONTH. they wont move out or even start looking for a place until the week before so just give him a month if that. by saying therapy or move, this gives him some input, he chooses his actions good luck

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You have let him rule the roost for a while now. He is ruler over everyones life. He rules your marriage and your poor little daughter. You need to practice some tuff love. Tell him if he does not want to go to counsiling for help then he will have to move out. Simple as that. He gets help or gets out. He is 18 and responsible for himself. If he wants to steal and damage things I would say he is not just doing it from you. I would let him know if it happens again you are calling the police. These kind of things have to be cut off when they first begin or they get worse. He is not growing out of it. I would let him know he does not have to love or even like his step-dad but that he has to respect him. Also you and your husband need to stop fighting in front of your daughter. It is giving her wrong ideas about how a husband and wife is supposed to act. For everyone you need to get him under control and it sounds as if you are gonna have to do it with your husband to back you up.

1 mom found this helpful

I am so glad to see this post. We are dealing with the exact problem with our 14 year old son. But this week was it. We had to admit him to a local hospital for help! It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do but I did it to get my son the help I just could not give him. We have been to more counselors than I care to count and none of them gave us the tools we needed to help our son. We are trying new medications and behavior modifications now. It has been hard to not have him home. I am hear for you if you need a friend to talk to who is going through the same thing you are. My email is ____@____.com if you need to vent.

1 mom found this helpful

Get the book "The Heart of Anger" by Lou Priolo. It will change your way of thinking and interacting, and will also help your son. If you're thinking, "There's no way I can get him to read it," that's fine -- because *you* will be the one reading it, and applying it first to your own life, and then applying it to your son's life. It can turn him around.

well hes 18 give him the option therapy or out by the end of the month. DO NOT SET A DATE TO MOVE OUT FOR MORE THAN A MONTH. they wont move out or even start looking for a place until the week before so just give him a month if that. by saying therapy or move, this gives him some input, he chooses his actions good luck

First off, is there a way to lock your bedroom door and your daughter's? Your daughter should not have to worry about her stuff being stolen. My daughter locks hers now because twice her brother has taken something out of her room.

There are different types of bipolar. Some have manic phases and some don't, or their manic phase is just a less angry phase.

No, I don't think he will grow out of it.

I would give him a one day warning that you and maybe also your husband want to talk with him at a designated time the next day. Then also mention it that morning and one hour before. Hopefully, that way, he will get the yelling about the meeting out of his system beforehand.

Maybe read "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk" by Adele Faber before meeting with him to learn how to better communicate with him.

State your concerns and then give him some choices and have him pick. The choices may be 4 therapists or psychiatrists (provide names, pictures, and backgrounds which you can usually get from their website) he can decide between. Talk about how the therapist may recommend medication eventually.

Good luck!

your son needs to see a therapist. he obviously has problems, and not taking responsibility for his actions is the part of it. you may have to take the hard road of really tough love and tell him either he gets help or he is not allowed in your house. this sounds harsh, but it will be easier in the long run if he is willing to get the help he obviously needs. good luck and i will pray for you!!

E. you are not alone. I have a 17 year old boy and a 14 year old boy. We are having alot of problems too. I am to the point I do not know where to turn. I know you do not want to see them move out. Unless they have a good job it would be hard for them to make on their own. And it is hard to make them go to a therapist I have already tried that with mine. They had to go to group therapy because of the trouble they got into. My boys get into fights with other people, and each other. My 14 year old is the one I am having the most trouble with , he is on his way to JDC if he gets into any more trouble. The way my husband deals with them is to scream at them but that is not the right way to handle it. It sounds like you son does need therapy. I would say therapy or move out.

My son was like this and he was ad/hd.Since he is an adult u can have him court ordered to see a counseler.This has to be done before he hurts you , himself or an innocent person.Its called tough love hun, you can only help him so much, now he needs to take resposibility for his actions. He is breaking up your family. Please get help for him befor its to late.

Okay, don't lose heart and don't give up. If he is bipolar there is hope for him. The process to find the right med combination is grueling but in the end he will be better than he has ever been. Does he have classic bipolar symptoms? For instance extreme mood swings, bursts of extreme energy and then days of laying in the bed, permiscuous behavior, spending sprees, grandiose ideas, irratic sleep patterns. If he does try to get him to go to a reputable psychiatrist for a dianosis. I realize he is 18 and if he is like most people with bipolar he probably is refusing to get help. In this case I say just perservere and if he still refuses you may have to wait until he gets manic and have him committed. I know this sounds harsh but things will never get better until he is on a medication and proper sleep schedule. I am very familiar with bipolar and the only thing that will help is for him to get his moods stable. He will not grow out of bipolar and things will only get worse. For a lot of bipolar people it is around 18 or 19 when they have their first really manic episode and have to be hospitalized. I also want to mention church to you. I don't know if you go to church or are even a believer in God but a good church that you and your son go to can really help. God loves you and your son more than you can imagine. I have seen God work so many miracles in my own life and I am sure He is able to work one in yours. I will pray for your situation and hope everything will work out. Read phillipians chapter four, there is encouragement in there. Gods best for you.

At 18, he is not going to grow out of it. He has some serious issues that he needs professional help with especially if he is stealing too. Medication for bi-polar may be an issue but he has behavioral issues as well.
The stealing will not stop and will begin to spread to others and not just family members.
Is he hocking things for money? Then he probably has some type of drug/addiction issues that he doesn't want you to know about.
Please get him help while you still have some say and control in his life and since he is living with you then he has to live by your standards/rules/ethics.
Get him help now before he gets older and gets married and has children otherwise he will just be some poor girl's and innocent children's future problem/pain.
If you are in TN you can check into Three Springs near Nashville. It's a camp for different types of behavioral issues. Expensive but good.
God be with you!

NO, your son will NOT grow out of this. If a doctor is diagnosing him as bipolar, why is he not on medication? If your son is a danger to the rest of your family, you should probably consider "sending him off" to a boot-camp-type of program that is designed to help boys with behavior problems. If you don't do some type of intervention now, while he's young, just imagine how he will be with a girlfriend/wife, or even children of his own. :( My family had the same type of problems with my younger sister (and then some), so I completely understand where you're coming from.

Honestly, no he wont grow out of it. He needs to get some help. In his calmer moments, try & sit with him & ask him if he's happy when things are like that, is happy where his life is. And if not, then tell him it's time to go get some help because it could just be a chemical imbalance and with a little medical intervention, he could be so much happier & healthier.

Also, he's 18 now, a legal adult and if he's out of school, time for him to move out if he's not willing to get the help. It's not good for your daughter to be around that, not good for you or your husband either.

Bi-polar is very hard to deal with because many suffering from it don't believe there's anything wrong with them. And some don't like the meds either, and you can't force him to take them. But it can be a condition of him living there.

I know how hard this is for you all. I have an 11yo I think has aspergers syndrome & we go through hell sometime with him. Luckily we're on the road to finding solutions for him.

Get some outside help, others that might be able to reach through to him. Sometimes they listen better to someone other than Mom and Dad.
In my prayers.

Dear E., I don't know that I have anything new or good to offer, but I really feel for you and hope that something positive comes out of your reaching out for help. I do think that it's time to make ultimatums for your 18-year-old: Tell him calmly and resolutely he either goes to therapy or moves out. Tough love. He is an adult now and has contributed to your and your husband's misery long enough. If he's not willing to get help, to change, you will continue to spin your wheels/ revisit the same issues and problems over and over again. If he agrees to therapy and continues to live w/you, rules for behavior and appropriate consequences need to be established. Therapy for all who are involved would help.

PS. I apologize, Somehow i thought he was 18. 14? it is not his choice in any way. Take him to a psychiatrist and if he is put on meds, make him take them. Period

If you truly believe that he is bipolar then you need to get him to a specialist. If he says that he can't help what he does then that is the way that he can prove that to you by going.My nephew is 10 and has already been diagnosed with bipolar but the medications has done wonders. You need to save your son and your marriage!!

I know that this is difficult situation for you. If I were you I think that I would first seek out a family therapist for yourself and your husband and daughter. With their help I would move him out of the house. If he will go to a hospital and seek treatment great - if not he cannot come home to live. You will have to set up boundaries and be strong.

As much as you love your son, he must understand that you and your husband and daughter will not live this way anymore. It is not a healthy environment for your marriage or your daughter. When he says that he cannot help it - tell him that he must see someone who will help him do what he needs so that he can help it. Tell him that he is 18 and that is not an acceptable answer anymore. As hard as it may be - go to court - have him prosecuted and ask the judge to order that he receive treatment if he will not seek treatment. I know that this is a heartbreaking route, but I have friends who have had to do this. I am surprised that he hasn't treated someone else this way and been prosecuted by them. Be strong, it may be a long time in coming, but one day he will thank you. He will understand that you did this because you loved him (although - he may be 40 before he comes to this realization).

I know that the days ahead will not be as easy or as clear cut as it sounds in this short answer. I just encourage you to be strong. I have more than one person in my family who suffers from various mental illnesses and it is very stressful. Especially when their medications need to be adjusted or they stop taking their medication all together. It is hard when they run away and you don't know where they are for days and weeks.

E., I'm so very sorry you are dealing with this. So many times we do our very best to teach our children how to behave and to be wonderful adults and along the way, peers, circumstances and disease cause other things to happen. I mention each of these because my aunt has gone through a similar situation with her oldest son. His father has never really been a part of his life and she remarried when he was maybe 6??? The only dad he's ever known and for some reason has not been very close to him. Maybe because she became pregnant immediately with his son and he just hasn't really bonded with the oldest. I don't know. School was difficult, he argued and went against the teachers and being the "single" mom for so long, she had always fought for him no matter what....still does and he's now 21. They've had so many problems, the most recent with him doing drugs and drinking all through his teen years. Of course, I'm sure we get the watered down, "oh it's not his fault" version but either way, the kid has had a difficult life so far. A very loving, caring mother but never really feeling it. He once buffed up at my husband, when he was 18 my husband was 27??? And instead of backing down like his step-dad does, my husband called him on it....unfortunately my cousin backed down. I almost wish he hadn't so someone could have whipped some sense into him! They claim it's related to him being ADHD, but funny thing...when he would visit my mom in the country, he wouldn't take any meds and would behave just fine. I think alot of it has to do with his behavior, but your son may be dealing with other problems. I've recommended they get him some professional help to at least discuss his issues and learn positive coping measures for his problems....we don't know how to cope just naturally...they are learned and sometimes our teens learn more negative things from peers and tv. I can't stand for my girls to watch tv...so many negative comments and pictures! Either way, I wish you the very best and by all means find someone for him to talk to. Even getting things off his chest may help and certainly need to address the anger issues. Entirely too dangerous for your entire family! God Bless....

My son had serious problems like your son for 12 yrs. He rejected many therapists, said he hated me, wouldn't take his meds etc... He did connect with a teacher who helped some, but it wasn't until later when he had a melt down that he was willing to talk to my pastor. He was trained with youth pastoring. When he accepted Christ, his life really turned around. Does this mean all his problems went away? No. But the way he handles them is totally different. Now he calls me almost everyday just to say "I love you again today mom"
If you need help finding a good bible teaching church let me know, and I will ask my pastor to search one out in your area.
My prayers are with you,

from your post, it sounds like he's 14, not 18. Get him to a doctor. He is not old enough to be responsible to correct this for himself. It is your responsibility as a parent to get him the treatment he needs so that he might and you might, live a healthier life. I don't think that he will just grow out of it and he's probably right when he says that he can't help it. It doesn't make the behavior acceptable, but it signals that you need to get him the proper help. Talk to your doctor about a recommended course of action, talk to the therapist or medical professional that your doctor recommends and see what they have to say and what treatment they recommend. Try to arm yourself with some information beforehand so that you can decide how to proceed. I am sure that the medical professionals who treat those with bi-polar are very familiar with the patients not wanting treatment. Ask them how best to get the treatment for your son and then make the decision to act on it. I can almost guarantee that it won't be easy, but it surely will be worth it. I'm so sorry that you are going through something like this with the son that you love so much, but please seek the advice of those trained to deal with this behavior and then take the steps necessary to get it under control. And honestly, if he is bi-polar, putting him out on the street is not going to 'teach' him anything. That said, you have to protect yourself, your husband and most importantly your 10 year old daughter. Take that first step by speaking with your doctor and the medical professional's they recommend and then acting on their advice. The struggles you will encounter can't be much worse than what you are going through right now, but at least they hold a glimmer of hope for change. Good luck!

YOu sound like a woman I work with. I am so sorry for you. You and your familiy will be in my prayers. L.

Saturday May 2, 2009

Dear E.,


I am writing to contribute my own suggestions to your 'Mom's baby boy' problem.
Since your boy is already 18, I belief he should be in his last year of High school, or first year in college. May I, please, ask if he made it to high school judging from his questioned bipolar condition? If yes, then praise is to God!
All you have to do now is gradually start introducing him to youth groups and activities. This will kind of distract him from home-closed-attachments to the external adventurous world. He will get to make new friends, especially if he has a girl friend. Encourage him to enjoy hanging out with friends to movies, parks, sports, games, window-shopping etc. Change from being angry with him, and rather start adoring him as an important personality who can be self reliant to help the family as SENIOR, not JUNIOR, any more.
Encourage him to take a house of his own, or even assist him to live independently, possibly out of your community, city or State. Consult with your husband on the new strategy, and plead with him to assist you heal your son through this therapeutic approach. Consult your other children not to be jealous of the new advantages or attention you give to your son’s personality promotion.
Encourage him to look for a job, or help him to engage on home business which will take most of his time on internet sales, and the only time he may have for himself will be meeting with his girl friend and, or peer group for life adventures.
Try this therapeutic approach, turn to God with prayers, and within a short period you will see the results and be relieved for good.
Stay blessed.

No he won't grow out of this. He needs help. I would talk to the doctor about what options you have as his mother in getting him the help he needs.

I'm speaking as the 51 yr old 'baby' of a family and the mother of 4 loving adult 'children (and 'aunt' to several adults and teens). Also, I've listened for years to lots of good Christian family programs to help with marriage and raising children.

He's 18. Put him out. Immediately (with one warning ahead of time)! MAKE him accountable for what he chooses NOT to be accountable for. He IS old enough to make it on his own and find out how hard it is to 'make a living' and quit taking advantage of the ones who've cared for him all his life. I put one of ours out when he was 20 or 21, and it's been the best thing I could've done.

Even if he IS 'bi-polar', he can make it. Quit using that (or his father, your remarriage, his little sibling, YOUR GUILT, etc) as an excuse for him. He doesn't need excuses. He needs accountability and resonsibility. It's up to him to use the GOOD teaching he's received to make a life for HIMSELF. (I know a lady who is bi-polar, has 5 boys, and runs a full-time business). He'll never appreciate shelter, food, transportation, clothing and spending money as long as it's provided FOR him, and he'll never learn any younger!

E., I feel your pain. I have a 10 year old and we have struggled and searched for years to find something that would help him. He had attention problems, very emotional, anxious and on certain ADHD meds became agitated. About six weeks ago we were at our wits end and was given a name of another mom going through the same issues (Asperbers). We went to see their doctor, who has a Child and Adolescent Psychiatry practice here in Franklin. We had gone to a ADHD specialist. This new doctor prescribed a different med, it was actually for Bi-Polor, but it helps with these issues, calms them down, helps with concentration. We gave it to him on a Friday night, stopped the ADHD med and he has been a different child from that Saturday until now. My husband and I have been stunned with the drastic change, our home is 97% streeful free. I know that some people may be against meds, but I was desperate to help my child in any way I could, and now we see who he can be that he couldn't be before. I also know that if it works for one person, it may not work for another. I am just happy to be able to share our story, if it can help anyone else, I am grateful. I know what life can be like when these issues are present and how long it can take to find something that works. If you are interested I can give you the Doctor's name and/or the med name.

I lived with him too. I havent' read the responses but after one extreme episode we, my husband, son(17 at the time) and I sat down and we gave him 4 choices. We said pick a bootcamp. He is in the Navy now and very successful. It worked for us but my son has anger mangement issues and ADD issues. THese are things the Navy was able to work with.
I truly hope he is able to get help in some way.

Sounds like a good deliverance session would be in order but you don't say anything about whether your family attends church on a regular basis or not. Personal resposibility is something that every person must realize carries consequences for bad behavior. If he is stealing from you it will only be a matter of time before he is arrested by the police for it. He is old enough to know better and will have to face the facts sooner or later! Your daughter however, deserves better than that and if you allow him to continue to disrespect other's boundaries, she will have issues in her teen years as well. My Pastor has been ministering on "Boundaries That Heal You" at www.rwoc.org and you can watch the Video on Demand there anytime you have a minute. I think it will help you alot. Sorry to hear of the turmoil in your home, it really should be a place of peace and rest.

I do agree with the women who say that you should issue an ultimatum, but I wanted to interject that the male brain (specifically the part responsible for remorse and processing the consequences of your actions--the frontal cortex) is still developing at the age of 18. That does not mean that he will turn things around without help and guidance. In fact, he is likely to continue to develop along the same track that he is on. I just wanted to point out that there is still time to help him become a good man.

Good luck to you and your family.

You are in a hard spot...and I am so sorry for that. I know other posts have said he is acting childish and he needs to go to a doctor, but I am too familar with the situation. I am very familar with depression, bi-polar disorder...if he is suffering from one of these, yes he needs to go see someone. Easier said than done. Because he is 18 you can't make him, unless he becomes a threat to himself or others. Then you can take action for a short period until they evaluate him to see what is going on. After the evaluation then if they say he is not a threat then he is free to leave.

I know you have probably already tried this, but have you tried approaching him in a non threatening/angry way? I know you want to ask him to leave the house, but then you don't b/c you are afraid of what might happen to him out there. What destructive things he might do. He will not out grow this without help. He might finally realize he does need help, but he will not outgrow it on his own. Unfortunately, you have 2 things working against you...him being a boy (being a little stuborn) and being a teenager (very stuborn and wants to do things his way without being told).

Is there someone else that he is close to that could talk with him? Someone other that you, your husband, or your daughter? Some he trusts? I will keep you in our prayers.

I doubt he will grow out of it unless he admits he has a problem. I would sit him down and give him an ultimatium that he either gets help from a doctor or he moves out. He is old enough to take care of himself technically and if he is going to steal, he is not welcome. Sometimes you can take care of a child too much and they take advantage of you. You might consider giving him the chance to grow on his own, living on his own. Hopefully he will choose to go to the doc and maybe you can go with him. It would be so hard in this situation but you may end up emotionally harming your daughter while possibly losing your husband or your healthy relationship with him. Good luck to you.

Grow out of it?! He's 18! He's a realized adult. No, he will not grow out of it. He will either continue to be a punk kid who refuses to take responsibility for himself the rest of his life, reaping havoc everywhere he goes, or he will get beat down enough by life that he will finally see his behavior for what it is and make a radical change after a definitive decision and alot of effort. He is not a kid and 10 years is not a "phase" he will grow out of.

It is your ultimate responsibility now to protect your marriage and your daughter.

That said, I'm so sorry! This is my nightmare. My eight year old has started behaving like an insane punk who's a victim of everyone and yet is somehow entitled to everything - and believe me when I say we have raised him right. Your kid is who I see him becoming. And it scares me to death. But, I wouldn't tolerate in my own home. Doesn't sound like you want to but you can't control him at 18.

If he stole in our house it would result in his owing double restitution to the rightful owner every time. Take it out of his college/car/whatever fund. Make him sell his car if you've allowed him to have one. Refuse to pay for anything extra you're used to paying for until he pays you back twice what he stole. And when he graduates from high school, tell him he has two months to find a place to live and btw that requires income which you will no longer be providing.

Evalutate your own parenting now, without regretting the past. See what you can change NOW (honestly it wont make much of a diff at 18 but at least to make the sitch bearable for you until he's gone out of your house) and stick to it. Sometimes, kids just consistently make bad choices bc they want to. It sucks, but you couldve been a perfect parent and he may still turn out a punk. it's NOT your fault at 18. It's his decision to act a punk and there's no way you can control him or his behavior. I'd stop trying. He's an adult. Let him face adult consequences. Otherwise you showing your daughter it's ok to act that way, in your own home, to your family, to suck as a human being in general....

Good luck! Let us know how it turns out. I'm scared for my own.

Not without serious therapy. This is a tragedy in our society- when one needs mental care, it is impossible to force it unless they hurt themselves or someone else. If you can commit him, do it. God bless you and good luck. He should not be in your home with your young daughter.

If he has graduated high school... encourage him to join the service. My neice was a no where direction, bad attitude, blame the world kind of kid. I encouraged her into the service... she joined the Navy and has now been in there for 12 years, met her husband, also Navy, they have 3 children and she thanks me every day. The service gives them direction, income, opportunity to see the world, and most of all, discipline and pride in themselves. Otherwise, your problems will not end as long as he is allowed to have that attitude. As a parent, tough love, is tough!!!! Good luck and God bless!

I have a long history in dealing with my troubled 18 year old son. I have been down a very long and painful road with him. There is help out there...believe me I know this all too well. My son did'nt want help either...we forced him to. Is he under your roof? If he wanted stay there he would have to go get help. TOUGH LOVE mom...that is what is needed and until you are able to do some tough loving towards your son...NOTHING will change. I have created a website for moms with troubled teens because of what I have and continue to go through....it has many resources that could help your son. Some of my stories are very personal but if you would like to e-mail me...I would love to share them with you. My deepest desire is to be able to reach out to other moms who deal with troubled teens.I have been there and done that and have several T-shirts! You are not alone....there is HOPE!



In no way do I believe I am an expert to advise you on your situation but my heart is hurting after reading all the responses. It sounds like your son is hurting really badly. He may or may not have been exposed to negative influences to trigger some of his behavior, or he may just be a teenager. I consider that I was a really well behaved teenager but it was a TOUGH time for me, and I wouldn't go back for anything. I was the oldest of five children, and no matter what trouble we got into, our parents ALWAYS stuck by us and let us know we were loved even if they strongly disagreed with our actions. Kicking one of us out of the house would never ever have been an option. You love your son more than anyone, and you are better qualified to help him than anyone he will wind up around while living by himself. Like I said, I have not been there, and obviously some parents have taken this route to have positive outcomes. I just couldn't personally do it.

Regardless of whether your son is 14 or 18, I think he really needs alot of love whether he is receptive to it or not. He does too need to understand when he behaves inappropriately and be made to face the consequences of his actions. But don't ever give up on him.

I think one major thing you can do is immediately eliminate you and your husband's fighting around the children. You are the adults. Take it to another room so the children do not suffer. The only person you can ever control is yourself, so do everything you can to model good behavior and show your children you love them. I would also have a hard time allowing him to be with his father unsupervised if that too is a negative environment (this is an assumption based on you saying he has anger problems).

Good luck and hang in there. Your children are the most important investment of your life. I hope you and your family can find some peace.

Please take a long look at www.feingold.org. Feingold is a 30yr old non-profit organization whose purpose is to inform the public about petroleun-based artificial ingredients. These harmful additives cause ADD, ADHD, OCD and many other emotional, behavioral and physical side effects. Feingold is a leading authority on this subject and has helped thousands of families over the years. Feingold states that ASPARTAME is also one of the many harmful additives that can cause bi-polar symptoms. My father and my daughter have these symptoms, so I understand how exhausting it can be. Your son is too old to MAKE him change his diet, but if he is miserable enough to want to change, maybe you can persuade him to give it a try. My prayers are with you.

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