Teen Son Issues

Updated on July 03, 2015
S.T. asks from San Diego, CA
14 answers

Background: My son's father and I divorced when he was 8. He took it hard. He lived with me most of the time with regular visitation with his dad, but always made it clear that he would prefer to live with his father. When he hit his teen years, things got exceedingly more difficult. 18 months ago he went to live with his dad finally, after I was having a lot of trouble with him not listening or following house rules, etc. We live in the same area - only a 20 minute drive- from his dad.
My son will be a senior in HS in the fall. His report card arrived yesterday and he had 3 Fs. It wasn't a surprise, but he insisted he would pass all of his classes at the last minute, and he did not.
He skips class a lot and I've let the school dole out the punishment. I am kept in the loop on what is happening, but don't have much influence. I've talked to him about drugs and sexual responsibility...I don't know if he even heard me. I don't suspect him of being on drugs (though I know he's drank at parties and smoked pot on occasion).
His father is now very frustrated with him. I got him into a summer school program to make up some of the missed credit, but on the second day he left after the lunch break and has chosen not to return. He is staying at a friend's house this week and won't come home to either his father's or my home. He will be 18 in October.
Over the years we've tried many counselors; he is extremely closed-off and won't share honestly with anyone. He's been on ADHD medicaion but took himself off 2 years ago (can't force meds on a teen...)
My gut tells me to let him know he is welcome in my home. I told him anytime he wants to come he can. He chooses not to.
He makes plans with me and then cancels at the last minute. He lies.
I know a lot of this is all part of separating, but I wonder if there is something that I am missing.
I am trying to let go...but it's painful.
I would like to add that I am very fragile right now - so please save the harsh criticism for someone else. I am looking for support and encouragement here.
Thank you.

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answers from Savannah on

Actually you can force him to take the meds. My 17 year old son knows that as long as he is a student, not taking it is simply not an option.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Boston on

I feel your pain. My stepdaughter did some really self-destructive stuff, and a friend's teen son was getting into the type of trouble your son is experiencing. If your son has the alliance of a friend's parents (unless he has a friend with his own apartment?), you've got either a potential set of allies or a roadblock, depending on how much they are enabling him.

Please get a counselor for yourself. You cannot keep bailing a child out who doesn't want help. As gently as I can, I want to suggest that perhaps your son is involved with drugs, as much as he may deny it or as much as you may not be able to tell the signs. I know my friend and her husband didn't know their son was doing this - they assumed beer and weed, just as you do - but it was much worse. If you son is refusing to come home, that could be part of the reason. It's very easy to miss those signs because most of us aren't experts with all these drugs out there and the various means of ingesting them. But your son keeps breaking dates with you and won't come see you - so he's hiding something. This is more than "separating" - he is failing at school, at life, at family.

He is not 18. You and your ex still have legal say over him, at least until October. If you're going to take any decisive action, now is the time. Otherwise, like Fuzzy said below, you may have to let him hit rock bottom and hope that nothing terrible happens.

Meantime, how is he surviving? If the other family is feeding him, that's one thing. Does he have a cell phone? A car? Who is paying for those things? One good wake-up call is to stop and to take those items back. If he is paying for things himself, without a job, you'll have to figure out where he's getting the money. My friend's son was working as a drug "delivery boy" and progressed into using. It was extremely dangerous because he was with unsavory folks and getting beaten up regularly. One thing they did was visit the police department and see if there was an known activity involving their son - that was enlightening.

Please, get help from a family counselor experienced in these matters, check with the police about your options and "Is there anything I should know?", and consider meeting with your ex to see if you can agree on a course of action rather than just letting your son decline into the depths.

Both my stepdaughter and my friend's son got off drugs (she got pregnant, he went to rehab), but my stepdaughter continues to struggle with untreated mental illness. If her mother had allowed us to intervene when SD was 17, I can't imagine how different things might have been.

Sending you strength, and the hope that you can find something more than the "open door" to reach out with.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

This isn't normal separating and becoming an adult. I'm sorry that your son's behavior has been irresponsible and disappointing. In all honestly, you are running out of time. He will be 18 in a few months, as you say. He may think that he wants to be "independent" which at 17, he probably thinks means having no rules, no responsibility and not having to do anything he does not want to do, like school. But he will get a big wake up call when he drops out, when he can't live anyplace without a job, when he can't get anything more than a minimum wage fast food job without even a HS diploma - I'm sure that this isn't anything you haven't already considered.

My suggestion at this point, because this really does seem to be a crisis situation, is to talk to the school counselor and see if there is a teen boot camp program that you can send him to, and not give him a choice in the matter. I don't agree that letting him go is the right thing to do in this situation, when he hasn't even earned a HS diploma or even credit for his Junior year yet

He may not open up to a therapist, but maybe it would help you to see one yourself. This difficult parenting situation must be very hard on you.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Teenagers are tough - I know, I have 6 kids and 4 are teenagers right now, including a 17 yr old boy. I think my first question is: why is he "allowed" to stay at a friends house right now? I realize he is 17, and very hard to control, but I guess if it were me, I would be talking to the other friend's parent(s) about not allowing him to stay there. It might not be a situation where you can do that, but if you can, I think you should. He says he won't come home, but that doesn't mean it is ok to stay wherever he likes without parent permission.

I think the other piece of this is "tough love" wherever you can. Does he have a cell phone that you are paying for? Shut it off. Does he have a car he is driving that you paid for and/or are paying the insurance on? Take it. If you are giving him money or an allowance, stop. To me, these things are "earned" not given. I hear a lot of parent's stock responses is "I need to reach him - I can't take the cell away". Don't forget that when you were growing up, YOU didn't have a cell phone - none of us did and we all survived. I didn't have a car until I got a job - I also survived.

He is 17 and you are responsible for him - definitely leave the door open and welcome him when he comes. Constantly provide him moral support and encouragement showing him that he is loved and wanted (I'm sure you are already doing this anyways).

As an aside, I don't think this is "normal" for separating/divorced kids. It might be normal for him and he might have done all of these things even if you and his dad were still together. Don't blame yourself for his actions.

Hopefully you and his dad can create a united front and agree that you are both going to support each other with the same ideas like both agreeing on no money, no cell phone, no car, etc. It will be really difficult if you two are not able to agree on a plan of action.

Good luck!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

The kindest thing you can do at this point is to let him fall on his face and let him pick himself up. It's also the hardest thing to do.
But he (and you) will be better off for it in the long run.

ETA: I don't know about your state, but in Louisiana, a 17-year-old CAN legally leave home and live wherever he wants, without his parents' permission.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I am divorced from my kids' dad and they are 19 and 17. I also have two stepsons - 17 and 12. I battled with my son (less than you) a lot more until I stopped being afraid he would go to dad's and became his parent again. My 17 yo stepson sounds a lot like your son. My barstool psychology advice is that he's self-medicating. He has ADHD and is medicating to deal with it - common, especially in males. He is NOT an adult yet. You and his dad need to get on the same page. You keep enabling him by trying to "fix" everything. I get it, I really do, but you have to stop. He's rebelling against everything you're doing. It's like you're doing everything for him so he's doing the opposite. IF/when he does come home, you have to have rules and boundaries even if it means he runs.
My son started working out of state two weeks after high school graduation and you'd be amazed at how much smarter I got in those two weeks. He grew up a lot and our relationship changed significantly. Your son will get there, but keep being his parent first

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Stop inviting him to stay. He needs to learn what it means to be 18 and a legal adult. If he wants to drop out of school in the fall, then he will have to get a job and earn a living and pay someone to allow him to live with them. He can find out how hard life is without a high school diploma. At some point he will decide that he needs to get his GED and he'll appreciate school.

Honey, you say that you know that all of this that he's doing is part of separating, but you have rose-colored glasses on. It's just not true. Your son is not just separating. What you are missing is that he has played you and your husband off of each other, has not taken responsibility for his ADHD condition, has not been interested in bettering himself academically or personally, and doesn't want to think about his future. There are SO many teens who don't go down the path your son has. Including those from divorced homes and kids with ADHD.

I'm sorry that your son has chosen this difficult path.

Let go of him. Stop asking him to come home. When he does try to come home this summer, tell him that he has rules he has to go by at home and they include x, y and z. Tell him that he cannot live at home in the fall if he is not in school. These two things need to be intertwined together. It's called tough love. When he has to get a job to pay for his bus pass and his cell phone, clothes and food, and whoever's couch he's sleeping on says he has to pay rent, he will start to be more responsible.

I'd have a talk with your ex and try to be on the same page with him about this.

A minimum wage job and later, a GED and maybe community college isn't the worst thing in the world. Sometimes you have to let kids learn a hard lesson in order for them to make it in life. It'll be harder on YOU and his father than it will be on him...

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

You only have a few months to try to salvage what is left of your son's childhood.

You and hubby may need counseling and intervention to put your son in a home where he cannot get out (lockup) for a bit to help him find a way to be a better person. Sometimes life is hard on everyone in the family and sometimes they just won't talk without a fight to find out what is on their minds (my son was that way). Once he blew up and spewed out what the problem was we could figure out what to do. I hope that he can get it together and get his diploma or a GED to help him in the future.

Contact the friend's parents and see if they can help him come home. Once he is 18, he is responsible for his actions and the consequences. I hope that he will see the light very soon.

Good luck to you and your ex on raising the almost adult.

the other S.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I have seen so many teens go totally nutso at around your son's age and then mature into totally adorable, together individuals between the ages of 20-22.

You did the right thing. You welcomed him into your home when he's ready. That's all you can do. He is at the age where he is going to have to be intrinsically motivated to do the hard work to succeed in school. You and dad can't do much at this point. I think that by the age of 17, you can only tell them, "It's your life, and your choice to succeed or fail." Anyway, he's not living with you, so there's no consequences you can enforce. If dad can't handle it, and he's the one living with him, I don't know how much influence you can exert.

Just keep being open and loving, and he will come around. He is going to have to decide when he's ready to commit to his schoolwork, until then just keep the doors open. In two or three (maybe 4) years, you will probably be laughing about this. Or at least chuckling.

It will be ok.

ETA -- Reading other responses - if a senior in high school refuses to come home, do his schoolwork or take his meds, you can't force him. Sure, take away the phone and stuff if you want. But if he doesn't graduate high school he can do it the following year, once he's motivated. I've known a few kids who got their GED or graduated a year late. Kids will often do things once mom and dad stop breathing down their neck.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Beaumont on

My son is also a rebel but he's 13. At 17 the consequences get scary much faster. We sent him to a program called Second Nature. High quality nature program. For 2 months they live in the wilderness in very primitive conditions so they can redirect their lives. They are surrounded 24/7 by therapists and it is all based on therapy not punishment. Not a boot camp but very physically demanding. I would highly recommend it. It helped him a great deal. T hey are expensive but while he's still "a minor", I would handle this now. They run 24/7 so all you'd have to do is give them a call. They would even pick him up. I wish you the best. Hang in there!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I would revisit counseling, perhaps someone who will work with you and your ex on how to handle this. You might ask about things like adolescent depression or ODD.

My one nephew dropped out at 16 (they couldn't keep him in class) and it turned out he was into smoking and selling pot and much more interested in getting high than being in class. I would investigate if there is anything else going on.

You might also talk to the guidance office at his school or consider a boarding type school. Friends of ours had a horrible time with their daughter and sent her to a Mennonite boarding school for the remainder of HS. They say it saved their daughter, who was going down a bad path.

ETA: My stepkids' parents have been divorced for years. They did not do this. At the time, my nephew's parents were still married. It could be contributory that he didn't deal well with the divorce but I wouldn't blame either the divorce or "normal" teen separating behavior. So don't treat it as such. I really think there is more going on. Living with you didn't fix it. Living with his dad didn't fix it. So I don't think living with a friend will "fix it", either.

My nephew didn't want his ADHD meds, either. But he turned to self-medicating with other substances, as someone else pointed out. I would be concerned that he's traded in something he feels is a stigma with something else.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I'm sorry you're having a hard time letting go. I truly think your son needs his dad, who he wants to live with, to pick him up and take him in hand. Put him in rehab or inpatient or something. He's flunked right? And he'll be 18 in a few months and out of school and who knows what.

I've been doing research on kids that have been held back. The department of education article I read the other day said that over 40% of kids that have been held back will drop out when they turn 18 and never finish high school. Sad to hear isn't it?

So out of all the kids that have been held back at some point only about 60% will complete their senior year.

I think it's sad for the guy to be doing this to himself. I hope you can let it go a bit and here's why. He'll come back home and start the same thing.

He will be an adult and won't come home until he wants to be there. So what if you say different. He'll do what he wants and won't have to do anything you want. So what? He's over 18 and doesn't have to do any single thing you ask him to do. And he won't just to show you he is not under your control.

So let him go. Unless you can let him go and let him do what he wants when he wants and he doesn't have to even call you when he decides to not come home for weeks at a time.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Mindy T. has an excellent answer.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

You could report him as a runaway.
The parents of this friend are no friends to you. The should not be harbor ing a minor.

I think you should let him know he's welcome in your house OR dads house IF he agrees to your house rules.
Dad & you need to get on the same page with rules.

Why are people suggesting rehab& inpatient? Is he abiding drugs or alcohol?

The outdoor program someone mentioned sounds great. Can you swing that?

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