Unhappy Teenage Son!

Updated on August 05, 2015
J.J. asks from Spencer, WI
11 answers

My son is 18 years old and I believe he is suffering symptoms of depression, we have a good relationship but he is still very closed off to people and doesn't share an awful lot, but depression and anger issues do run in the family.

He dropped out of high school after being told he didn't have enough credits to graduate but he's been working on taking the GED, he works at the movie theater and in his spare time he makes short films and music videos with a friend of his from work. So overall it looks like he is doing okay.

The main issue is the complete change in his behaviour over the last few months, for example he had a group of friends who he was always hanging out with, he'd come home from school for an hour then go back out to spend time with them and he was always telling me what they were getting up to, but he has just stopped spending any time with them, I've asked him why and he always just says he's too busy but that's not really true, he's polite when he sees them but other than that he won't have much to do with them, which is odd because they were his best friends at one time.

Another thing I've noticed is how he does spend a lot of his free time, sometimes he is reasonably active, like he goes to the gym or he'll work on some film project, but so often he'll come home and do nothing but watch movies in bed, I remember on one occassion he came home on a Friday afternoon, and stayed in bed until I forced him out to go to church on Sunday morning as soon as we got home he went straight back to bed until he had to go back to work on Monday.

As well I've noticed he has a temper, only a few days ago he got home from work at about midnight (late shift) and he had a black eye and when I asked him about it he said that he had gotten into a fight on his way home, I've seen it other times like when he was having trouble trying to fix his bike and he just lost it, kicking his tools over, ripping down the washing line and storming up to his room.

I've noticed a lot of his overall attitudes have changed as well, mainly that he used to be fairly pro-establishment, positive about society, liked people etc, to a very cynical, apathetic character, his favorite book is Catcher in the Rye which pretty much sums his attitudes up.

I feel like I have to make a point that he isn't always like this, for the most part he's actually a very good son, he's always polite to me and the rest of the family, he does all his chores, he's clean and tidy and for all the things he seems to be going through right now, he's not taken anything out on me.

However its undeniable that he is clearly going through something right now, and I'm very concerned about him,

What can I do next?

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answers from Philadelphia on

No wonder he is depressed. He is a high school dropout, works at a movie theatre and doesn't have a plan. His old friends are probably excited about their futures and it is painful for your son to hear their excitement when he has nothing going for him.

He needs to get his high school diploma. He also needs to figure out what he wants to do for a living (trade school or college). Once he sees he has a future with potential I think his depression will resolve itself.

If you are depressed about your circumstances, then you must change your circumstances.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

I would be depressed to if I had dropped out of high school (wasn't planning on going to college...either at home or away) was working on a GED while working full or part time at a movie theater.

His old friends have probably been talking about college plans all summer long and planning to leave town or get their own places, move into the dorms, etc etc.

He is 18 and where does he see his life going...living at home and working at a movie theater his whole life?

He is set up right now to find the worst sort of friends like him who have no future plans and are just working to get by and living at home.

He needs a plan for his future. Can he get enough credits and graduate in December if he does alternative high school? or on line high school?

Does he want to go to film school? College at all? Trade school? Intern?

Help him find his path and help him get on it.

I had a time like this when I graduated from college. I had a degree and was living at home and working at a department store. Wow was I low...it was my situation not my hormones that were making me want to go to bed and not get out.

Then I found a roommate, moved out and started graduate school. I just needed a push in the right direction in my case back to school to be able to get a job that I wanted to have...

Help him make a plan.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

yeah, this is red-flag behavior for sure. obviously he needs a plan, some direction and motivation. not graduating, not having a plan for college or career training, and a no-future job at the theater with some home-made movies to fill his time is not enough. and the black eye is very scary.
he's an adult, so there are things you can't make him do, but i'd certainly encourage a full physical. and much as i'm averse to interfering with a young adult's privacy, i think the time has come for you to toss his room for drugs.
if none of that gives you any further information or ideas, i'd sit him down and talk to him about going to a psychiatrist. depression is no joke.
i hope you find some answers soon, mama. this must be very distressing for you.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Are you sure all the kids he knew from school graduating and moving on to college and careers hasn't slapped him in the face? If this is your idea of overall everything looking okay I would hate to see your idea of an epic fail.

If he was that close to graduating call the school, get him signed up for online courses to get his diploma, ya know, what he should have done in the first place. Be the parent, give him direction because he doesn't sound depressed to me, he sounds confused and drowning. As a parent you should have thrown him a life ring years ago.

The thing with depression is the therapy for depression doesn't work if you are not depressed. So you give him a pill and that doesn't work, how do you think that will make him feel?

He stopped hanging out with his friends because they have plans, it just shows him how hopeless his life is. He likes hanging out and making movies with his friend from work because he is probably another loser and if he is happy maybe I can be happy. He is angry because he knows he is drowning and no one is stepping up to save him.
I just want to add I am very aware of the lack of credit situation. I went to a private high school my freshman year that models itself after college, great for some, not for me. I had to make up my whole freshman year via summer school, they even had online back then, and my favorite, night school. I suffered for my mistake but I graduated with my class!

My oldest failed a required class and had to make that up online. So you see your son is not doing okay. He has failed to do what the village idiot manages, that screams I am lazy and lazy screams unemployable. Even his friends that aren't going on to college have better jobs than him. So I am not sure why people are agreeing with depression when it is plenty obvious your son is now realizing just how miserable the life of a loser will be. Help they poor kid, that was your job, do it now.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Well I agree there are red flags here. In this day and age you really as a parent, have to keep an eye out. Not saying your son is in trouble but you always hear on the news, "He was a good boy, polite, well mannered, and quiet.." Just saying. Is he open to going to counseling? Since he's 18 you really can't force him but it is an option. Also, what does he say when you talk to him about it? Have you talked to him about being depressed because of school and all? Have you suggested it would help him to have some goals? It seems like he is a good kid that just needs a bit of continued guidance from his parents. Focus on the good, what a wonderful young man he has become, how proud of him you are. Just because right now he is a little lost, doesn't mean he is a "loser". Help him to understand that he can do anything he wants to do, and help him develop a plan to do it. At 18 I know I felt like everyone expected me to have everything worked out. I was expected to do well in school, go to college, and prepare for my lifetime career. I had NO business making life decisions, but I felt as though I had to, and mostly alone. Some parental guidance (neither of my parents went to college) would have been helpful. My heart tugs reading this because he does sound like a sweet son anyone would be proud to have. But it does sound like he still needs his parents. Good luck mama.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Please, please get him screened for depression and any other mental issues immediately--while he is still living in your home. If he is 18, he is an adult and if he won't cooperate, you might already have missed the boat in terms of being able to make him get treatment. Once a person is an adult in the law's eyes it becomes a nightmare for parents to get that person treatment unless the person is willing and also is able and willing to STAY on treatment if it's needed. Your son may or may not be depressed but what you describe is full of huge, waving, neon red flags, from staying in bed to changing personality to a sudden rift with (or dumping of, or dumping by) longtime friends. I also agree that your son might be largely affected by his friends' moving on without him since he didn't finish regular high school with them--even if he's not clinically depressed, he could benefit from talking to a counselor or therapist about that.

The fight should have been the real wake-up call. He could have been arrested; he could have put someone else in the hospital and been arrested and sued too; he could have ended up in the hospital. A random fight "on the way home from work"? Seriously? I would be suspicious that there is much more behind this fight--was it with the old friends, was he jumped and mugged but doesn't want to admit it, could he be (sorry to say it but you have to consider this) looking for drugs and got walloped by a dealer or....?....A street fight is not the same as kicking over tools and storming around the house (though those aren't great either). This needs to be dealt with so he doesn't end up with an arrest record, or using drugs, or worse. And sadly, yes, even the nice kids who are polite and help around the house can use drugs, especially if they are self-medicating because they have undiagnosed depression or other mental issues.

Think about it -- he is on a downward track here, and though it IS good that he's holding down a job, you know in your gut that he needs help you cannot give him. A professional needs to get involved, and now. Approach it with care because if he balks and refuses, you have an issue; you can't drag him to help. Consider whether there are others to whom he might listen, if he doesn't want to hear from you that he needs evaluation -- maybe a dad, an uncle, an adult male role model of some type he respects.

One other thought-- be sure to praise him for doing his job, for being so helpful around the house, for his good manners with the family, etc. Keep up some praise, even for things that seem small. But meanwhile, prepare to talk with him and express just as you do here that you see changes in him, his overall personality, his energy level, etc. that concern you. And I'd have an appointment already set up with a doctor who can screen him for mental health. Please update us!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

If youthink that he is depressed (which I agree is a strong possibility), then he needs to see a psychiatrist, ASAP. He needs to be screened for clinical depression. The psychiatrist and therapist can give advice based on that screening.

Clinical depression is not just being a down or sad because your life isn't going as planned. Clinical depression is a medical illness that needs treatment. No one would tell a type 1 diabetic to change their lifestyle or goals to feel better. So too should no one tell a clinically depressed person to 'just get motivated and make goals'. I knew a person whose parents did just this - told their depressed son to pull it together and do something with his life, instead of getting him treatment. Eventually, he did do something - suicide.

I'm not trying to scare you, but I do want to impress on you that if you believe your son is depressed, it means he may have a medical condition and he needs to be screened by a medical doctor. If he doesn't have clinical depression, then work through the other things, like helping him set goals for the future. But get the screening first.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

This theater job is a dead end job.
His old friends are moving forward in their lives - they have plans and talk about classes, college, what they might major in, student loans, scholarships, etc - they don't have a lot in common with your son for right now.
I hate to say it but there IS a social split that happens between blue collar and white collar workers.

He needs something with better hours and better pay.
Working on his GED is good but there are jobs that drop outs can work towards that will put him in a better place.
Sure making movies is a fine hobby but he needs to be working on a career that will help him become a self supporting independent adult.
Once he gets his GED, the Army, Navy or Coast Guard might take him if he wants to go in that direction - there are benefits that are worth taking a look at.

I've always thought Catcher in the Rye was such a whiny book - we had to read it in school but I hated it.


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answers from Jacksonville on

My first question was, "all his old friends... did they graduate? What plans do they have for their future? Are they going off to college?" If the answers to those questions are yes, then there is your answer about why he seems down. He's facing reality and his future: his friends are moving on, and he failed and is stuck left behind.
I agree with Julie S-- why the heck is he working on a GED? Why can't he make up the credit(s) he's missing and get his diploma?? For that matter, why didn't he have enough credits? Was this a surprise and he had no idea that he was short? "after being told he didn't have enough credits to graduate" he dropped out of high school. Why? Did you guys talk to him about how to get his diploma, even if it wasn't "on time"?? Or just let him walk away and take a dead end job at the movie theater?

He could probably benefit from some professional help/counseling, even if he doesn't have a drug problem or major depression. He's in rough water and is going under. All his friends are finished with their laps and have hit the showers already. He's alone and he knows it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I agree with Suzanne....look for drugs.
Encourage him to talk to a therapist, please!

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answers from New York on

Getting a GED is so much harder than actually finsihing high school. I would recommend he take the classes he needs to take to actually finish high school. Discover from his highschool how he can finish what he needs to finish. Since he seems to be interested in making films discover what opportunities are available in either an online capacity or an actual film school. Discover what the requirements are.

He may be depressed but your role as parent and manager in his life is to help steer him toward success. It is not uncommon to develop new friendships after highschool.

There were over 500 students in my highschool and about 125 in my graduating class. I'm only close friends with 1. We've been friends for over 30 years and she lives in California. We talk weekly. I say all of that to give you some perspective, having friends is important but the friends you do have does change.

Do your research first. Then talk to him about your discoveries. Say things like, "I saw this and did you know about that?" See if he is able to pick the ball up and run with it.

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