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My 17yo doesn’t care to look after himself

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My 17yo doesn’t care to look after himself

Casual scribe

My 17yo doesn’t care to look after himself

My 17yo son has severe eczema which has progressively got worse over the years. I’ve tried a number of treatments to help while also trying to ensure he’s eating a healthy diet as this played a major role in helping it.

As time has progressed he has started to eat more and more junk food which even he knows it triggers these flare ups. I’ve taken him to specialists as well who have provided creams and sprays to help with the allergies and flares up. I’m also having to clean his room and change his bedding daily due to the severity to try and help him. I’m constantly reminding him but it’s reached a point where he just blows up at me and tunes me out, but he won’t use them.

These days he will throw out his lunch, but junk food and continue to do things that make his condition worse. I’m unsure what I should be doing. If I try and get him to do what’s good for himself, it blows up in my face. Do I just leave him alone and let him eat all these terrible things and deal with the bedding the way it is and let it get worse hoping he will one day realise? I feel like the relationship is so broken from the constant arguing over him looking after himself. What do I even do at this point especially given he’s so close to being 18.

Active scribe

Re: My 17yo doesn’t care to look after himself

Start with something small. Don’t make it too difficult for yourself. Start with simple things like brushing his teeth three times a day, rinsing after brushing, and following a healthy diet. If he’s already a teenager, then rewards are effective if he agrees to do these tasks. If your kid is old enough to read, then reading out articles on parenting and health and explaining the importance, with an example of your own, is a good way to influence him.

Active scribe

Re: My 17yo doesn’t care to look after himself

Hi @An259 


Welcome to the forums. It sounds like a very frustrating situation you are in, as you care about your son’s eczema and wellbeing and he does not seem to be doing his best.


It sounds like you have made several efforts to get your son support from specialists for his eczema, has he discussed with you how he feels about his eczema and why he doesn’t want to ease the symptoms?


There may be many reasons but trying to understand where your son is coming from and focusing on your relationship may be a path worth going down. Ultimately you can only help your son so much before he needs to take responsibility for his own health.

Are you receiving help or support from any other friends and family members?

Casual scribe

Re: My 17yo doesn’t care to look after himself

Hi @Jennifer-RO

He has mentioned that he wants Thị skin to get better and that he’s moisturising and staying hydrated. Unfortunately that’s not enough and I’ve spoken to him about the importance of diet. Even last week his skin was making slow improvements and then after going out and eating junk food, he saw his skin flare up more. Having a conversation about how the impact was so visible I thought he was on the right path but his skin started to get worse day by day and I discovered he was lying and eating junk food instead.

Family aren’t much help as it’s reached a point where I’m just told to back off. It’s hard because as a parent you are trying to care for them but by backing off it’s almost like failing your parental obligations as well as allowing them to allow themselves to get worse.

I think you’re right that I can only do so much to help and the rest is up to him.
Prolific scribe

Re: My 17yo doesn’t care to look after himself

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Hi @An259 I'm sorry to hear that things have been so hard on you lately with your son. It sounds like you have tried a lot of different things to try and address your sons eczema. Do you mind me asking if anything changed when you spoke to your son about his diet?


It might also be worth speaking to a professional about this, to get some support and advice around what your next steps should be. One helpline that you can call for advice is Parentline. You can call them to talk to a trained counsellor and get some advice around what you can do.


I'm also wondering how you are looking after yourself during this difficult time? It's important to practice some self-care to make sure that you're getting through this too.


We are here to listen and support you.

Casual scribe

Re: My 17yo doesn’t care to look after himself

Hi @Courtney-RO

Things change for a few days and then he will go out and then buy something that triggers his eczema knowing he shouldn’t. Even after having a reaction the following day it just seems like he goes through the same cycle.

I’ve been practicing self care throughout which helps. Thanks for the suggestion for the helpline.

Re: My 17yo doesn’t care to look after himself

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@An259 I'm so glad to hear you've been practicing self care - what kinds of self care do you find most  helpful?

I really feel for you - it's such a tricky stage of parenting to navigate when the young people we've loved, nurtured, invested in, and cared for for so many years are moving towards adulthood and independence, and making choices we may not always agree with.

It's a natural part of them growing up, but that definitely doesn't make it easy. Heart


It sounds like your son does understand your perspective re: the impact of different choices on his health, but he is choosing a different path and I hear from your words how much that worries you because you clearly care about him very deeply.

It's so tough because I feel like we have a limited number of choices as parents in terms of how we can respond when our (almost) adult children choose not to take our advice/input. 

I guess I'm wondering - how do you think the current approach is working for you and your son?
Is there anything you think is going well that you'd like to do more of, or anything that's not working that you'd like to change? 

In case it's useful, we have some articles on our website about communicating with teenagers and family conflict. Raising Children also has an article about negotiating with teens that might have some helpful tips if you'd like to take a look. 

We're also always here to listen if you need to talk. 

Active scribe

Re: My 17yo doesn’t care to look after himself

Your son appears to be frustrated at the restrictions caused by his eczema.
Young people often need someone older to help manage their health conditions from time to time.
Some don't fully appreciate the seriousness of their health condition (or even try to deny it) so as to carry on with life as though nothing's wrong.
This could be said about your son.
However. He may not admit it, but it seems that he is taking his eczema very seriously.
Your son knows that he has serious eczema and needs regular treatment in order to prevent him experiencing further complications.
He may be directing his anger and negative feelings towards you right now.
Perhaps there's no-one else to blame and deep underneath, some of this anger is at himself for not knowing how to handle it.
You're trying your best to help by fetching his medication, taking him to the medical professional and so on - yet he won't use the meds.
It seems that your son is genuinely struggling to accept the eczema and the possible long-term impact it will have on his life.
Like all young adults, your son naturally wants to eat so-called 'junk' food as his first choice and naturally avoid the 'sensible' stuff.
It's the healthy food that your son needs to help keep the eczema under control - yet this is another aspect of the condition he doesn't want to accept.
Underneath it all, your son may be frightened but not wanting  this to be really known to you.
There's a possibility that your son could be 'comfort eating' the junk food as a coping strategy to feel better about himself.
Enjoying the junk food helps to take his mind off the worry.
From your point of view, it looks like he's being rebellious by eating it and perhaps he even wants you to think so.
It seems the angry behaviour is his way of trying to cope.
It must be frustrating for your son as he wants to go out and live his life.
There's going to be that feeling of anger and frustration inside.
Accepting the reality of serious eczema may be a reason for not taking care of himself. There's that constant worry about the future combined with feeling depressed about it.
You're extremely worried for your son because you know he needs to look after himself and acknowledge this.
You're conscious that the teenager you deeply care for will become an adult very soon. Independent and making his own decisions.
He'll need to finally take full responsibility for his own welfare as you won't always be there for him - and he knows this.
It's difficult and very unlucky.....It's hard.....
He needs to take responsibility for his daily care and learn to accept this is going to be a big part of his life.
He knows about the eczema and what problems it causes. He knows when it's time for medical advice and self-care.
At the moment, he's angry with this problem, yet observing those around him living their lives.
He fears the uncertainty with this condition and it's likely to be having an impact on his self-confidence.
Understandably, he feels resentment.
As long as he continues to apply his medication, he will be able to lead his life - albeit with some restrictions.
Anxiety, depression and a lack of self-confidence can be a part of your son's eczema journey. He's getting older now and becoming more conscious of how this will effect his life - even more so than when he was a child or early teenager.
He knows this will not 'go away'.
Understandably, your lives revolve around his eczema and it causes much distress.
It's not only the physical aspects of the condition he needs to deal with, but also the psychological side as well.
Some counselling may benefit your son with regards to accepting his eczema and find some peace with himself at moving forward.
He'll also - through counselling and self-help techniques - find ways to improve his confidence.
As a young adult, your son may genuinely feel frightened at facing the future and the possibility of coping without you.
Working with a counsellor could enable your son to address why he feels angry and look into ways of overcoming his situation. This seems to be an emotional time for your son - who really doesn't know how to deal with this.
There are books and online materials available for your son to explore - especially when he eventually feels calmer - that can cover natural therapies, diet and other treatments.
Although your son is having a really hard time right now - he can eventually learn to accept that his eczema need not overcome his whole life.
If he continues with the treatment, takes care of both his physical and emotional needs, he'll feel more positive about the future.