01-19-2018 03:50 AM - last edited on 01-19-2018 04:31 PM by Danielle-RO
My 17 (almost 18 year old) son finds it very difficult to talk openly with his father and I. We have assisted him to deal with anxiety, depression and self harming behaviour over the last year. We frequently argue about his attitude towards us, and I am finding it difficult to choose which battles to fight. He is looking for part time work and starts Uni this year. We are open to him having friends over to our home and he does do occasionally but he prefers not to because he says he does not like us. My main issue currently is his seeming lack of respect for us in many areas. He does not have a girlfriend but has many female friends and when he is home alone he has taken to inviting girls over and having sex in his room. This is evident by empty condom wrappers not thrown away, messy bedsheets and hickeys on his neck. He has younger siblings and I have difficulty accepting this behaviour. I find it disrespectful and I am concerned for a number of reasons-He says the girls are not girlfriends and he has no feelings for them, and I have attempted to get him to consider that the girls he has been with may be wanting an emotional connection and I ask that he be respectful towards them and us(family/parents). I’m sure he would prefer to have not had these discussions with me, but he is not great at hiding what has happened. He says he would like to be living away from home but can’t afford it...he says he should be able to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants and despite us being clear that this is not the case, he continues to push boundaries by drinking, smoking and being disrespectful. Should I be ignoring this and focus on his overall health, or am I right to be expecting him to behave in a more respectful manner?
01-19-2018 11:20 AM
Hi @Shadow and welcome to the forums! I am so glad that you found us here.
Thank you so much for joining us here and sharing your story - it sounds like you have been doing it tough over the past year and my heart goes out to you.
It must be so frustrating that communication between you and your son is in this state and this is putting such a strain on your household. Your care and love for your son really shines through in this mail when you talk about assisting him through his depression and anxiety and, whilst it might not seem like it now, this love and those efforts must be of amazing use and comfort to him.
In saying that, I completely understand how hurtful his lack of respect for you and his father is for you. It sounds like some of the things that he has been saying to you must be devastating. I feel that our teenagers take out a lot of stuff on us parents because we are safe targets for them because of our unconditional love and it is a way for them to work through some of their issues and test boundaries in a safe place – none of which makes it any easier on us though!
As well as the issues around respect for you and your partner, it sounds like you are having a really hard time getting your son to respect the boundaries that you are setting in the household around your son's behaviour. I thought, as a first step you could have a look at the amazing info about setting and communicating realistic boundaries here. Also, this video on managing family conflict might also be of interest?
I was also wondering, have you and your son had any professional support working through the issues that you have been experiencing over the past year? If not, do you think that your son might be receptive to talking to someone about the things he is going through?
01-19-2018 03:43 PM
01-19-2018 05:11 PM
Absolutely – it sounds like such a difficult place you are in right now and it is not unreasonable to feel hurt and show your anger and exasperation.
I was really heartened to hear that your son might have found the right professional help and that you are noticing some small improvements. I was really also so happy to hear that you are looking into support systems for the rest of your family – I think this could be an amazing step. One of the support systems that I think might be worth exploring is some form of mediation or relationship counselling.
I know from your original post that your son is almost 18 but I would like to highlight a coaching service that is offered by ReachOut – it is for parents of 12 – 18 year olds and you can find out more about it by watching this video.
The service offers one-on-one coaching to parents by a trained professional can help you and your husband explore strategies that might improve the communication between you and your son as well as helping to implement and reinforce boundaries. I think that in terms of the specific issues that you highlight in your posts around his relationships with women as well as drinking and smoking that having some form of coaching around how to best communicate your concerns might really help to initiate some positive conversations?
01-19-2018 06:51 PM
Hi @Shadow, welcome to the forum. I have read your thread and it seems your son does have an issue with authority. I had a similar issue with one of my sons which started when he was 16 although he didn't bring girls home he was drinking and smoking and experimenting with drugs. However, when he turned 17 my husband and I decided we would allow him to drink and smoke cigarettes at home. This meant that he no longer had to sneak around and be rebellious and it also changed his behaviour towards us, we also gave him more responsibility which included him doing his own washing among other things. Within a short period he stopped smoking and he rarely drinks alcohol. He is now 19 years old. I am wondering whether the psychiatrist has given a label for your sons behaviour or whether your son is benefiting from psychological help. We found the treatment offered by both these professions to worsen symptoms and not really all that helpful. However, I understand that for others, particularly family therapy can be most useful.
01-19-2018 09:50 PM
Hey @Shadow, it's great to have you here, a big welcome to you
Thank you for sharing with us. I completely understand how you're feeling and it's completely understandable. It sounds like it's been a long, hard road and it does feel brutal when they abuse us for our efforts. I agree with @Nick-RO that they do it because we are a safe place for them to work things out. I don't accept the abuse and being put down though and I feel it's completely okay to set boundaries around that. Our case worker explained to me that the vile things coming out of my daughter's mouth were a reflection on what she was thinking and feeling about herself. Knowing that does help me realise that it's more about her than me. It doesn't make it okay, but it gave me understanding around the behaviour.
I can highly recommend the parent coaching @Nick-RO mentioned, and I encourage you to check it out. The coach can help you in setting those boundaries and also setting consequences. It helped me communicate wth my daughter about us setting some house rules which has been so useful.
It's fantastic you think you may have found the right person for your son. It can take time because there needs to be a connection for the counselling to work, so good on you for not giving up. I had the same issues with my daughter because she would test them and see how they reacted to her - similar to your son, she needs support but also to be called out and challenged in her thinking and reactions.
And good on you for seeking our family supports. It can be so beneficial and help you guys manage your way through this and remain strong as a family unit. It's very taxing, and when your energy levels are low, it's difficult to remain calm and be patient. We're human after all.
I wonder if the girls are the means to something that makes your son feel good about himself? It's great that you're talking to him about it and the effect it may have on the girls. Does he have a sister? I wonder if asking how he'd feel if his sister was treated in that way, would give him a different perspective on it?
You're doing an awesome job and the love you have for your whole family radiates from your posts.