08-22-2018 12:55 AM - last edited on 08-29-2018 11:54 AM by Jess1-RO
My 14-year-old son has been depressed for about 8 months (or at least that is when we diagnosed it -- probably for much longer). We have been getting help from a psychologist and psychiatrist. He had suicidal thoughts and panic attacks. These are now largely gone and now both the psychologist and psychiatrist agree that his is no longer clinically depressed, but suffers episodes of depression. My issue is that while we were dealing with the immediate situation of the depression, we were advised to let him do whatever it took to make him feel better. This meant that we did not really set limits on his use of the Playstation or internet. He did not go to school for most of the first semester (7 weeks) and by the end of the semester he was back at school and things seemed to be getting better.
Now, however, we have had a relapse. He has gone to school 4 times in the last 3 weeks. He knows that he is likely to have to repeat the 8th grade if he does not go back soon, and in the afternoons, when we talk about it, he really wants to go. We make a plan each night, but most mornings he is impossible to get out of bed, and refuses to go, instead sleeping until noon. Then he gets up and wants to watch Youtube or play on the Playstation the rest of the day. It is a constant source of tension between us. I have tried a few times to limit these activities - instead encouraging him to do something that will help his situation (exercise, catch up on studying, read a book, write, play guitar, ANYTHING), but he sees it as a "punishment" for not going to school, says I don't love/care for/listen to him, and then threatens suicide. It is clear to me that he is often using his situation to manipulate me. I am frustrated that he is refusing to do anything that will make himself feel better. My view is that if he is not going to school there is no way I can force him but he should not have the "right" to play on the Playstation and watch videos all day. I would like to get rid of the darn thing altogether, but have been cautioned against doing so by the psychologist. So I would like to limit his use, but it causes so much anger from him (he says I don't trust him, and that my control is making his depression worse), I am not sure the best way to go about doing it. I wonder if other parents have had a similar issue and if you have any advice. I would very much appreciate it!
08-22-2018 05:00 PM
Hi there @chilemama , welcome to our online community!
Thank you for sharing what's been going on for you and your 14 yo.
It's amazing to hear that with the support of a psychologist and psychiatrist, your son made such huge progress in his mental health - it takes courage and wisdom to seek professional help for your family so I just want to encourage you that you've done an amazing job to do that and to continue these supports.
Having said that, I can imagine how disappointing and frustrating the relapse must be - though it's worth remembering that every recovery journey has a relapse (if not several) along the way.
So difficult to know what to do, and what boundaries are needed while still ensuring your son's safety - it's great that you've got a psychologist to consult about these decisions.
I'm interested to hear from you what it is about the playstation and youtube you feel is unhelpful? Is it that you want to take them away as a punishment, or because you think they are impacting his motivation levels?
Do you think he is using his mental health as an excuse to play these games ?
The games and youtube may be useful for him in the short-term to distract from his thoughts and mood - but they may also be contributing to his low motivation levels?
I think it's a good idea to get on the same page as your son - could you ask him what he thinks about the playstation and it's impact on his well being?
Could you brainstorm with him a compromised situation? Maybe get him to write out his own ideas about what sounds fair?
Maybe the internet gets turned off at a certain time to encourage a sleep routine?
Reframing it as something you are both deciding to do for his well being, rather than as a punishment may be helpful?
Let me know your thoughts
There is so much wisdom on this forum from so many other parents who have similar issues with boundaries and mental health - I'm hoping you will hear from them too on their ideas!!
08-23-2018 01:09 AM
Thank you @gina-Ro for the thoughtful reply. In response to your question regarding my motivation for wanting to regulate the use, it is because while I understand that some amount of playing is fine (and maybe even healthy - he gets to play online with his friends so it can be quite social), it seems to take precedence over anything else. Once he starts playing it is very difficult to get him to stop -- whether it is to give his brother a turn (constant source of fights), have dinner, do some chore I have asked him to do, or go to bed. We have repeatedly tried to set rules together, but somehow he finds a way around them. First, he is a very persistent and good negotiator, and, second, when I think it will actually do him some good I relent. That has likely been the main issue -- that in the past (due to his depression) I have not consistently enforced the rules, so now there is an expectation that I won't in the future. So when I now try to enforce our agreements, he claims I am being unfairly harsh or punishing him when before I did not. I do think that he is using his mental health issue to get his way, although maybe not consciously. I am ok with him playing some, but I want to see some balance. Also, if he will not go to school, I worry that letting him play as much as he wants will make staying home so much more fun than going to school, and less likely he will get the motivation to go back. The problem is that school really cannot compete with the Playstation and YouTube -- so I don't want him to think that if he is not in school he can just do whatever he wants all day. My husband thinks if he doesn't go to school he should get a volunteer job or do some other kind of work during school hours.
thanks for your suggestions -- it is helpful to have another perspective.
08-27-2018 07:27 AM
Hey @chilemama, your post really hit home with me as I’m going through similar with my 16 year old daughter and given the same advice from her counsellor - let her play xbox, watch Netflix etc while she recovers. So that’s what she’s doing at the moment, and like you, I have my reservations about it too. While I understand my daughter’s mental health issues, as I have similar, I also worry about her getting too comfortable doing nothing and believing that she is too ill to do anything with her life.
Whenever I tried to get her to think about study she’d fly off the handle and tell me I didn’t care or understand because I was going against the counsellor. It came to a head a couple of weeks ago and I just told her that I’m her mum who knew her best and will be making the final call on what’s best for her. I told her I love her very much which is what motivates my decisions and I explained my concerns to her and the reasons behind them. That part of the conversation was completely “I” statements (“I think...”, “I feel...”, “I believe...”, “I need...”), and then we spoke about choices and how she owns each of those, along with the consequences of her choices, positive or negative. I asked her what she wanted for her future and so then we talked about the steps needed to get there and the challenges we needed to overcome to get there. And I told her what I needed from her for me to be able to best support her, and that was to help out around the house!!
I then left it for a couple of days before we sat down and talked about compromises to get to our final agreement, which was basically she’d help out and then she had her free time. She’s also thought about what she’d like to study online (another compromise to attending tafe) but yet to enrol...
The relapses are really tough for parents too because we want them to be happy and doing all the usual things, so it’s worrying and feels disappointing, especially because we can’t fix it. I’ve tried banning the internet, restricting times etc and for our family the compromise has worked best and eliminated the stress involved in doing that. We need to choose our battles and that was one that did more damage than good for us.
I’ve found our rules agreements fail completely when they need tweaking or updating altogether as my daughter’s gotten older. It took me years to figure this out!! We take time to work it out so that we both feel it’s fair and we can commit, then I make it official. I type it up, save it, print it off for us both to sign! When she complains I don’t argue, just put it on the table to remind her of her agreement. Laminating the agreement is a good idea for these times!
I hope something from my experiences can be helpful for you. I had intended to respond the other night but my iPad ran out of charge and I didn’t get back on until this morning!
All the the best for a peaceful Monday.
08-27-2018 06:50 PM
08-29-2018 11:51 AM
I really feel for what you are going through- the growth of technology and gaming has some benefits for young people, but also some really difficult challenges for families in monitoring it's use. I hope that some of the suggestions from @taokat and @kevvy22 about how they have managed to regulate with their families gives you some ideas and lets you know that you aren't alone Do you think any of these ideas could work within your family context?
You mentioned that your son has been using the playstation and youtube as a coping strategy to get through the times when he is feeling down. Similar to what @gina-Ro has mentioned, I'm wondering if it is worth exploring what it is that the playstation provides, how he feels when he plays and why he feels it is important to him in his recovery? This might help to understand the benefits he believes he receives and identify other ways he can also receive these benefits that may be more supportive of his long term recovery.
Let us know how you are going with it
01-18-2019 08:41 AM
I am a teen. I think the whole hiding the modem thing is smart, but maybe change the hiding spot every so often so he wont find it will help. I hope he gets better.
01-21-2019 04:00 PM
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