Need help now?

So worried about 15yo son

Discussion forum for parents in Australia

Super contributor

Re: So worried about 15yo son

I'm so sorry about your mother-in-law @JJH17 I hope your husband is doing ok. And yes, it's very common for a young person to be concerned about their parents losing a parent, even if they themselves aren't close to them. It's a very good sign that he's able to think outside of himself and empathise with his dad.


It's great that he's now been assessed and they feel talk therapy will address his needs. Mostly that's great, in my view, because it should mean it narrows the options around the sleep issues a bit. As in, it's not related to his medication or is it due to him being in mania from bipolar or similar. 


There are some other options you can explore, so I'll ask you what you've tried first before throwing too many suggestions your way. There's a practice called 'sleep hygiene' which is basically setting up good sleeping habits the way you regularly wash yourself etc. Many people, especially young people, are actually hypersensitive to noise and light. Even tiny amounts. And this can greatly disrupt their ability to sleep properly. Has he ever tried an eye mask and ear plugs? Does he turn off ALL the devices and electronics in his room so it's completely dark? Is there a sufficient amount of fresh air and is he dressed appropriately? Being too warm or too cold can stop people dropping into deep sleep. Finally, how close to bedtime does he play on his phone/computer/laptop?


All of these things can not only affect his ability to fall asleep but, as importantly, stay asleep and move through the necessary sleep cycles. The flow on effect of that is it makes sleep a far less attractive prospect. If he knows he's going to be tossing and turning all night there's a good chance he's training himself to go without.  Which is a super vicious cycle.


The last question, I'm so sorry for the barrage, is about when he's catching up? Is he sleeping late or through the day to make up for the night? Because sleep patterns are a huge part of our ability to sleep well. There's been lots of research about shift workers who do both day and night shifts within a week. That small act of throwing out their sleep pattern has been shown to result in far greater levels of depression, anxiety, weight gain and poor health. If he's established a pattern where he's awake at night then sleeps during the day, his body will just repeat that endlessly. And if he's NOT catching that sleep up, then you may have an answer to the depression.  Constant exhaustion is a  massive factor of poor emotional regulation and mood swings. Just think of parents with newborns!



Super contributor

Re: So worried about 15yo son

Thank you so much @Lily17  and @hippychick for those suggestions. And what an amazing job you did with those links Lily! Incredible!!

Casual scribe

Re: So worried about 15yo son

Thank you for this. I think I need to get an idea from him about how regularly this happens. I have only noticed once or twice.

He always leaves his phone down stairs and had always left his tablet there too until he told me he was having trouble sleeping and I've allowed him to use it to call asleep listening to music on. I usually sneak it away when I tuck him in when I go to bed and he is already asleep.

He stops using his computer an hot or two before bed but is still on his phone texting etc. It sounds silly but I feel a bit like I'm worried setting new ground rules will make him feel worse right now. Not that I am a pushover my any stretch of the imagination. I might suggest some of the sleep hygiene ideas. I think his room is nice and dark and he has the window open a little if he wants. I do suspect that if he spends too much time in his room playing games etc that his brain won't associate his room with sleep but that wasn't the case today as we were visiting family.
Super contributor

Re: So worried about 15yo son

Message contains a hyperlink

I completely understand @JJH17 and I agree. Implementing new restrictions when things are ok is a great way to rock the boat.

It might just be something to bear in mind and keep an eye out for.  One of the best lessons I learned by having a big gap between my eldest and my other two is everything changes and kids move out of a lot of stuff by themselves and they really only need our intervention when it's something they just can't shift by themselves. So there's a chance he'll come out the other side of the sleep issue and establish sleep patterns that are appropriate and work for him and if he can't, you'll notice because you're keeping an eye out for it.


You can click here for a page of info about sleep patterns and how to develop good habits and, if you think it might be helpful, you could share it with your son or keep it for a later date.

You'll see when you open the link that there's a bunch of other great resources you can access about young people and the stuff they go through. 

Prolific scribe

Re: So worried about 15yo son

Hi @JJH17,

My 14 y.o. last year was in the depths of depression, and occasionally self harming. After 10 months of hell we finally got him on meds that worked, and he is improving now. But everyone is different. I hope your son can do it without the meds because the side effects are significant.


I concentrated on old fashioned parenting. Good food, good sleep, exercise, and some fun. I didn't let him nap during the day unless he was really tired, and then only for only 30 mins or so. I got him to bed early, and made sure there were no tech devices in his room (a challenge!). I'd get him up at a reasonable time too. We used a fitbit tracker to keep an eye on his sleep.


We played some basketball together, he enjoyed beating me! Swimming helped too. I also tried to always have something he (used to) love coming up: comic convention, soccer match, etc. When he was really down he didn't care so much, but eventually he came around.


I tried not to "hover"....but for 6 months I got very little sleep as I had one ear open for him getting up at night. I'd grab opportunities to sleep when I could. No one can keep that up for very long, and if he had not found the meds he needed I don't think I cold have kept going.


Melotonin helped my son too. It has no side effects for him but just helped him get to sleep quickly. It also meant I could fall into a deep sleep for a few hours too as soon as he was off to sleep.


I didn't find the school counsellors very helpful. They seemed to be focussed on the risk my son presented to the school, and were always pushing for a hospital stay even when the hospital was saying "he should be at school". We tried a number of counsellors before we found one that "fit" with him. She is great.


Look after yourself. Forget what you may or may not have done in the past. He needs you to be strong for him.


Super contributor

Re: So worried about 15yo son

Thank you so much for your reply @Schooner It is so meaningful for parents to hear from other parents who have been there.

I love your focus on old fashioned parenting. It's amazing how, in the midst of crisis, we can so easily forget the really basic stuff. When I used to work in Drug and Alcohol treatment centres we would talk about 'having the HALTS'. (Hungry, Lonely, Tired, Serious). The idea being if you get too much of any of these, life is really hard to manage. Thankfully, the solutions are pretty simple. Too hungry, eat, too tired, sleep, too lonely, pick up the phone, too serious, do something that makes you laugh. and the best way to avoid it happening is to build it into your routine. 

Of course, super easy to say...

You sound like you guys did it really tough. How awesome that your son is feeling better. 

I see your insight on what happened with the school counsellor as very helpful for a lot of parents who may be struggling with their school and school counsellor. Some are amazing. And some have a 'school first' approach which is not what a young person needs. Yes, safety is paramount but I have found that approach to see 'risk to self' as something they'd rather not have to manage so, exactly as you experienced, they want to manoeuvre the young person into the hospital which is far from ideal for your son.

I'm so glad you guys found him someone he connects with.