03-22-2021 03:44 PM - last edited on 03-24-2021 05:32 PM by Janine-RO
Hi everyone. Looking for some tips, support, wise words if you have any... My 18 y o son is into his second year at TAFE which entails approx. 2 days on campus. His girlfriend left for uni in another state in Feb. She was his social life more or less before she left. Now on the days he doesn't attend TAFE he spends most of his time horizontal, shades drawn, watching movies or playing games. He chats a lot with her and will reject any suggestions of doing other things with us if they have organised to watch a movie together. He talks about getting a job - mainly all the kinds of job he doesn't want - but always has excuses to do nothing about it. He has one hobby that gets him out of the house, which he might do once every couple weeks (with my husband) and if we instigate getting his driving hours up he'll come. He doesn't take initiative, is very reclusive, not happy (his mood is better on days he's at TAFE or if he's chatting with GF) and before he started this relationship, had 8 sessions at Headspace for mild depression. I can see he's withdrawing from family and social life, he just lives for his time with his GF, and won't listen to our suggestions of doing other things or getting professional help. I don't know what to do! At almost 19 I'm not sure ultimatums will help (like what? I'm not about to throw him out) but I wonder if our understanding approach of nudging him along, and giving him space ('Leave me alone' is his favourite sentence) is working. HELP! Thank you
03-23-2021 05:45 PM
Hi @JamOnToast ,
It can be so hard for parents when we can see that our young people are struggling, but they don't want help, or aren't ready to talk to a professional for whatever reason. I'm wondering if your son has always been more on the introverted side, or if you think he's become more withdrawn lately?
Does your son have any other hobbies that he enjoys, that may be an area where he could do some volunteer work or join a community organisation? Do you think he has any ideas of what kind of work he would enjoy doing?
It sounds like you're encouraging, loving, and supportive parents, which is hugely important- being able to keep the lines of communication open with your son is fantastic. This article has some good strategies that may be helpful as well- I can imagine it would be a pretty helpless feeling seeing your son not doing so well, but not being able to take steps to improve things, but continuing to be patient and offering your love and support is one of the most important things that you can do.
If you think your son may be more open to chatting with a mental health professional online, it may also be worth letting him know about eHeadspace and Kids Helpline online services (despite the name, they offer support to young people aged until 25)- sometimes that can seem less confronting than talking to someone in person.
We recently had another parent sharing a somewhat similar experience, and I thought it may be helpful to read the advice from our resident psychologist Linda here.
I'm also going to tag in some other parents who may be able to share what's worked for them - @Birdwings @LIALIA @Dadof4kids - you are definitely not alone.
03-23-2021 06:16 PM
Hi Janine, thank you so much for taking the time to respond to me.
Always been on the introverted side but it's more pronounced since his girlfriend went interstate to study.
He has worked casually in the past for a sailing club and seemed to enjoy it - but his confidence got knocked as he failed a recent course to become an instructor, he had a horrible accident which entailed 24 hours in hospital and surgery. The wound (cut to ear) has healed nicely and he has since been on a boat, but I think he's reconsidering that as a job!
I have let him know about online counselling and he's already had a positive experience with Headspace but says no.
Thanks for the related articles, it is so easy to wonder where we went wrong (although have another son brought up in same family / environment, completely different!). So it's reassuring to hear it's not our 'fault'. But it's still our problem and his reticence to do anything with us or take advice makes things very strained.
03-23-2021 08:22 PM
You and I could sit down and share a coffee at he sailing club together. My husband is currently racing in our son's laser, after he pulled out.
I'm Mum to a just turned 17 year old son and 15 year old daughter with 17 year old boyfriend. We have various young people over to our place and I taxi them around a bit and pick up what's going on. For the ones who are ticking all the boxes, it's a wonderful time...school captain, getting your P's the first time, girlfriend/boyfriend, study and work of your choice. However, for many it seems these hurdles are difficult.
Our son has his ups and downs and moments where he shares with us what's going on both in his head and is quite chatty. In hindsight, it looks like he's had a degree of depression for many years, which has sort of become him. He stopped going to school at the end of year 11 last year but couldn't leave until he turned 17. He's now looking so much better...haircut, new clothes, more confident.He sat for his L test last year and failed and hasn't been back. He was actually wanting to get his Ls on his 16th birthday but then covid came along and I'm very susceptible so he stayed away.
Our son is on the NDIS and has OT and psychological support through there but hasn't seen them for awhile, despite having a meltdown which had him taken to emergency.
We have been fortunate that he's become very involved with our Church youth group, which led to him getting into sound and this is now what he wants to do as a career. There's a real comraderie between these boys which I've never seen before but to be fair, I went to an all girls school. He's also been part of scouts for years and is in venturers. Perhaps, the sailing club could offer your son this comraderie and support.
From what you've said, his girlfriend moving away and failing the sailing exam and his accident are key triggers for his setback. I guess the old-fashioned advice, is to get back on the horse and to re-sit the exam if that's what he wants to do.
The situation with the girlfriend is more difficult. Sounds like they're really close, and being apart is really hard on him. Has he considered moving inter-state too? It's a big move but he wouldn't need to move in with her. That said, if he's struggling to find his feet, being at home and having that foundation is much needed.
Lastly, not everyone wants to talk about things, and you might need to start quite small to encourage him out of his funk.
If he and the girlfriend break up, Id be concerned.
Hope that helps. It was quiet when I started replying to your message, and I've ended up with a number of interruptions.
03-24-2021 01:08 PM
Hi Birdwings, thank you so much for taking the time to read my post and give your considered opinion, it means a lot
I'm very sorry to hear about the issues your son has been having, but so pleased he's found a group and a hobby. I think lack of purpose is a major problem for my son.
Whenever he worked at the sailing club he seemed to be quite energised and positive afterwards, but that work has trailed off and of course he failed the exam. So yes, confidence has taken a big hit. His response is to hide away and be in denial.
Re the girlfriend interstate, he couldn't just up sticks and move there as he has no income, and also I'm not sure that would be great for her (just starting new uni life) and I'm sure her parents wouldn't be impressed! His issue is to build a life that includes her but doesn't revolve around her. It's like he's lost any sense of what he wants or likes, apart from watching videos all day and chatting to her.
We've nudged him along so far, getting him trained and a foot in the door with a job, we get him to drive us places to increase his driving hours, but it all comes from us. And he seems to be entirely unappreciative of this fact! So hard...
And yes I'm painfully aware of how much harder things would be if/when they split up...
Yes I think you're right about the talking, the more I encourage him the more he clams up. He seems to interact with me better via text so I guess I keep doing that!
thanks again for your words of wisdom.
03-24-2021 02:55 PM
Hi @Birdwings ,
Thank you so much for your compassionate response- I have to say I kind of love the idea of you and @JamOnToast sharing a coffee at sailing! Maybe this can serve as a bit of a virtual equivalent..
The late teens/ transition between high school and whatever comes after that can be a really tricky time for young people and their young people, and I think you are so spot on when you say it can be so hard for young people when some of their peers seem to be sailing through all of those milestones (knowing exactly what they want to study at uni, getting their driving license, moving out, travelling), while they're still not quite sure what the future holds for them. We definitely hear this a lot on our youth forums (we have a youth forum for 14-25 year olds) - 2020 in particular was such a rocky and uncertain year, and I think that a lot of young people can experience anxiety about finding their purpose in life/ finding work/ what to study/ what adult life holds for them.
@JamOnToast I'm sorry to hear about your son's accident, that does sound pretty nasty and I can understand if his confidence has taken a bit of a knock, especially with the setback of failing his sailing exam. It sounds like it might be all about encouraging those baby steps for now, as frustrating as that may feel at times. Hiding away from the world can become a bit of a viscious cycle, but making small changes can hopefully have an incremental positive effect and help him to break out of the cycle of avoidance.
I also love the idea of talking via text- another strategy that has sometimes helped me when I'm having curlier conversations with my daughter has been talking while driving/ bushwalking etc - there's something about having something else to focus on and not being directly face to face that seems to help.
It sounds like you are doing an amazing job and supporting and encouraging your son, I hope that things start to turn around for you all soon.
03-27-2021 01:17 AM
It was a pleasure to respond to your situation with your son and to think about it. I really believe we need to look out for each other and as our kids get older, we don't have that same banter we had with other parents when they were younger, and covid has really compounded that.
I was thinking back to when I left school and I was in a serious relationship and I went to uni but my boyfriend didn't and was a very kind soul, but not the brightest spark. He broke up with me shortly after I started uni because he thought I'd be better off without him. He felt inadequate and that our ships were sailing to two very different ports. So, I wonder if you son is feeling low with his girlfriend going to uni and him being in limbo. I personally believe that it's only worth engaging in a course if you're ally sure that's what you're wanting to do now that uni is so expensive. Doing a trade can earn really good money and is more hands on. My son's careers advisor put me onto the VIA Questionaire which looks at your strengths and what you'd be suited to. Mine showed I had a very high level of curiosity, which didn't surprised me as I'm a writer and researcher, but I'd never appreciated that aspect of it before.
I also went to a talk at the school this week about anxiety and was reminded of a few things, which I thought you and others reading this might might helpful. They talked about writing down three things of what went well during the day every day. This readjusts your focus on what went well rather than problem-solving and focusing on what went wrong. I also thought that for parents particularly with special needs kids or kids that are struggling or annoying, that you might at least find one thing they did well every day which would boost their confidence as well as reassuring you that something is going right or that despite their challenges, they're making progress, feeling happy etc.
I was also reminded by a young person this week about the need for space from parents.
Meanwhile, I have my own struggles with trying to motivate Mr 17. I don't know whether I mentioned to you that he decided to rearrange and declutter his room and emptied virtually the contents of his room into our loungeroom like you see on TV. However, he didn't have an army of elves to help him and I was struggling with asthma at the time and couldn't help. His frustration escalated in a meltdown and a trip to Emergency, which fortunately resolved fairly quickly. However, we packed all the stuff up and it's been in the kitchen family room area now for a few months. That is, aside from when we borrowed a friend's van to stash it for his recent birthday party. We finally decided to start culling it today, and much to our relief he didn't seem to mind. It's hard to establish and maintain our boundaries when he blows up and it's easier to say nothing. It is so challenging having to be a psychology expert with the kids and then feeling like to you need one for yourself but you've run out of energy to look out for yourself. Overall, however, we're going okay and taking things slowly.
I hope you have a good weekend.