Son returned from Guided Expedition - the results

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Parent Community Champion

Son returned from Guided Expedition - the results

Hi all, it has been quite a long time since I posted. Have sat down many a time to do so, but just couldn't get my head in the right space.

Our fourteen year old son was given an ultimatum a couple months ago after being in trouble with the police, attend a social worker led expedition in SA for 2 weeks and get help to get his act together, or leave. We as parents were no longer willing to put up with the law breaking, tantrums, truanting, violence and verbal abuse.

 

So, how did it go? Report back from SA was that he was totally shut down for the first few days, and it took a great deal of work to get him to open up and start reflecting. But, they commented on his social nature, his ability to lead, to help whenever help was needed, and that he shows enormous potential to be a truly great person. Yep, heard all that before. So, once home, we faced immediately the usual barrage of abuse over wifi access. Our response, you want it, you earn it. You have access to certain sites between the hours of 3:30-9pm, with a break to help with dinner. Well, a ton of abuse later, including cutting the wiring to the modem/router one night after electric power pole  replacements in the neighbourhood had caused a few modem issues.  He used all his phono data in a couple days, demanded more, but was not given it. Has on occasion asked for a wifi extension, and if the behaviour has been tolerable, it has been granted.

We set up a list of jobs around the house to be done, for which he would earn pocket money at a rate of $10/hr. In a month he has washed his clothes 3 times, unloaded the dishwasher 3 times, done 1 hour of gardening, changed his sheets and cleaned his room once. So, clearly that idea means nothing to him. I think he earned, out of a potential $130, $12 for September!

Still occasionally truanting from school, but, he has also had a few mates over for sleepovers so at least now we can put faces to names. We have also insisted on contact with parents of the boys, and addresses when he  has stayed elsewhere. Amazingly, he has obliged. He has managed to get a job at a local fast food place, and has earned a few dollars.  I don't expect they will last long in his bank! He has stolen cash from my husband's wallet to top up his bus card and pay back a friend for food purchased. He has made his own lunch maybe twice in a month. We are starving him of funds in the hope it means he can't buy illegal substances or cigarettes anymore. Not sure but think he is still smoking, but the behaviour we think we can link to illegal substances seems to have stopped.

 

As for how the rest of the family is feeling. Son has destroyed the fabric of our family. Daughter doing her mock year 12 exams this week & next is struggling to cope and stay motivated. We live on eggshells and I am struggling to remain focussed and motivated at work myself. It is affecting my ability to do my job in that I cannot afford to leave family alone overnight as I attend a school camp, so I will have to travel each day to and from the camp. Fortunately, my colleagues are being very understanding, but I cannot afford for that to wear thin.

 

My mental health is totally frayed. I was tempted to have myself admitted to a rehab hospital for the school holidays but am fearful of leaving family to manage alone during exam time. Also anxious about what it would mean to my employer. Also, rehab/mental health care can't be conveniently scheduled to be completed in the school holidays, so I will have to find another option! Chocolate is a good alternative!!

 

So I am now exploring alternative accommodation options for son as I cannot tolerate his attitude where home is his private Air BnB where he can have access to free food, washing machine and wifi. He was complaining bitterly about something the other day, so I reminded him that if he couldn't cope with the conditions of our home, ie. food in the fridge, wifi, a warm house, warm bedroom, tv, access to sports equipment, laptop, then he was most welcome to leave and find alternative accommodation. Nobody was forcing him to remain in the home, indeed if the conditions are so unbearable, nobody would expect him to remain! I put up with this, and then another day he asks when we can go on an overseas holiday again?! Incredible. I did tell him I had been thinking of a trip to Japan for some time now, but his behaviour had precluded that happening, and also now with a drugs caution I am not sure if he could get a visa. 

 

I have tried to reconnect with him as per the advice from counsellors. I took him to our local squash courts & taught him how to play. This has backfired as I am now injured and can't play for a while- had old knee injuries and shoulder reconstruction that haven't taken to the game! Also, as I was once an A grade player, despite my incapacity now, I can still place the ball very well and thrash him in every game! Not good for the ego of a 14 year old who called Mum 'fat and slow and useless'! So, instead of trying harder, he would deliberately hit the ball hard at me between points. This is the type of low level abuse we put up with. 

 

So, it's the last week of school holidays. I haven't seen him for 24+ hours, no idea where he is, although I did speak to the family he stayed with last night. Hoping that I am able to source alternative accommodation for him soon. Daughter has asked that we hold off until she has finished her year 12 exams. Not sure I can last another 6 weeks.  Wondering how, if he can live elsewhere, we then deal with the "You kicked me out at 15" scenario as he gets older...He tells me he is moving out at 16 as he can live on $100 a week he can earn in the fast food industry. I hate to dispel that notion, but...he just may get living allowance through family breakdown, but if that is parent-means tested, he hasn't a hope!

 

So, for those who had offered great support to me over the past few months, many sincere thanks. Apologies for the very long update, but there you have it. I have never swung before so much between guilt, loathing, anxiety, dread and desperation. Just have to get through the next school term.

Parent Peer Supporter

Re: Son returned from Guided Expedition - the results

Hi @Faob_1, I'm so sorry to hear that the benefits and progress made at the camp didn't carry over once he came home. I can hear how upset and at the end of your tether you are. I hope it can give you some consolation that your son does have it in him to behave and be helpful and pleasant etc. He's obviously a good kid underneath his confused and often inappropriate behaviours. He's struggling and doesn't have the skills or maturity to understand what he's going through, and so acts out. 

 

It can often help to understand things from the teens perspective. This helped me incredibly when I was struggling with the same behaviours in my daughter. Like you, I got to the point of wanting to find her another home, but was lucky enough to have an awesome case worker who helped me understand how my daughter operated and what was going on for her. She also taught me how to change my reactions which, with perserverance, has made all the difference, and changed the dynamics in our home. 

 

Did the camp provide any report relaying any issues they identified in your son or offer any suggestions for continued help for him and the family? These issues are often to do with the dynamics of the family as a whole, which often is helped greatly by the entire family getting help and support, instead of the weight of the problems being placed solely on the teens shoulders. I think it's like any relationship - there is never just one person who's purely at fault. Does that sound reasonable?

 

From my experiences with my daughter, which were incredibly abusive and violent from her end (Police applied for an AVO against her to protect me when she was 11), I used to put hope in these camps 'fixing' her, but there are no quick fixes I've found. We had support for 2 years, and it's been ongoing from my end from there - 3 years on from that support, and we've been doing okay. I've learnt what to stress about and what to let go of, which has been a huge factor in it all. It just gets to be way too overwhelming and unbearable hey. The Benevolent Society (who run the coaching) were of invaluable suport to us. Could I suggest seeing what services they offer in your state? On that note, were you able to complete the coaching? 

 

I'm also wondering if you have been in contact with any relevant agencies who could help find safe alternative housing options for your son if that is your final option? Whether that be a foster home or a long term behavioural rehab type program? We 'applied' for some programs that were run by the children's hospital, but again, I'm not sure what sort of resources are around your area. Or what availability is like. That can often be an issue. 

 

My heart goes out to you and your family and I hope you can find an alternative workable solution that will provide long term benefits to you all, including your boy. For your own mental health, are you able to take any time in the day (or week!) for yourself? I know that when you're feeling so frazzled, taking care of yourself can feel like a chore in itself, but it's so important we do it. Do something that makes you feel good about yourself, or gives you time when your brain is concentrating on something else. Allow yourself the break Smiley Happy

 

 

Highlighted
Super contributor

Re: Son returned from Guided Expedition - the results

Hey @Faob_1

 

I would also like to just reach out to you and say I can hear how hard things are for you all right now. It's horrible, that feeling of being completely tapped out and not having any more capacity to deal with it.

I'm really sorry you guys are all having to go through this, your son included. I'm sure it might seem like he's getting the easiest end of this but my experience has been that kids who are acting out like this are in a huge amount of pain. They just have no idea how to express it or manage it functionally.

 

I think @taokat's idea of some family counselling would be amazing if you can do it. Even if it's just to facilitate your son moving somewhere else. Having a mediator in the space to support everyone to communicate their feelings can make a huge difference. There are some services who will provide a counsellor to come to the home.

 

What do you think?

Parent Peer Supporter

Re: Son returned from Guided Expedition - the results

Hey @Faob_1, I was having a look and Centacare are in your state and offer some fantastic services. You could maybe give them a call and see what help they can offer? You can find them online. They're a great service so I hope they can be of help to you all.

Parent Community Champion

Re: Son returned from Guided Expedition - the results

Thankyou for your comments. I have had a lightbulb moment this week which has resulted in me feeling so much better.

it occurred to me that when I was fifteen I went to boarding school . There was no conflict in our home, I was the youngest of six and was ready to leave the country town I had grown up in, and spread my wings. Maybe I just need to acknowledge that in my own son, and help him find the safe place where he too can experience some independence. Of course boarding school came with rules and routines, but I was ok with that. I still had a sense of independence, and if I was going to be late for meals etc due to sport, it was my responsibility to let the boarding house mistress know, etc. I had to remember all my books each day as our boarding house was a ten minute walk from school, so no ringing mum asking her to bring homework etc...

i have spoken to a group care home  and they are willing to consider son as they will have a vacancy in a couple months. The rules are actually stricter than home,  it, hey, he will have to come to terms with the fact that independence comes with responsibility to yourself.  He grumbled yesterday he had had four meals of cereal! Hmm, well, he walked in just after we had served dinner, I had cooked for the others early but was happy to cook pasta for him when he walked in. He walked in but went straight to his room and didn’t come out for two hours! We were on our way to bed by then! No cooking meals at 9:30 at night! He chose not to cook for himself, so, another bowl of nutigrain it was!! 

 

So, we have decided this weekend to broach the subject of moving into a group house scenario, and see if he will at least consider having a look at it and talking to the staff there. There are a couple kids from his school already living there, and it’s not far from home, nor from his casual fast food workplace.  We would be willing to pay the boarding fee and just maybe he would be eligible for other payments due to family breakdown, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one. He may have to earn his pocket money,  and that isn’t a bad thing.

 

so, I have decided after an awful term last term, to not put my life on hold, and to do what I can to guide him. I will no longer put up with his abuse, so he has to make some decisions. I can provide opportunities for him to explore independence, but as I said, with that comes responsibility.

 

Wish me luck! And to any new members reading this, hang in there, self care is vital, and do not hesitate to seek support, either through here and the counselling slice, or elsewhere in your community.

 

oh, and he won runner up best player for his hockey team this winter! The agony and the ecstasy!!