My son is totally out of control

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Question

Hi, My husband and I have a 15yo son who is over 6ft tall. He has not been to school for two years and refuses to go. He smokes heaps of pot ( and probably other drugs)sleeps all day and gets aggressive or violent if we try to challenge him. Hes been in trouble with the police and now facing an unlicenced driving charge.

He wont do the community service from his other charges and just goes bezerk if his father gets in his face or tries to talk to him. I think he has conduct disorder,depression and maybe a learning disability. Three years ago his best friends burt to death in a bush fire and I don’t think hes ever got over it. We are very worried about him and it is hard for us to get ANY help in a remote community. I would like to know if there is anyone who can help him. Can we take him to a “place” that will help him with his addiction and his mental issues before he hurts us or I have a heart attack from the stress.

Answer

Your situation sounds very difficult and I can appreciate the pain and frustration you are feeling. Your question contain many indicators that your son needs professional counselling, especially in terms of the death of his mates. Unresolved, a trauma like that one would certainly easily lead to the kinds of experiences you are no having with him. I suggest you phone Kidshelpline  (National: 1800 55 1800) or Parent Helpline (WA: 1800 654 432 1800 654 432; SA: 1300 364 100; QLD & NT: 1300 30 1300; VIC: 13 22 89; TAS: 1300 808 178;NSW: 13 20 55; ACT: 6287 3833)

In terms of directly addressing the problem you would probably get more appropriate direction from one of the organisations I have listed below. They are much more experienced in these issues than I am.

In terms of you and your husband though: Whatever the reason, your son is so established in his patterns of defiance that the road to change will be quite long, but it is not impossible. What you can do in the short term is to reinforce the positive in your son (wherever you find it and however small it is) and resist the temptation to engage with him on his terms. You need to build a platform of security in your relationship and acceptance of him as your son to give you the confidence to pursue his behaviours that are totally unacceptable.

For a whole range of reasons, including and probably beyond the ones you have indicated, he wants you and his society to be angry with him. Every time he provokes you to rage he wins, and you lose. It is not easy to stay calm in the face of an abusive teen but it is the most important weapon in your arsenal.

Something that may help you is to keep in mind that the problems that most concern you at the moment are not yours. If he is not attending school – that is the problem of the school, Department of Education and Police. His community service and pending court appearance are the problem of the courts and the police. I know it sounds impossible, but at this point in your situation the only focus for you and your husband should be on small domestic matters. Look for a chink in his angry armour, some small softness and receptivity, and build on that – that will be the most likely starting point to bring him to recovery and will help bring you some peace.
The eBook mentioned in the My Teen is Out of Control link below has some really good sections on the importance of looking after yourself in this and strategies to focus on the problems that are yours.

Now as to the organisations that are best placed to directly help:

Australian

Tough Love is an organisation that has over 30 years experience dealing with situations like yours, they will have people who understand what you are going through and have good advice to offer. www.toughlove.org.au/index.htm

Youth Off the Streets is an excellent organisation that has a wide range of residential programs that may suit your son’s situation. If not they will have a very current view of what is available in Australia. Information and contact details can be found on their websitewww.youthoffthestreets.com.au/index.html.

Teen Challenge is a Christian organisation that has residential programs in most states. Queensland has one for 16-25 year oldshttp://www.teenchallenge.org.au/index.php?page=residential-rehabilitation  and South Australia has one for 18+ but they will make exceptions www.tc.asn.au/livingfreeelizabeth.htm. Both programs require a willingness to accept a Christian approach to treatment and voluntary admission. Like Youth Off The Streets their staff would be up to date with other programs available today.

Headspace, the national mental health initiative website www.headspace.org.au/default.aspx?page=2 has a range of information and contact points that might help you.

USA

There is an company in the USA called My Out Of Control Teen that provides training and online resources and counselling for parents in situations like yours. The cost is a one off charge of US$29. I cannot vouch for the quality of the program but it seems well credentialed. I have attached a copy of the book they sell on the website – it will help you decide whether the material is suitable for you. They also have a very active forum and online counselling program. The website is www.myoutofcontrolteen.com/

My child is going to move out

Question

My daughter is 15 and is telling us she is going to move out at 16 and live with her current 17 year old boyfriend. We have concerns about this and have spoken with her. If she leaves home at 16 and get into any trouble with the police or in debt will we be held responsible for her actions even if we can’t make her stay at home. She believes that when she is 16 she can legally move out is this right or is it 18 or 21.

Answer

You daughter is right, She can leave home without your permission at 16. Unfortunately laws have been framed this way because of the need to protect some of our children from dreadful experiences at home and in the process they sometimes make it harder for responsible parents to guide their children in the right direction.

The reality of the situation is that even if it wasn’t lawful, your daughter is of an age that if she wants to move in with her boyfriend there is very little you could do to stop it. The issue is not serious enough for the authorities to act.

Let us hope she does not get into trouble with the police, but if she does she will be the one accountable for it. Similarly with debt: the only way in which you could be held responsible for it is if you sign leases, contracts or rental agreements.

The first place to start though is to lay a foundation so that whether your daughter leaves home or not your relationship will survive. While it may not seem like it to her now (and at times it may not even seem like it to you) that relationship is going to be very important to her life in the near future.

Perhaps there are areas in which you could lighten up which give her a greater sense of independence without compromising your family expectations and values?

Also, it is important to build the relationship in spite of the current tension. It would be a very good thing to find some opportunities to spend positive time with each other in which the conflict areas are not discussed. Maybe have a weekly lunch date during which you both are banned from talking about anything to do with the boyfriend or her leaving home. This won’t be easy at first but if you persist it will become very valuable time during which you will almost certainly rediscover your mother-daughter relationship. It is that relationship that will ultimately give your daughter safety and security and you peace.

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