help with son who has school refusal
January 3, 2012 5:34 PM   Subscribe

I have a 14yrs old who does not do any homework or work at school. He also does not cooperate with me on any matter. I want to take him to the psychiatrist to find out if he has depression, anxiety disorder, or ADD but he refuses to go. He does not want to go to school either. I called the juvenile office and was told that they would not accept him unless he commits a crime. The hospital cannot admit anyone forcefully. The ambulance will not come out to my house to pick him up to take him to the psychiatric hospital unless he threatens to kill himself. The school does not want to deal with him either. I don't know what rights I have as a parent. Any advice would be appreciated.
posted by bossanova to Human Relations (89 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Is he being bullied?
posted by fnerg at 5:36 PM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Have you asked him why he doesn't want to go to school? Because that's what all these professionals are going to do, assuming you can get him to talk with any of them, They're going to ask him what he's thinking and feeling and why he does the things he does. If he won't answer them, they won't be able to help much. He needs to have someone he can trust and confide in. Ideally, that would be you, but it could be some other adult in his life. If he won't talk with you, is there anyone in his life (Dad, cool uncle, favorite teacher, sports coach) he might talk to who could help you figure out what's up with him?

Bottom line, even if you could legally force him into a mental hospital or the juvenile justice system, those are truly terrible options for any child. Unless he has a severe mental or physical illness such that it can't be avoided, residential treatment of any kind should be a last resort. Your son is a young boy who is obviously going through something really difficult for him, and you need to find out what it is so that you can lovingly help him deal with it. First, try talking with him, and if you can't, find someone else he can trust who can talk with him.
posted by decathecting at 5:43 PM on January 3, 2012 [14 favorites]

What does he want to do? How does he spend his time each day? That's where you need to engage him.

Meanwhile, have you called your school district's engagement office? If you're actually in the Houston ISD, that's these people.
posted by SMPA at 5:48 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding fnerg. It took one instance of bullying in the bathroom for me to become absolutely terrified of school. I never told anyone the truth, however, not even to the therapists my mother literally dragged me to see. The situation was resolved by switching schools, but I realize that's not an option for everyone.

Of course, he could also just be an unruly teenager. It's difficult to tell from what little information you've given us, unfortunately.
posted by plaintiff6r at 5:49 PM on January 3, 2012

Does he have a slightly older, trustworthy male who could talk to him? Maybe one that's between the age of 18-25? He may not want to talk to you and he may not want to talk to a psychiatrist, but he might be willing to talk to a slightly older guy while playing video games or basketball or whatever and at least give him an inkling of what is going on. This guy might also be able to influence him enough that he is at least willing to try professional help.
posted by cairdeas at 5:50 PM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I can only advise you what I would do as a parent, which is tough. Take away any pleasures he has until he gets his act together and starts demonstrating that he cares about taking responsibility for his life. Phone, video games, television, computer privileges. It will make life extremely difficult for you, because these things are babysitters, but the sacrifice you make now will pay off in spades later.

Secondly, a very wise parent once told me that money was a great motivator to get her kid to do homework. I was experiencing a similar, though less severe, problem as you. As soon as I started dangling the carrot of serious money, my son began getting motivated. We set up a point system for grades tied to dollars, for both mid-term and final report cards, that would increase as his grades got better. It can't be an insignificant amount of money, or it won't work. It was a somewhat elaborate calculation, but hey, it worked. Now, at the age of 16, he's on a solid track.

This isn't touchy-feely stuff, just practical parenting suggestions that may help.
posted by zagyzebra at 5:51 PM on January 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

Is he displaying any actual psychiatric issues like panic attacks, self-harm, suicidal tendencies? If not why would you forcibly commit him? It feels like through your question you are going through a lot of stress with him and feel pushed to your limit. That's OK, teenagers can do that.

But it is important to realize that fourteen is an age where the child is old enough to be reasoned with and spoken to as an adult. The reasons they act in a defiant manner go beyond "Brain problems" or "hormonal"--as with adults, conflict nearly always belies underlying issues that can be teased out with discussion. I'm guessing you've asked him why and he's not given any concrete reasons. It's possible he doesn't expect you to be supportive or sympathetic.

I suggest leaving him alone for a day or two. Let him stay in the house. Then after at least a good 24 hours of not yelling, screaming, or trying to force him to go to school, take him out to lunch (or if you work, go to dinner). Then try to talk with him about why he doesn't want to go to school, really honestly listening to his answers and being sympathetic. Something like "You can't actually stay out of school forever. Has something been going on there that makes you not want to go? Would you like to talk with me about it?"

I was bullied harshly by my peers when I was in school and tried to refuse going or played sick. My mom responded by screaming and yelling at me. It was one behavior in a pattern of behaviors from her that sent the message she was not interested in finding out why her child was hurting and upset. You really do not want to send this message to your child. Give him the benefit of the doubt.
posted by schroedinger at 5:51 PM on January 3, 2012 [77 favorites]

Also, bribing him and punishing him will not help if what he's facing at school is worse than what you're doing at home.
posted by schroedinger at 5:52 PM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Maybe you should try to cooperate with him on a matter? Ask him what he needs to feel okay about life. Maybe it's more free time away from you. Maybe it is a different school environment.

I do think you should go to counseling for you. Once you get your issues under control then you will be able to handle his better.

All teens are awful. They just are. But for you to want to put him in a hospital- either he has hit an extreme or you are an extreme. You going to a therapist will help to figure that out. Not for him, but for you.
posted by myselfasme at 5:54 PM on January 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

You've lost control of the situation and he's calling the shots, you need to reverse this situation now. I would suggest that the first step is to get YOURSELF into counseling, you'll need the advice and support of an impartial individual as you work to gain control.

There is no way you can give us enough information to allow anyone here provide you with advice. You want to be very careful about following any specific ideas that come out of this askme.
posted by tomswift at 5:54 PM on January 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

He also does not cooperate with me on any matter.

This could indicate anything from "don't want to go to school" to Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Maybe instead of recoiling in horror that the OP is willing to institutionalise her son, we could work under the assumption that this is a serious problem and a desperate parent and actually help her get some help?
posted by DarlingBri at 5:55 PM on January 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

He's 14. He's a child, so you're actually holding ALL the legal cards here.

You need to contact the school district and look into psych evaluations and get him set up with an IEP, which may mean moving him to an alternative high school or other educational placement. Until he is 18, his education falls utterly in the school's responsibility, per federal law. If need be, you can hire an advocate to help you through this process and deal with the school. In fact, just telling the school you're thinking of doing this will often make them jump.

Bottom line: Help is available, and you need to ask for it. It doesn't matter that the school doesn't want to deal with him -- it's their legal responsibility to provide him with an appropriate placement that delivers him the support he deserves. Period.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:55 PM on January 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

I should also say that I was basically this child about half a lifetime ago. The year I turned 16, life at school was so unbearable for me that I announced to my parents at the end of the semester that I would not be returning to school in the spring. It wasn't even that anything so objectively awful was happening to me: I wasn't being molested or terrorized, and I got decent grades. But the combination of having no friends, being severely understimulated, and a bit of chronic anxiety, combined with teenage hormones, made the idea of going back to that school seem like the end of the world. So I refused to go back.

To my parents' immense credit, they didn't fight me on it. They asked me what was wrong, and I couldn't really explain it, but they basically took my word for it that going back wasn't an option. With a lot of kids, that might not have been the best choice, but in one of the best parenting decisions they ever made, my parents believed me when I told them that it was unspeakably awful in a way I couldn't articulate.

So they asked me what I planned to do instead. They told me that I had to get a high school diploma and go to college, but that they would help me come up with a plan for doing so that didn't involve going back to that school. We researched and visited dozens of private schools, looked at Outward Bound and other alternative programs, checked out homeschooling options, and explored every possibility we could think of. We ended up coming up with a plan I could live with, and because I had chosen it, I really bought into the solution. I graduated with honors, went to college, and my life has been pretty awesome since then. And I have nothing but gratitude for my parents for treating me like a person whose feelings and desires mattered and who was capable of making good decisions if given the right help, even though I was at the time objectively a child who was acting a bit irrationally.

There was no punishment my parents could have doled out, no reward they could have offered, no therapy or threat or other outcome they could have forced on me that would have made me cooperate after I decided I wasn't going to cooperate. And by letting me set that boundary, but setting limits within that to give me structure in my life, my parents really did save me. I'm honestly not sure I would be alive today if they hadn't handled this situation as well as they did. And that's why I'm so invested in the idea that you have to figure out with your son how to improve his life, not force him into an untenable situation where his only options are different forms of suffering.
posted by decathecting at 5:57 PM on January 3, 2012 [124 favorites]

In the United States you have a lot of rights over your children, though the rights stop at harming or neglecting them. You can choose where they live, what they eat, where they go to school, how much money, if any, they receive. The goal of parenthood—and it seems worthwhile to pull back a little here—is to raise successfully mature adults.

We're not going to be able to help you a lot here without knowing a lot more, and you may not know some of the answers yourself. What I can tell you is likely is that your son is going through a rough time and, right now, for whatever reason, he doesn't want you on his side. (This is pretty much the defining condition of adolescence, lest we forget.)

It's possible that something bad happened to him; it's also possible that he's angry, or upset, or depressed, or hurt, or stoned beyond comprehension, or (unlikely) a sociopath—and that's a huge range of things, which are sometimes indistinguishable from the outside.

Or it may be that he is completely rejecting your values, whatever they may be, or he may feel rejected by them—by you.

It would be useful for him to see you as someone he can talk to. That's not always possible with teenagers. In that case, doing what you can to get him to someone else to talk to would be great.

I can imagine you're really frustrated but it seems like no one on the ground there is going to know what to do about this situation until someone starts talking. That's not something the state can really help you with at this point. This can be really hard and unpleasant and impossible-seeming—being in a room together until someone breaks and starts opening up.

You will hear from others, particularly in your part of the world, about these boot camps for "trouble teens." I have seen a lot of frustrated parents send their kids off to camps (usually when the situation is more advanced). In most of those situations, in at least the short- and medium-term, those kids have understood from this that their parents hated them and didn't accept them. In a few cases, in the more long term, some were grateful for the experience. But many were not. If that's a route you consider later, please do your due diligence and find out how they treat the children, what "graduates" think of the experience, etc. Make sure they haven't been the subject of lawsuits, in particular. A lot of parents put their children in very bad places, and they regret it as well.

On a personal note: at 14, I hated my parents, hated school, lied to everyone and was failing most of my classes. I didn't do homework for four years straight. My parents had little idea what was going on with me, but that's just because at least I put up a front and lied a little. I don't think the common bribes and stuff would have worked on me, though they're sometimes worth a shot. Some things just take time.

And finally: yes, most importantly, you need someone to talk to. You don't need to figure out what to do alone. Having a teenager is hard enough! Having someone to give you some experience, and at least listen to you, is huge. They can help you distinguish between what's "normal" and what's "not okay," and that's a big help.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:57 PM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

God, when my son was doing this I truly understood why some species eat their young.

I can tell you that you are completely overreacting, though.

Doing well in school is sort of important, but it is far more important that he makes it to adulthood reasonably well adjusted. There is far more to life than academic achievement in middle school.

So, take a deep breath. He will grow out of it. In the meantime, you need to follow behind him closely and hold him accountable. Email his teachers and find out what needs to be done. Help him get it done - even if you have to sit and help him with it. Accept that he is trying to simultaneously test your limits and establish his own space and independence.

Whatever you do, don't give up.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:58 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you describe the period between when you had an ok relationship with him and when you started consulting the police, hospitals, etc?
posted by the jam at 5:59 PM on January 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Because that sounded judgmental, I'll expand.

Teenagers frequently dislike school. Typically its because they're either being bullied or just don't fit in at school. If he's not popular, doesn't have a lot of friends, school is going to suck even more than it might otherwise. Add in a parent who is considering drastic measures to force him to do something he wants, he's going to balk even more.

Is he ditching school, or just whining about not wanting to go? If he's actually going to school, before mental wards or juvie, I'd try getting his school counselor to talk to him and talk to his teachers about how he is in class (whether they've witnessed bullying, whether he participates in class or seems bored, any behavior problems or concerns they have about him).

When I was his age I also hated school and refused to do homework... partly because of bullying, partly because I was bored out of my skull and none of my teachers were capable of challenging me. I also had some personal issues that weren't being addressed (a suicide attempt was ignored, but a condescending response to a homework assignment was seen as a sign of mental instability and my grandmother tried to have me committted).
posted by myShanon at 5:59 PM on January 3, 2012

I've been there. My cousin transformed from kind, intelligent and philanthropic child to obstinate, conniving, and cruel teen in the blink of an eye. For my family, we fear he may have been sexually assaulted by a coach or older boy at a summer camp he used to go to, but we have yet to get him into therapy so it's been really, really difficult to make any changes.

Are you a single parent? Does your son play any sports? Do you know if he does drugs, and when did this behavior start? What are his friends like? What does he do instead of going to school? Is he at the point where he could be considered truant? If he's actively ditching school, his attendance record will become an issue.

I agree that you need a support system. Do you have relatives who could help out, or access to a counselor? Do you know his teachers well enough to talk with them about your concerns?

Wishing you luck. I know how hard this is.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:02 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

You said the school is unwilling to work with him, but it is your right as a parent to *request* testing for your son through the school, for free. Sometimes it really takes a parent to initiate an evaluation. Most of the time for an evaluation to be approved, there has to be evidence and documentation that a student's grades, social life, or success at school are significantly negatively impacted by his ability or behavior.

But, from your description, it sounds like an evaluation right now would be inconclusive due to his refusal to participate or answer questions. I don't think we have enough information to know if your son needs a tough love/stricter guidelines method, or more motivators, or a sympathetic ear to understand possible mental health, bullying, or social issues.

Your district probably has something called a "parent resource center" or something like that with information about your rights as a parent, and support, resources, and information available to you. You can call your school and ask them. They usually work confidentially, so they would not go back and contact your son's school. They truly are a resource for parents and may have information on how to manage your son's behavior or target the root of his behavior issues.
posted by shortyJBot at 6:04 PM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I feel so bad for you. It is difficult to deal with a teenager that stonewalls you.

What does he do instead of homework and work at school? Can you talk to his teachers to get a sense of what he's up to or what is wrong? Is there a social worker at the school or an advisor?

I get the sense that you're going to need more people on your side to help you deal with him. I know you're the parent, but you clearly need help and support dealing with your son.

I think there are alternative boarding schools for kids with behavior disorders, if that's what it is.
posted by anniecat at 6:06 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh my, decathecting has much of my story already written out. I hated school so much, and I ended up so depressed that I did admit myself to a mental hospital a few times when I was 16, but all it really did was express to me how terrible some people's mental problems really were and how mine paled in comparison, and I didn't want to be there either, though the respite from school was nice.

My parents didn't initially want me to transfer from a pretty decent catholic school to either a vocational or agricultural school, and I ended up dropping out at 17, but enrolled at a "night school" that basically just let me finish up what I needed in the evenings, with mature adults, and I excelled there. I went on to eventually earn an Associate's, and now am graduating with a BS in May, with a GPA of 3.7. God, if I'd been allowed to do what I wanted and enroll in a school that *GASP* didn't have the college acceptance rate of my college prep catholic school... I'd have gotten a Master's by now and probably would've had a nice job. Oh well. I don't regret it, but if I could do it over again...

Just please don't push him too hard, and don't assume his problems are paltry, and don't conform him to a standard that for him, is impossible to reach. He can be spoken to like an adult, but has the teenage brain still. It's so hard, I know. And dear lord, NO BOOT CAMPS. I had a friend in a similar situation to me - we were even together in a mental hospital at one point, despite going to school together- his parents put him in one of those boot camps and it.. it kinda broke him. It was really just terrible. I can't imagine ever putting either of my sons in something like that.
posted by kpht at 6:07 PM on January 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Thanks for all the answers and advice out there. I am planning to put the academics behind the burner to take care of the psychiatric issues first. I suspect he has depression & ADD because he told me after listening to the teacher for 5 minutes, he starts thinking about something else (but won't tell me what it is) and having problems with concentration. His father died of depression years ago but my son was never diagnosed with depression by a psychologist. He has never been to a psychiatrist and refuses to go. My question is how can I force him to go see a psychiatrist to at least get some diagnosis. I don't know how to motivate him to go. He won't go to church, attend sports, or do anything that helps him to get better. The only thing he is willing to do is take piano lesson at our house (but won't really practice). He plays computer games all day ( while I am at work). I am so lost.
posted by bossanova at 6:08 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I never took books home or did much homework either. I was totally bored with most text books. My mother forced me to take my books home, so I did. I put them on the dining room table and took them back the next day without ever opening them.

My grades were mostly fine, as I was a high test taker, I listened in class, and I had high participation. I probably had ADD or some such, but I'm old enough that this wasn't really ever diagnosed.

I'd try to get him to see a professional. If he refuses cut off his cash-flow and tell him he needs to get a job to support his hobbies and wants. Set some rules and enforce them. No TV or internet until he goes. Make sure he understand he can stop whatever punishment he's getting by adjusting his behavior. Make it clear you just want him to talk to someone.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:10 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Why don't you suggest he study for his GED while you are at work, and plan for him to attend some cc classes after that? Offer him a way out?
posted by bq at 6:14 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe the reason why he won't tell you what the "something else" that he thinks about is, is that it's not really anything that important? When I was a teenager and I was just daydreaming, letting my mind wander, sometimes my parents would ask me what i was thinking, and when I said "nothing really" they would try to pester me to tell them -- but I COULDN'T, becuase I wasn't really thinking OF anything. And the more they dug at me the more I resisted because why was it so important?....

It sounds like you're very concerned he has depression (which is understandable, given your husband's situation). Maybe instead of pressuring him to see a psychiatrist, maybe just call his regular doctor a few days before his next checkup and tell his doctor you're concerned, and your doctor can maybe figure out a more subtle approach?...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:22 PM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

I politely disagree. As a kid whose parents tried to get her to see a professional, there is nothing you can do to "make" him see one. The more you try, the more unsuccessful the whole process will be (Flashback to failed sessions of utter muteness and fixed glares). Perhaps you can politely express that you would like to help him find someone with whom to talk, but any force you apply will be met with an equal if not stronger opposing force. When you're a teen, you have so little perspective. Were I forced into something, I would have not batted an eye at physical violence to myself or others. This is so ludicrous to look back upon, but us middle-aged folk can sometimes forget how "life or death" seemingly trivial matters are at 16.

decathecting and bq are right on. You need to support him in a proactive, solution-oriented manner. In order to be a voice of positive guidance and reasonableness, you would be well served to make an example of yourself and seek outside counsel of your own.

Maybe you'll never know the problem; maybe it transcends articulation. Your post reminded me of this video. Whatever is bothering him now, please reassure him: Life really does get better. The trick is not screwing it up too much on the way. Neither of you lose hope, and best of luck.
posted by keasby at 6:23 PM on January 3, 2012 [8 favorites]

It is very hard for me to cut off the Internet because I need to use it for work and my older son (16yrs old) needs to use it for his homework. We truly cannot live without the Internet. I have checked with ATT Uverse and they cannot shut on and off the Internet from their office. I hate to hide the box from him because it just sets him off.

He is attending some classes at the homeschooling center right now 4 days a week, but has plenty of free time to play computer games. He does not have Xbox or anything like that. My last resort is to cut off cable TV and computer games. I have tried to do that and all he does is sleep in his room all day long. He wouldn't even get up to eat. I don't want to turn him into some kind of walking eating disorder disaster as a means to control his life and reject my rules and authority.

I have tried everything with this boy. He has, by the way, been tested as gifted and talented by several school districts. I feel like he is throwing his life away and there is nothing I can do to stop him. This all started on and off since he was in 3rd grade, 3 years after his dad passed away.
posted by bossanova at 6:24 PM on January 3, 2012

Would he be interested in learning how to program and make video games? If he's willing to study for his GED so he can graduate, his interest in video games might propel him to develop marketable skills.

Have you considered writing him a letter about all of this? It can be heartwrenching to do but it might be a level of communication he's willing to grok for now. Tell him that you don't know what's wrong and would love to listen, that you'd like to understand why he's not interested in hw or school so you can help him find alternatives, and that most of all you don't want to fail him as a mom because you want him to be happy and successful. The last bit is admittedly a bit of a wild card because it could unleash a variety of different responses, but when your goal is to figure out what's wrong, sometimes a little guilt can really help. It certainly helped me as a teen.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:25 PM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Don't worry about him throwing his life away because he might actually believe you. There are so many kids out there who didn't do well in high school due to emotional problems, etc, and learned how to buckle down later. What's most important is that you understand that he just needs support rather than your fearing he's throwing his life away. He'll probably be fine.
posted by anniecat at 6:29 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

If he is gifted and talented, maybe the reason why he doesn't like school is indeed because it's really boring.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:33 PM on January 3, 2012 [15 favorites]

Did he ever talk with anyone after his dad's death? Are there any adults with whom he's close who would be willing to speak with him?

The lying around all day really does sound like depression. I think the best you can do is keep talking with him. Try to work out a solution for his future education as deactheting demonstrated. Let it be clear you are open to his thoughts and feelings without judgement and understand if it happens it won't happen all at once.

If your boy is bright and talented then it is OK if he's not in all the advanced classes now and whatever. The important thing is that you get him to a good place psychologically, because when he's there that's when he can start exercising his gifts and figuring out what he wants to do with his life. Better to be healthy and starting college at 22 then entering at 18 and floundering for years because you're torn up inside.
posted by schroedinger at 6:33 PM on January 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

He is attending some classes at the homeschooling center right now 4 days a week, but has plenty of free time to play computer games.

OK so he's not going to the local school but he is in education. Is he attending all of the classes he's supposed to be attending at the homeschooling centre? What is the relationship between your sons like - would your older son have any idea what's up with the younger? And does your younger son have any goals - like is he interested in college (which he can totally get into as a homeschooler, don't sweat that)?
posted by DarlingBri at 6:34 PM on January 3, 2012

I worked for a summer with emotionally disturbed children. It taught me many things, but one that seems really applicable to this situation is that people of all ages absolutely hate feeling not in control. If offered only one option (told what to do), they will often create an alternative themselves so as to remain in control. If offered a choice of options, they are more likely to feel like they have agency and will be more likely to choose one of the offered options.

So I'd work out how to give him back control over his life. I'd present him a list of acceptable choices: he can either choose to go to school or stay home and play video games and choose to see a psychiatrist or choose to not see a psychiatrist and self-study to pass the GRE, or whatever you're willing to accept. Also, don't lay out consequences if you're unwilling or unable to follow through on them.

The flip side to that is that whatever choices you give you need to be able to accept. Don't offer a choice path you aren't actually okay with, because then you'll be the untrustworthy one wrenching back control.
posted by vegartanipla at 6:41 PM on January 3, 2012 [13 favorites]

Based on what you said in your update (sleeping all day) and about your husband, I would have the same concerns, although it would require an evaluation by a psychiatrist, of course.

I'm just going to point out a resource that may help you.

I would contact the National Alliance on Mental Illnessl (NAMI) ---it is an organization for people who are mentally ill and their family members. Surely there would be family members familiar with the laws and may have recommendations appropriate for a teen who may be mentally ill -- at worst, they could give you support. Now I'm not going to poke around entire website, but this is the contact page for Texas.

If I were in your shoes, I would contact them -- tell them what you suspect, and whether there are parents of teens who could give you specific recommendations about everything (laws, suggestions, someone to talk to etc).
posted by Wolfster at 6:46 PM on January 3, 2012

Yes, I have called NAMI and made literally hundreds of phone calls regarding this situation. I have even called the local police to come out and take him to the hospital. THey could not force him to go. According to the law, no one can force a child to go to the hospital unless he threatens to kill himself. I have also called the ambulance, but they could not touch him either (by law).

I have set up registration with Meninger clinic but could not get him to go. Meninger only treats adolescents who willingly walk into their clinic, alas!

I have contacted an attorney regarding this matter as well. They say the same thing like everyone else. There is no law that forces a child to go to see a doctor or hospital. Period.

My question is " Am I a mother who neglects her child's mental health or well-being?"
posted by bossanova at 6:56 PM on January 3, 2012

I just want to respond to your feeling that your son is throwing his life away. My parents probably felt that way when I nearly failed out of high school. I didn't get into any colleges in my senior year, either. And yet here I sit in my nice apartment with a BA, a JD, a great job, fantastic friends, and two proud parents. America is the land of second chances. Nothing you describe is an irreversible failure.

It's incredibly hard to help someone who is struggling with mental illness, but once you do find a way to help your son, he will be able to fulfill your hopes for him. Falling behind a bit is not the worst thing in the world. It wasn't for me.
posted by prefpara at 6:58 PM on January 3, 2012 [12 favorites]

My question is " Am I a mother who neglects her child's mental health or well-being?"

Absolutely NOT. One of the hardest things to come to terms with is the fact that as children grow up and become teens they are in the process of turning into themselves -- separate units, separate beings from their parents. That you have even recognized that something is wrong and that you're trying to be proactive about it means you are a wonderful mother. It is not your fault that your son is going through something right now, even if it seems that way. Please believe that.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 7:08 PM on January 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Your son sounds incredibly depressed. I was also very depressed at that age. What I really needed from my parents was gentle understanding and support, but instead they would yell at me and harangue me when I wouldn't do stuff or when I put off schoolwork or when I watched TV all day, like I was simply lazy and needed a kick in the pants. I don't know if they really thought I was lazy/in denial about my depression or if they actually knew I was depressed but didn't know what to do and felt out of control. Looking back, it's pretty painful to me that I was flailing so horribly with absolutely no life vest thrown to me by my parents. Please don't do that to your kid. You know he is miserable. Yelling at him and treating him like a criminal will only make him retreat further back into himself. It will only cement any feelings that he may have of being totally alone. Try to talk to him. He probably won't talk at first, or maybe for awhile. But try to always make yourself available and try to make sure that he knows that you will listen non-judgmentally to anything he might say. I'd say start with this before taking him to therapy*, because if he is forced to see a therapist by you without your own attempts to be a genuine listener, he might view it as you farming out your parenting duties (sorry, but that's how I saw it as his age).

I second other people's suggestion that you see a counselor of some kind yourself. This is going to continue to be really tough on you, especially if you focus on being strong for him. You're going to need someone to vent to and voice your frustrations. A professional will also be able to provide lots of guidance for this situation.

*Obviously this all flies out the window if you are afraid he might harm himself or others.
posted by imalaowai at 7:08 PM on January 3, 2012 [11 favorites]

There's lots good advice here. Agree on the control issues, but the reassuring thing that my parents tell me when my 14-year old is driving me nuts, is that all teenagers are foul, horrible, lazy, selfish, short-sighted creatures at times. My step-mum taught teenagers for years. You have to laugh at their outrageous behavior. This is just the nature of their brains right now. They will quite literally grow out of it.

I know it seems like everyone else's kids are super-together athletes who get straight A's and listen to their parents politely, but they're really not. I think being a single parent (me too) makes it much, much harder. There is no escape for him or you, and it's your job to be the one he blames for everything. It's also your job to make some of the hard decisions he will hate. It really, really sucks. I get quite desperate at times. You need someone else to talk to who understands what you are dealing with. He could do with another adult or someone to hang out with.

Here's the thing though. He needs to get to adulthood knowing that he is loved. That's about it really. He'll work it out if you keep believing in the person he can be.

With that said, my cell provider (Verizon) has parental controls for an extra $5 a month. I use those to control my daughter's cell phone usage, e.g. set times of day she can use it (not during school; not in the small hours), or to turn it off temporarily when she's being particularly "charming".

My wireless router has access controls which I can set for times of day, or for particular machines. I use that too.

Internet and cell phone are two things my kid really cares about. You need to work out what those things are for him, but, to return to the control issue, you need to have a concrete, agreed-upon way for him to get them back.

You have to let him talk and let him know that you love him.

It's not easy. It's really hard and you'll mess it up sometimes. Keep trying.

On review of some of your comments, he still sounds pretty normal to me. If he's gifted, then he may well be bored and unchallenged by school. He may also be missing his dad.
posted by idb at 7:08 PM on January 3, 2012

He's 14; he's not "throwing his life away". The more you panic, the more he's going to shut down. Calling the cops to drag him to the pysch ward is making him not trust you. He sounds like he has depression. He needs some space, and then you need to actively engage with what he's feeling, not what he isn't doing and what you're going to do to him.
posted by spaltavian at 7:11 PM on January 3, 2012 [13 favorites]

You keep talking about sending him to a psychiatrist, but that is someone who prescribes medicine...they don't do talk therapy. Have you checked into actual counseling? As in talking to someone 50 minutes a week? He may be extremely fearful of taking meds (because that confirms that he's "crazy" in his mind?) but he may be willing to talk to someone if he knows that it is HIS time with a counselor. I don't know if there is a church official or pastor (or someone like that) he can talk to, or maybe a counselor with the homeschool center he's going to. There's got to be someone he can engage with, even if it's not about "therapy" at first (maybe a mentor in a program he's interested in, like creating computer games? I'm trying to think of alternatives...)

Heading straight to a hospital or psychiatrist screams "YOU ARE BROKEN" to a teenager, and unless they come to that realization themselves they will certainly be resistant to treatment. Some get to the point where they realize that meds are a good thing and helps them feel a lot better, but it usually takes someone other than their parents to get them to realize that. And it may not be chemical depression at all...he may just need to talk to someone that isn't a parent. Meds don't fix everything.

What male role models/father figures does he have in his life? Could the 16 yr old be of any help in making a connection somehow?
posted by MultiFaceted at 7:12 PM on January 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Getting committed is pretty horrible and traumatic, I would think long and hard about that before you try it for anything less than attempted suicide.

As for throwing his life away, he's 14. I mean, as long as he's on track to graduate or get a GED, then he's doing fine academically in the grand scheme of things. Don't tell him that he's throwing his life away or anything like that. I know, you care about him and are exasperated that he's not doing everything you think he can and should do. But saying stuff like that can be incredibly hurtful, no matter what your intention.

Try to show him you care. Try to De-escalate things. Then try to talk to him about how he feels, but be ready for that to be slow going at best. Try to talk to him about how he wants to go forward. He has to graduate or equivalent, but offer him a few ways to do it, and say you're open to others. If you have the money, you might want to get him a tutor, to give him material that challenges him (if that seems to be a problem).

The best of luck to both of you.
posted by Garm at 7:13 PM on January 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also, I know it can be frustrating because you're mom and you can't "fix" this for him, and he's shutting down on you. I worked with teenagers in a long term residential facility, and they really form a different relationship with people who are not friends with mom and dad, who aren't going to tell their parents everything they say, and who will sometimes let them spin bullshit stories just to get to the core of the issue. There's plenty of times I spent with those clients where they just talked and talked and talked and talked about who knows what, and eventually we'd get to the point where I could ask "All that sounds really effed up. So, let's talk about how you can make some changes in $AREA."

So, don't beat yourself up or get overly stressed because the solution isn't easily visible. Sometimes it takes an outsider looking at the big picture from a different angle to find the answer. If you could go to a counselor (not for meds, but for talk therapy) for yourself they might be able to help you find a different approach with him which may make the difference.
posted by MultiFaceted at 7:20 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know you are at the end of your rope here, but you need to realize that sending your son to juvie or a mental institution is an utterly TERRIBLE idea. Do you know how horrible those places can be? You havent written anything here that suggests your son needs to be hospitalized or jailed, for god's sake. I think that in your struggle to deal with this you have lost perspective. Please, reach out to trusted people in your community who can advise you. And STOP trying to lock up your son. That is the last way to get him to trust you.
posted by yarly at 7:29 PM on January 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

Thank you all for the amazing advice and support. I am so grateful to hear from so many of you.

I will listen to your advice and not obsess over the hospital and psychiatric issue. I agree about the meds. They are simply awful, but they do treat depression, which my son might have. It is such a dilemma for me.

To IDB, what is your wireless router that gives you the flexibility to turn on and off the Internet access? I have not found anything that gives me such option. My son has no friends, so the cell phone means nothing to him.

To Multifaceted, I can only pray that my son will find someone to talk to about his problems. There is absolutely no one that he is interested in talking to, nor is there anyone out there
who shows enough interest in helping him. . All of my family is running away from us, because his situation seems to foreign and hopeless to them.
posted by bossanova at 7:33 PM on January 3, 2012

Oops, misspell alert. Please correct the above to "Seems so foreign and hopeless".

Please excuse the misspell. Thanks.

posted by bossanova at 7:37 PM on January 3, 2012

What you've been doing is not working so don't do it harder; do something else.

Get yourself to a counselor who knows about how to deal with teens and figure out a new approach. He's got a teen brain right now and it sounds like he's suffering terribly, as well as frightening you. Sometimes gifted, talented kids feel very alienated, alone and unhappy. Don't despair, just change your focus. Somebody needs to listen to him. Get someone to help you figure out how that can happen and help you with techniques for providing options you both can live with.

You have the good wishes of all of us who have dealt with difficult teens--or been one--and I expect that is quite a lot of us. Good luck.
posted by Anitanola at 7:38 PM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

In some ways, I "was" your son in the late 1960s and through the 1970s. I was early on identified as smart (they didn't use the word "gifted," at least not in the schools where we were). In second grade I was moved out of class to read with the fourth graders, then sent back to the second graders for the rest of the day. Third grade we moved cross-country to a poor urban school where the other students did remedial work while I read by myself in the corner. I was already reading at the high-school level then, but no one knew what to do with me. My "situation" unfolded from there with alienation, depression, loneliness, multiple moves with my father being in the military, and occasional treatment by psychologists depending on where we lived. It didn't help, at least in those days, that I also turned out to be gay.

I had finished 8th grade with a tutor. Then at age 14 we moved again. I started high school in the new place and just couldn't cope with it. I had deep social anxiety. All I wanted to do was stay home by myself and read, or else take long walks across the city. After a couple months of me getting sick to my stomach and getting sent home from school, or else being sick and not going to school, my parents started looking for alternatives, including the school district's "alternative" school meant for troublemakers and drop-outs and a private school meant for gifted students. That "gifted" label had finally appeared, at least in some venues. However, because I felt so singularly alienated and sad, and because my social skills were poor, I was unable to take advantage of either of these choices.

At one point my mother was arranging to send me to an in-patient facility for what was supposed to be a one week medical and psychiatric evaluation. Back in the '70s they could do this over a minor's objections, at least in the state where we lived. I was very afraid of this, thinking that once I was locked in I might not be released. It scared me so much that I was ready to run away from home. And in fact, I was actually on my way out the door the day that I was supposed to go to the facility when my mother called me back and said that she would relent.

After awhile we found a correspondence course where I could complete high school, sort of like today's online classes except by snail-mail. It was actually the same one that some traveling teen performers used. Based on the school's promotional literature, I can say that in a strange way I "attended high school with Michael Jackson." He was supposed to have been there most famous recent alumnus. Of course, I don't know if that's true or not but it makes for a nice anecdote.

At some point I decided to join the choir at our local church. A couple of hours there a week seemed like just enough social interaction that I could deal with, in a "safe" and comfortable environment. Eventually I completed high school, all by snail-mail, and started community college as a way to ease my way back into a more normal life. The admissions counselor saw my ACT scores and asked, "Why are you here?" The answer was a brief version of the complex story above. This led into a half day situation where my mother would drop me off on her way to work, then I'd take the bus home. Moving on, a year later I transferred to the Enormous State University out of town, and continued with the tasks of learning who I am, what I want, and how do I fit in with the world around me.

I'm 50 now, and of course I'm still learning those things. I do have a partner, a job, a home that I own, and a happy and successful life. And when I look back on my teen years, I cannot say that there was any particular thing that "fixed" me until eventually I was allowed to start "fixing myself." The support, love, and patience of both my parents was key, even when they did not understand or were at wits end about what to do. They never abandoned me nor gave up on me, and always accepted me as I was.

If I have any advice to add, in addition to the words of schroedinger. decathecting. and others, it's to have that talk with your son at son. And when you talk, make sure he knows that you love and support him and that you will always be on his side.
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:44 PM on January 3, 2012 [15 favorites]

bossanova Have you tried asking your older son to talk to him and find out whats going on?

Also when it comes to internet, if he has his own computer you could disable the modem, if computers are shared then password lock and tell your older son not to share the password. Easier than dealing with complicated settings on a router.
posted by myShanon at 7:49 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is like the safety talk they give on the plane before it takes off. You must put on your own oxygen mask before you can put it on others. You are freaking out. You need to talk to a counselor before you can think further about helping your son.

(Full disclosure: I am not a parent, but I was an angry, resentful, uncooperative teen long ago.)
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:52 PM on January 3, 2012 [10 favorites]

There are a lot of things that can help depression - not just meds. Don't think it's a "dilemma" that you can't get your son some kind of prescription. THat's not the first thing he needs right now. Other things that will help, as others have pointed out: seeing you behave in a way that's loving, calm, and supportive instead of panicky, desperate, and out of control yourself; having someone to talk to or spend non-stressful time with (how's his relationship with his brother? Any family members or friends who could take him out somewhere interesting and just hang out and talk a little?), compassion, maybe some exercise and sunlight when he's up for it or when you can get outside for some fun, and things like that.

No pill in the world is going to fix everything you have going on here. Please heed the advice to get some counseling for yourself first and foremost. I really feel for you, but the extremity of the 'solutions' you're identifying and the time you seem to be putting into them is so strange, when these aren't productive pathways to helping your son. Help yourself first. You doubt yourself and you don't understand what's going on. You seem really focused on how your son needs to act and needs to be. He really doesn't need to be or do anything for you or for the rest of the world. He's really down and in a very stuck place. It's an awful time in life to start with, awfull-er for a kid who lost his dad, to depression no less, and doesn't have a friend network or an easy path to joy in his life. Think of it this way: if your son had something very serious that was physical, like leukemia, it's likely that you wouldn't be worrying about how he was doing in school. Instead, you'd support him and focus on creating the environment he needs right now in order for thigs to get better - because school can wait until he is better. There are a lot of second and third chances in life. Lots of people return to school later, get a GED later, go to college a little older or do something else instead. IT's not a dead end now that he isn't acting and functioning like other kids his age. He has more to deal with than most kids his age, and it isn't going well. Let up on your expectations, and instead focus on what you can do that shows you love him, want to help him, want him to be alive and experience happiness - not just insensate numbness of the kind video games help provide, but happiness.

Please pay attention to those who suggest counseling for you. It'll help you feel calmer, help you identify solutions and new approaches, and give you some much needed support - you have a lot on your plate here and it sounds like not a huge support network yourself. Turn your attention to helping yourself first - like they say on the airplanes with the oxygen mask. It is a truism in life that when one person in a difficult relationship starts getting healthier and more grounded and feeling better, the effect often starts to spill over to the other people in the relationships. You could be the calm and healthy center of a struggling family instead of the distressed and frightened one. That would probably help you and your two boys right away more than you can imagine.
posted by Miko at 7:55 PM on January 3, 2012 [31 favorites]

because he told me after listening to the teacher for 5 minutes, he starts thinking about something else (but won't tell me what it is)

OK. This part is a thing my mom couldn't understand when I said "something else", and I'd like to spare you her frustration. When he says he's thinking of "something else", he doesn't mean one specific thing. He means literally anything that happens to catch his attention for that moment, which leads to some other random thought, and then another, and then another, to the point where you can't really say what got him off track in the first place (or the track is so convoluted and random that it's embarrassing to recount it). "Something else" isn't some deep secret he's keeping from you, it's just his brain making the equivalent of "and now, for something completely different..."
posted by Jon_Evil at 7:57 PM on January 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Sorry, that first line above should be in italics or quotes
posted by Jon_Evil at 7:57 PM on January 3, 2012

To Miko, you are amazing. I agree with your post entirely. I am that panicky mom who overreacts and obsesses over education, and such demeanor has really proved to be counterproductive and ineffective toward my sons.

To Robert Angelo, thank you for pouring your heart out and sharing your story. I forgot to mention that my son also has huge indentity problems (sexual and ethnic identity). He often speaks with a gay/feminine voice because he claims that doing so annoys me and that's why he does it. .

Again, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

posted by bossanova at 8:05 PM on January 3, 2012

If you are interested in medication for depression, it is fine to go through a thoughtful and trusted general practitioner. Most people respond to monotherapy (one drug), which GP's are perfectly competent to administer. Psychiatrists are really more necessary for polypharmacy, which is really something you want to avoid except in cases of truly serious mental illness, as it often shows no increased efficacy and can make it difficult to sort out which drugs are helping. I would try therapy as a first resort, and possibly ask the therapist to discuss the his options with him after a couple of months of sessions. It makes sense for them to build trust first and to see if less invasive options will help.

I won't restate everything that everyone has said about relating to your teen in a supportive rather than adversarial manner, but it is 100% right. I was a teen in a similar situation, and the lack of emotional support combined with the complications of institutionalization was extremely destructive. I also worked with teens in that situation at a therapeutic boarding school and have seen it play out in many, many cases. When you put a child into these environments, know this: you are putting them under the care of people who will not care as much as you, in the same way as you, ever. They will probably be overworked and underpaid. Some of them will be downright mean and psychopathic. They will be more interested in the rules and the functioning of the institution than your son's individual needs. In particularly unscrupulous cases, they will be more interested in dramatizing your son's issues to keep the money coming in.

There are so many alternative schooling options that will allow him to take the time he needs, like homeschooling. Homeschooling could allow him to pursue his own interests in a way that public school doesn't, and that can be very motivating. I think everyone else covered it: worry about his health and well-being first.

Also, this book might be helpful for you and your son: Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws
posted by decathexis at 8:05 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was very much like your son when I was 16/17 (and my father died of depression). I had some form of ADHD, I was depressed, I was smart enough to know just how much I needed to try and didn't do anything more than that. It drove my mother nuts; I had no drive, no ambition, no real attachment to any friends and just wanted to sleep/play video games/stare at the wall all day. She blackmailed me into going to see a psychiatrist and it didn't help one bit, it just made me more resentful of her and resentful of therapy in general. We ended up in a state of conflict that never really got resolved before I moved out/she died.

I'd advise you to ease off your kid. He's 14. He might be bored, he might be depressed, he might be bullied... but right now he's not talking to you about that because you're making him feel pressured and harassed. Would you be willing to open up to someone who tried to control your life in a similar fashion? Try to relate to him as a peer instead of someone with control over every part of his life. Maybe then he'll talk to you about it. Maybe not - and that's okay too because it's HIS life and HE gets to choose what goes on within it.

In line with that, explore different options WITH him not FOR him. If he doesn't like his school, ask him for an alternative. Do what decathecthing's parents did above by setting a LOOSE boundary and letting him make choices within.

Also, it's possible that he is using video games as an escape mechanism in order to deal with whatever he's dealing with. That was the case with me and, honestly, it saved my life. If I'd been forced to "face my problems" as everyone kept badgering me to do, I likely would have crumpled under the weight I was suddenly expected to carry. I know others might disagree with this, but I say let him escape.
posted by buteo at 8:07 PM on January 3, 2012 [9 favorites]

Wow, to buteo, you sound like my son, who often tells me "mom, it is my life, and my choices to make, and right now, I just don't care".

He is using video games as an escape, and I detest video games. I took his Xbox away last year, and threw away his old Nintendo in the trash can when he was seven years old. He never forgave me for it.

Ooh, the mistakes I made as a desperate mom......
posted by bossanova at 8:13 PM on January 3, 2012

Perhaps rather than telling your son what you want/need him to do, maybe you could tell him what you are going to do. Perhaps it might model healthier behavior.

So tell him the truth - that you're pressuring him because you're terrified for him, but you're trying very hard to figure out how to be there for him during what is obviously a difficult time for him. You might not be doing it as skillfully as you like (cue the throwing out videogames), but you're trying.

That you're going to go to therapy, and talk to a counselor, because that's sometimes what one does when one can't figure things out on their own. That you hear what he is saying - that right now, he just doesn't care, and as much as that frightens you, that you are really, sincerely open to hearing what he does and doesn't care about right now. And that you do care for him, deeply. And that, heck, you've been on metafilter, and found out how common it is to just want to escape as a teen. So, you're going to try really hard to stop beating yourself and him up about what's going on, and you're going to keep working on figuring out how to support yourself, and him and his brother during this difficult time.

I think after people stop with the screaming, and the withholding, and the threatening, and the bribing, what's left along with the exhaustion is something akin to curiosity, a sense that perhaps one needs to see things in a different light, and a reminder of the original good intent, that might have been poorly executed (that you behaved as you did because you love your son, even though you wish you handled it more skillfully). Regardless of how gifted/regular your son is, he's obviously going through something significant, and you are too - this sounds like the first time you've had to be a mom to a 14 year old responding to difficulties the way he is. That's tough, particularly when other family members turn away. You and your sons are in this for the long haul, so pace yourself, and get yourself support from a family therapist - and while your at it, keep checking in with your other son, because this has got to be hard on them as well.

Good luck.
posted by anitanita at 8:47 PM on January 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

After reading these posts, one option is to decide, for yourself, to take break from the nagging and worry that aren't working for either one of you. If you like this idea, tell your son that you decided that what you were doing wasn't working and since you don't know what to do next, you are going to cut him some slack for (pick a specific length of time maybe 2-4 weeks). Tell you guys will need a few rules to make sure that he is physically safe and not unduly disturbing others but for now, you are just not going to worry about school, video games etc.

Make it clear that you are not giving up or washing your hands of him - you love him very much and want him to grow up to be a happy successful adult but for now, since you aren't sure how to help him get there, you want to stop making you both miserables with your efforts.

Second, it is easy to advise you to listen to your son and include him in the problem solving. It is much, much harder to do this. I recommend that you read The Explosive Chid by Ross Greene. Your child is not explosive so not all of the material will apply. However, it is the best book I have seen for how to really listen to your child and work together to find solutions that might work. Once you learn how to do this, you can find what he wants for himself and use that as the basis for getting him motivated to do the first steps towards moving forward.
posted by metahawk at 9:11 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

My router is a standard linksys one, but password protecting your computer works too.

That aside, I find that I'm sometimes most effective when I'm honest with my kids about my own emotions and fears and thought processes. I get angry, tired, scared, I make mistakes, etc. Part of what you're doing is trying to show your kids that these are normal emotions that you can work through and deal with. Kids are listening and watching even when the most you get from them is a grunt.

I hope you can tell from the quality and quantity of responses that you are not alone in dealing with this kind of thing.
posted by idb at 9:17 PM on January 3, 2012

You say he has no friends, and also that he spends almost all his time online playing games.

Is it possible his friends are online? In a warcraft guild, maybe, or something like that? I was pretty depressed through middle school and entirely dependent on online friends for companionship. The people at my school didn't get me. My mom and sister certainly didn't. The people online did. Eventually, I made some dorky real life friends in 9th grade, and the online shadow life faded into the background (although has remained present; I'm on metafilter, after all). I remember asking my mother to take me to cons and to visit my online friends and to SCA events but not being allowed to spend the money on any of it--these weren't real people, after all. What kind of people is he talking to? What kind of games is he playing? He might just need to connect with nerds like him. It can be incredibly isolating to realize how different your interests are from people around you--at a time when you have no car and no autonomy over your activities or movement.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:18 PM on January 3, 2012 [9 favorites]

Also, I refer to one my kids as my "tornado child" - their pass through life hops and skips around, just not destined to go in straight line. It was a hard adjustment to give up on my idea of the best path to a good life but gradually I realized that the path I would pick for them was not really do-able. For example, college is the key to adult success for many (most) people but it just isn't going to happen right now, or even on any calendar I might create. I come from a family that reveres education - this was hard but eventually I realized that if it doesn't work, continuing to insist on my priorities made both of us miserable.

Anyway, you have the company of many, many other parents. We just don't talk about it much - it feels embarassing or like a personal failure when our kids are off the normal track to success. But if you listen carefully, you will find you have more company that you might have guessed.
posted by metahawk at 9:21 PM on January 3, 2012

sorry - "path" not "pass"
posted by metahawk at 9:22 PM on January 3, 2012

I realize I didn't offer any actual advice. For me, having a parent say, "Hey, let's go to this historical re-enactment" or "Want to stop by a comic book shop?" or "There's this game shop in town that's having a magic tournament; let's check it out" would have meant the world to me. Why? Because there are people hanging out in those places, people like me who engaged with the world the same sort of way I did. I'm not even saying you should replace his gaming life with it. But just offer it as an option if he wants it. If he's anything like I was, meeting people like him in the flesh will help him make the decision to come out of his shell and feel a little less lonely.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:24 PM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was a depressed kid, and the machines I played video games on led me to making the connections that pulled me out of my depression and led me to success despite blowing off the last half of high school. Please do take care of yourself, and then ask your son what he wants and then listen to him. Love him unconditionally and listen to him, instead of repeatedly (as you say above) forcing him to do things.

Imagine he were a stranger, a smart wonderful stranger whom you met, who told you he was struggling. Would you force him to do things he hates, and take away the things he finds solace in? Or would you want to be a strength and a comforting presence whom he could trust to tell you about what he needs to get to a better place on his own?
posted by anildash at 9:26 PM on January 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

So tell him the truth - that you're pressuring him because you're terrified for him, but you're trying very hard to figure out how to be there for him during what is obviously a difficult time for him. You might not be doing it as skillfully as you like (cue the throwing out videogames), but you're trying.

That you're going to go to therapy, and talk to a counselor, because that's sometimes what one does when one can't figure things out on their own. That you hear what he is saying - that right now, he just doesn't care, and as much as that frightens you, that you are really, sincerely open to hearing what he does and doesn't care about right now. And that you do care for him, deeply. And that, heck, you've been on metafilter, and found out how common it is to just want to escape as a teen. So, you're going to try really hard to stop beating yourself and him up about what's going on, and you're going to keep working on figuring out how to support yourself, and him and his brother during this difficult time.

As someone with experiences similar, though milder, to what your son is having, I would somewhat strongly advise against going this far. Having to be aware of how much my mother worried and what she went through in order to deal with it has been a really big burden in itself.

I would, though, let him know that a) it's difficult for you not to worry and that b) you understand that you don't always know what to ask of him or what's the best advice to give him. That might help prompt him to think of things from your perspective, without emphasizing the magnitude of your worry or details of measures you've taken that he can't really be expected to understand.
posted by Anything at 9:38 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

As someone with experiences similar (actually worse, in ways) to your son, I don't think it's going "too far" to tell your son that you're going to talk to a therapist to help you develop some new coping skills. When I was a kid struggling much like your son is, I thought of therapy as something only "crazy" people had to do. If you were in therapy, it meant there was something wrong with you. If my parental unit had been all, "Well, crap, I'm really really sorry that you're going through this hard time, and I just don't know how I can help you, so I'm going to spend some time talking to a therapist because that's what people do when they have problems they can't resolve on their own, they talk it out with someone who can help,"... holy shit. My entire life would have been so different.

OP, Anything does have a good point in that you might not want to tell your kid how super terrified you are that he's going to be a failure. Hearing that kind of stuff from my parent made me hate myself even more -- your kid isn't necessarily wired up exactly like me, but... just tread carefully with the unburdening of your soul to him, okay? He's got kind of a lot on his own plate right now, having to worry that he's making you terrified for him is likely going to make him feel terribly guilty for being such a burden on you.

But telling him that you're going to go to therapy on your own, so you can work better together on getting help for him (or however you plan to word it)? I personally don't think that's a bad idea, as long as you're not painting it as a "look what I have to do because of you" thing.

Good luck to you, and please let us know how things work out.
posted by palomar at 9:51 PM on January 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

I was also the child who found escape from my woes, except I retreated into books instead of video games. I collected books, brought them home from the library by the dozen, worked in the school library in the afternoons so that I could get access to books beyond what they limited at my age level, i borrowed books, stole books, begged my sister to check out adult books that the public library wouldn't give me. I lived for the stories in pages that had nothing to do with mine, they were the only thing that mattered to me.

In fact, I retreated so far into books that my grandmother tried to take them away from me, but she couldn't find them all. I carved out a place under my mattress, hid them in the vents, hid them in my sister's room, kept them in my desk at school. I lied about having book reports so that the grown ups would leave me alone and let me retreat into a world where they didn't exist.

I was an extremely depressed, angry, lonely child. Abuse, and other Terrible things happened but the adults in my life did nothing, worse... told me that I was lying to get attention. They ignored obvious signs of self-harm, literal pleas for help, and even a suicide attempt.

I was bored in school. At 7 years old I was devouring Stephen King and other adult favorites. The books that my classmates read were boring, and I breezed through the pages in no time at all. My dad gave me his copy of The Gunslinger so that he could have someone to talk to. I was reading at a high school level, but have a mild learning disability when it comes to math (I memorized all of Julius Caesar in 3 days, but still can't recite the multiplication tables) so they wouldn't skip me to a more challenging grade level. I was forced to suffer with people I thought were mentally deficient because they couldn't keep up with me intellectually, who mocked and bullied me because I wasn't interested in socializing or fitting in.

As mentioned in my other comment... it was a condescending response to a homework assignment that finally drew my family's attention. I wrote a paper for Martin Luther King Jr. day that explained why I felt that world peace was not a realistic dream. FOR THAT I was sent to the school counselor, and my grandmother attempted to have me committed to an institution (She decided that I was a sociopath, but luckily wasn't my legal guardian). Even the Counselor wouldn't listen when I tried to talk about hating myself, wanting to escape life, wanting to die... Rather than addressing the depression, or the abuse which contributed to it... they chose to focus on what a "negative and morose" child I was, blaming the books for my being so "moody and high strung" and attempted to limit me to "uplifting" reading material, which of course only made me more determined to read whatever I wanted regardless of what they felt, because I saw everything they did as proof that they didn't care about me.

My grandfather was the one who sat down to ask me why I hurt so much, who held my hand and let me cry when I couldn't find words to tell him the truth (he was the only one who supported me in any way, I was terrified if I told him about the abuse he would blame me or say I was lying like the rest did). He was the one who came looking whenever I tried to run away. Who woke me in the middle of the night to watch old episodes of M*A*S*H or Highlander or just to talk. Later my Uncle came to me, tried to get me to talk, tried to be supportive (he also helped me address my sexual identity at the time, as I thought I might want to be a boy instead of a girl).

To this day, because it was the women in my childhood who reinforced all of the negative experiences with emotional abuse/etc, and the men who tried to help and support me... I have trouble trusting women, and am more comfortable in the company of men. Massive insecurity issues, blah blah blah predictible stuff that happens as the result of that sort of childhood.

I thrive in spite of them, and in a few weeks am going back to school to start toward a degree in psychology which I intend to use to help kids/teens like I was... primarily by teaching their families how to actually be supportive instead of scream and judge or ignore.

posted by myShanon at 10:01 PM on January 3, 2012 [10 favorites]

Incidentally, in the vein of "parents reacted in exactly the WRONG way" While my troubles were largely ignored and swept under the rug, my sister was forced into counseling after she reported her jr high's star football player for attempted sexual assault.

Said counseling was not focused on helping her deal with the assault or any lingering trauma... the fact that she was coming in to school drunk and/or stoned was never addressed, nor was the fact that she exhibited a number of behaviors typical in someone who is in a downward spiral blaming themselves for something that was done to them against their will... Instead the counselor and my grandmother told her how selfish she was, how she needed to learn to "use her assets" if she was going to succeed at life. She was put on birth control "just in case", enrolled in modeling school, emotionally blackmailed into a lifestyle that she had no interest in.

In both cases (myself and my sister) the adults in our life arbitrarily determined what was wrong with us, refused to listen, refused to get us the kind of help we actually needed... because they were busy trying to force us to jump through a series of hoops based on what they had decided was wrong.

Unfortunately my sister didn't get through it as well as I did. 30 years later she's still on drugs, still lost, and far beyond the point of being reasoned with or comforted. I firmly believe that the way they chose to "handle her" is directly responsible. Whereas I fought my way free of all the BS, she let it bury her.
posted by myShanon at 10:27 PM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is he using cannabis with his friends?
posted by londongeezer at 12:57 AM on January 4, 2012

I was a kid who never did any schoolwork and I have four degrees.

The point was that I found school completely boring and could not bring myself to be involved in it. It was not depression but rather extreme boredom and self-sufficiency that could not function within such an incredibly mundane system.

What your son needs is a passion but he will need to discover that of his own accord. Basically, all you can do is be supportive of him. At 14 you treat him as an almost-adult who is responsible for his own decisions. You obviously don't let him do anything illegal/what would result in injury or death, but you ensure that he understands that he can make his own choices but that those choices have consequences. What you don't want is to push your son away by being totalitarian.

I also would suggest that you seek a therapist for yourself for anxiety - the rule is always that you need to help yourself before you can help others, and I think that you would personally benefit substantially from this. This in turn would also help you to handle your son's situation. Take care.
posted by mleigh at 1:41 AM on January 4, 2012

I was forced into counseling as a depressed teen. Because my problems centered around one of my parents, who forced me to be there, I distrusted the therapist and assumed she'd just turn around and repeat to them verbatim everything I said. So I alternated between lying and saying nothing. There were one or two adults I trusted in those years, and I opened up to them a little. I chose to speak to them myself. And the most important service they provided was to let me know I wasn't crazy; it wasn't me.

I keep wondering if your son's piano teacher might be an adult he could confide in?
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:27 AM on January 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

nthing Metahawk. It's not a psychiatrist you want to start with. If you get to the point of negotiating, and therapy comes up, you want to tell him that the therapist is his -- he can say what he wants, he can curse you, he can swear, anything. You don't go and tell the therapist what you think is going on (you share your concerns, if asked, recognizing that this is one view), what you think his problems are and you don't ask the therapist to break confidentiality. You offer to let him do the research to find a therapist, if he wants. Give him suggestions for looking -- show him some websites, ask if there's an adult at school who could recommend someone...would he rather see a man or woman. You may have to limit it based on insurance or who's available at the clinic -- but you can be honest about that.

Also--negotiate for something positive: you can have 3 hours of slack time playing video games if you cook dinner one night. It takes planning, so on Saturday you should choose a recipe and tell me what you need from the store. When it comes time to cook, i'll sit in the kitchen with you --and let me know if you need help. Should we go to the bookstore (library) and choose a cookbook?

Or maybe its spending an hour reading to little kids at the library. Or walking dogs at the city shelter. It might take awhile to find the right opportunity, but he's someone who could help others. And be honest -- tell him you want it to be something that's helpful or involves being positively engaged -- but that it should be fun for him. And acknowledge that it might take some experimenting to find the right thing. How long is long enough to give something a fair shot? Ask him. Maybe he'll hate cooking dinner but would love making dessert. What you're really committing to is being engaged yourself, with him, in something that's unpredictable. Parenting is jazz.

And you have to be generous. You have to really let him slack, hold up your end of the bargain. Think 3:1. Three hours slack to one hour engagement. And maybe just once per week to start. Thats one hour engagement for the week. This is what the earlier poster means about there being other approaches to depression than just meds.

BTW -you don't know that its depression. It could be unhappiness. Remember when people were unhappy? Bereavement - (as he ages, the meaning of the loss of his dad changes-- he loses new things). Anxiety. ADHD. Adolescence. I think you'd like to know for certain because you think that then you'd know what to do about it (it's not a slamdunk) -- I think you're going to gave to dwell in the unknown awhile longer, but look for/create opportunities for hope. Pay attention to when things feel good and try to build on them.
posted by vitabellosi at 4:19 AM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is a tough situation. I disagree with the stock "he doesn't need a psychiatrist" advice. Some of them are just med dispensers, but some are not. My own psychiatrist spends 15-30-45 minutes with each patient, and works through all facets of whatever is ailing them. If further therapy is necessary, he recommends it. If meds are necessary, he recommends those. What I would recommend is talking with your son, calmly and not during an argument, and obtaining his agreement to talk to someone. If he doesn't like the first doctor, he can choose another one. He doesn't have to agree to do anything but walk into the office once a week. And make sure he knows about their professional ethics and what they will and will not share with the outside world.

This sounds very much like my parents and their well-meaning but stressed out misadventures in parenting. There was very little patience and "coaching". Just a string of demands, and then consequences when I didn't live up to the demands. But there was no intermediate, "hey, how is it going with that demand I made? Have you figured out when to do it? Do you need help learning how to plan things?" The other thing that absolutely made me nuts was a complete lack of respect for my own schedule, as fucked up as it might have been. There were many Saturday mornings where everything I had planned to do, even if it was just playing video games all day, was thrown out the window because one of the parents just decided that today, RIGHT NOW, we were going to clean the house top to bottom. No warning. I would have hated it just as much, but at least I would have had some time to accept it. Instead, half the battle was me and my siblings hating on our parents for tearing us away from our plans. It was very much like when its bath time for a younger kid, and mom just picks him up from what he is playing with and drags him screaming into the bathroom. It's not so much about not wanting to take a bath, but about being torn away from what the kid was doing.

Then with my little brother, who had some of the troubles your son sounds like he has, it would always end up with "you need to see a psychiatrist" as some kind of judgement and accusation. "You are broken, and they will fix you." But that's not how he feels. His feelings don't feel broken to him, they are real and completely natural as far as he is concerned. Walking into a doctor's office after that kind of presentation adds pressure, and it feels like "you have failed at life, and if you don't get fixed by this expensive professional, you will be even more of a failure."

Avoid those patterns.
posted by gjc at 6:09 AM on January 4, 2012 [9 favorites]

Is your son's primary care doctor someone who listens well and seems trustworthy? I was willing to talk to my doctor about things I (at the time) refused to tell my parents, and she helped me figure out ways I could talk to my parents about them. She explained to me in no uncertain terms that she's legally bound to not tell parents/guardians unless I was a threat to myself or someone else. Perhaps if your son's doctor can reassure him of this, he'll open up a bit? Even if you don't get to hear it, it might be helpful for your son.

(I'm not sure if your son would go along with a regular doctor visit, but at least there's less stigma attached.)

Hang in there.
posted by brackish.line at 6:49 AM on January 4, 2012

I know one person who when he was 14 y.o. took a neighbor girl to McDonald's for a coke and the next day some dude who thought he was her boyfriend stuck a gun in the guy's face and threatened to kill him. He never told his mother (or absent father) about the assault because he felt she was not strong enough to deal with it.

You might want to have a mod anonymize this question.
posted by bukvich at 7:51 AM on January 4, 2012

Here's a suggestion from out of left field: are there any responsible adult males in your life that could play video games with him? Or some other hobby he'd be interested in? (For example, my husband races stock cars, which a lot of teenage boys would enjoy.) Perhaps Uncle Joe can call him and ask if he wants to come over Saturday to do Really Cool Thing. That will get him talking to someone other than you, whom he obviously no longer trusts. You must present this with zero strings attached and zero agenda - if he senses that you're trying to manipulate him, he will shut down. At the very least, it will get him out of his room.
posted by desjardins at 8:31 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was bored in school. At 7 years old I was devouring Stephen King and other adult favorites. The books that my classmates read were boring, and I breezed through the pages in no time at all. My dad gave me his copy of The Gunslinger so that he could have someone to talk to. I was reading at a high school level, but have a mild learning disability when it comes to math (I memorized all of Julius Caesar in 3 days, but still can't recite the multiplication tables) so they wouldn't skip me to a more challenging grade level. I was forced to suffer with people I thought were mentally deficient because they couldn't keep up with me intellectually, who mocked and bullied me because I wasn't interested in socializing or fitting in.

This is my situation too. There isn't, or wasn't, a gifted/talented programme where I grew up (I was reading at high school level by the age of three), I struggled to fit in with peers, and my mum never enrolled me in gifted children's associations as 'it's just about giving them money' - but I would have LOVED to have met more kids like me. And if your son has preferences regarding gender and sexuality that aren't common with his peers, he's going to feel even more alienated. I wonder if this is part of the reason he isn't as interested in church - many religious friends of mine stopped going when they felt they disagreed with what was being said, and if he thinks he may be gay (NB not saying this is the case) then he may feel religion is not speaking to him right now. Also, the point above about online friends is true too - if the internet had been around when I was his age, I would have been doing exactly that because I was bored by school, not good enough at the subjects which bored me to move up a grade, and didn't know anyone who liked the things I did or even much tolerated them.
posted by mippy at 8:39 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also: do you know anything about his school life? Has he had someone break up with him, or a major falling out with a friend? These things can feel like the end of the world at that age, because high school drama is their world.
posted by mippy at 8:40 AM on January 4, 2012

Am I a mother who neglects her child's mental health or well-being?"

No way. Look at how hard you're trying. That's simply the best you can do. Everybody's been a teenager. They understand. Teenagers can go haywire, and anybody would put themselves in your shoes and recognize that you are doing everything you can for him.

You are not a bad mother, and that's not why this is happening. Please don't blame yourself.
posted by anniecat at 10:03 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

My stepkid is 15. I've started calling him Bartleby, because what it comes down to is that when he'd "prefer not to" he just doesn't and that's that. If he doesn't want to come home on time, he doesn't. He chronically refuses to do homework, and fails some classes. He's had to do summer school, to which we drove him every day, and he still only passed one semester's worth of the previous failure. We monitor his schoolwork, sit down and help him with them, pay his sister to tutor him. We have taken away computer games, social media, social occasions, his phone... still. His response to all punishments was to spend his time sleeping. Behavior did not change, though he did start to lie about finishing his homework.

In our case, he's not really depressed and he's not socially isolated. He has a decent relationship with his father and I, and is willing to talk to us for the most part. He has been lectured, queried, talked at and with about why he won't do homework. He knows he'll be in summer school each year instead of being able to just hang out with his friends, but it doesn't matter to him. In fact, he seems to like the social aspect of school so much that he doesn't mind. It's been made clear to him that he'll probably have to be in school an extra year to finish his credits, and that prospect makes him uncomfortable, but not enough to do the work required. He pretends to go to homework lab after school, and either forges the signatures so we don't know if he's been or not, or just lies about it.

If he's bored with the classes, we've given him the option of homeschooling, working, or starting community college, but he isn't interested. He just likes to go to school and socialize. Yes, it's infuriating.

But we've had to let go. Remind ourselves constantly that there are plenty of ne'er-do-well, lazy ass teenagers who get their shit together later on and do just fine. He's not smoking pot (though we sometimes laugh ruefully because at least that would be an *explanation*) and he's not a criminal. He's not an asshole (at least not most of the time). He's just not going to do things because he's supposed to. He's a stubborn little SOB.

It sucks that teachers look at us as if it's our fault. I sometimes look at them and think, "why aren't they more interesting?"

But he's his own man. If he wants to do things the hard way, that's his choice. He's got to row his own boat. And he's got to be loved by us, and accepted even though he makes us want to shake him sometimes.

Now, if he had no friends (if that's really true about your kid--online friends are sometimes sort of real friends), and he refused to go to school or get involved with anything, and then *also* wouldn't go to therapy? I would go to therapy. I would then invite him to come to therapy with me and talk through things as a family. If that wouldn't work, and he didn't like the therapist, I'd beat the bushes til I found someone he would talk to.

All this other drama about sending him to hospital--too far. Too threatening. If he's not hurting himself and he's just stuck, well, then it's just about getting him unstuck.

All that other stuff? Failing school and being lazy? I really do think that's incredibly common for teenage boys. And it won't kill him to fail high school and maybe not go to college right away. It's unfortunate, but it's not the end of the world, and certainly not a reason to kick the kid out of your house. The main thing is to focus on what he *does* want to do and help him expand his repertoire from there.
posted by RedEmma at 1:44 PM on January 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

I was another constantly truant teenager who just wanted to stay home and play video games. I was obviously depressed, but refused to see anyone about it. I honestly think my mother's constant disdain for video games just made me feel worse and it's kind of haunted me through my life, making me feel like a gross weird loser freak for playing them. But honestly? My job is related to what I learned while gaming and gaming is often a tool for networking. Maybe without gaming I would have written the great American novel or something, but I am fairly successful. I did go to community college for a spell and take some remedial classes, but that's not the end of the world and when I got to college it was magical. College was everything that high school wasn't. It wasn't so damn oppressive and boring and miserable. I graduated top of my class.

I'm not saying you should do nothing- having the primary care doc talk to him about mental illness, pressuring the school to see if you can get a home tutor or hiring one, and encouraging him could really help.
posted by melissam at 4:00 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was a variation of this kid, my senior year of high school. My grandmother, who'd been primary caretaker for both me and my mother, from when I was ten onwards, had died. My mother just... checked out. I'd go days without seeing her. I'd just got out of an abusive relationship - my first relationship. Added to that, I already had full-blown panic disorder, anxiety, and depression.

It was not pretty.

Added to that, I was pulling away from my friends - you know they say the functioning mentally ill are the best actors, because we never let on that there's anything wrong. It was all too much for me to explain, too big, and I didn't want anybody to see it. So I didn't go to them.

I needed to go to somebody though, and what got me through was, I swear, the internet. The internet was new to me, but I had it, and by god I made use of it. I spent hours talking to people on the old AOL chats, all kinds of people, about all kinds of things. Some I am still friends with now, eleven and twelve years later. One I wound up dating for two years, nearly five years after we'd met. It was easier for me to admit what was really going on with my life when I was just telling a story to a person I couldn't see, to words on a screen. And you know what? They helped me. They'd check in on me, comfort me, offer advice, send books and mix CDs and other little presents. Some of 'em were okay, mentally, in good places. Others weren't, not entirely. Like the tv show says - when you can't run, you find someone to carry you. We all did that. Some were weirdos or creeps (ask me about the trapeze artist who tried to persuade me to convert to Christianity) but I never had any major problems with telling people to fuck off.

I wrote stories, I got hold of a pirated copy of Photoshop, and the one class I stuck to in school was my photography class - all of these are things I still do now. Survival tactics, I suppose. My therapist classifies them as self-care, or self-nurturing. I need to be creative, it's good for me.

Now- even with this, I was making it to school at best four days out of five each week, sleeping through classes, ignoring homework - and then acing tests, because I could just pick up the topic of the day by osmosis and do it that way.

So, with all of that as background - having been The Troubled Kid to an extreme - it sounds to me like whatever's put your kid in this rut isn't the immediate problem. The pertinent thing, I think, is that he's just disconnected himself from everything, because... I don't know. He might not even know. It might be easier than anything else, it might be the only option he feels he has left, it might be that he does not have the mental energy to do anything more.

If he's managing to reach out and communicate in any meaningful way via his games or the internet, do not cut that off. I'd have lost it entirely if my digital support network went poof. Also, if he is reaching out to people that's a good sign. Means he hasn't given up entirely. The next step - and here I have no solid ideas, sorry - would be to get him to start reaching again in the real world. Get him engaged in life enough to tell somebody he trusts what is going on with him. Enough to believe that, whatever it is that's got him, doesn't have to continue - that he doesn't have to be miserable, or apathetic, or disconnected. Once he believes there's another way, then things will be different. That's one I wish I'd learned about ten years earlier than I did.
posted by cmyk at 4:54 PM on January 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've read through a lot of these answers to your question, and you can take heart in the large number of people who were in similar positions as your son when they were his age, and are well adjusted now.

From my parental observations, 14 is an extremely difficult year. My son was shut down during this year, as well, and then slowly began to open up at year 15, and now, having just turned 16, is really starting to open up again. Just let him have his space and silence. Let him process.

Many people have commented about gaming and online friends. I would be concerned, myself, about him not having friends. My son has an Xbox live account and a dynamite pair of headphones. He has a riotous good time gaming with one special friend in particular. They chat about everything, watch tv together, play games, talk about school, what they're eating, their parents, and laugh a whole bunch. Frankly, I'd much rather my son be content at home playing video games than on the streets hustling drugs. That said, I do believe that video game access should be given as a reward and not just, well, because.

What if you told your son you will pop for a new Xbox if he .... (fill in the blank)?
posted by zagyzebra at 6:28 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your posts have been a wake-up call to me of what a judgmental parent I have been to my son. After much soul searching, I am now softening my style and becoming more of a supportive and understanding mother to my son who has gone through a lot of silent suffering.

It is hard for me to accept video games as a tool, but I am thinking about using it to my advantage. I am also more open-minded about online learning as a way for my son to get his education until he is more ready to attend a real school.

One person suggested vitamins as a way to boost one's mood and another brought up the idea of hiring a tutor. I will try that as well.

I am grateful for the sincerity of your posts and the quality of advice I have received here. Thank you, all !!!
posted by bossanova at 7:30 PM on January 4, 2012 [13 favorites]

Hey, bossanova, how's it going?
posted by DarlingBri at 2:43 PM on January 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hi, still hanging in there. I have recently met a psychologist, and hope to see him on a regular basis. Have not found a tutor for my son
, but I did buy some vitamins.

I am starting my volunteering program with Interfaith Minitries next week, so I am really excited. Life is otherwise boring, just work and school, and that's about it.
posted by bossanova at 5:47 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

"I have a 14yrs old who does not do any homework or work at school. He also does not cooperate with me on any matter."

Don't worry, my best friend and I were the same way in high school. I would say not to pressure him; that's what my father did, and it only made me more defiant. Just let him find his passion, and encourage him to pursue it. My passion was science and reading: I was the favorite student of all of my English teachers, despite me hardly every working -instead I would read, write, and/or doodle- because I had (and still have) a passion for the English language. Science was one of the few classes I actually worked and payed attention in. Maybe he's into art or history, maybe even psychology (another deep interest of mine). Some people just do not do well in a structured institution, perhaps this applies to your son. In any case, just talk to the lad, don't overreact (which is what you are doing), he does not need to be committed for psychiatric evaluation: he's a teenager, for fuck sake, and people going through puberty have a hard enough time as it is.
posted by SarcasticSeraph at 2:29 PM on September 14, 2012

Sorry, I only read the initial post, and just now scanned the last few comments...what I said still applies though.
posted by SarcasticSeraph at 2:30 PM on September 14, 2012

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