How to have Sex Talk with multiple-diagnosed teen boy
September 18, 2006 6:32 AM   Subscribe

Situation: 16.5 year old son, ripe with hormones. Also ADD & PDD-NOS, as well as depressed, which make him impulsive, resistant to authority, and Not So Good at social cues. He's sending sexually explicit text messages to a girl, who's apparently willing to go right along. Even if we we permissive [I am, his bio parents aren't] he's not ready for it. How do we talk to him?

This ain't your typical family sex chat. Family dynamics are a tad messed up. Dad is depressed, maybe has Apergers [not so good at social cues himself]. Dad also -never- discusses sex.
Mom is lesbian and I'm her partner. Dad often ends up yelling at Son, Son gets resistant back cuz Dad's not in treatment and in denial, and it gets worse from there. I get to step in after Dad flames out. And o, did I mention this is a Major abuse flashback Hot Button for Mom? And she and I think Son is gay [lots of signs, gay friends agree] but fighting it.

thanks in advance,
posted by eridanis to Human Relations (45 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
depressed, impulsive, resistant to authority.

healthy teen you got there!

And she and I think Son is gay [lots of signs, gay friends agree] but fighting it.

That's for him to work out. lots of parents think their kids are gay. Remember being a teen? confusing as hell.

He's sending sexually explicit text messages to a girl, who's apparently willing to go right along.

Are you lot reading his texts or does he show them to you? If you are reading them you have no right at all. Kids will say stuff but not necessarily follow through.

tbh, from your brief description I'd say it's the family group, not the teen who has issues that need resolved. Leave him be, he'll probably work it all out on his own.
posted by twistedonion at 6:44 AM on September 18, 2006

If he's non-disabled enough to master the mechanics of sending a dirty text message to a willing recipient then he's non-disabled enough to get laid.

Might help his depression, too.
posted by Optamystic at 6:52 AM on September 18, 2006

Maybe the opportune moment for a sex chat has come and gone. He's not ready for it? You think sitting him down to talk about peepees and vadges and babies is gonna make him realize that? And if you think he's repressed now, wait till he finds out you're spying on his cybersex.
posted by thirteenkiller at 6:55 AM on September 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Ditto. Get that whole family on meds and into therapy. This poor kid needs some grownups around, not a bunch of fellow teenagers in grownup bodies.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:55 AM on September 18, 2006

And o, did I mention this is a Major abuse flashback Hot Button for Mom?

What is "this?" And really, I thought you were concerned about the kid, not the mom.

And she and I think Son is gay [lots of signs, gay friends agree] but fighting it.

Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. That's for him to find out, not for you to interfere with.
posted by grouse at 6:59 AM on September 18, 2006

Can you have a personal talk with him? He needs to know about and use birth control (If you can't go buy condoms on your own, then you may not be ready for sex) and r-e-s-p-e-c-t.
posted by greedo at 7:02 AM on September 18, 2006

ADD & PDD-NOS, as well as depressed .... Dad is depressed, maybe has Apergers

Diagnosed with all this? In treatment? Using medication? Are you a health care professional? It always makes me a little nervous when lay people start throwing around the DSM alphabet soup...

who's apparently willing to go right along

By this do you mean that she texts back "lol u are so bad!" or have the two of them booked a motel room?

It seems like someone needs to have a serious talk with the boy about how sexual actions have consequences, STDs, birth control, and especially to indicate strongly that he can ask questions at any time with no fear or reprisal. The logical talker here is the biological mother, which has the bonus that she can touch on the gay thing in passing ("Of course when I was your age I had the additional complication that I was gay but I wasn't ready to accept it yet." etc etc) which leaves the door open if he wants to discuss sexual orientation.

It is most definitely NOT your job to bully your partner into having this talk. Pitch the idea to her, tell her you will back her up in her decision, and then let her do this on her own schedule.
posted by La Cieca at 7:03 AM on September 18, 2006

And she and I think Son is gay [lots of signs, gay friends agree] but fighting it.

No offense intended, but your sample group might be a little skewed there.
posted by Optamystic at 7:06 AM on September 18, 2006

he's not ready for it

He's not ready for dirty flirting? At 16.5? O yes he is.
posted by bonaldi at 7:27 AM on September 18, 2006

(I've never been a parent, but I've got a few things to say from my own experience as a teenager in a similar situation.

First of all, just because he's talking dirty to her, it doesn't mean they're having sex — or even about to start. I had a lot of pretty explicit conversations with my high school girlfriend, but we held off until college before actually losing our virginity. If anything, all the dirty talk made it easier to wait. We could let each other know that we liked and wanted and were attracted to each other — all of which is really damn important in a relationship at any age — without taking risks that we knew we weren't ready for.

Also, sitting him down and telling him what he shouldn't do isn't likely to go well in my opinion. I wasn't all that rebellious as a teenager, but even I would have completely dedicated myself to getting laid if my parents had forbidden it. Telling a kid that age that he's not ready for something is the best way to make him convince himself that by god he is.

If you want to do something good for the kids, invite her over for dinner. Get to know her. Encourage him to get to know her parents.

If she's his friend, or even his girlfriend, someone who his parents know and like, and not just his dirty little secret who he has to keep hidden, then he's more likely to treat her with respect and care. And if something does go wrong — maybe a pregnancy scare, maybe just a tiff or a breakup or some well-meaning worrying about the future — he'll have an easier time coming to you for advice.

Of course, if he'd rather keep her as a dirty little secret, you should go ahead and express a little disapproval. Let him know that women deserve more respect than that. "Respect other people" is a more important message than "No fucking" anyway, and provided you're in the habit of treating him with respect, he's less likely to think you're a hypocrite for it.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:30 AM on September 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

So a 16.5 year old guy is exchanging text messages with a willing girl his age. Golly gee, he could be butt-raping 6 year olds of whatever gender.

Two, the guy's mother and you "think Son is gay [lots of signs, gay friends agree] but fighting it." Given that you ladies are lesbians are you sure that's not just wishful thinking? There are plenty of "gay- looking- and- acting" straight men out there, because for one thing what constitutes "obviousness" is socially determined and need have no necessary link with sexual behavior or even sexual wishes -- that are themselves not necessary tied. (For 20 years I tried to explain this to half-retarded fagbashers, i.e. that most gay men I knew or even knew of looked something like that later Freddy Mercury, muscular men with short hair just-cut hair and neat bushy mustaches, not scrawny long-haired clean-shaven guys with glasses like me; I also tried to explain to people that 'your desire to fuck me doesn't mean I'm gay' but had variable success with that truism also.)

Anyway, don't you adults have anything better to do than manifest prurient "therapeutic" interest in somebody else's sex life? If you must be helpful I suggest leaving books or articles about birth control etc. around for him to see (this might be a good idea in school districts that teach "abstinence only"); from what you've said I see no other reason for concern, at least not about him. Y'all do have sex lives of your own to concentrate on, right? And yes, this applies to the guy's formerly-abused mother as well, who should have the courage to just get over it. (I've made great steps in that regard myself: the advice I give y'all is what I've found works for me!)

In another 1.5 years the guy'll be legally old enough to move out -- and refuse to answer the phone or the door.
posted by davy at 7:44 AM on September 18, 2006

He's not ready for dirty flirting? At 16.5? O yes he is.

I think eridanis meant that due to his impulsivity and resistance to authority, he's not likely to handle a sexual relationship well. Whether that is the case or not, I can't say, but it seems a more reasonable fear than that he's not ready for dirty flirting.
posted by agropyron at 7:46 AM on September 18, 2006

I have to agree with the other posters -- the behavior is age-appropriate.

I wonder if you are really worried about something else. You mention social cues. Are you thinking that he won't know when and to whom to send explicit text messages, or that he will cross some text-messaging line with the girl he's texting with now, or that he will think it means more than it does (e.g. take a joking response as completely serious)?

Then the talk you will have and be having with him won't be about sex per se but about humans and girls and boys and dating and how we all get hurt and how people esp. re sex and dating don't always mean what they say (if the son's "aspergers-y" (ha! medical term there, eh?) then he may read thing too literally).
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:49 AM on September 18, 2006

No 16 year old is "ready to handle a sexual relationship well." That doesn't mean shit. That's when you start to learn how to handle sexual relationships, well or badly. The "grownups" never like it. It was ever thus. (See: Romeo and Juliet.) You're all probably just jealous, secretly, that he's getting some.

That kid is probably counting the days until he is 18 and free of his crazy assed family of overgrown teenager adults. More power to him.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:50 AM on September 18, 2006

And by the way, show me a 16 year old boy who does NOT fit the DSM profile for ADD, and I'll show you a 16 year old zombie.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:51 AM on September 18, 2006

Wow, absolutely nobody is even attempting to answer the actual question; I guess it's too much fun to say nasty things about people you don't know.

eridanis, while it's true you may be overly concerned about this, that's natural and inevitable for people in parental or quasi-parental relationships to teenagers, and it's possible (pace the snarkers in this thread) that your concern is justified. The only way to find out is to have a talk; it may, of course, go nowhere useful, but it couldn't hurt to try to get him talking about this girl and their relationship. If he feels you're not being "judgmental" he may open up more than he would to an actual parent. But for God's sake don't get into the "you may be gay" area; as has been said here and in other threads, that's for him to figure out, and hearing it from you would be counterproductive to say the least. (Not that I think you would bring it up, but I felt it needed to be said.)
posted by languagehat at 8:01 AM on September 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

The laundry list of mental problems the family suffers has nothing to do with the extremely normal event of someone almost 17 having sex, and it seems very strange that you'd bring that up in a question about the boy's sexual life. Is he not supposed to have sex because his crazy parents can't deal? Is he any less ready for it than any other teenager?

Talking to him is likely to backfire. He probably zealously protects his privacy, and might just go nuclear if he finds out you're reading his text messages. (And yeah, he's a kid and you're the guardians, but why were you reading his text messages?) Confronting him on this subject will give him another reason to be angry, and give him an oppurtunity to assert himself- teenage males relish these- by screaming at you to stay out of his life.

Be more subtle- don't talk about this situation specifically. Talk to him about birth control/condoms. Maybe ask him what's going on in his life- maybe then he'll open up about the girl. But keep in mind- you will not prevent him from having sex if he wants it. You can make it difficult, but as long as he has a willing partner, it's going to happen.

And you, the mother and all your friends have no idea if he's gay or not. Maybe he doesn't either.
posted by spaltavian at 8:38 AM on September 18, 2006

The short answer is, "You're overreacting. Back off."

16.5 year old son, ripe with hormones. Also ADD & PDD-NOS, as well as depressed...

That's quite a diagnosis. One possibility is that you've got a very sick boy on your hands. Another possibility is that your son is a relatively normal teenage boy, and that you're one of those millions of Americans who views every minor behavioral quirk as a "condition." Two possibilities. Apply Ockham's razor.

Dad is depressed, maybe has Apergers...

See above.

And she and I think Son is gay [lots of signs, gay friends agree]

You and your lesbian partner and your homosexual friends have all agreed that your son, who is meanwhile exchanging explicit sexual messages with a girl, is gay. I agree that your sample group is skewed, and I agree that many parents have the same concerns about their children during adolescence, and I tend to agree with the comment about wishful thinking.

But most importantly, keep your hands off his sexuality. I mean, Christ...his mom's lesbian partner is spying on his text messages and speculating with her friends about whether he's gay? If I were that kid, I'd forget about waiting until I was 18 and I'd pack a bag tonight.

Anyway. Back to your question.

...he's not ready for it.

Yeah, OK. "16-year-old not ready for sexual relationship. Film at 11." Neither are most 40-year-olds. Adults aren't magically capable of handling sexual relationships well — and if you'll pardon my saying so, your son's adult role models don't exactly seem to be doing a bang-up job. Nevertheless, your son is 16 and he's engaging in sexual flirtation with a willing participant. He's not stalking her, and he hasn't gotten her pregnant. You don't even know whether they're having sex.

The question isn't whether he's ready for the activity. I don't know what you think qualifies someone as "ready" or "prepared" for sexual relationships, or what you think you could do to make him "ready" or "prepared." Whatever your definition is, I'll bet most people fail it. Regardless, teenagers aren't "ready" or "prepared" for the vast majority of what they encounter. That's the condition of being a teenager. The correct questions are whether his activity is safe and age-appropriate — and it is. Your question was, "How do we talk to him about this behavior," and the answer is that you don't.
posted by cribcage at 8:42 AM on September 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you can help him let his mom and dad's dysfunctional relationship roll off his back, it would help. Whether we mean to or not, we all tend to look at our parents first as an example of a romantic relationship. And teenagers tend to take everything personally, as they figure out how they fit into the world. As non-bio parent, just help him sort things out and know that there are a lot of kinds of "normal."

And don't take everything he texts, or even says, as gospel. I had some pretty pseudo-explicit flirtation going on as a teenager...and honestly, half the time I didn't even understand the references, as I had had almost zero actual experience.
posted by desuetude at 9:01 AM on September 18, 2006

My first question is how do you know about the text messages? That's going to be the uppermost thing in his mind and until that's resolved he isn't going to hear anything else you have to say. So you'll have to fess up to ready his text messages and deal with THAT issue before you can address the rest of it.

A 16 year old boy sending explicit text messages to a girl isn't really that upsetting to us, he's not our child. When I found out my 16 yo son was looking at porn online, it was upsetting to ME but not my husband (his stepfather), there's a different relationship between a stepparent figure and a bio parent. You are in the position of probably being able to talk to him a little more objectively than either of his bio parents.

If you're reading his text messages, it seems like you have a pretty tight rein on his activities, so you probably know if he has the opportunity to actually physically be with this girl, if that's the case, then a talk is in order about all the normal stuff that is in a parent/child sex talk. If he's all talk, so to speak then just sit back and monitor his behavior.

Him having ADD only complicates things in that you will have to reinforce the lessons of safe sex and respect several times until it sinks in. Whether or not he's gay is something he likely doesn't know and isn't germaine to the issue-would it have made you feel better if the text messages were to a boy?
posted by hollygoheavy at 9:03 AM on September 18, 2006

I guess the bottom line for me is that someone should take advantage of some teachable opportunity to have a one-on-one casual chat with the guy about sex and the issues/consequenses thereof, just to make sure he's got a solid grasp of the STD/pregnancy thing, and then let him make his own choices.

If you feel close enough to him, you can do it, or you can suggest that your partner do it, or if he is seeing a therapist/counselor, perhaps a message could be forwarded to him/her.

Don't tell him you've read his texts. Don't forbid him from having sex. Don't tell him he may be gay. Most importantly, don't judge him.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:13 AM on September 18, 2006

unless there's a real crisis going on ... and sending dirty text messages to a girl who likes to get them isn't a crisis ... i think you need to butt out

you haven't mentioned who the kid lives with ... if its you and mom, then mom is the one who needs to talk with him ... if it's dad, then mom still needs to talk with him

unless the kid ASKS you for advice, i think you're overstepping the boundaries here ... i get the feeling that mom is using you as a surrogate for confronting dad over his issues and his treatment of their son and you should not allow yourself to be used in this way ... whatever the abuse issues might have been, they still have a son together and they need to communicate with each other ... and if verbal abuse is involved, then she needs to learn how to establish some rules and defense strategies ... and it's not your job to do that for her

you are not the parent ... you are not the ex ... and you should not be the go-between ... (you didn't say how everyone found out about the text messages, but i hope it wasn't you that was snooping)

dysfunctional as they may be, you have to accept them as they are and back away ... let them work it out or mess it up as the case may be, while letting the son know that you're willing to talk to him if he wants to
posted by pyramid termite at 9:48 AM on September 18, 2006

Wow, absolutely nobody is even attempting to answer the actual question;

I disagree. The answer most people are giving is that the poster should not talk to him at all, and tread carefully if advising his mom to get involved.
posted by grouse at 10:10 AM on September 18, 2006

Let him go ahead with whatever he wants. To ease your mind, just get him a vasectomy and an illustrated book (illustrated and pop up book, if available) of STDs to watch out for. You should be set.
posted by onepapertiger at 10:52 AM on September 18, 2006

Provide condoms, then back away. He doesn't need the machinations of a polarized group to further screw up his burgeoning sexuality (of whatever preference it is).
posted by Kickstart70 at 11:32 AM on September 18, 2006

It seems to me the original poster has been generally trashed, dismissed and (ever so subtly and not so subtly) marginalized because of her sexual orientation and/or family dynamics. I have no idea as to the answer because ADD and PDDNOS are much to broad a stroke to provide useful inofrmation as to his actual level of functioning and capacity for integrating information. The "butt of out" school of thought does seem appropriate if he is functioning with in 1-2 years his chronological age. But given the range of behaviors encompassed in PDD it may be approriate to have a very candid discussion and set clear and non negotiable limits on texting including the use of the cell phone. The combination of PDD and ADD could be a significant problem in terms of impulse control and potentially self/other injurious behavior or it could mean nothing. How is he functioning in general and how appropriate is his behavior for his age. Best of Luck
posted by rmhsinc at 11:56 AM on September 18, 2006

There is no way you can step in and have a talk with this kid and have it come off cleanly without him resenting all of you. You invaded his privacy and want to talk to him about it. There is no easy way to explain this to him, it isn't like you were doing his laundry and a box of condoms, a beer, and a bowl fell out. You had to actively look through his phone for his texts. He isn't going to trust you enough after learning that to heed any advice you give him.

We were all 16.5 once and I don't know about you, but I was very resistant of authority. I'm with the majority of posters here, the kid -may- have majors problems or he could just be getting labeled by an arm-chair psychiatrist who forgets what it is like to be a kid. At that age, he is as ready for sex as he is going to get.

I understand your want to try and do the best thing for him, but at this point the best thing for him is to let him grow on his own and offer him support when he needs it. Just be there for him when he needs you, provide advice, and care for him and you are set. That's all the kid is going to need to turn out OK.
posted by Loto at 12:50 PM on September 18, 2006

It seems to me the original poster has been generally trashed

Well, she didn't help her case by presenting it in pop-psychology buzzwords, the irrelevant gay stuff, and the mysteriously "discovered" text messages. If the boy is really as messed up as all that then he needs to be in a therapist's care with his family's support. But frankly the tone of the original post suggests we're hearing far from the whole story as told by someone with pretty massive agenda.

(Subject to change of opinion if and when the original poster re-emerges and answers some of the questions that have been put to her.)
posted by La Cieca at 1:02 PM on September 18, 2006

It seems to me the original poster has been generally trashed

Right, because most of us are identifying with the kid rather than the poster of the question. For a good reason. The poster basically said ""my whole family is dysfunctional, but we want to make the identified patient [look it up] the focus of our anxiety for being a normal 16 year old boy." It has nothing to do with the poster's sexual orientation. You'd think, indeed, that a lesbian might recognize that anxiety (from loved ones, no less) over a teenager's sexual orientation is Not Helpful. To anyone.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:23 PM on September 18, 2006

Wow. Thanks for nothing, most of you. Assumptions aside, Son has been hospitalized twice for suicidal/homicidal threats, has serious meltdowns/ an explosive temper, and was bullied so much [for being a 'faggot'!] that we took him out of that school. O, and he got suspended twice for groping girls. Serious enough now???
Yeah, I used buzzwords; otherwise known as diagnoses, to point out the challenges along the way in dealing with this child. It's dicey all around.
And child he is; mentally 15, and emotionally about 12. He'd borrowed his older brothers' cell phone, who found the back and forth texts and reported them to Mom and Dad.
Sure, his behavior is age-appropriate. If it stopped there. History tells us it won't.

Not sure I learned anything other than lots of folks will jump to conclusions. Lovely group.
posted by eridanis at 3:25 PM on September 18, 2006

Don't get too upset when you don't get the answers you want, because often it is based off of the information given. You didn't give people a lot to work with so assumptions had to be made. If history explained this to you, maybe you should have explained this history to us originally.
posted by Loto at 3:37 PM on September 18, 2006

Actually, eridanis, I'm a homo and I'd jump to the same conclusion. He's dirty-texting a girl, and he was groping girls, and you think he's gay? Methinks she doth project too much.

Most 15 year olds are emotionally about 12, if memory of that age serves me correctly.

Here's the facts: if he wants to have sex, he will. Full stop. There is nothing you can do, short of 24-hour incarceration, to prevent it. Nothing. For God's sake, I lived in a tiny town--which had a grand total of two buses running through it each dy (at useful times, anyway)--had no car, and was still getting more ass than half the school put together.

Let me say this again: He will have sex, whether you like it or not, whether you think it's appropriate or not, and there is nothing whatsoever that you can do about it.

What you can do is have an ongoing dialogue with him--which should, depending on how long you have been together, come from his biological mother--about respect and safe sex. Do not tell him you know about the texts. For one, he needs to know that he has some privacy. For another, if you tell him, either it's clear (to him) that you're spying, or his brother told--in which case he either hates you, or you lose access to a source of information which might tell you something important in the future. Simply have a conversation: "You're getting to an age when people start thinking about having sex with each other. We trust that you will use your judgement, but there are some things you should know...."

And make sure he has condoms. Why? Because if he wants to, he will have sex. End of story.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:47 PM on September 18, 2006

Sorry, eridanis. You've discovered the downside of the fact that MeFi's demographic skews young: practically everyone identifies with your son ("He's geeky and awkward—just like me! Let him alone!!") and no one has acquired the life experience to allow them to identify with concerned parents. Don't take it too hard; they can't help it. I wish you and your family the best.
posted by languagehat at 5:23 PM on September 18, 2006

languagehat, you are making an awful lot of assumptions about the readership here.

In any case, maybe the poster does need to be told some of this because the poster isn't impartial either.

But...I bow out, because the poster won't listen to opinions outside of their pre-chosen path anyway, apparently. And I'm pushing the off-topic envelope.
posted by Kickstart70 at 5:39 PM on September 18, 2006

"If the boy is really as messed up as all that then he needs to be in a therapist's care with his family's support."

Yepper, that did wonders in my case. I went from being "geeky and awkward" to being totally disfunctional -- because I became the Family's Big Problem. Yes'm, compared to me at 16 this guy sounds mild.

Anf by the way, I'm still bisexual myself, and part of me wishes the cute fey teenager down the street will grow up to be an adorable faggot. He probably won't though, they usually don't -- regardless of how many times machos bully them and older gays tell them they should "embrace their True Gayness." See, sometimes the social construction of homosexuality fails because all "sexual identity" is a social construct: let to themselves young males will stick their penises into objects as diverse as teenaged girls and cantalopes, and nobody is really gay, straight, or melonophiliac unless they decide to live the label. Indeed, perhaps more people, including eridanis and her friends, should read up on the subject.

As for Ol' Languagehat, "when you ASSUME..." I bet I'm older than you are. I've been quite a few things besides a Teenaged Victim of Psych Diagnoses.
posted by davy at 8:49 PM on September 18, 2006

One of the sneaky things my mom used to do with me when I was a teenager:

She'd pose questions about other people's parenting decisions, and ask me what I thought was the best way to approach the situation. For example: "I know someone who's daughter is having unprotected sex with her boyfriend, and I know her parents are against abortion. Her parents don't know this girl is having sex. What should I do?"

Trying to answer my mom's questions really got me to think about things from multiple perspectives. What should the girl do? What should her parents do? What should my mom do? What are the consequences of acting in certain situations? When should parents know what's going on with their kids? I don't think there are definite answers to any of these questions.

Could you pose a few hypothetical question to your step-son? Maybe he'll see right through you, I guess, but it's worth a try. It could get him to think about his actions and their consequences.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:39 PM on September 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think this one's hard - too hard for anyone to answer. Of course, some people don't realize this, and they've answered you anyway. That's why you got some crappy answers.

Much depends on whether the kid's mentally retarded or not - you dance around the issue but never say right out. Much more depends on the kid's relationship with you - is it trusting? courteous but distant? overtly hostile? And yes, much more depends on whether or not your knowledge of his texting was come by honestly or by covert, behind-the-back snooping.

Have you talked about your concerns to the child's therapist? I think that's where I'd start, if this were my kid.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:43 PM on September 18, 2006

After months of lurking about on MeFi, this question was important enough for me to create an account (that I will use forever after) and donate the $5, and offer up what pearls of wisdom I can find in the murky depths.

Because this sounds like a good friend's younger brother, who is in something of the same place for emotional immaturity, and if I were to find him in the same place as the poster describes, I would be concerned.

If he does have as many problems as seem to be apparent, be supportive. Be around and be stable in his life. Be concerned, but be thoughtful in how this is confronted.
So sit down and write to yourself, a letter of all the things that you wish you could do to fix this problem.
And then see if you can come away with three constructive things to do.

If that means expressing to him, in some manner --
'hey, i'm not your biological parents but i am trying to be a responsible adult here, so let's talk about adult behavior. this is a time in your life where you're discovering a different way that adults communicate, and that's pretty special. At the same time, it's also an important thing to think about how you want to approach this adult thing.'

Good luck -- and maybe ask for some clinical help, too. Good doctors have resources.
posted by lilithim at 10:53 PM on September 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm not awkward, nor particularlly geeky, language hat and I do understand the concern of a parent.

I also think eridanis is overreacting to an extent and going about this from an entirely wrong viewpoint. She's making it more about the family than the boy; as Davy said he's "Family's Big Problem". But perhaps you just can't help being unnesessarily dismissive.

The group dynamics of the adults do matter- but not because they aren't the traditional nuclear family and all of us look down upon that as was suggested- but because it's difficult to see where the issues are really the boys or really the adults'.

Look at the question: "And o, did I mention this is a Major abuse flashback Hot Button for Mom?" This has nothing to do with the boy. Her speculations with friends about the boy's homosexuality- in of itself very direspectful of the boy's privacy- are again projected into the boy's issues, when it has nothing to do with the matter. Keep those seperate.

Instead of treating him as one part of troubled family, with this matter as the latest act, he needs to be treated as a boy with impulse control problems and poor judgement who is becoming sexually active. Safe sex and respecting boundaries and his partner need to be discussed- not that he "isn't ready" or probably gay.
posted by spaltavian at 10:54 PM on September 18, 2006

Leave the gayness up to him. It's his job to figure it out, not yours. How do you talk to him? Respect him, and don't talk to him the way you talk to us.

Tell him that you understand he's at an age where he will start to think about sex. And that you're not forbidding anything, but that he should be careful, and if he DOES want to have sex, it should be with somebody that he respects, and that he should play safe, unless he plans on raising a baby in the crazy fucked up family environment that you guys have.
posted by antifuse at 2:54 AM on September 19, 2006

Wow. Thanks for nothing, most of you. Assumptions aside, Son has been hospitalized twice for suicidal/homicidal threats, has serious meltdowns/ an explosive temper, and was bullied so much [for being a 'faggot'!] that we took him out of that school. O, and he got suspended twice for groping girls. Serious enough now???

So why didn't you mention this? You give a vague and emotionally loaded question then get angry with vague and emotionally loaded answers. Honestly, WTF did you expect.

And child he is; mentally 15, and emotionally about 12.

Who made this diagnosis? Teenagers are all over the place. He's only a year younger mentally - that's not exactly abnormal. And what does emotionally 12 mean? If he's been bullied and had such a crazy family as a support network then of course he is going to be emotionally fragile and probably emotionally immature.

Sure, his behavior is age-appropriate. If it stopped there. History tells us it won't.

Rubbish. History will tell you very little about how a teenager will develop. Looking at his dysfunctional family as the root of his problems probably will. You obviously don't want to hear this so you probably won't listen. This child is not the problem. His family is. Sort out all your own issues and you will start to solve his.

Before I bow out, because this is a complete waste of my time and it's just making me angry (I'm not a kid btw, just a thirty year old with a good memory).... Good luck, honestly. You are obviously a great person as you have geniune concerns over this kid.

The best thing you can do is convince everyone to go to group therapy together and let the pros do their thing. Ask mefi is no place to work out an issue like this, especially if you are not prepared to see the bigger issue and realise his family are a huge part of the problem.
posted by twistedonion at 2:57 AM on September 19, 2006

If the boy really is borderline-retarded, you might learn something from reading about how people teach sex education to people with intellectual handicaps. The book Sex Education and the Intellectually Handicapped [my review] by Wendy McCarthy might give you some ideas. Most of the people she discusses in her book have much more severe disabilities than it sounds like your son does, but the stress it puts on trying to avoid the most serious sex-related issues (pregnancy, STDs, abuse, legal concerns) may help you sort out which things you'll really need to pay attention to.

I also agree that depending on the length of the relationship you've had with the boy's Mom, it may or may not be appropriate for you to do some of this talking. Keep in mind that no matter how the talk works, there will probably be a bumpy road ahead of everyone. Trying to create a structured atmosphere for something as mercurial as teen sexuality is pretty tough, but it's important to try to be supportive to whatever his sexuality turns out to be while at the same time making it clear that even sexually active adults have limits on what they are and are not allowed to do.

For younger-acting/thinking boys, this can bite them on the ass with them getting involved with young girls, where what the law says and what the girl or her family says can vary widely. I've had some degree of anecdotal experience with some of the problems that can manifest themselves in these situations and while there is no assurance that being proactive will help anything, trying to avoid the more serious consequences up front may help him to avoid getting involved with the legal system while ge tries to work out his other issues.
posted by jessamyn at 3:15 AM on September 19, 2006

Without solid medical and diagnostic information we're not going to be giving you very good advice. My inclination, at least, is to give the kid the benefit of the doubt and look to the family for root causes because that has been my experience both as a child and an adult, though I am not a parent.

I can understand the parent/guardian's tendency to see more danger than may be warranted in 'normal' situations, and a background of mental health problems can only increase both the danger and the perception thereof. However, the only concrete example that you presented that I would (as a non-expert) consider especially worrisome is the groping issue and possibly the suicide threats.

Explosive tempers, meltdowns and suicide threats are pretty much par for the course for being 16, at least they were for me and my friends at that age. If these diagnoses are backed up by a mental health professional, you may certainly be grounded in your worry but they don't sound as if they are. I think you're getting responses that are keying in on the style of your post rather than its content.
posted by Skorgu at 5:25 AM on September 19, 2006

croutonsupafreak has what sounds like a wonderfully helpful suggestion. I wish more parents and/or Authority Figures would do that, instead of just Laying Down The LAW.

And languagehat, you win: I'm only mentally and emotionally older than you are.
posted by davy at 8:11 AM on September 19, 2006

[a few comments removed, if you'd like to discuss other issues, please take it to metatalk]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:44 AM on September 19, 2006

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