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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 26-Feb-10


Friday 26-February-10

Teenage troubles over?

I blogged nearly five years ago about my errant son who quit school and home to live with 'friends' on the other side of the country. It's hard enough when your children fall off the rails but it was more so for us as my wife and I are both 'changing minds' professionals (she's a teacher). But hormones and the genetic push for young adults to flee the safety of the family coop to set up on their own can be overwhelming.

So off he went and we didn't hear from him for long periods. He came back, got a job in a superstore and then left again, for more painful growing-up lessons. But now he's not only back but, after a three-year sojourn, is studying for exams and with a potentially good career ahead. He wants to be a lawyer and certainly has the brains for it. What is yet to be proven is his staying power.

We have our fingers tightly crossed for him. We all know we cannot support him for life and he has to find long-term sustainable independence. It's a hard lesson, going from childhood to adulthood. The child sees the adult as having authority to do whatever one likes. What the child often does not see is the cost of that freedom, in the necessity of work and the responsibility to oneself, to others and to society.

One of the big recent signals that my son is growing up is that he came into London and we went out for a meal together and then went to a philosophy lecture, and he was civil throughout the whole affair. He is becoming more grateful and is listening more and pronouncing less.

He is not out of the woods yet and could yet fall off the road. He's had self-destructive tendencies in the past and may still snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. He is getting good results but seems not to be studying as much as one might hope. He still has teenage moments (and days) but these are declining.

We have our fingers crossed but his future is his choice.

Your comments

 Thanks for sharing a story of a hopeful path coming out of taking away the safety net. My son just turned 17 and in the last six months has gone from a mediocre student who wanted to be left alone to a belligerent almost-drop out. This is a polite, talented, athletic, smart kid with issues around anger at his (adoptive) father and now me, his (adoptive) mother. I can't figure out how much to intervene and how much to leave alone. If he stops going to school, we could be faced with a requirement for court supervision even though he hasn't done anything criminal other than weekend pot-smoking and drinking. Can't talk any sense into him; in fact we can't talk to him at all. I'm reading many books, but just can't seem to gauge how much is in the normal range and therefore how much we should leave him alone or intervene. Four years of therapy doesn't seem to have helped much. So painful. Thanks again for the hope. I can't find many parent forums.

-- Diana

Dave replies:
Hi Diana. Many sympathies and I know it's difficult to know what to do. The basic rule is to keep loving him, even though there's often reason not to. Perhaps there's an element of testing in there - part of pushing away is testing your love of him. Partly also loving parents are a safe target - he can vent his anger knowing you won't desert him. A key part I think is in letting him make decisions (which he'll take anyway) and letting him see the result. Careful here - it's so easy for him to see you blaming him and making him feel like a little boy again. He will misunderstand you massively. Patience is difficult but necessary.

The good news here is that my son is still heading in the right direction, so there's definitely hope! He seems to have worked reasonably through the year and has just finished year-end exams and we have our fingers tightly crossed for results in August.

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