Constantly Worried About Teenage Son
I have a 17 year old son whom I love dearly but who is causing me a great deal of anxiety and stress.
He suffers from insomnia and because of this he often misses school. On weekends he refuses to go anywhere and just wants to play on his computer. I keep telling him that all of that screen time and lack of daylight/exercise is making his issue worse but he just won't listen. He won't do anything I advise. It keeps me awake at night worrying about him and thinking of ways to help him.
Needless to say the insomnia has a ripple effect. Where he has gained weight; hates his body and says he doesn't want to be seen as people will think he is fat. For a start he is not that overweight and I try to explain to him that people really aren't judging others constantly. He has hardly any friends and the friends he does have are not good friends. All they want to do is smoke drugs and slack off.
His father (whom I divorced 16 years ago) is of little use. He has barely anything to do with my son. My son doesn't really like him much as in the past when he went there there were always issues...his father has anger issues etc. He is also remarried so my poor son is on the bottom of his list of priorities.
I have done all I can think of. Taken him to the Dr. Spoken to counsellors at school and via telephone. I am quite sure deep down that if I could get him interested in something other than gaming this could be key. I have suggested gym membership, purchasing a bike for him to go out on; many other things. All to no avail.
He is currently asleep (at 11.12 am) and missing school again today. I went to the chemist and bought some medication as I feel desperate. I will wake him at 1pm as he has to go to school tomorrow. He has already had 3 days off and this is only week 3! I despair as it seems absolutely nothing is helping and although I am doing everything suggested unless he takes it on board I am wasting my time.
Any suggestions gratefully accepted.
There could be ideas others have for this problem, some achievable others not so.
At 17years and 4 days old I joined the RAAF (air force) and earned adult wages and got a career, a real active life. I'm not suggesting that for your son, it takes a certain person, but reading your account of his life, computer games...almost brings me to tears reading it, such a waste.
He is nearly an adult, close enough to be considered one for the purpose of this reply. I suggest his computer gaming is trumping his insomnia as a cause to his issues. Time flies when you are on the computer, more so gaming, hours pass and before you know it, it's 5am and he cant get up after 3 hours to go to school.
A hard line approach might be 3-4 years too late. Pulling the power cord at say 10pm would soon see him hop into bed. So effectively he's learned bad habits and now you are powerless.
He is also too old to reconnect with his dad. If younger his dad could have got into computer games himself as a co- interest. But as he is much older now I'm wondering if overall his father could be a good influence- like taking him to the footy on Saturdays or other activity like mountain biking or restoring a car and so on. As a dad that is estranged from one daughter, we never forget them. Maybe he will have more tolerance now as he is older as is his son? A confidential meeting might just surprise you.
The only other thing that could work is to reconsider his education. Some kids are just not suited to a high education, these young adults might be better off getting a job and down the track they might be happier and more motivated earning money and expanding their social lives, buy a car, etc.
Hope that helps.
Thanks Tony for your response
The irony of this situation is that his 'Dad' did get him into computer games at an early age as an easy babysitter 😞 I found out when my son was 8 that his 'Dad' had him playing GTA at age six???
I took all that away and bought WII so we could at least play some games together. Again; every time he went to his so called father's he was subjected to GTA and other violent games as an out for his 'father' to not have to do anything with him. He also used to get palmed off on his Aunty when he was there. His Dad preferred to get drunk and go fishing all the time.
Yes it breaks my heart and I am totally lost. I obviously have zero support from his so called Dad. I know that my son is probably not university standard so I believe his desire to do Year 12 is simply an out. Because he knows that if he doesn't do it he will have to get a job. His idea of doing Year 12 is having me get him up every morning; forcing him to shower; forcing him to get in car etc.....He does stuff all study and just wants to get back on his computer. Which I want to hammer to death right now.
He is incredibly immature. I cried this morning as I was out watering the yard; he was of course asleep..our friend from up the road (4 months younger than my son) drove by all clean and tidy going to school...on his own. I have tried and tried to get my son to take driving lessons and he constantly complains that he doesn't like driving a manual. He makes excuses for absolutely everything..
I am going insane and have totally lost any faith that anything will get better. He truly makes me want to not be here. Every minute of every day he is in my mind. If he is actually at school I expect either a lame text from him saying he is sick and needs to be picked up; or a text from school saying he is not there.
I give him a lovely home; beautiful food; all the support I can think of yet he continually throws it back in my face. I am at the stage where I am actually done with him. He even wakes me up in the middle of the night; to tell me he can't sleep? Yet he can stay on that damn computer hour after hour? I think he is abusing my good nature as everyone does (that is another story).
I am so disappointed and frustrated. All I ever did was try to be a good mother to him yet he will claim the opposite. I left a violent alcoholic husband to save him. I sacrificed an enormous amount of money and my life.
I am lost.
"I am lost" That's ok, we are here to talk at length if need be. We come and go as life requires us volunteers to do. When we return we know you have posted. We are not professional medical staff however most of us Champions if not all, have valuable life experiences.
A few things I've observed-
- We do naturally compare others with ourselves. The kid driving to school? Thats him, your son is your son. "Normal"- there is none. You could be unaware that the other kid has emotional issues or drinks a lot, who knows, thats why it isnt a good idea to compare.
- "so called father". Just because he hasnt measured up well as a dad, this description is actually hurtful to good dads like me. He is still his dad and one day 10,20 years down the track his dad could be more important to him. But I do understand why you've ended up with disrespect there..
- Giving him a lovely home, food etc is great, but it matters not to a guy that has had it all his life. Like freedom when one is jailed, it only hits home when its taken away from you. The home you have created is, sadly, taken as the norm.
- "...text from him saying he is sick and needs to be picked up". If you pick him up then he is too sick to go on the computer or use his mobile. Otherwise you are enabling him. An enabler is what many of us are, we simply find it hard to be firm. But the ideal approach is- fair, firm, reasonable, loving, caring, but introduces rules that is non negotiable (the option is to move out). If you do not introduce boundaries eg no computer, no mobile phone after say 8pm then you are enabling him to miss doing homework, miss school the next day, miss spending family time etc. If you take his word for being sick at school but hasnt been to sick bay AND you havent been told he has attended sick bay then picking him up is another example of enabling.
- Maturity- A young 17yo has to be treated for his emotional age. As I said I joined the RAAF, but I was emotionally 13yo not 17. I needed a firm hand and unfortunately I didnt get it even in the defence. So I was erratic and uncontrollable, got into a lot of trouble
- Remember- its your home, your rules. Introducing new rules. He should be preparing himself for adulthood but he needs your help. On Married at First Sight there is a 25yo guy that is really immature. His new "wife" has had to show him how to use a washing machine and so on. He is spoilt and his mum has done him no favours as his "wife" is not impressed, no girl would be. Thoughts?
I've previously had a foster child who stayed up all night playing videogames and yelling at them every time they lost waking up the whole household, they wouldn't get up till 1pm much like your son and complained constantly of insomnia (Which was actually just staying up all night infront of a screen), I talked to them about it, how it affects the household and how I felt it was affecting them, I told them I'd give them sometime to self correct and if I saw no improvement I'd be turning the wifi off at 10pm on weekdays, eventually I had to do that, they weren't happy about it but within a week they were getting up at a normal time on week days and overall playing less videogames, it may be time for some tough love for your son.
As acknowledged, you have overcompensated for the deficit of losing a role model in his father (anger issues notwithstanding) incorporating guilt and blame respectively for the least struggle or desire your son has encountered.
Unwittingly, you have become the surrogate of your son's life and that is unfair to both of you.
Accepting that your son makes choices for himself, and is likewise accountable for his conduct in relation to his own self respect and that from his peers, is about the best you can do. Putting this to your son succinctly may represent trust that he will value your faith in him setting his own standards and is free to make mistakes and bad choices leading to better ones in the future - scary, and not without some risk, but that is particularly the point.
Consider this... your son is not causing your anxiety and stress - this is of your making in comparing where you think he should be, and the perceived influence of your dissolved marriage has had on his present situation.
Offering to help, for the reasons stated above, will have little impact but support can take many forms...
Sleeping at 11am? Hm, that floor really needs vacuuming at 8am! - you will be blamed, naturally, but the origin is with your son's choice to stay up late as that was his decision.
Remember also, your happiness and engagement in life (outside of rearing your son) is also a positive influence that your son might feel not so responsible for how you are coping - yes, this may have escaped your attention as it is not obvious, but such things can reside subliminally, irrespective of the surface layers of behaviour, and overlaying everything you have done for him also carries a certain resentment for your sacrifices (bundled with your contrastingly unburdened ex) which, while understandable, is communicated nonetheless and I feel deeply for your inner turmoil.
In many respects you share the suffering daily, and mutually - you actually have much in common: He needs to live his own life as do you; and while this doesn't mean severing all ties, releasing the grip from unresolved fear and grief might be beneficial to all concerned.
My advice: Lead by example, ...and forgive yourself.
Had a bad day today. He went to school but rang to say he felt sick (he was actually very unwell yesterday). I picked him up and gave him the lecture again about attendance etc and if he hates it so much he will have to get a job or do full time study. Got home and he absolutely lost it. Started yelling and saying he hated life and wanted to kill himself. I rang the ambulance. Whilst waiting he calmed down and said he didn't want them to come as he was worried they would take him away (as was I). So I cancelled the ambulance but took him to my doctor.
My doctor is lovely and he spoke to my son about everything. My son told him that he thinks he is bi polar as he is very manic at times then very down other times; plus all the sleep issues. My doctor said he doesn't think he needs medication and he is wary of putting him on any as he is 17. He also reiterated the benefit of fresh air and exercise (which I have been banging on about for years). He said that hormones during this age are rampant and can cause much grief. He did send a referral for us to see a counsellor.
I have researched bipolar and although my son shows traits I truly do not think he is. I too think it is hormonal and lack of exercise (endorphins). My son promised he will walk home from school and go for walks around the countryside near us. I do hope he does take the Dr's advice and I hope we don't wait too long for the counsellor session.
So it was a very hard day but I am glad I have set the wheels in motion. I have made numerous appointments in the past that my son refused to attend. I have had counsellors ring him and speak to him at school and he has brushed them all off. I made it clear to him that whatever is going on we need help and we need an impartial outsider to help. I am totally wrung dry.
I pray for him . I love him more than anything and seeing him like he was earlier absolutely breaks my heart.
What outlet does your son have to burn off that negative energy? Would some martial arts discipline or physical training (weights, etc) provide not only a diversion from screens, but invigorate feelings of self worth - possibly even introducing a new friendship group/perspective along with a well grounded adult to idolise and inspire.
Bicycle riding/clubs includes a social aspect with a certain incentive to compete, developing healthy friendships along the way also.
Broadening horizons can be a good start to finding your niche in life, where presently school/work is unsavoury as it shows no relevance beyond despair.
Keeping the wheels turning prevents getting bogged - good move!
(and equally, all this applies to you as well..😊).
Thanks so much for your response.
I agree; he definitely could do with something physical in his life. I am trying to encourage him with that! I see now that yesterday was brewing for a while. His Dad rang him last night and has arranged to take him camping on the weekend with his cousin and Uncle, this will be great for him. He sometimes feels his Dad doesn't love him but I know he definitely does and I heard him say that last night.
We are also getting a dear foster dog tomorrow! She will need lots of walks and love; he loves dogs as I do and he will surely be very happy to have her here and come along on walks and to obedience training and the like.
I really appreciate your response. It is so heartwarming to have this group of lovely people help me.
I too know that since losing my beloved dog 5 weeks ago I have not walked or done any exercise and that has certainly impeded my healing process. I think fostering this new dear will be great for everyone. Obviously the dear pooch is the first one I am concerned about but having her here and helping her get used to a very different life from the one she has known (:)) can only be beneficial for all concerned.