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Question
Posted by: Shaz | 2004/02/27

Moody / Suicidal Teenage son

My son is 16.5 yrs old. Dring the last few year, we all have undergone very stressful adjustments in our lifes. My mother passed away from cancer, 3 months after that my 28 yr old brother committed suicide by jumping from a 12 story building (he was a drug user, couldn't keep a job and used to steal from my parents to support himself). He had been socialising normally with my son and daughter just the day before. We restructured our whole lives to move in with my 76 yr old father to look after him. This meant moving, changing schools for the children. A few months after we had to take in my 70yr old aunt, who could no longer afford to live on her own. My father then collapsed and had to undergo a triple bypass, and my aunt is getting progressively unable to look after herself due to arthritis. My son does not get on with my aunt and often fights with her. He often say to me that he wishes he could get out the house. He is not doing very well in school. We had to take him from a strictly english school and put him him in the dual medium closest to where we are staying now. He struggles with the work, as he said the teachers either can't or won't teach properly in English. He has asked that we put him in boarding school so that he can get away from the problems that have cropped up having elderly people staying with us, but we can't afford it and have discussed this with him. Over the last few months he has become more withdrawn and secretive. I have tried speaking to him about this as well as drugs. He has denied using drugs and I can find no evidence of this. He does not want to tell me if anything is wrong, but his 12 yr old sister has told me that he has talked to her of suicide. When she told me this, I tried talking to him about it and suggested that we seek counselling. He said he did not want to do this, and I don't know if I should force the issue. He also said at that time that he had dreamt about his grandmother's death, and then he dreamt about mine. I tried to reassure him that everything was OK, and that he didn't need to worry. My husband says I'm over reacting, and he's just being a normal teen. We've gotten him involved in the local cricket club as he is quite good and has progressed steadily during this season. He attends all his practices and matches without us having to force the issue. However, he has taken to going out on a Friday and Saturday night (which we don't mind), but does not want to tell us what or where he is going). He normally just gives us the name of one of his freinds. We have not checked up on this because he is always in before his curfew. Am I overreacting with everything that has happened, or is this just normal teenage behaviour?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Shaz, as a family you've obviously had more than your fair share of stresses, traumas, and sadness in recent times. It sounds like your son's reactions fit within the rather wide range of normal teenage behaviour. WOuld he be eceptive to the idea of joining YOU in counselling, so that You can be better helped ? In other words, to see his participation as helping you, rather than as admitting that he himself has problems ?
Is there some way the school could help him meet with a counsellor to talk about his study problems, and perhaps be sensitive enough to check on whether he is more troubled than that ?

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Our users say:
Posted by: Zeena | 2004/02/29

Yes, any boy at that sensitive age is bound to react to the recent stresses and changes you had. He probably misses privacy and being with just his family.

I can't add to what Shrink said. Only ONE thing: your son is a child-man of 16 1/2. He should not be allowed to go out on weekend nights unless you know WHERE TO. He should also have a curfew. I wonder if you realise just how dangerous life is for teenagers these days? Drugs and sex are everywhere. Have you or your husband spoken to him about Aids? And drugs? It never helps to just say: "Don't do drugs". He must know the dangers, and WHY he should stay away from drugs. Even if he has no money, these kids are offered drugs for free, to get them hooked. I feel you are wrong not to check up on his friends if he gives you a name and number.

Sorry to say this, but you simply can NOT trust your son to walk a straight and narrow path if he is allowed to go out to god-knows-where on Fridays and Saturdays. Does he have transport? When does he get home? Trust me, some years ago our son was that age. He had a curfew -- he had to be in by 11pm or 12pm. We had to know where he was going and with whom. If he didn't toe the line, there was hell to pay. Not anything like a beating, but a good old angry reaction. And life wasn't nearly as dangerous then as now. It did him no harm, and he has told us in so many words that he is grateful that we were so strict with him ... many of his friends went the wrong way because of parents who allowed them too much freedom in a city like Johannesburg. (I don't know where you live). Check on your boy. And think about the Shrink's advice.

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