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MaryZ's support thread for parents of troubled teenagers - Part 2 here's to a peaceful 2013(811 Posts)
This is a continuation of this thread which I set up as a safe space for struggling parents of challenging teenagers.
This is meant to be a welcoming thread, where everyone can come and moan, whinge, bash ideas off each other and support each other as we face a new year and new challenges
Newbies in particular - come and join in. When ds1 started going off the rails I felt very lonely as there was no-one in real life I could talk to. Being able to be open and honest on here has helped me cope over the last few years.
Many of us have extremely challenging teenagers, some are involved in alcohol and drugs, some are violent, some are struggling with depression, anxiety and various SN. This thread isn't here to judge people and tell them how to parent or to simplify and minimise their difficulties.
So if you think we should simply tell them to come home and night, and take their phones away if they don't, you are probably in the wrong place. Also if you think a few joints or a couple of pills are harmless, go and start a thread about it somewhere else.
The mantra of this thread is - don't look back, guilt is a wasted emotion. You are where you are now, carry on from here. You may not be able to change them, but you can change how you react to their behaviour, so pick your battles, take a step back and try not be too emotionally involved, and FFS, be nice to yourself.
So here goes: here's to a calm, peaceful and positive 2013.
Ghosts, you're not a failure; you're the parent of a troubled teen. You are struggling because you are dealing with extra challenges, not because you are 'the worst parent in the world'. It's unbelievably hard sometimes.
You need to be careful reading other threads. I know they made me feel bad too during the worst times with my DS, because they were full of people who make parenting sound so easy. One of the main reasons Maryz set up this thread (or its predecessor) is because it gets
feckin infuriating disheartening reading comments from people who tell you that their DC would never kick holes in walls, and your DC wouldn't either, if only you grounded them/confiscated their phone and X-box/whatever. This thread was/is intended as a 'safe space' where people recognise that when you've got a troubled/troublesome teen, you need support, not simplistic and misguided criticism of your parenting.
For some teenagers, the 'normal' rules do not apply. 'Normal' methods/sanctions/punishments just don't work. Like me, you will probably have tried absolutely everything...
When I grounded my son, he went out anyway. When I locked the door, he climbed out the window. When I confiscated his 'phone, he took the house 'phone and made extra, expensive calls to his friends' mobiles. When I confiscated his playstation, he took my laptop. When I stopped his allowance, he started to steal. When I stopped him from stealing (by fitting a lock on my bedroom door) he sold all his stuff, and some belonging to other people too. When I tried to reason with him, he called me a b*tch and a c*nt.
That is not to say I stopped trying to find ways of influencing and controlling his behaviour: I didn't. But for a long time, nothing worked. We had 6+ months when he had no money, no treats, we were barely speaking, he was hardly at home, and he only had a TV because I wanted him up in his room.
Over 3-4 years, and with the help of some of the people on this thread, I worked out some crucial things. They might help you too...
- You need to detach emotionally. When he screams at you, it isn't personal, whatever he says; it isn't about you, he isn't thinking - his mouth and hormones are just overflowing! You will go to pieces if you don't protect yourself a bit from all the stress. Like Maryz often says, "Detach, detach, detach".
- Look after yourself. This isn't a luxury, it's a survival necessity. You need to find some way to relax or laugh - preferably a little slice of every day, but certainly several times a week. I can see this will be very difficult indeed for you since you have small children too (and it sounds like you are a single parent?), but make it your top priority. Go for a walk, meet a friend for coffee, have a swim, get a massage... Whatever it is, make a bit of space for you that will give you pleasure. It will help you cope better. It will keep you sane. And I can pretty much guarantee your DS's behaviour will improve too. (I'm not sure why this is. I think it is maybe because, even when they are being total little sh*ts, they actually still deep-down want their mums to be happy, and they are happier if you are...)
- You can't control him, he has to learn to control himself. Meanwhile, you can control your own responses to him. This is partly about detachment and being kind to yourself (see above ) But it's also about your immediate reactions. When he screams, you can take a breath and stay calm (and go somewhere afterwards and scream into your pillow!). When he gets to you, turn and walk away. For me, the basic 'principle' was that I wanted to try to 'model' the behaviour I wanted from him: if I wanted him to be calm, I needed to show him calm; if I wanted him to be polite, I needed to be polite to him myself. It is incredibly hard, and very often I didn't (and don't) manage it... But even if/when I fail, trying helps...
- Focus on the essentials. Pick a few things (say 3 or 4) that you really really want him to do or not do. Put your energy into getting him to do these things. Ignore the rest of it. Depending on how bad things are, and how desperate you are, these things might be very basic: e.g. 'no violence'; 'always tell me if you aren't coming home'... For you, it sounds like one of your basics will be 'Keep noise down when siblings are in bed'.
- Focus on rewards not sanctions. The most successful 'behaviour management' technique I found was to pay him for what I wanted him to do. Over the years, at different points, I linked his allowance/pocket money to going to school (when he was truanting), helping at home, being pleasant, and other 'essentials'. It wasn't foolproof, but it worked better than anything else.
- You have influence even if you lose control. You can keep on giving 'moral messages'. You can say things like "It isn't OK for you to behave like that" and "You need to do X" and "Please don't do Y", even when he does. It is getting through to him, even if it feels like it isn't... It is laying 'foundations', so that he will know how to behave decently, when he finally re-gains control of himself...
- Ask for help and take any help that is offered. Ask everywhere: his dad, your GP, his school, youth services, your friends and other family... Anyone you can think of! If possible, arrange activities and support for him, and nice things and counselling for you. It isn't a sign of weakness to ask for help; it's a sign of strength to know your own limits.
- It will take time, but it will pass. All this horribleness will be over one day. I am coming out the other side with my own DS. You will do too.
Goodness, this is a bit of an essay! Sorry! Hope some of it helps!
Funny, Brighter! You said "Its exhausting looking after little ones without the add on of a difficult attention seeking teen"... I was pretty much going to say "Its exhausting looking after a difficult teen without the add on of a attention seeking little ones".
But whichever way you look at it, Ghosts, we agree you've got your hands full and you shouldn't beat yourself up! Remember what maryz said at the top of this thread:
"Don't look back, guilt is a wasted emotion. You are where you are now, carry on from here".
I can't agree more with what Flow said.
Ghosts, use this time away from your son to look after yourself, to get your head straight, to work out what you can and can't cope with and what you actually want.
Guilt is forbidden on this thread - it is a wast of emotional energy, and goodness knows we have no emotional energy to waste.
I was where you are five years ago, with no-one to talk to and blaming myself for everything. I have come a long way in those five years - ds has grown up a bit, but I have changed beyond all recognition and am now coping with ds2 in a very different way.
I'm heading out, but I'll be back later.
Read Flow's post again.
And ffs, be nice to yourself.
btw, make a list of the individual things you find hardest to cope with at home, and we'll try to come up with a few simple solutions. For example, I found moving ds's bedroom to the very back of the house helped with noise issues. So might sound-blocking wireless earphones, for example. If he has ADHD, has anyone suggested medication?
Stay around and talk. We won't judge, we are all living it every day as well.
Had a joyful early morning of being shouted at by an angry DD, because it's her first day back at college, and she has to get up much earlier and change all her routine again etc. I'm not going, you can't make me, I hate you, you're such a bitch, I wished I lived with DD1, she wouldn't make me, grandma wouldn't make me, my real mum wouldn't make me, I hate you, you're a nasty cunt, I'm not going, I hate college, I hate you, I've had lots of mums and you're the worst most horrible of all of them, fuck off, piss off, hate hate hate...
She then cried and cried and broke some of her belongings, before finally yelling that she's going to college after all Thank God for that. She was late, but who cares. She's there.
DS was upset by it and went to school tearful on his first day back
I'm repeating matnras to myself. No guilt. Not personal. I am most definitely not a bad mum, or the worst mum she's ever had, oh no, I am awesome. She loves me really. She's be happy later on, I hope. No guilt.
Lilka your post made me smile I wish I had learned the trick of switching off from ranting earlier.
ghosts as Maryz and Flow will agree, I am very very good at the guilt thing, I can think of so many mistakes I've made in the past that have contributed to the situation I find myself in now. But I did what I thought was best at the time. I didn't have a crystal ball, the brain of Einstein or the patience of a saint. I couldn't be the parent described in the parenting manuals on three hours of sleep a night, or after 2 hours of screaming. We are human not bloody superwoman ffs!
I agree with flow, doing something nice for yourself is a necessity, preferably something physical that will help release the tension you are carrying around, for me thrashing up and down the pool until I could barely climb out was the only thing that held me together.
Finally, ignore all the 'perfect' families you think you are surrounded by, I think most people put on a good front, but I'm learning that for many, a front is all it is, the reality is that most other people are struggling too.
Oh Lilka, that's a variation of the old favourite "Everybody else's mum lets them do everything and is much nice than you" isn't it?! It must be hard when they can replace "everybody else's mum" with "all my other mothers" . It's good that you can keep your sense of perspective and humour!
Hello Brightspark, how's things?! I agree with you about the 'fronts'... Once I started being more open about the difficulties I was having with my DS, it's amazing how many other people 'came out' about their teenager problems too...
DD's finds it not good enough to say that she hates me and that I'm a shit mum.She says that EVERYONE hates me and thinks I'm useless. That not only does she not want to listen to me but NOBODY wants to listen to me. That not only does she think I'm a shit cook and my food is horrible but EVERYBODY thinks I'm a shit cook and my food is disgusting.
Just been reading - not posted for a while; feel totally exhausted and a complete failure. DS2 is just a nightmare. I am a total wreck, been prescribed antidepressants though none taken as yet.
I wish I could "detach" but I can't....if he was a nightmare at home only, it be wouldn't good at all, but he chooses to take it into school too! He has had a distressing episode at school over 18 months ago, but didn't display any outward problems at the time, so nothing was really initiated for him regarding counselling etc. from school or ourselves quite frankly.
There's lots to say but would take forever to write, I don't know where to go now. Banged on every door available.
Had his CAHMS referral, presented himself so well that they don't NEED to see him now for a few months as he's not considered a priority, in other words not requiring urgent mental health care. But DH and I disagree. Have spoken to other outside professionals who have stated that they think the previous issue at school is an underlying problem.
Sorry just as desperate I as sound.
Shagmundfreud - I've had that too, apparently I'm not a cool Mum at all. I'm far too strict, I go on all the time, and basically I'm totally hated and that DS2 can't wait to move out. Oh and I'm a *** fat freak, and lots of other vile verbal abuse.
Yes ok I feel like saying after the last eight months, I'm done....there's the door.
I would like to say on a personal note (ahem) I'm a 14/16 ....
Maybe we need to rename this thread The Worst Parents in the World Club!
I was called an evil bitch who deserved to die by DD, and criticised everything I said, did, wore and so on. We are supposed to take it all on the chin , rise above it and ignore... We all know that but trying to parent a troubled teen does wear down your self esteem , especially when we are feeling judged by schools, police, social workers, CAMHS staff etc etc.
Maybe trying the mantra 'I'm doing my best under impossible circumstances' can help , that and finding an outlet for the tension and emotions that we are carrying around with us.
flow things are good - ish and getting slowly better. DD has been spending more time at home which has been going ok, DS is finding it difficult though, he just can't understand or accept DD isn't at home
I have finally pinned down social worker and care home manager to a meeting next week regarding the lack of communication and support for DD in returning home. Wish me luck!
(It's sounding v positive... fingers crossed... )
Hi all, seasoned mumsnetters but new to this thread. DS2 is 19 & has been challenging since a "terrible two". Diagnosed with ADHD at 5. We've been through it all, theft, drugs, alcohol, violence, car stealing, truancy, psychosis, "conduct disorder", prison (4 times). He left home at 16 after beating me up, was under care of social services in various temporary settings from Foyets to B&Bs. He came out of prison again on 21st Dec, has sofa surfed & used night shelter since as now homeless. Stayed here a couple of nights but we take all keys & valuables to bed with us. The latest - on sunday lunchtime he had a row with 30 year old GF (who has a toddler & on methadone) because she's back on smack, stormed out of her flat, she wouldn't let him back in to get his things & he punched through a double glazed window. He has severed the artery, tendons & nerves in his forearm & had 9 hours of microsurgery yesterday in a regional specialist hospital. He will never have full use of his hand again. The police will arrest him on discharge from hospital for criminal damage & breaching his license conditions. What little hope I had for his future has evaporated.
Jeez Midwife how terribly traumatic for you all ...maybe this event could be the one to shock him into reigning it in a bit ? <trys desperately to think of something hopeful to say>
Oh good grief Midwife. I'm so sorry. That must be incredibly stressful. How are you doing?
wishinglifeaway Your Ds's behviour does not make you a failure ! Its so easy to blame ourselves.
My Ds also managed to charm the psychotherapist he went to see into inaction. Ds told me that the guy had colluded with him in thinking that I was neurotic and paranoid and that Ds obviously didn't need counselling !
You say you can't detach... maybe try to choose a tiny detail of his behaviour to detach from rather than the whole lot...
6 months ago i was a wreck with stomach ulcers. I have learn't little by little to detach /look after myself. By not looking too far forward and making an effort to notice the good as well as the dire, day to day life can improve!
MuchBrighter Thank you for your reply, it's just what I needed at the moment. Think DS2 is bordering on a permanent exclusion from school and it's this that I'm really not coping with right now.
I feel weary if I'm honest. I know that somehow this will end up being my fault, or that somehow I will fail to "be there" enough for him. Obviously I feel very worried for his future but it's hard to feel sympathy for him when he brought all of this on himself.
Wishing, I nearly had a nervous breakdown when it looked like DS was going to get permanently excluded. I was already barely hanging on in there, and the only reason I could cope was because he went off to school each days, so I got a bit of respite. When I thought I was going to lose that, I was utterly desperate. Are you in regular contact with the school/college? I know some schools/staff operate 'by the book', but I do think that some realise how hard it is for some parents, so they might take pity on you and find another option if they realise how much you're struggling...
Midwife, when my DSes tell me it is all my fault, I find a sort of matter-of-fact,
mock sympathetic sort of agreement helped: "I know, I'm really shit aren't I? I don't know how you cope... Why don't you see whether anyone else's mum will have you?" I know exactly what you mean about feeling weary - somehow this little bit of humour helped me feel slightly less exhausted...
Flow, thank you for your reply. We are in contact with school, numerous meetings and the one I dread next week. I'm not sure they fully understand how desperate we are, I'm convinced they think we're just completely useless parents.
Actually, I that's how I feel. Has anyone had any experience of Oppositional Defiant Disorder?
Googling far too much at the moment!?
I used to do that. In the end I decided it didn't really matter why DS was behaving the way he was (personality, ADHD, ODD, drugs, peer influence... etc...) - what mattered to me was dealing with it. This meant changing my behaviour, responses and attitudes rather than his - particularly trying to detach so I wasn't so hurt and angry, and being nice to myself... All the stuff I was banging on about to Ghosts, upthread! ^ ^
Yes detatch seems to be the only way I can survive. I'm detaching from all the manipulators in my life very successfully at the moment. His situation right now is obviously an extreme one & I'm visiting him & sorting out clothes & benefits etc for him but I'm still not going to take total responsibility for him, ie take him home with me. & look after him
let him wreck my house, steal my belongings, set up a drug den & have my younger children removed by social services
Midwife, you seem to have really been through the mill . I think the only way to survive this type of thing is to only let yourself think about it when they are actually there or when there is something you can physically do.
The thinking about it all the time, the "what-ifs", the waking in the middle of the night thinking "should I do X" or "should I have not done Y" is the most exhausting. That and the guilt, and the fact that we all the time have such mixed emotions - we simultaneously have to love them and dislike them, we simultaneously have to be open with other people, while desperately trying to excuse (in our heads) their behaviour because in our heads they are still the babies and little children we loved so unconditionally .
It's an ongoing grief. Basically, a grief for the child we had and the adult we thought we would have. But it isn't a grief we can come to terms with, because it isn't finite, it keeps sticking its head up when we least expect it. So we can go through the early stages of grief (the denial, anger, blame, bargaining, resentment, depression etc), but we can never get to the acceptance stage, because before we get there we go back to the beginning.
You are doing your best for him still, in any practical way you can. That is all you can do.
Wishing, I don't really think googling behaviours helps, because unless your son accepts that he needs help, no amount of diagnosis will help him.
I am very lucky with ds2 - he has just been diagnosed with ADHD, but accepts the doctors are trying to help. He is trialling medication, he talks to me when he has problems in school, and (surprisingly to me) he recognises that his teachers are on his side and want to help him. ds1 on the other hand, genuinely thought that everyone was against him, and refused help from anyone. I'm confident that their attitude will be the major contributor to their future behaviour, not any diagnosis or lack of it.
Do you have an alternative if he is excluded from school? Do you have a local PRU unit, or an early school-leavers course? The important thing is to get him out of the house each day, doing something, anything. ds1 was excluded permanently at 15 and was at home doing nothing but getting more depressed for two years, which nearly destroyed me - and him.
I am also a paid up member of the "worst parent in the world" club. Even dd had a go at me this morning because I made her go to school . Apparently she is dying of the flu.
Maryz, thank you for your reply , we do have something in place locally.
Phoned everywhere, and suggestions were to re-contact CAMHS again. V bad morning with him, god knows what he'll be like when he gets in.
I did try the detachment just the last day or two, DH dealt with him, but DS2 then took this as me not caring and upped his bad behaviour ....
Yes, he will up it - but a bit like toddler tantrums you have to see it through.
You have to, for your own sanity.
So develop a series of platitudes "It's a pity you feel like this" for example. Say "oh dear" a lot. Walk away (without confrontation) as much as you can.
Eventually he will realise that you won't rise to it, that you won't get angry or upset, that you won't launch into "why are you doing this to me?" type rants, and then when he realises he will stop.
As long as you keep involving yourself, he can blame you for everything that happens, which gives him a cop out - after all, why should he face the blame himself if he can fob it off on to you?
But like anything else it takes time. And if CAHMS won't see him (or he won't go), look for help for you - family counselling (which ironically ds didn't attend even once, so why they call it family I have no idea) saved us - it saved my mental health, my marriage and my relationship with my younger children.
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