MaryZ's support thread for parents of troubled teenagers - Part 2 here's to a peaceful 2013

(810 Posts)
Maryz Tue 01-Jan-13 15:57:49

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.

Wishinglifeaway Sun 20-Jan-13 18:06:54

Laura , I feel totally in agreement. We are having the same problem, NOT close friends but parents we know, but will continually disregard our parenting values and allow our child to stay at theirs against our permission; mainly due to what we believe is happening there, and them refusing to allow him home.

We have now contacted the police and we can initiate a Harbouring Notice if we feel our child is vulnerable, [god and gullable, naive, immature etc] at their house.

Not sure if this is this the best route, but it is an option. Or when he didn't turn up/contact us/or reply to our txts etc. for well over 36 hours. [Bearing in mind he's 15], we could also put into place a 72 hour Protection Order where the police would take the child away if we felt the child to be vulnerable and be in danger in the situation where he was! We didn't cal them, as it happened he did roll in eventually, but we were so close!!!!!

Sigh.......

Lilka Sun 20-Jan-13 18:37:13

helpyourself - I think that supervision worked really well and I would prefer that to kicking people out, unless strangers turned up that DD didn't know, which is different. But as long as the guests are known and not causing any major trouble, having a responsible adult to confiscate alcohol etc around seems great to me.

After an up-down week, DD is over latest bout of severe tantruming. I don't know how else to put it. She really is like a toddler, and I really don't know any other 16 year olds who do this. I mean they shout and strop and cry but DD is something else confused

I admit I'm not sure how much aggression to put up with. I mean, what counts as 'violence'? Probably a question for Maryz, I totally understand the 'call police if violence' approach but I admit to putting up with a lot without contacting anyone about it. Slapping? Kicking? Shoving? But as odd as it sounds, I really find that easier to cope with some of the things she has done that are not violent but still aggressive - spitting on me, deliberately shoving her finger down her throat and throwing up on me. Peeing in a cup and throwing it at me. Lovely behaviour, thankly apart from spitting, very rare now, but I find it worse than kicking and slapping so it seems odd to call police over that. I just can't see myself doing it ever unless it really escalated. I compare her to DD1 at age 12/13 who was more violent and tell myself I can therefore cope with it and we can have a light at the end of the tunnel hopefully as happened before. I mean, once DD1 ran at me and went to cut me with a knife, and I didn't call anyone, although I considered phoning SS and asking them to put her back in care. But she was remorseful afterwords and she wasn't trying to stab me with it, just slashing motions, so I told myself we could progress.

Or do I just have the ability to rationalise a mountain into a molehill? I don't know. I don't experience violence on a daily basis either and we progress all the time, we're on more of a fortnightly episodes now. I feel that police etc might be 5 steps backwards

Maryz Sun 20-Jan-13 18:46:38

I may be very naive, Lilka, but I imagine it would be different for me if dd was violent than when it is ds, simply because of the size issue.

He is six inches taller than me at least, and much, much stronger. I was afraid that he would really hurt me - I couldn't take a knife out of his hand, I couldn't physically make him do anything. I was actually frightened of him - that's what made me draw the line.

I agree that things like spitting/urine etc is worse psychologically, and appalling to have to put up with, but (if you take it from a physical point of view) it doesn't actually harm you (easy for me to say, I know, but I hope you understand what I mean).

Part of the no-violence rule wasn't just to protect me, but also to protect ds as had he killed or seriously injured me there would have been no going back. And if dh intervened we could have been in the ridiculous position of ds accusing dh of violence (at which point ss would probably have actually done something, instead of refusing to get involved, and might have got dh out of the house hmm).

For me, the violence that made me call the police were once when I actually thought ds1 was going to kill ds2, and the second time when he got all the kitchen knives and I was afraid he would kill me, himself, or the first random stranger he saw when he left the house.

He has never actually hit me. And the only time he hit dh was when he was very young, and dh tried to stop him leaving the house. So for us violence was more against property (holes in walls, broken doors and windows, cupboards smashed etc.

Wishing, I never got anywhere with the police bringing him home and getting orders to keep him out of other people's houses. He just told packs of lies to everyone, police included, and made us out to be over-controlling [sigh].

Maryz Sun 20-Jan-13 18:49:04

Bigwuss, thanks for posting that. It means a lot that people try to understand, even though they thankfully aren't in the same position as many of us.

I really appreciate it. And maybe if more parents read this kind of thread it will make them understand that the feral teenagers they are trying to keep their kids away from might actually have nice parents who are trying their very best to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Lilka Sun 20-Jan-13 19:15:13

Yes Maryz, I think size is probably a big thing, she is not very tall or heavy built or strong. Physically, I can hold her down. And even though she can be violent, I feel that when violent, either she isn't so out of control she would do me a serious injury or kill anyone, or she's SO out of control she's incapable of doing anything serious. I don't know if that makes sense to you, but she can have PTS episodes where she will dissociate completely and be in a frenzy of kicking and rolling on the floor BUT she is so babylike then i don't think she would have the wherewithal to try and attack me with a knife etc, i don't think she would have the control over herself and her body to pick it up and use it. So I feel like I have some control over the situation and I can keep myself and certainly DS safe.

If it was a tall strong 16 year old boy who I couldn't physically do anything with and I though really could hurt me, yes different matter i agree

And I do understand you about the psychological vs. physical. Psychological stuff harms psychologically (i mean, it really does, it's awful), but doesn't put me in imminent danger of my life.

MuchBrighterNow Sun 20-Jan-13 20:28:04

Lilka Your dd shows a very creative immagination in her abuse ! How awful for you. I have been spat at and had a lot of things broken but generally Ds saves the hitting and punching for himself. He showed me a big bump on his head yesterday where he'd punched himself whilst having a tantrum.

I suppose it boils down too how afraid the behaviour makes you feel. Whether it is putting anyone in danger. I worry that Ds could in a fit of temper do real damage inadvertently to someone as he tends to throw heavy items around. Sometimes he's kicked off in the car and that's really dangerous for whoever's driving.

I'm not sure at what point I would call the police. I've had the phone in my hand ready on several occasions but never phoned yet
Where we live they would probably take ages to get here and I worry it would have blown over by the time they arrived or Ds would have walked out by then.

Brightspark1 Sun 20-Jan-13 21:58:55

lilka , working out what constitutes violence can be difficult, I remember DD acting in similar ways; vomitting over the banister was a good one! She did escalate to physical violence, but in a weird way it was worse when she threw an entire bottle of food colouring over me, it was blue- And so was I for a while! It took bloody ages to get off confused . It wasn't exactly an incident to call the police over, but the intent behind it was just the same as if she had hit me - malice and inarticulate rage. I can't remember much od your backstory, but do you and DD have any support from CAMHS or similar? It sounds like you are going through hell, treading on eggshells waiting for the next outburst is a hell of a way to live. It's so important to build some escape for yourself into your life, even if it's just going for a coffee or something.

Brightspark1 Sun 20-Jan-13 22:16:56

flow and maryz, thanks for your support. You're right, I know it was the meeting rather than me that possibly precipitated the incident; but the meeting was at my instigation. It seems to me that every time things seem to be going well for DD, she does something to sabotage things. It's as if she is scared of doing well, she seems to see it as pressure in that it raises everyone's expectations of her. Despite being dyspraxic, she is very bright but has never tested her potential.
She is so quick to do herself down... FFS she rang the police after hitting out on Friday - she wanted to be punished, I'm a bit concerned that she may punish herself if no one else does. No charges are being pressed though.
One thing I've decided is that I have to let go of my old life as a parent, I will always be DD's mum, but won't be on a day to day basis. My contract comes to an end soon, and I've decided to look for a full time job, even commuting to London if necessary. Ideally I'd like to move back to London, in this small town I live in I can't go down the street without seeing DD's old friends or parents who either blank me, or worse give me pitying looks.
This disengaging business is so bloody hard to do isn't it?

Lilka Sun 20-Jan-13 23:36:38

BrightSpark - yes, we've had quite extensive support (thankfully) in the past through CAMHS and a specialist therapy centre. She made improvements following our time with the centre, she had EMDR therapy which really helped her PTSD. Her aggression improved - the throwing urine/throwing up on me incidents almost completely stopped following that, the spitting hugely reduced, violence reduced, school performance improved. It's been a bloody long struggle, but we're so much further on than 5 years ago, although she obviously still has issues which make life hard sometimes. Right now, she's finishing up a course of art therapy. One of the hardest things was the loss of support for ME after we left the centre. It was great for parents, they supported me and provided things just for me. I don't have that now. And I read this thread and frankly every one of us should have that!

It's not hellish for me right now, I do sometimes/often walk on eggshells and we have horrid days. But we have good days and good weeks and I couldn't live without her (as she is now). Janurary is a bad month for her in general, because it's stressful, a routine change (going back to college), and it's the month a lot of moves and traumatising things have happened to her in the past, so it all comes back up again now. I do need my escape hours, thankfully my part time work is a godsend and her college attendance is good so I do get hours where my mind can be taken fully off problems

flow4 Sun 20-Jan-13 23:40:41

Yeah, I'd second all that about the inarticulate rage - my DS has smashed countless things over the years, and I didn't ever phone the police until I was actually afraid he might smash me. sad

Funnily enough (well actually, it wasn't so funny, but bear with me...) I have just lost my temper at him, screaming ridiculous fury at him for the first time in about 3 years. It was all because he had worn DS2's games socks (yes, I know) hmm I caught him earlier as he was going out, and told him to take them off, and he didn't... A couple of hours later, DS2 spotted him and was cross because he needs them for tomorrow (but his crossness is very controlled: he said "Do you see why I hate him so much?" and stomped upstairs)... Then DS1 basically tried to duck responsibility and said it was my fault because I knew he was wearing them... And I started shouting... blush (In my defence, there's a bit of a backlog of things I've wanted to scream at him about!)

It's all totally trivial and a bit embarrassing but it's interesting, because it's the first time I've screamed at him in years - because of that 'walking on eggshells' thing. I have had to stay controlled because I was scared of setting him off... But not this evening...

I think it signals the fact that I'm not scared of him losing control any more - and he didn't. Phew. I guess that's progress. hmm

Those bloody socks are in the washing machine now!

flow4 Sun 20-Jan-13 23:46:09

Bright, letting go of your 'old life as a parent' sounds difficult and very brave, but a Good Thing.

Has anyone else ever thought that those of us who are dealing with difficult teenagers are incredibly brave? Not in some wishy-washy condescending way; but real, adrenaline-pumping physical and emotional courage... smile

njaw Mon 21-Jan-13 01:45:03

I can't begin to tell you how reading this thread has been a huge relief and brought about terrible sadness at the same time. Relief that there are other good parents out there facing some of the horrible stuff (and so much worse) that we are and sadness at how much you are going through.

DS2 is 12 and seems to be spiralling out of control at a terrifying rate. I've just spent 3 days at home as he managed to get himself suspended from school for leaping out of the school bus emergency exit and then telling the bus driver where to go. This is the latest in a long series of events where he has just seemed to lose all boundaries.
He's not taking drugs of that I am absolutely 100% sure, I'm very aware of the signs so I must be grateful for that. His bio father has just returned from 8 months away at her majesty's pleasure for conspiracy to supply and I'm totally convinced that a lot of DS's anger is surrounding this. My exMIL suggests its perhaps my fault as I refused to let him go and see him when he was away but then of course it's a lot easier to blame me than look closer to home lol! His father had weekend access for a few years then in the last 3 years was more interested in being away with the fairies than his son. When I realised what was happening, I restricted access to accompanied only to protect DS.

Till a year ago, my boy was one of the most empathetic and sweet natured kids on the planet and he still shows signs of it. I hate to say it but he's almost schizophrenic from this cute, understanding child to. .. How do I describe him?

Anger beyond understanding? I have tried it all, removal of privileges, reward schemes, staying very very calm in the face if him losing it entirely. I have lost count of the number of occasions when I have calmly stood in front of him and said "stop now and take yourself out of this so we don't escalate to something you'll regret later" to no avail. He's now struggling to stay in school not because he's not bright but because of the anger, we have a version of CAHMS coming up (some trial version of it) but I'm not hopeful as he's insistent that he doesn't want to talk to a stranger.

So now I've unloaded all this and I FULLY understand its nothing compared to what a lot of you are facing, I guess my question is, If you had your time over and could intervene before the teenage years, what would you do differently or is there even anything?

Apologies for any typos, autocorrect and lying in bed at 1:45 because I can't sleep doesn't make for great posts!

MuchBrighterNow Mon 21-Jan-13 08:04:02

njaw I am so sorry to hear of your worries for your DS. First of all there is absolutely no hierarchy in these situations. We all share the same worry/ stress fears...

I don't know if there is anything I personally could have done to change the way my Ds is. Maybe I wish I'd got a diagnosis and medication for ADHD when he was younger and more malliable. At the time I just wanted to accept him as he was and help him learn to deal with his character without drugs.... ironic now that he's self medicating himself into the abyss sad.

Be kind to yourself and let him know you love him... Disaprove of the behaviour but never the child... That's what I've tried and I am refusing just to believe I've failed as a parent.

Gosh, sorry you are going through this with your son njaw but welcome to the thread. I know how it feels to lay awake in bed, turning it all over and over and over...

I don't know what I could have done differently when he was younger. All my children have roughly the same personality traits - they are all stubborn, quite obsessive, articulate, intense characters. There is nothing easy-going about my children. DD has used those characteristics to make a successful, happy, settled life for herself, but DS1 has taken completely the opposite path in life.

If I was to turn the clock back, I don't know. I would probably have followed my instincts and tried to get a diagnosis for him. My youngest, DS2, has a diagnosis of AS and I strongly suspect DS1 does, too. Would knowing that beforehand help? Possibly not at all. But it might have given us some pointers when we were first struggling. But who knows?

Realistically, I suspect that a combination of personality, circumstances, obsessiveness, a drug culture within his peer group, and the excitement at being able to choose his lifestyle and defy his parents all crashed together and no amount of counselling, therapy, talking or even moving to a completely new part of the country (all of which which we did) , would have stopped him.

I think the advice on here given by the mighty flow and the amazing Maryz would be appropriate for you too - look after yourself , detach from the bad behaviour, remember that you will have a relationship with him for far longer than you both will have with the school (so make sure you put him first), and let him know you still love him.

foxy6 Mon 21-Jan-13 17:44:28

njaw I understand the stress with school My ds is 13 and was constantly in trouble in school . I felt this was having knock on effects with his relationship with us, so in My attempt to help him, us and his future, I have taken him out off school and am trying home educating him. the process is easier than I thought and there are no requirements on what I need to reach him. at the moment I'm concentrating more on our relationship and how happyness than formal learning. he has improved and is calmer, but its hard and he still flips just not everyday now.( excpet over christmas) he used to say he wasn't stressed with school everyone was just having a go at him for doing nothing. he now says he does feel less stressed.
I'm hopeful this will have made a difference to the future I used to see for him but only time will tell.
good luck xx in what ever you decide to do and be nice to yourself too.

Brightspark1 Mon 21-Jan-13 21:13:58

I second muchbrighter ,there is no hierarchy on this thread. Each of us is dealing with different issues and problems, each difficult in their own way, and each of us trying to manage in our own way.
There are many things I wish I had done differently, from choice of schools to accepting that DD needed help at age 11, when she cut off her hair and gave herself nosebleeds. She seemed to get over it and in years 8 and 9 seemed to be doing really well.
But as maryz says, regrets are futile. I did what I thought was best at the time with the information I had at the time. I can't even be sure that doing differently would have actually changed things. Looking back is pointless, I can't go back and undo things, so I am trying to carry on doing the best I can now. I think we all are.
Lilka you've had 5 years of this! I stand in admiration of you, you sound very together. I've often complained on this and other threads that there is so little support for parents, especially for parents of children with MH issues. That's why this thread is so important as a safe space to share, support and offload to others.
flow are we brave? I don't know, we carry on because there is no alternative. I certainly don't feel brave, just lurching on trying to make the best of things.

Midwife99 Mon 21-Jan-13 22:07:52

Njaw I second that there is no hierarchy here. I wish I could say something reassuring but when I look back to my 19 yo DS when he was that age his behaviour was similar & got worse as you can read up thread. BUT - he is one of 4 siblings, his elder brother is at the University of Manchester doing brilliantly & is a kind lovely guy who has never given me a moment's worry. His younger sisters are happy well behaved kids too. This tells me that I AM A GOOD ENOUGH PARENT. You are too. Sometimes no matter what you do they are on their own path & only they will finally choose to change it. Support & love him but don't let him destroy the rest of your kids' childhoods in the process.

njaw Mon 21-Jan-13 22:09:02

Thank you so much for all of your feedback, it really is invaluable. There are days when I really feel like I'm struggling to put one foot in front of the other, not so much because of the here and now, just the fear of him getting bigger, angrier and the fear of what could be ahead if he we can't help him work through this anger. DS1 is also hard work at the moment as he's in the midst of GCSE's and has the work patterns of a narcoleptic sloth.

Certain elements seem to be really frequent in a lot of the posts and so I started looking at ADHD/ASD as possible reasons behind some of DS2's behaviours. I found and downloaded a Connors Test and asked him to do an assessment whilst I did one as his parent. We both came to an average response rate of 2.6 out of 3 though didn't match our answers on how we got there. I think I'll push this when we get to TAHMS/CAHMS and see what they think. When I first read the diagnostic criteria, it was just like "hahah that's him"

School seem to be supportive at the moment, we go in tomorrow at 8am for a Return To School meeting. We shall see how we get on but I know the wheels are being prepped for the train to permanent exclusion. I would love to homeschool but not sure I have the patience! Though heaven knows I could certainly tutor through GCSE's considering how long I've spent rifling through schemes of work for my darling DS1!

So another question? I am sorry, its like finding water in the desert being here and I want to grab as much as I can in case you are all an oasis that disappears when I think I might not be the only one!

Today, I got home to discover that a huge pile of ironing that had been done today had been dumped back in the laundry rather than being put away. After a long tiring day at work, I flipped out over the frustration of it. Yet I was OK and found plenty of inner calm when DS2 told me he had been sent out of another class today for arguing with a teacher on the day of his return to school after suspension. We discussed why he had to argue, how we can support him respond better next time, what he was feeling through the whole episode - all the while chanting my MN-STPTT mantra's!
Have I totally lost the plot or is it sometimes easier to be calm in the face of the rough stuff and lose it over the minutia?

AngryFeet Mon 21-Jan-13 22:23:14

Can I ask out of interest - did any of you notice problems when your DC were young? I mean 5-10 years old. Or did these problems come out of nowhere when they hit the teen years?

Lilka Tue 22-Jan-13 00:06:36

AngryFeet - Well, my DD has always been like this, with largely the same problems, it's just as a teenager she's bigger and stronger and has a lot more hormones!

BrightSpark - I take quite a lot of support from online forums, either posting or reading, and this thread is great, though I don't have the same issues most people here have. I've been parenting her like this (with these behaviours and her MH issues) since the day she arrived home with me, when she was just turned 8, although as I said the therapeutic input has actually made things better and she was much harder to live with 8 years ago in many ways. I completely agree that support for parents is abysmal

I think looking back and saying 'did I do anything wrong' is useless. That doesn't stop me from doing it though! I often find myself thinking 'oh what if I'd done this this and this 6 months ago' and even on a weekly basis 'oh that incident 5 days ago, I could have handled that better'. I try and force myself to think 'it's done, refocus'. Because I think for all of us here, the way we handled things WAS good enough. We deal the best we can, and it's appropriate even if 5 years later you think 'maybe there was a better way'. People need to try and rethink where the line between 'bad handling of situation' and 'good' is. This is something i can often do now. I can look and back and say 'well, I didn't handle it wrong, i handled it best I knew how, which is good enough'

Bad parenting is not what you've done.

njaw - Yes, I totally understand blowing up at 'minor' things and remaining deadly calm when something is seriously wrong. Maybe when things are dire, we sort of shut down our emotions a bit? i don't know.

flow4 Tue 22-Jan-13 00:33:39

I think it's impossible to answer that question, AngryFeet, because what has happened filters everything that did happen... And because it's all chicken-and-egg stuff...

I can look back and say that my DS was in trouble all the way through school. He was bullied and was one of the 'rough' ones most likely to be told off for fidgeting or messing about or knocking someone over in the playground, and always more likely to lose his temper than other kids... In fact, there was a period of several years when other lads used to bait him, for fun, just to watch him go off like a rocket and get into trouble... hmm

Or I can look further back and say that he was an exhaustingly lively toddler, who never stopped moving, and never slept through, not once, until he was 3.5... Or further still, and say that he breast-fed for 50 minutes out of every hour for several weeks after he was born... Or that when I was pregnant, and doing that thing where you have to check your baby makes 10 movements in a day, I woke up one morning and counted 94 movements in my first minute of consciousness...

Yes, DS1 has always been full-on, highly physical, and inclined to be hard work...

But who knows whether any of these things are actually significant? It's a human instinct to look for 'patterns'in things, and my experience with him over the last couple of years makes me notice and remember the ways in which he has always been challenging. If he was a sweet, gentle, thoughtful boy now, perhaps I wouldn't think twice about all those traits I've just described. There are probably people reading this now who have gentle boys, who can also remember them as boisterous toddlers or hyper middle-schoolers...

Ultimately, if you're worrying about 'warning signs' and 'prevention', then you are focussed on the future and the past, not the present... And that isn't good for your health and sanity, and it isn't going to help your DC. You can't affect the past or the future; you can affect right now, so if you want to make changes, that's where to focus your attention and efforts. smile

MuchBrighterNow Tue 22-Jan-13 07:57:43

Flow I think you got my Ds twin ! Your description is perfect for him even down to the hyperactivity in the womb and the kids baiting him because he lost his cool so easily!
I am trying to stay in the present. When I think of my Ds' future I try to autocorrect all my disaterous immaginings and instead try to visualise him as a happy, healthy adult.... it does help.

njaw Tue 22-Jan-13 10:46:00

Practical advice needed - if I need TAHMS (local version of CAHMS) to move at more pace, what pressure do I apply and where?

Been to school this morning, bit disastrous and they advised me to really push them for a re-booking of the appointment. I'm thinking at this point my best bet is to emphasise the fact he's facing expulsion as I know that's hugely costly to the council? Anything else I should use?

Midwife99 Tue 22-Jan-13 11:01:55

Angry feet - my DS was different almost from the day he was born. He was an incredibly demanding baby & needed to be cuddled & breastfed constantly. He breast fed until he was 2 1/2 & was very attached to me. From a toddler he became increasingly "naughty" & I kept saying to the Health Visitor that I thought he was hyperactive as DS1 was only 15 months older but completely different. Then when he started school within 5 minutes of his new check with the school nurse she asked if I had heard of ADHD & gave me questionnaires to complete & he scored 100%. He saw a paediatrician at 5 & started on Dexadrine. He stopped complying with taking medication at about 8. It did make him easier to handle temporarily but not for long!!

Midwife99 Tue 22-Jan-13 11:04:20

Njaw - maybe say he's at risk of offending behaviour & that your family is on the verge of breakdown. Once social services & probation get involved CAMHS move quicker. Try every way to stop him using Skunk as this was the beginning of the end for my son's mental health.

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