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School, college, job...all ground to a halt :(

(31 Posts)
whenigrowup Wed 25-May-11 09:49:56

I'm finding it very difficult to find a way forward with my eldest son at the moment. He's 18 now. Whilst at school he was known to be very intelligent but never performed well and scraped through 3 GCSEs; his plan at the time was to join the RAF which didn't work out so we were left high and dry for a year whilst we tried to work out with him what to do next. In the end he applied for business studies at college. Although he came below the stipulated grades, he was allowed in because he showed potential and intelligence. After a little more than a term it was obvious he wasn't coping. He never gets down to self motivating himself to complete work and organise his time (he is much more motivated to look in the mirror, do hair and chat online). College were extremely supportive but in the end the situation became so bad he was asked to leave. He registered online for the apprenticeship programme and applied to a local marketing company (which sounded right up his street). Once again, he wowed in the interview and was accepted. However, once again, six weeks in he was depressed and stressed. Part of this I can understand because he was involved in doing lots of 'cold calling' which is never good at the best of times, but he coped with it badly and last Friday handed in his notice as he said he couldn't cope with a couple more years of calls.

So we're back to square one. He now says he wants to run his own business. I've spoken to him and told him the main thing he needs to do is decide what he really wants to do but also earn some money. How do you cope with a mixture of arrogance and defensiveness, the accusations that I don't have faith in him to get his life together and yet I can see he has no self motivational push or, really, any knowledge of the big wide world out there. We live very rurally so not easy access to resources (although buses from village four miles away so not impossible). His father and I are taking the approach that we will obviously take care of him, feed and water him, etc, but that he needs to get organised to earn money, even on a casual basis, rather than let everything take care of itself. Anyone else coped with anything similar?

thaigreencurry Wed 25-May-11 09:55:59

I feel for you both. He sounds like me at 17.

It sounds like he struggles to get organised and feels overwhelmed when he has lots to do or is faced with difficult tasks. Is he like this in other aspects of his life? Is he always putting off things and losing or forgetting deadlines?

Socy Wed 25-May-11 10:44:30

Is it possible for you to fund some sort of gap year type volunteering? There are places in the UK that accept volunteers so it doesn't have to cost the earth but if he were to be away from home for a while it might help him to 'grow up' a bit.

Socy Wed 25-May-11 10:46:23

btw I think he did the right thing giving up on the call centre work if he couldn't cope - a friend's daughter ended up having a breakdown doing similar work.

ggirl Wed 25-May-11 10:49:56

why did the raf thing not happen
how about joining the army to train in career he's interested in

enidroach Wed 25-May-11 12:56:48

I too think he is wise to give up the cold calling work - it is totally soul destroying. Do you think your son would be more suited to physical work? One of my brother's was like this - very intelligent but kept crashing out of "good" office jobs my dad managed to get him through friends. In the end he trained to become a carpenter and was much happier for many years and is now training to be a physio. My friend was a total droput at everything when I was that age - she had about 10 jobs in one year and was always late, taking sickies etc until she did hairdressing and totally changed.

I think it can take a long time (if ever) to get a good fit for many people. I think the gap year type thing is good but can be expensive and with some you have to do door to door chugging to raise a certain amount towards the cost - so you need to research things. The National Trust run volunteer holidays - you don't get pay and you have to pay for accommodation but it would be experience. Do you have a local CSV centre that could give him advice on local opportunities - it might take the pressure off and lead to somethingelse.

I used to teach on Access courses which are fantastic for people who missed their qualifications at school and need some help at going back into Further Ed - most accept over 21's - so he could go to uni in a few years after maturing and getting to know himself a bit more.

However - that is the theory but in reality I too am struggling - my DD (18 too) is talking about not going to uni and has no idea what to do with her life either ("she doesn't really like anything") - and seems to think its kind of my fault. It would be a disaster is she was sat at home on the internet all day next year, I don't think the boredom would give her a push at all to do anything else - so I understand your dilemma.

Having your own business is great - but you need some start up capital and a good idea and often experience before you can start. Does your son have ideas? I think the Prince's Trust can help with mentors, writing plans etc.

Good luck - will also be watching this thread for more sagely advice

noscat Wed 25-May-11 13:21:37

I second the Prince's Trust - they run taster courses in various fields and are a good way of trying something out before you jump in. They also boost morale & self-esteem, well worth a try. My daughter suffers from depression and anxiety, but has just completed a week's course with them - first time she's actually finished anything for years!

gerardway Wed 25-May-11 14:43:55

Hi wheni I could have written your postsad. I have no advice and am praying my DS doesn't have to leave college again. I was shouted at today as he's on study leave and I asked him to stop playing Minecraft and revise instead hmm. I will watch this thread in the hope someone can give us both the help we need. Good luck!

whenigrowup Wed 25-May-11 17:38:32

Oh my goodness! Thank you so much for your replies, just reading them makes me feel so much less alone with this problem smile Thaigreen, yes, he is completely disorganised and I suppose I've not helped by stepping in too often and followed him with a metaphorical dustpan and brush (!). I agree with all of you who've commented on the cold calling; I sympathised with his stress and am not sad that he's left that behind (I'm a lot kinder to people calling me now). I have thought of volunteering as an option for him but he is constantly telling me that he can handle things himself and that he wants me to have faith in him to sort things out himself...I know he should be thinking independently at 18 but I also see the complete lack of life experience. He comes across as incredibly articulate and intelligent (which he is) but he is also very naive (in a business/world sense). I have told him about the Prince's Trust and suggested that they would be good to bounce ideas off and get an unbiased view on his plans (thank you to those of you who suggested this as well smile ). Enidroach and geradway thank you for your thoughts and words, Lets hope we find a way through...

whenigrowup Thu 26-May-11 11:31:34

Fraught morning today. We've had four days of son wandering the house, watching TV, changing clothes and using his phone. I raised the matter of getting some part time immediate work (or at least starting to look around). I go ta reply of "Yes, yes, I know I've got to find something", "I'll get on with it myself", etc. No sign as yet. His argument at the moment is that he's getting his head straight and is being paid for the two weeks notice that he is serving (but not needing to actually work it). I'm torn between feeling the urgency to keep him on track and actually doing something and giving him space to sort himself out and take his own action. His father and I have decided that we will feed and water him but not provide money for his social life until he takes some action to look for work himself. Like any parent, if we see he's making an effort then we'll help him out ourselves, but not if there's no effort on his part. From my point of view there's so many conflicting feelings and advice from friends and family. Just about to go and have lunch with my parents and I know that they'll take the view that he should've stuck out his job and should sort himself out; part of the stress for me is dealing with other peoples reactions!
Just spoke to an entrepeneur friend of my husband who said that yound people like my son don't always fit the mould. They are intelligent but school doesn't work, they don't always find the right route for several, maybe many years but that isn't necessarily a problem as long as they are doing 'something', the bad experiences are as valuable as the good because they help formulate what you don't want to do as much as what you do want to do. The main advice being do something and possibly getting away. I think this is great advice but am not sure how it'll all work out. I'd love him to get away from home for a while and gain some practical independence but I feel that the close relationship with his girlfriend might deter him from doing this.
This is going to be ongoing and I'm posting both for myself as a sounding board but also that it might be of some help to anyone else experiencing similarly with teenagers. It's such an overwhelming worry but at the same time I'm trying not to let it take over all aspects of life.

whenigrowup Thu 26-May-11 11:35:45

Meant to also add that when I put it to my son that he needed to get things on track and start thinking about earning some money for himself I was on the receiving end of the priceless comment that "Well what are you doing? you're at home at the moment and I don't see you being particularly busy or out there working all day". I decided that sometimes it's best not to be distracted onto other threads (I am at home at the moment 'housewife' and part time catering business).

noddyholder Thu 26-May-11 12:33:17

God I could have written this! Ds is 17 though and rather aimless. I have tried most things and swing between letting him get on with it and trying to motivate him and warn him of the peril of a lack of eduction in a difficult job market. What I will say is most of my ds's friends are the same all doing A levels atm but none doing well and more interested in festivals facebook and girls. College has said this generation are much less concerned about the future and are not driven to get to uni in the same way previous students were.Nightmare!

allbie Thu 26-May-11 13:34:59

How I smiled! Thankgoodness I'm not the only one too! We have an intelligent articulate 17yr old who has just crashed in 6th form. He has left and got out looking for a job. Amazingly, he got an interview within days and the hope of a job but the employers have kept everything up in the air so he doesn't know whether to go out and get more work leads or wait. He too has applied for the RAF but is waiting for processing. He too is absorbed by his hair, the mirror, his girlfriend, facebook and transformice!!!AAArgh! I am on a rollercoaster ride and boy, do I want it to stop! He needs to get out and work, grow up and take responsibility for himself....if only it was that simple and easy.

noddyholder Thu 26-May-11 13:40:17

My ds puts no effort into college and we have suggested he leaves gets a part time job for the summer and re starts on a more suitable course in September but he just refuses??? He really thinks he can get away with the minimum and if A levels go pear shaped he will get a job when they do! He has always wanted to go to uni to study film and I just can't see him getting there. He is hugely distracted by his best friend who is on the same courses for 'fun' as he has no intention of ever going to uni or studying film. I am beginning to think work may mature him but I also want him to experience uni and travel etc before RL kicks in. Driving me nuts!

enidroach Thu 26-May-11 15:00:04

whenigrowup - I get the same stick from my DD for not having a "proper"job!

Like everyonelse on here I too vere between trying to motivate and thinking sometimes perhaps I should just shut up and let her get on with it. I think my situation is different in that DD doesn't have a good social life atm and so would be very isolated if we just let her give up.

When I finished Uni in the early 80's there was not much around where I lived so most people bummed around for a year or so and then came to London to get work or went back to do further study - perhaps kids just grow up faster now and want the break younger. I also don't remember the same pressure about getting results at GCSE (o level as it was then) and all the exams were at the end of the 2 years - so there was none of this constant coursework and modules to do which I think really turns kids off education and doesn't reward progression. My DD2 in year 10 is already fed up with GCSE work and saying she doesn't want to do A levels..

My DD1 feels it is all just an endless road of grind with no decent end in sight. Of course DP and me are dreadful examples of how all that work pays off!since we are not millionaires.

I have read quite a lot of stuff lately about leaving your children alone and they will motivate themselves in the end and it doesn't matter if it takes some longer than others.However, I know too many people who never took responsibility and are 50 year old children with shattered lives to totally trust in that theory.

noddyholder Thu 26-May-11 15:01:19

Just had text from ds. He is going to quit college and re start in September and 'work hard' hmm

cheapskatemum Thu 26-May-11 20:52:46

I thought we were sharing a DS1 when I first read your post! Granted, I didn't know about the RAF application, but apart fom that they're very similar, even down to the abandoned business studies course. GP referred him to psychiatrists for possible ADHD diagnosis, but they thought not. He had been self-medicating with marijuana, which affects motivation. I think the fact that they're the oldest is relevant - they feel they are under more pressure to achieve (&, in our case, I think he's right). He gets job seekers' allowance, would your DS1 be entitled to that? It took a while for mine to get to the job centre to apply for it in the first place. The actual job seeking has gone up a gear, from neutral to gear 1, now his GF has gone travelling (she's on her gap year & has saved up for this by waitressing for 9 months).

whenigrowup Fri 27-May-11 19:23:28

Hang in there noddyholder, I think I can sense your trepidation completely. My daughter is currently doing GCSEs and may do ok enough to go to college but I'm really not at all sure how her motivation will last. Cheapskatemum who'd have thought my son would have a twin! I too wondered whether I should've consulted a doctor/educational psychologist but my instincts tell me it wouldn't result in any medical diagnosis. My son does feel as if we don't have any faith in him and is desperately keen for us to value his achievements (when they happen; I don't mean that to sound as negative as it does). I didn't think he'd be entitled to job seeker's allowance at 18, that's interesting, I'll look into that.

cheapskatemum Fri 27-May-11 21:30:40

Wheni - interesting that you'll be the one looking into the jobseekers' allowance, rather than him. That is one lesson I've had to learn - back off & let him do it - in his own time. Even if you need the patience of a saint! Of course, I had to learn it the hard way, when DS1 was not coping with his BS course, I tried phoning the college to find out what was going on. His tutor would not tell me anything, citing data protection act. Either DS1 had to speak to him, or give permission in writing for me to do so (ha! Like that was ever going to happen!) or we saw him together. In the end we did the third option, but by the time we'd got to that stage, it was too late for DS to catch up on the work missed, so he withdrew from the course. I too feel that I have to praise him for breathing!

whenigrowup Sat 28-May-11 09:36:16

Good point cheapskate; HE should be the one looking into it. Think I'll have to sit on my hands a bit more rather than dive in to sort out! Summer is going to be interesting as his girlfriend will have finished A levels and will be waiting for her uni course to start (similarly, she has held down various part time jobs in order to fund her horse riding hobby and fuel a car and seems to have a much stronger work ethic).
Think DS1 has a lot of swallowing of pride to do and a lot of learning of the big wide world (especially if he's going to have to learn the ways of using a job centre). At 18 he doesn't really know anything and is quite scared of what's out there, but, obviously, would never admit this and angrily rejects my attempts at support. He hasn't come out and said anything but I know he is keen for me and my husband to support him financially in his embryonic business ideas (as well as house and feed him), we are happy to do the latter but feel he should be dealing with the former himself. His dad and I are trying to talk to him about finding work in order to fund his own ideas.
He knows his own weaknesses. He is intellient and articulate and comes across incredibly well in interviews and in conversation but then has problems sustaining the work that follows (be it school, college or work). He doesn't seem to grasp the concept of working for a long terms gain, be it travelling, socialising or setting up his own business.

gingeroots Sun 29-May-11 09:51:11

Was on point of starting a thread entitled something like "when does the stress ever end ? "
So lovely to know that I'm not alone - waves at enidroach same situation with DS regarding social life - another one here whose DS has left the sixth form within weeks of finishing his A2's .
And I do think the fact that it's been constant exams for the last 5 years ( he repeated year 13 ,three quarters of it anyway ) has not helped

He has a handful of UCAS points from his one A level and AS's and is planning on going to college for a Foundation Degree in Animal Studies .

But the place is tiny ( 100 students live in ) and more like a strict boarding school than anything else . If he doesn't fit in it will be hell .

Personally I think he should have a year off and reapply somewhere bigger .
Year off would have to be structured though ....

Am going to search for link to some sort of International school thingy ,abroad - sort of healthy /hippyish ?
Ring any bells with anyone ? Think it has a german title or something ?

Please can we keep this thread going - sometimes it feels like I'm the only one with a child not getting there .

BusyBodd Mon 30-May-11 20:11:32

One of the things I've noticed about my similar DS is that he gets there, kind of in the end, but it takes him longer than his contemporaries and he has to do things the hard way. It's just who he is! A friend has had a similar situation and her DS has finally completed a course and got into Uni and is leaving home at past 20 mainly because he got bored and fed up with being stuck at home with hardly any money and no prospects, but that took a couple of years! He's actually going to do really well and that helps me to hang on in there.

gingeroots Tue 31-May-11 08:54:50

busybodd - sounds a better route to Uni than the conveyor belt of exams ,uni we have at the moment .
Your friends son will probably be in a position to make a better choice of course and will probably enjoy his time more .

Goblinchild Tue 31-May-11 09:06:45

It's really hard, but I think sitting on your hands and letting them make mistakes is the only way to go.
A roof over his head and food, but that's it.
If his phone, and his hair products, his clothes and appearance matter to him, he will have to find some way to finance that. Looking a bit tatty without a fancy haircut won't kill him, and he won't be able to socialise without some cash.
You need to stop feeling guilty and feeling that you need to 'run after him with a metaphorical dustpan and brush' He needs help to become a young adult, and that might well call for some tough love and higher expectations of his independent skills.
If I could live in a house where my needs were met and no one ever told be to get off my arse, with meals and laundry done for me, why would I look for change? It sounds lovely.

cheapskatemum Sun 05-Jun-11 22:46:41

Had a really busy week, what with it being half term, but glad I found this thread again. I have come to the same conclusion as Busybodd - I believe DS1 will get there, by his own circuitous, hard way route, in the end. He's now 19 and I can see that he has grown up a bit in the last year, eg he now has a few recipes up his sleeve & will cook them for the family. He just wasn't ready for Uni at 18. Girls tend to be more sorted than boys at this age IMO.

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