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Did you once have a teen you despaired of who is now doing well?

(25 Posts)
Dumbledoresgirl Sun 30-Jun-13 11:57:48

Despaired of is perhaps too strong a phrase. I do not despair of my teenager, but the future ahead looks really bleak.

And by doing well, I do not mean necessarily academically or financially or any other of the normal connatations of the phrase 'doing well'.

I have a teenager - ds1 (17) - who is causing me so much worry and grief right now. He is not a troublesome boy. He is not into drugs, drink, sex. He is not rebellious. He does not break the law. He still, in a way, respects authority. So I know it could be a lot lot worse.

But he doesn't really do anything positive either. He goes to sixth form. He is intelligent but not so brilliant that he doesn't need to work. But he does little work - the bare minimum. He spends all day on his laptop in his room. He comes down to go to sixth form, comes home for lunch (in his room) comes down for dinner in the evening, eats it, and immediately leaves the table and is not seen again until morning.

He has a few friends - very long standing relationships - but all the running is done by them. If they made no effort, he would never see them. Even when he does see them, it is at home, in his room.

He has no ambitions for the future. No idea what to do after sixth form, apart from a vague plan to go to uni (if his grades will get him there - doubtful). He doesn't take a proactive role in looking at unis, courses, etc. He has no interest in going straight into work or taking a gap year.

Emotionally, he is totally separate from the family. He has three siblings he has always had a good relationship with (he is the oldest) but he seems to hate me and will only occasionally talk in the most vague terms to dh.

There is no pleasure or joy in his company anymore. I try to be cheery with him, but even my cheeriness seems to antagonise him. At the moment, I am deeply upset because the other day he told me he had no happy childhood memories. That cut me very deeply. I know teens say horrid things, but this wasn't said in the heat of an argument. We were actually talking amicably about life, and out he came with this considered statement.

I know we are all on a spectrum and he is probably at the very extreme end of it socially, but I don't know what to do or how to feel about him anymore. I look at photos of the smiling little boy he once was, and I wonder who is now living under our roof.

I know there is nothing anyone can say to help. I guess I really want to know that such an emotionally stunted teenager can one day turn into a reasonably happy, functioning adult. Please?

Zynia41 Sun 30-Jun-13 12:01:30

I would cancel the internet connection and see if it jolted him back in to the real world. maybe all his social needs are met by his lap top.

No happy childhood memories? if you know that you gave him a happy childhood then maybe he is depressed.

Dumbledoresgirl Sun 30-Jun-13 12:08:15

He needs his laptop for homework and it is difficult to know when he is working and when he is just using the laptop for games but yes, that thought has occurred to me. Of course, it would disrupt things for the rest of the family who can balance life with the internet, but certainly it is something I have considered.

Re the happy memories: I don't know what to make of it. He is such an odd boy. I hesitate to say he has special needs because he functions and has certainly got through many years without drawing attention to his needs (eg at school) but I do think he is at the extreme end of 'normal' whatever that means (sorry if my terminology is off). Yes, we gave him a happy childhood - holidays, birthdays, Christmas, love, attention, good food, warm home, loving siblings. I don't know if we did things wrong. We did our best. As for depression: possibly. I live with low grade depression all the time. Maybe he has inherited that from me? He was assessed some years ago for depression but refused to continue seeing the doctor when circumstances picked up for him.

glaurung Sun 30-Jun-13 12:15:51

oh poor you. I don't have any proper advice, but didn't want to ignore either. It sounds to me as if he needs to get fired up and a bit passionate about something (anything?). Has he done any work experience? I think I'd be trying to get him out of the house and doing stuff, but appreciate that's not easy. I think there are huge pressures on children that age these days, and I'm sure his behaviour isn't atypical.

wundawoman Sun 30-Jun-13 12:32:35

Yes I sympathize with you. I have a ds who is now 23 and doing well. His teenage years were difficult but did improve once he left school.

What is he using Internet for? Is it online games?? If so I would try and restrict the amount of time.

Also, how about organising some open day visits at uni?? See if he can find a course that would interest him.

The comment about unhappy childhood could have been said to get a reaction. I would try not to take it personally (difficult, I know hmm). Sounds like you have given him a lovely family life, he just might not realise it at the moment!! They can be very ungrateful at that age!!

Do you think he is introvert? If so, maybe that's just the way he is?

On the positive side, at least he is not trying risky behavior and he is attending school.

Good luck OP, maybe you'll find things improve when he's finished with school.

Dumbledoresgirl Sun 30-Jun-13 15:30:17

He did work experience in Yr 10 but it was not a positive experience. They were supposed to organise it themselves, but ds1 was so reluctant to do it, he organised nothing and in the end the school stepped in and organised something for him. I think he did ok on the placement. He is the sort of boy who wouldn't say much or make an impact but would get on with whatever he was told to do and is capable of doing it well. It did not inspire or interest him though.

As for is he an introvert - yes! Hugely so! He did one of those personality tests once and I think he was off the scale for introversion. My husband is also quite introverted, though it isn't so apparent in him, so he understands ds in that respect. I, on the other hand, though shy, am not at all introverted. I guess that is one of the things that makes my relationship with ds so difficult.

It is good to know that your son is doing well now wundawoman. I think if we can only clear the hurdle of getting ds into a uni or work, and he can find the course or job that interests him (most likely computers) then he should come good. I worry that he will never have a relationship with a woman, but that is for the future. Right now, I would settle for him just having a relationship with me. It hurts so much to have a child so distant and divorced from the family as he is.

recall Sun 30-Jun-13 15:40:14

Just to cheer you up, I remember my Mum's friend's son was a nightmare, always messing about, getting drunk, and he became addicted to gambling. My Dad always said he was a "no hoper"….

well, he got the last laugh, because now he is an extremely successful stock broker, and a multi millionaire. It seems that he turned around his gambling problem, and used it to his advantage.

Frenchvanilla Sun 30-Jun-13 15:50:24

Gosh, he sounds very depressed, OP

The 'no happy childhood memories' comment swung it for me- when you're depressed, it colours the way you see everything, even the past.

KatieScarlett2833 Sun 30-Jun-13 15:59:16

Yes. DD was an utter out of control nightmare aged 13 - 15. We despaired hmm
She is now nearly 18 and the sweetest, most kind, loving girl you could ever hope to meet.
MN was there for me in the dark times and it really helped me to cope.
I couldn't be more proud of DD and in a way, her past experiences have made her the person she is today. She's off to study Social Work in Sept. and I'm missing her already.

insanityscratching Sun 30-Jun-13 16:15:40

Ds2 is now 24 at school he was a nightmare (although at home he was always great), constantly in trouble, threatened with permanent exclusion numerous times. He had the reputation of the bad boy and lived up to it. He had teachers in tears, teachers off sick, teachers shouting "get out my fucking class" The HT hated him probably with good reason tbh
In sixth form at another school he behaved better but didn't often attend and didn't put in any effort. At 18 his best friend died and instead of uni he decided he wanted to work (I was glad in a way as he took his friend's death hard and I think he'd have drunk himself to death away from home)
He started in admin in Local Government, he found his niche and he's now in a managerial role leading a team of graduates all ten years older than he is. He's the youngest in that role by ten years but he's the top of his game. They are funding his degree at uni on day release and he earns more than his peers by far without any of the student debt they accrued.
I think he just wasn't suited for school, he likes work and is very conscientious. In his role he advises schools and when he first spoke to his old school they couldn't believe that he was the boy who had caused so much aggravation.
Maybe your son isn't suited to school and will thrive better in employment too.

Dumbledoresgirl Sun 30-Jun-13 16:19:47

Success stories always welcome and I am glad that your dd is doing so well now KatieScarlett. smile

I don't know about the depressed bit. I know it sounds like that, but you have to know ds first. He is very introverted, closed in on himself. It is not as if he can't smile or laugh - he has a very quiet dry humour and he can come out with some great one liners - it is just that he doesn't want/choose/? to engage with people. Dh spoke to him after the no happy childhood memories comment and he reported back to me that ds had not meant that when he said it, though I still don't know what he did mean.

But it wasn't said emotionally, iyswim? It wasn't said in anger or sorrow or in accusation (though I'm afraid I flew off the handle a bit and took it as a criticism blush). He just said it calmly and clinically. He doesn't 'do' emotions. When pushed, he can explode with anger, but it is short-lived. Other than that, I don't often see emotions from him, and he doesn't like displays of emotions in others (tough for our relationship, because I am a very emotional person).

I am not dismissing the idea that he is depressed though. I will continue to bear it in mind and see if anyone around him thinks this might be the case.

insanityscratching Sun 30-Jun-13 16:27:05

Are you questioning whether he might be on the autistic spectrum? ( I have two on it as well as ds above) It wouldn't be unheard of for the difficulties to be a bigger problem now and for a child to be no longer able to cope. FWIW my ds 18 with ASD has said pretty much the same about his childhood. I think he sometimes feels so bleak he can't see any joy. You could ask your GP for a CAMHS referral so that he can talk over his feelings.

Dumbledoresgirl Sun 30-Jun-13 17:25:19

That's useful to know, thank you. Yes, I have always thought he was bordering between 'normal' and 'some sort of syndrome'. I know nothing about it, but I am guessing aspergers. I assumed that, because it wasn't a problem in his education, there is nothing anyone would do for him. It is interesting to know that it is not too late to look into it.

He would hate the whole idea of talking to anyone though.

wundawoman Mon 01-Jul-13 12:19:38

Hmmm, it might be worth you looking up Aspergers Syndrome. It is very interesting to read about it. People with Aspergers show very little emotion and cannot show empathy with others. It's not that they don't have emotions, just have trouble showing it. Also they often avoid social situations, often have an obsession with one activity, often very intelligent and do very well in jobs that suit their personality. Aspergers is more common in boys. I find it fascinating and I suspect someone in my family is on the Aspergers spectrum, it has helped me to understand them better, that they are not deliberately withdrawn iyswim.

There are some great websites that are worth reading and some have a test you can run the symptoms through. See

Dumbledoresgirl Mon 01-Jul-13 13:29:29

Thank you for that link wundawoman. I read the home page and thought it described my son almost exactly, even down to the inability to lie (there was a famous-in-our-family incident a few days before he turned 4 when he was queuing to go on a gokart at an adventure farm - the minimum age limit was 4 and he was about 3 days short of his 4th birthday and tall for his age so I reckoned he was capable of peddling the gokart. But when he got to the front of the queue and was asked his age, despite me telling him beforehand to say 4, he said 3 and was turned away to much howling.)

So aspergers looked likely, and I was thinking maybe it would help me understand him better if he had a label, but I went on another site and got him to take a test and (assuming he answered honestly) he actually came out as not even a possible for aspergers. It surprises me, but there you go. So he is just back to being my oddball son now.

I didn't start this thread looking for a diagnosis for my son - I just wanted to hear from people who had a difficult time with their children but had lived to see them grow up into nicer adults - but I must admit now, I think it would have helped me to have had a label I could have attached to my son which would help me understand him.

Palika Mon 01-Jul-13 14:44:49

whatever it is I think all the hours alone on the laptop will make it really worse. My son would be the same if we let him. We put the computer into the kitchen, so we can always have an eye on him.
You just don't know what he is doing on his laptop - he might be addicted to pornography, gambling or gaming. Whatever it is, try to use your control to stop this while you still can.

Artyjools Mon 01-Jul-13 15:55:01

Dumbledoresgirl - I don't know where you read that those with Aspergers show little emotion and cannot show empathy, because that is completely untrue. However, those with Aspergers tend to misread social cues e.g. they will fail to recognise that someone is bored with their lengthy description of the ins and outs of a computer programme. That sometimes means that other people think they are strange and don't want to socialise with them.

That's not to say that OP's son doesn't have Aspergers, just that being unsociable is not necessarily a sign that he does.

Bonsoir Mon 01-Jul-13 15:59:13

You need to place a ban on eating in his bedroom. Eating must be restricted to the kitchen and dining rooms. He also needs to remain at the dinner table until everyone has finished eating. These are just basic manners that everyone in the family should abide by.

You also have to restrict internet usage because he is probably addicted.

RoseFlowerFairy Mon 01-Jul-13 16:03:33

Yes, once their complex unrecognised/undiagnosed physical health issues were recognised and started to be treated their behaviour and attitude changed.

Flicktheswitch Mon 01-Jul-13 21:16:26

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TooJung Tue 02-Jul-13 00:45:16

Hi, I wonder whether you would like to build on the fact that you and he were having a conversation about life? It sounds as if he trusted you enough to tell you something of how he is thinking at the moment.

Can you try to be a bit more conscious about behaving in a similar way to him, ie speaking amicably and in a considered way, rather than being cheery? I'm picking up some words you used in the first post to describe what works with him and what doesn't at the moment.

My younger teen had a very bad few years and I had to learn how to not set the pace when socialising with him. I have to follow his lead and be as sensitive as I can to what he can deal with and wants from me. He still eats in his room a lot, but is a cheerful loner now! He smiles a lot and is much more able to deal with me being more of my normal self, but I have to alter to careful mode if he seems in any way more distant or jittery.

He doesn't have clear plans for the future, so I don't rock the boat by trying to discuss this, apart from suggesting that he'd make a great personal trainer. We focus on the present and on doing things he enjoys now within the family household. So we play a lot of board games in between his gaming and surfing activities. He has a range of things he likes to do with his father too. We don't push him to do any more conventional social things.

I hope this is a little bit helpful.

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Tue 02-Jul-13 00:58:07

I have a son very much like yours (mine does have a diagnosis of Aspergers though). He caused me similar concerns as a teen but he has found his calling as a falconer. He is still socially isolated, despite being able to talk in huge public arenas for hours he cannot cope for 5 minutes in a pub/club/social setting. He spends his free time attached to his ipad, iphone and pc, usually all at the same time.

Princessjonsie Tue 02-Jul-13 02:49:29

My DS is now 19. He was arrested with shoplifting at 13. Refused to go to school in his last year, started college and nearly got kicked out and we hardly spoke for most of his teenage years. He would steal drink from the house and was smoking. He turned 18 and it all changed. They problem was he is very intelligent and could get what he wanted without really trying . He now in his 3 year T Uni , wants to take his masters and go into teaching , has a lovely girlfriend and tonight had an hour phone conversation where we chatted like adults and friends . We meet for dinner and I love his company and cry(when he has left) each time he leaves. He is kind and considerate. He no longer gets into trouble and no longer sm

Princessjonsie Tue 02-Jul-13 02:52:02

Smokes as he is a sports student. I wish I could say wht happened but I can't. I just hung in there and one day he just grew up and realised I was a friend not the enemy. I had rough days and we still do but they are few and far between. Hang in there it does get better. Good luck

Dumbledoresgirl Tue 02-Jul-13 09:07:15

Thank you especially to those of you who have encouraging tales to tell of relationships that have improved. It is heartwarming.

Toojung, yes I recognise what you say and think I do - mostly - try to be as you describe: taking my lead from him and not forcing myself upon him. The conversation we had about 'life' - sorry that was probably misleading, it probably wasn't as deep as that, I just couldn't remember what we were actually talking about, but know that it had a general theme rather than a specific one - but anyway, it was one of those occasions when I had put out feelers and felt that he was willing to talk a little. That is all you can do with him: test the waters, work out when he is open to a little conversation, and then not overstep the boundaries of how much he wants to say. I would say I find that quite hard as I enjoy talking and don't get enough opportunities to do so these days (!) but I have definitely learnt that I can't grab any conversation I want with my son. It has to be on his terms.

What I find upsetting is never being able to show my love for him, never being able to touch him, watching him recoil if I even try to recall a fond memory of him as a little boy. Oh and little things like he will never say goodbye when he leaves the house. But I guess I am sounding like a suffocating mother now. sad

I take comfort from those of you who say their child has become an adult whose company you enjoy and take pleasure in. And yes, Princessjonsie, I can imagine I too would cry privately if my son ever managed to achieve what your son has. smile

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