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What can I do to help my 18 year old son?

(11 Posts)
Allottwant Thu 02-Jun-16 22:17:08

My son is lovely - kind and caring, but he can't seem to cope with anything in the real world. He's always been a bit 'quirky'. He had a few friends through primary school, but more due to my friendship group with other playground Mums and organising play dates for him.

At secondary school he hung out with a small group whom his tutor called 'The Randoms' - you know, those kids who nobody else really wants to hang around with sad(( We switched his school for sixth form at his request and he found solace in the army type activities, made a few friends and spent a lot of time involved with the combined cadet force. He talked of joining the army but we have persuaded him to try Uni first. The problem is he can't do anything for himself - he just avoids dealing with anything at all that isn't his hobby (martial arts). He nearly failed his GCSEs as he didn't complete any course work until it was too late (we saved him by practically writing it all for him at the eleventh hour).

It was the same with his A levels which he got low passes in and now he's on a gap year and has managed to get the sack from 3 really casual jobs due to taking time off and not organising it with the bosses. He can't hold a conversation - never listens, never follows a conversation, just responds with (unrelated) random facts about whatever he's googling on the internet at the time. He sits on his x-box pretty much all the time he's home, switched off and absorbed in fantasy shooting worlds. He never sits with us as a family in the evenings. I think he might be on the spectrum.

Despite endless chasing (in a gentle way) he's failed all year to get organised with his deferred Uni place and is not sorting anything out himself like accommodation or a student loan to get organised to go in September.

I feel like I've failed him. He's reached adulthood and cannot cope with anything in life. He's the eldest of three and the younger two are absolutely fine - independent, sociable, manage their school work & activities & busy social lives pretty independently and seem 'normal'.

Am genuinely worried and don't know how to support him. I've thought about trying to find him a mentor or counselling as his self esteem seems very low but don't know how to go about talking to him about it. Does anyone have any experience that might help point me in the right direction with either how to help him or what to do for the best?

Orac Fri 03-Jun-16 10:34:45

To be fair, while there are those who are on the ball and sort out their own accommodation and loans, lots of 18 year olds need help. I've certainly either stood over them while they did it or done it myself.
Your DS though, doesn't sound as though he really wants to go?

It normally annoys me on MN when people jump in and suggest ASD but you have an inkling yourself.

In the gentlest of ways I have to say it doesn't sound as though uni would be a good idea in September. If he has struggled to get through GCSEs and A levels and can't motivate himself to keep a casual job, I fear he would just fail to cope with either the work or looking after himself.Does he really want to go to uni? Why?
I have no idea and would not have thought about it but you say he flourished in the cadets, did you consider that army life might actually suit him?

Hopefully others with more expertise will come along and advise you.

Tralala33 Fri 03-Jun-16 10:45:28

Let him joint he army. He will learn those missing skills very quickly.

FauxFox Fri 03-Jun-16 10:49:25

If he wants to do it I would let him try the army. The intensely structured, planned lifestyle and solid rules and expectations may be what he likes about it. It sounds like the unstructured environment of Uni may not be suitable for him at the moment.

Lolimax Fri 03-Jun-16 10:52:20

How about him joining the Reserves whilst being an undergrad? My own DS sounds very similar and is the same age. He was a cadet though which gave him a sense of belonging and discipline. Now at 18 and a half the maturity light seems to have suddenly turned on. He's not uni material but will stay on in college and is going through Reserve assessment at the moment.
He's also joined a local running club where he's one of the youngest but runs about 8 miles twice a week. This has really helped his social and communication skills believe it or not. I'm so proud of him given that at 7 they put him slightly on the spectrum.
Maybe your DS just isn't ready?

TheFairyCaravan Fri 03-Jun-16 11:00:33

I agree, let him join the army. Don't make him go to uni it doesn't suit everyone, if he doesn't get on there it's a waste of time and money.

DS1(21) joined the army at 19. He got 3 As in his A levels, had his uni place, his accommodation and loan all sorted but at the eleventh hour he said he want going. He'd always wanted to join the army so that's what he did.

He wasn't the most organised kid before he went, he knew where things were but I couldn't find anything of his if I needed it, unlike DS2 who had everything neatly filed. He was really quiet, he didn't have that much self confidence. He liked spending most of his time on his own, down the gym or out running.

2 years on you would not believe the change. He is the most confident, outgoing young man. He will talk to anyone, look them in the eye. He's not phased by anything, he's a leader not a follower. He's very mature (he has always had an old head on his shoulders) and he looks ourt for people who are less confident, or unsure. He's made so many real friends, people ask him for advice.

He never used to put himself forward for anything, he does now. He's always on this course, that course, this team, that expedition. He's abroad, on exercise, at the moment. He's having the time of his life. This is the kid who really hated school trips.

Honestly, the army isn't right for everyone, but it's been the best thing for DS1. Tell your DS to get the computer out this afternoon and start his application. It could be the best thing he's ever done.

branofthemist Fri 03-Jun-16 11:04:51

Why didn't you convince him not to join the army.

It's possible he is on the spectrum, but it's also possible that you do too much for him. Did you really do most of his course work for him?

Is he used to you just jumping in sorting everything out for him?

And of course if he doesn't really want to go to uni, he isn't going to pursue what he needs to do.

I would say joining the army is the solution to all lazy teenage behaviour, but given that's what he wants to do, I am baffled why you are pushing him into uni.

branofthemist Fri 03-Jun-16 11:06:25

In wouldn't say joining the army is the solution to all lazy teenagers

My typo changed the whole sentence. blush

BeauGlacons Fri 03-Jun-16 11:09:26

Why do you want him to go to uni when he clearly doesn't enjoy studying?

I think the army would be a good experience for him.

Bisghetti Fri 03-Jun-16 11:09:30

I agree with Orac. He does sound like he has a few traits of someone on the spectrum (my son has Aspergers but is much younger). The structure of the army may really suit him. It sounds like it isn't the right time for him to try university and he may do better giving the army a try if he's still interested.

helzapoppin2 Sun 05-Jun-16 16:18:31

My DS was very similar.
Given the time over again, I would have persuaded him to postpone uni until much later until he was absolutely sure of what he wanted to study, and why, because you only get that chance once.
Although reasonably clever, due to lack of organisation, he never really succeeded there. In retrospect it was like we were setting him up to fail over and over again. After uni, he did some menial jobs, but then got a better one, and is now thriving. So there's light, but it takes time.
Socially, doing something involving others, like the CCF works well.

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