Our 14yo nephew lives out of state, so we usually only see him once a year or so. We recently flew him out for a week long visit to our house and noticed some disturbing behaviors. We're not sure how to help him, so I thought I'd post here for ideas/suggestions.
Our nephew's mom is in prison and he lives with his dad and dad's girlfriend. DN told us that when he's home, he's only allowed to stay in his room, and he can only eat after everyone else has gone to bed. When DN was visiting us, he was constantly apologizing for every little thing. He seemed used to getting trouble for just being around.
A couple of nights, my husband came out of our bedroom around 2am to go to the bathroom and found DN drinking alcohol from our cabinet. When dh confronted dn, dn denied up and down that it was alcohol even though it was blatantly obvious that it was. He refused to talk about it. After dn left, we found that a bunch of our meds were gone as well...half a box of sudafed, cough medicine, and a couple of adderall pills.
We know that dn's dad is a heavy drinker and smokes pot. We believe that if we told the dad, dn would just get in trouble and wouldn't get the help he needs. We don't want to make dn's home life any worse for him.
What can we do to help him? He needs therapy, and was desperate to talk to us about his mom. He didn't know the most basic information about her. We were really surprised that no one had told him these things.
Any help would be much appreciated. Thank you!
I'm not sure how much can be done if you don't want to approach dad and the boy lives out of state. You can offer to pay for therapy but that will involve talking to dad. I suppose you could call CPS but you want to make sure you really understand the details and be willing for all to pay the consequences (if anything comes from it... it generally takes a lot for CPS to intervene.) You can obviously be there to talk but he has to be open to communicating with you.
I'm not suggesting that your DN is outright lying but teens do tend to exaggerate the faults of their guardians while leaving out important info on the part they've played in the scenario themselves... even totally healthy teens from loving and strong homes. Dad might be really messed up but you also need to consider that this is a boy who lied about drinking in your home and stole meds from you. You can't assume that despite the hard evidence you have of his dishonesty, he was totally honest about his home life. Like I said, I'm not suggesting that he's fully lying and that home is rosy... only that this is a kid who shows signs of an addiction and they can develop into master manipulators. It might be that Dad cares more than you are being led to believe.
Married mom of two, DD 17 and DS 14.
Thanks for the reply!
I completely agree that DN could have very probably exaggerated his home life situation. However, we've heard from other family members in the past that the dad and girlfriend are very quick to punish and there have been a few times where we haven't been able to see DN while we were in town because he was "grounded".
Our biggest worry is the drug and alcohol use. I know we need to tell his father, but I worry that DN won't trust us, and I question if anything productive would even come of it. We worry that DN will just be further punished instead of given any help. It's a really sticky situation. DH questions if we should do anything at all. Just continue to offer support and an open ear to DN. Perhaps he is right?
I was neglected and abused, and I was one of those kids who constantly said " I'm sorry " and just lived in a state of fear. I also started self medicating with drugs and alcohol pretty young to numb myself.
I think putting a teen in therapy while leaving them in a home like that is pointless.
I agree with your husband that giving the dad more information could make things worse, not better.
I think all you can do is continue to build a relationship with him. Let his dad know you had a great visit and he is welcome back ANY time. Tell him the same thing.
He is a kid who may have real need of a safe place to stay at some point. I ran away from home as a teen and never went back. If I had had an aunt and uncle somewhere who I knew cared about me, it would have had a huge impact on how the next 5 years played out.
but everything has pros and cons
I agree with Lindaonthemove. I would occasionally send notes and letters to him to keep the relationship open in spite of the miles between you guys. He needs to know someone cares. :(
Thanks for the input. I really appreciate it. I wish we could do more, but letting him know that he's loved and always welcome in our home is about all we can do.
We send regular Christmas and birthday gifts/cards, but I think stepping up our correspondence would be a great thing. We chat on facebook occasionally, but we could definitely do more.