Should I be concerned? Need input from some experienced parents of teens! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 19 Old 05-20-2005, 11:12 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My oldest DS (14) has been a 'typical' teenager for the last couple of years - pushing my buttons, slacking on the homework, needing the clear guidelines and expectations. In general though, he's a good, morally conscious kid; and I consider our relationship to be pretty open and close. He's not embarassed to come to me with questions about anything, and we have very frank and open discussion. He's active in our church and seems to have good friends.

Back in December, he was involved in a horrible car accident (caused by a drunk driver) which nearly killed his father - thankfully, DS and his sister escaped with only minor injuries. He suffered a lot of PTSD and I worked hard to get him & his sister to talk about their feelings and deal with them. I did the best I could - DH was in critical condition at a hospital an hour away and I was there much of the time for the next six weeks. I let the kids know every day that I would arrange for them to speak to a professional if they felt the need; but neither of them wanted to, and they both seemed to be dealing with everything fairly well - if they needed to talk or cry, they came to me. DS did a big project on drunk driving last quarter, complete with enlarged photos of our demolished and cut up (DH and DS had to be forcefully extracted) vehicle. The day of his oral report, he came to me that night and said he was having nightmares; and he just broke down and sobbed. The next day, I asked him again if he wanted to talk to a professional counselor; and he said that the project had brought up feelings he hadn't yet dealt with (he hadn't seen the car 'til then). I asked him for several weeks afterward how he was doing, and he said that the nightmares had stopped and he felt much better since he "let it all out".

So yesterday I was cleaning out the car and I found this little tin box (like an Altoids tin) full of folded-up notes. It seemed like a diary - DS's random thoughts. "Mom and Dad are hypocrites." "They don't understand me." "My so-called 'friends' are jerks." Typical teenage stuff.

Then I find notes that indicate that some of DS's friends are cutting themselves, and that he is worried about that. That he considers himself a "worthless piece of sh**." That he has considered suicide but "would never do that".

At first I was really alarmed. But after I'd thought about it for awhile, I realized that he is EXACTLY like me at 14. I was writing the same stuff! (Although I would have hidden it well.)

I had NO self-esteem at 14, thanks mostly to my overly critical mother. I so didn't want to fail my own children in the same way...I honestly thought I had done a better job raising my kids.

So what should I do about this? Should I just let it go, talk to DS about it, insist that he talk to someone else?

Should I be concerned, or is this normal teenaged stuff?

Every baptized Christian is, or should be, someone with an actual (disturbing) experience, ... a close encounter, with God; someone who, as a result, becomes a disturbing presence to others. - Fr. Anthony J. Gittins, A Presence That Disturbs
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#2 of 19 Old 05-20-2005, 12:07 PM
 
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Hi- I'm not a mother of a teenager but I was a teenager very recently-and I do remember writing notes like that as I kid. My father was diagnosed with cancer when I was about 16 years old. He died four years later when I was 20 and my older daughter was 1 1/2/. It was very traumatic and I am just now starting to realize how much I miss him.

Those notes written by your son are most likely just venting. I often wrote notes like that when I was young, I would write things like, I hate my mom, I hate my family, that I cut myself, that I am depressed but too sacred to kill myself, ext. Now, when I wrote those things, I wrote them b/c in the moment I had feelings like that, but I knew I wouldn't act on them. In my experience, kids who are truly suicidal, depressed or disturbed do not write notes like that; generally they act out in much more agressive and sometimes violent ways.
I know that sometimes writing down things that you feel that are considered "taboo" or "concering" help to put things in prospective. It sounds as if your son is simply dealing with a lot of things regarding that accident, plus normal teenage feelings, and that can be quite a lot to deal with. He is probably just dealing with it the best way he knows how. I remember when my mom found those notes; she freaked out, and rightly so, but she didn't understand that I was just venting and I would never do those things. She ended up pushing me away when I most needed her-but it sounds like you and your son are very close, and that is good, you always need to keep the lines of communication open with a teen, and always good to appear non-judgemental and to address concerns you have calmly. Teens are very very easily pushed away from parents. I would keep a close eye on your son, and encourage him to talk about his feelings. I am not saying don't be concerned, but it's probably not as big as it seems. That fact that his friends cut themselves is somewhat concerning, but I did that for attention as a kid and I noticed about 80% of the kids who did it also did it for attention and once they found other ways of getting that attention they stopped that altogether. Sometimes kids just go through stuff, and the best thing you can do is just be there, and you know your child best.

Bethany, crunchy Christian mom to Destiny (11) Deanna (9), and Ethan (2)

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#3 of 19 Old 05-20-2005, 05:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you so much for responding, angelpie. I think I just needed affirmation that this behavior is normal teenaged stuff...I haven't been a teen for a LONG time, but I do remember it vividly; and how incredibly hard it was to navigate those waters, esp with my mother always criticizing me.

I'm not too worried about DS cutting himself - his notes seemed to indicate that he is very concerned about his friends who are doing it. One note even stated that he & a friend had made a pact not to cut themselves.

Every baptized Christian is, or should be, someone with an actual (disturbing) experience, ... a close encounter, with God; someone who, as a result, becomes a disturbing presence to others. - Fr. Anthony J. Gittins, A Presence That Disturbs
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#4 of 19 Old 05-20-2005, 05:58 PM
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The words suicide spark fear into me, as my mother committed suicide in her 20's.

Whenever a person mentions suicide, it means they are considering it. Is that arisk you really want to take?

Quote:
That he has considered suicide but "would never do that".
Now maybe he may not be 100% sure abotu suicide when he wrote that note... but what about when he has a big fight with mom and dad or his girlfriend breaks up with him? Will he consider it then?
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#5 of 19 Old 05-20-2005, 06:00 PM
 
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Skellbelle:

You should read Hold on to Your Kids. I think you'll find a lot of affirmation in it. It basically says that children (and teens) that are attached to their parents instead of to their peers will look to their parents for comfort and guidance and won't do the "normal" teenage stuff: cutting themselves, committing suicide, etc. It sounds like your son is very lucky to have you as his mama and is working through these tough times as best he can. Keep talking to him, and keep letting him know you're there and I'll bet you he won't do any of the things he writes about.

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#6 of 19 Old 05-23-2005, 12:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So, here's another question....should I tell DS I found these notes?

Every baptized Christian is, or should be, someone with an actual (disturbing) experience, ... a close encounter, with God; someone who, as a result, becomes a disturbing presence to others. - Fr. Anthony J. Gittins, A Presence That Disturbs
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#7 of 19 Old 05-23-2005, 02:13 PM
 
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That's a hard situation to be in skell...How do you think he would handle it if you shared with him that you read the notes? Would he lose the message and focus on the invasion of privacy? Or would he be able to hear/see the love, concern, and fear in your voice? Part of being a parent is protecting our children, no matter what. You are protecting him no matter what.

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#8 of 19 Old 05-23-2005, 02:17 PM
 
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I am so sorry that you and your family had to go through this trauma. Accidents of that magnitude take years to get through...especially if you're young and not really aware of what was the cause, etc. Give your DS lots of time.
I am a mama of a 15 yo and I have found notes, overheard conversations, etc and if I am concerned about anything I hear/read...i tell her. She is always "Mom...I cant believe you read that" or whatever and I say, ya know, I am your mom. I love you and I need to know that you are safe and that you can come to me no matter what.
Usually I will relate a story from my teen years with her and that will help her see that I am not just a mom but a girl too...it usually works and she will open up.
Bottom line is I want to be honest with her so that she is honest with me...thats where communication begins.
Maybe the two of you should spend some time alone and just "hang out"'
I truly think it pays to be a "cool' mom

P.S. I have two other children and its hard to find time with just one, but sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do
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#9 of 19 Old 05-26-2005, 05:42 AM
 
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you found the notes in the car in a tin i think it is ok to say you found them, i think on some level he wanted you to find them and is trying to find some way to ask for help, he may not know he is asking for help, teenagers often don't say hey i need help i am not ok, they find ways toa sk for help that don'ts eem like they are asking for help and they don't know they are asking for help, when i was a teenager iw as messed up suicidal and i kept trying to get help but i was so afraid of anyone finding out how depressed i was that i kept trying to hide how depressed and suicidal i was, i am lucky i survived, no one ever realized and i didn't get help till i was 20 and could afford to pay for therapy on my own

when a teenager says suicide it isn't normal teenage stuff, i mean maybe in a way it is soooo many teenagers at some point feel suicidala nd feel horble that maybe it is normal, but it doesn't mean they don't need help

so yeah tell him you found them, go with your gut, help him, and tell him how much you love him, i really wish someone would have told me that i was loved when i was 14

mama to two amazing children son 10/27/07 and daughter 07/07/11

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#10 of 19 Old 05-27-2005, 08:27 PM
 
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If you, Mom, think he needs a little counceling, then simply make an appointment for it. Don't ask him if he wants to see a councelor. I imagin if your ds had sprained his wrist you wouldn't ask him if he wanted to go to the doctor, you'd take him to get checked out. The right councelor at this time could really help him understand what's going on better, and help him feel normal.

This is off topic. I'm going to have to read "Hold On To Your Kids". Maybe there's something I'm missing (having never read it), but my understanding is that children this age are supposed to be, slowly, safely disassociating from their parents. Yes, they still need us, even when they push us away. But they're supposed to be learning how to be adults. Adults aren't attached to their parents, they are attached to other adults. And we don't wake up on our 18th birthdays knowing how to get along in the world if we haven't been gradually, safely pulling away from some years prior.

Again, I need to actually read this book. I'm probably misunderstanding the premise.

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#11 of 19 Old 05-28-2005, 02:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I was able to get some time alone with DS yesterday afternoon, and we had a long chat. He already knew what I had found in the car - he said he was embarassed that I'd found the notes but I could tell he was relieved I had, so that we could talk about them.

I think a lot of his feelings have to do with DH. He tends to be very hard on the kids; and right now he is dealing with a lot of anger, pain, and frustration (he still isn't able to return to work) from the accident, and he's been taking it out on all of us. I think this gives DS a lot of conflicted feelings - he was so sure that DH was dead in the immediate aftermath of the accident; then in the days following we didn't know if DH would pull through or not; then we had Christmas without DH and the kids only got to see him a handful of times while in was in the hospital (6 weeks). So when DH finally came home it was sweet relief, and very lovey-dovey all around, for awhile. Now things are getting back to "normal", only with the added complication of each of us dealing with PSTD to some degree. It's been hard on everyone.

We also talked about his friends who are cutting, and how worried he is and how much he wants to help them. I explained that he can only do so much - if they aren't getting the attention they require from home, he just can't solve that problem himself.

I asked him if he felt like hurting himself, and he said "No, not really." I reminded him how I felt the night of the accident, when I knew he was injured but I didn't know how badly; and how tremendously relieved I was to see him alive and unbroken, after an hour or so of my imagination running away with me. I let him know, in no uncertain terms, how devastated I would be if something terrible happened to him.

He cried a lot. He reminds me SO much of myself at 14 - I was having such similar issues at that age. I wish I could do more to reassure him.

For my part, I was a lot more reassured after I talked to him. I really believe that much of this is normal, teenaged stuff; but of course I will continue to keep a close eye on him, and the lines of communication open.

Thanks so much for all your input, mamas.

Every baptized Christian is, or should be, someone with an actual (disturbing) experience, ... a close encounter, with God; someone who, as a result, becomes a disturbing presence to others. - Fr. Anthony J. Gittins, A Presence That Disturbs
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#12 of 19 Old 05-28-2005, 09:13 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by journeymom
This is off topic. I'm going to have to read "Hold On To Your Kids". Maybe there's something I'm missing (having never read it), but my understanding is that children this age are supposed to be, slowly, safely disassociating from their parents. Yes, they still need us, even when they push us away. But they're supposed to be learning how to be adults. Adults aren't attached to their parents, they are attached to other adults. And we don't wake up on our 18th birthdays knowing how to get along in the world if we haven't been gradually, safely pulling away from some years prior.

Again, I need to actually read this book. I'm probably misunderstanding the premise.
for heidi

and yes, if you're interested in these ideas about teens separating, etc, please do read that book. honestly, it's the best parenting-related book i've ever read. it's wonderful.
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#13 of 19 Old 05-28-2005, 10:33 PM
 
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I would find a counselor for him, even if he says he doesn't want to go or doesn't think he needs it. He has done really well under the circumstances, but if it was me I'd still find one for him. Unfortunately there seems to be a general tendency in humans to avoid professional counseling until they are forced to go by action or circumstance. All the people I know that have gone wish they had not waited to get help.

I wish you all the best.
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#14 of 19 Old 05-28-2005, 11:08 PM
 
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I have no advice, my dd is only 1, but this is really one of my biggest fears as a parent. By the time I was 14 I had tried to kill myself twice, and also wrote very disturbing stuff (in the form of poetry tho). I never went to therapy and somehow managed to come through it all very well, but like you, it is in the front of my mind with the way I'm raising dd. I don't think therapy would hurt . . . when I was his age, I knew I was so screwed up that I probably should go to therapy, but my big fear was that they'd put me on something like lithium and I'd never be able to drink a glass of wine.
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#15 of 19 Old 05-28-2005, 11:11 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arduinna
I would find a counselor for him, even if he says he doesn't want to go or doesn't think he needs it. He has done really well under the circumstances, but if it was me I'd still find one for him. Unfortunately there seems to be a general tendency in humans to avoid professional counseling until they are forced to go by action or circumstance. All the people I know that have gone wish they had not waited to get help.

I wish you all the best.
I second Arduinna's post. I know this is a totally different situation, but when I was about your son's age, my father admitted to being an alcoholic and quit drinking (but he was still mean, just dry). My mom asked me if I wanted to go to Al-a-teen. Of course, I told her "no" but I really kind of wanted her to take me anyway. I just didn't want to be the one to ask for help. I ended up dealing with these issues while I was in college instead.

If you think your DS might need counseling, you are probably right. I think you should make an appointment for him. Sounds like DH could use some help too if he's willing.

I hope when my kids are teens that I have an open and loving relationship such as you have with your son.

Blessings and hugs!

I am a 40 year old unschooling, belly dancing, artist-mama of one almost 8 year old. I just had brain surgery and blogging.jpg about it a bit because it's just so surreal.
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#16 of 19 Old 05-29-2005, 03:43 AM
 
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When I was 15 a friend of mine tried to kill me at school. I immediatly went into a clinical depression. I don't remember much about that school year. It happened in Nov and by June I had attempted suicide 3 times. I remember thinking in class how much I wanted to get one of the guys who had their liscence to drive me to the city so I could admit myself to the psych ward. That same year my English teacher had us all start journals, she promised each of us that what we wrote in them would be confidential. I used that journal as a way to get alot of my feelings out, she kept her word though I'm not sure if that was a good thing or not. Even back then I think I was secretly hoping she would do something.

At one point either that year or the year after I left my binder on the counter and mom decided to go through it. She found things I had been writing about how much I hated my family, how much they hated me, how depressed I was, how I just wanted to crawl into a black hole and never come out. It wasn't normal teenage hating my family stuff either. It freaked her out and she came to the basement and asked me if I wanted to see a psychiatrist, I told her no and that was the end of the conversation. I could tell she was still freaked out and on some level I was happy someone had finally taken notice but nothing was done. It has been 13.5years and we have never talked about it since that day.

Part of the reason I was so angry at my family was that nobody reaslized that the strange stuff going on meant something was seriously wrong. Overnight I went from a A+ student who didn't have to work to get those grades to someone who worked to get C's and B's and didn't care that they were getting lower grades. I was very athletic, but after he tried to kill me my skills disappeared and I didn't care. Adults did realize I was different, but thought it was because in grade 10 another grade comes to our school and one of the girls who came into mine used to be my best friend but they moved away right before kindergarten and they thought I was having a hard time dealing with that. But nobody asked me.

I went from normal moody teenager to full of rage towards anyone, especially my brothers and the guy who tried to kill me. 3-4 times at school(and once at a party where it took 3 guys to get me off of him) I beat up the guy who tried to kill me. I have no guilt over that. I do have guilt over what I did to my brothers, on a daily basis(often several times a day) if they didn't do what I wanted them to I'd cover their mouth and nose with my hands so they couldn't breathe and ask them if they wanted me to kill them or if they'd do what I wanted them to. They're younger than me, mom still doesn't know how I was able to get them to do anything I wanted them to. I don't know if they thought I was serious or not and they seem normal and that it hasn't affected them.

I'll stop rambling about myself now. There were a couple of my friends who attempted suicide, for all 3 of us it was an attention thing. From one it was to get attention from her mom(though she was a spoiled only child who got whatever she wanted and her mom was always around), the other it was attention from her friends, for myself I wanted someone to notice that I was very different from what I was before.

For myself there were very strong, sudden signs that someone should have realized something more serious was off, especially since suicide is not uncommon in my home town.

It took me 5 years and getting out of that town to deal with it. I don't have anger towards other people over not noticing or towards the guy who tried to kill me(though he knows to stay far away from me and my family).

I watch my girls, my niece and nephew for sudden changes in behaviour.
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#17 of 19 Old 05-29-2005, 03:44 AM
 
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forgot to mention

You said that you are all dealing with PSTD, perhaps family counselling would be a good idea.
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#18 of 19 Old 07-01-2005, 07:54 AM
 
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I volunteered 4hrs a week at a crisis line for several years and one of the most practical and simple things I learned about suicide was these:
*Talking about suicide just means you're more afraid of life than you are of death, it doesn't necessarily mean you want to die
*Asking bluntly if someone is considering suicide will not make them more likely to do it, and is often a relief to be able to talk about it
*Most practical thing I learned was to seperate out the ones who are likely to vs the ones who just talk about it is ask them how they would do it--the ones with a plan (not, "I'd jump off a cliff somewhere" with no speciffic location, but "I've got a bottle of pills in the medicine cabinet, I'm home alone long enough on Tuesday nights" etc) those are the ones to worry about.

It took lots of PRACTICE for me to be able to ask those questions, but after doing it for a while, you find they work.

Doesn't sound like your son is in that category, but the other useful thing I learned that works is: "Promise me you'll do THIS (list of friends to call, call crisis line etc.) before you go through with it", or "promise me you'll not do it this evening, day, week, and that we can talk some more about this". Sounds like your son is already on that track with committing to his friend not to cut themselves. He must have a good head on his shoulders.
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#19 of 19 Old 07-01-2005, 11:38 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks so much for all of your kind thoughts and suggestions.

DS just came home yesterday from a 6-day Christian Leadership conference in the Adirondacks; and it was exactly what he needed. He is absolutely glowing, and made so many new friends.

I got his report card yesterday; and his final grades were terrific. He's looking forward to getting a job this summer and hanging out with his friends, both new and old.

He's doing quite well...it's been a rough year for him but I think he's finally made it over the hump.

Every baptized Christian is, or should be, someone with an actual (disturbing) experience, ... a close encounter, with God; someone who, as a result, becomes a disturbing presence to others. - Fr. Anthony J. Gittins, A Presence That Disturbs
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