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Teenage son determined to get in trouble and ruin his life

MathsKim April 24, 2024 10:38

Feeling desperate. Our 15yo AS is driving us to distraction. He hates being in our house - he comes home to eat and sleep, but the rest of the time is wandering the streets or in the flat of someone we are really not sure is at all trustworthy. We think he is experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and are concerned he is at risk of grooming. He is secretive and deceitful with us, and steals a range of items - we no longer keep cash in the house, a few weeks ago a diamond necklace went missing, although we offered him an out on that, saying it would be really lovely if it were found in the house somewhere, and it mysteriously turned up again a bit later. Any behaviour agreements drawn up are simply ignored, and there are very few sanctions we can apply to a 6 footer (I am 5ft 2!). Even food - we have just eaten the last two pop tarts from a pack of six boxes, most of which we found empty. The family agreement had been that we open a box of six as a family, but once the box was open anyone could have them. Yes, it's only pop tarts, but it is indicative of the utter contempt he holds for household rules.

Yet on the other hand, he still demonstrates his love for us while proclaiming his hatred. When there was a violent assault near our house, his first thought was to phone me and tell me not to go out for my planned run until it was safe. Unfortunately his second was to go straight along to the scene... And today he is in inclusion at school (again!) but begged to be allowed to do the cookery practical first lesson, as he knew he had upset me this morning and wanted to bring the profiteroles home to say sorry.

We now have a social worker who I think will be putting him as the highest level of risk and need of intervention. But I just feel broken. I am pouring out all the love I can, and am just getting so much hatred and hostility in return. He is even worse with his dad.

I think I just needed to vent to people who understand, but if anyone has any tips or ideas I would be so grateful!

MathsKim April 26, 2024 13:57

My post isn't showing?

chestnuttree April 28, 2024 11:03

I am very sorry, those times are very hard. Like you, we have had severe challenges with one of my daughters. She is 17 now and much better (with hiccups). 15 is a very difficult age, so please don't lose hope. Like you, we still cannot have cash in our wallets and, like your son, my daughter will eat the best bits, but overall things have much improved already.

I would try to focus on the positives as much as you can and praise your son, if he responds to that. Your son is clearly well attached to you, loves you, has good understanding of what he should be doing, gave the necklace back and is still in school. That's great and shows the impact you have made and are still making. You now have a social worker who should make some recommendations. Your son could have a trauma and attachment assessment for instance. It will show areas of risk and based on that you will get therapy recommendations. It can also be incredibly helpful when you advocate for him at school or for an EHCP if you think that might be relevant. Is your son open to therapy? EMDR has made a big impact for my children. If you feel you are not getting enough support you could also consider a section 17 assessment.

Do you have Sarah Naish's "A-Z of Adoptive Parenting"? I found it very helpful and strangely comforting in difficult times. Have you tried NVR and are you a member of the POTATO group (Parents Of Adopted Teenagers)?

We have a breathalyzor and urine drug tests at home. I have only used the breathalyzer once and announced a drug test before she went off to a slighly risky sleepover, but like this she knows I can find out and it gives her a good excuse to decline to participate. This will only work if you have cooperation from your son, which it sounds like you might have.

I find working with explanations for rules, making an announcement or a demand and then giving my daughter time to process it, minimising temptation, access to very little money, regular room searches, compromising whenever possible, trusting my gut instinct, giving her as much freedom as possible while having some stricts rules and controls works best for us. This hasn't entirely prevented my daughter from making terrible choices with awful consequences for herself and the rest of the family, but it does help and we are in a much better place than we were 2 years ago.

chestnuttree May 1, 2024 08:28

This forum is pretty much dead since the relaunch, so you might want to also post this in Mumsnet's adoption forum for more traffic.

Safia May 1, 2024 08:50

Yes it is a great loss Chestnuttree. There is still a lot of support, experience and information to be found in the archives - though of course no live conversations are possible. It was such a great source of support for so many years for so many - the best in my opinion

Edited 01/05/2024
Safia May 1, 2024 10:35

I was in the middle of a long reply to MathsKim and it got lost and then it seems to take me ages to log on. Yes I also recommend the potato group - from knowledge of the people who set it up. I did join but found if frustrating as I’m not used to Facebook and also had to start from scratch working out who everyone was! My advice is to hang on in there - the teenage years are very traumatic for many adoptive parents and the kids really struggle. I had to hide money and valuables for years but my kids - in their mid 20s now - would no longer take money even if it was lying around. I think a lot of it is impulse control - and that goes for the food etc and probably the phone. The phone also may well be his attachment object and his way of connecting to everything he holds dear. As for school refusal etc - I had that for years with my son and the school was a big part of the problem which they didn’t acknowledge. There was bullying and unidentified learning needs. It is easier to blame the child and their Xbox use for example but in my sons case this was a result of problems at school not the cause. When he changed to a more suitable setting (supported learning at college a year early) things were fine. He is now coaching his favourite sport - not something his school would have seen as a suitable ambition but right for him. I found Bryan Post really helpful and his books From Fear to Love and the Great Behaviour Breakdown. His approach is regulating the emotions - attunement and nurture (early baby stuff - often lacking) - and really helped. There are many positives in your post which indicate your son’s true underlying feelings so try and hold onto that. The whole thing is probably just as confusing and frightening for him too so try to keep on working on providing a safe base. You can have “rules” that you explain but are hard to enforce so I think just trying to keep up the explanation of the reasoning behind them will get through in the end while avoiding the temptation to take a behaviourist approach. And of course self care. Hang on in there!

Safia May 1, 2024 20:04

I don’t know where I got the bit about the phone from! Or school refusal! Must’ve been reading something somewhere else 🤪

Just ignore anything irrelevant - but the principles are the same

Edited 01/05/2024


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