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Dr. L
Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1166
Experience:  Licensed as psychologist and marriage and family therapist
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I am having issues with my 21 year old adult son. His father

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I am having issues with my 21 year old adult son. His father and I divorced in June of 2011 following his father's cheating. My son informed me, in November 2011, that he is gay. I am fine with that but he doesn't want his father to ever find out. My son is a very angry young man. He doesn't seem to be happy in anything he does even though he is a very good student, a senior at a University, getting A's and B's. Our oldest son, his older brother, committed suicide at the age of 22, when this son was 11. Just some background info.

My issue is my son's anger has been all directed at me, since the divorce, and when he gets mad he tells me that he just feels like killing himself. I know he is going through trying to accept his sexuality and becoming a young adult. I have tried to encourage counseling and offered to pay for this but he is not interested. I have told him how much it hurts and scares me when he says this and he tells me he would never do that to himself. He knows it gets to me but he continues to text me or call me to tell me how unhappy he is in life. When we disagree on anything, as he tries to bully me into everything going his way, that is when he says these mean things to me.

I guess, I am looking for suggestions on how to help him and/or our relationship. We used to be best friends and now our relationship is like a toxic one. We fight all of the time. A major disagreement we are having now, for about three months, is that he has met a guy online in Oct. He has been talking online, texting and have met two or three times in person. He wants to take this person to my cabin in Wisconsin and I have told him no, not until he is in a relationship and I meet the person. He is so upset and believes that I don't trust him and should allow him to do this. I have stood my ground and he continues to tell me, at times, that he doesn't want to talk to me then until I come to my senses and allow this.

Any suggestions on any of the issues would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Dr. L replied 1 year ago.

Dr. L :

Hello,

Dr. L :

I would like to help you with your question.

Dr. L :

I think you are a wise and responsible parent. Absolutely...your son is trying to bully you and you are right in resisting. It's your cabin and you have the right to set rules about who uses, when, and so forth. If he does not want to respect your rules...then fine...he can't use the cabin. Period.

Dr. L :

I'm sorry that your older son suicided. That is a very difficult grief experience and it is quite awful that this son tries to manipulate you by threatening suicide. He certainly knows how to push your buttons!

Dr. L :

I'm glad you offered therapy to your son...that is a good approach to take to deal with his anger. If he refuses this help...well that certainly tells you something about how unwilling he is to take a look at his behavior. Here is where that tough love comes in!

Dr. L :

Let me tell you my approach to suicidal threats. If someone threatens suicide I always...always...take is seriously. It is better to be proactive about such a threat then to run the risk of not doing anything. Understand? So...the next time your son threatens, put him in the car and take him to the nearest Emergency Room for evaluation. This will tell your son that you are unwilling to be manipulated and that you will take his behavior seriously. If he is truly suicidal...he will be get help...if he is trying to bluff you...well he will learn that their are real consequences for trying to trick you.

Dr. L :

In my experience, the above strategy puts an end to idle threats as the child learns that mom/dad will act swiftly and immediately.

Dr. L :

I'm sorry your son is acting immaturely and irresponsibly. I can only imagine how difficult this is for you. As you say, he is a good kid with strong potential in life...but his anger must be addressed. Stopping the suicidal threats may be one way to get him to realize that you care deeply about him and take your role as parent very seriously. This may be a "game changer" in how he treats you and what he expects from you. Still, however, is the issue of his anger.

Dr. L :

If he knows that he can no longer manipulate you....that you will stand your ground on issues like the cabin...perhaps he will become tired of being angry and realize that therapy might be a good idea.

Dr. L :

I await your response so that we can chat about this.

Dr. L :

Thank you.

Customer: i really needed the validation that my opinion/thoughts were not off the wall,so to speak. Thanks for that. Last time we talked/argued, we were fine in public, a restaurant, but when we got in my car it all started again. He started with the cabin again and then told me he felt like noone cared and he just felt like killing himself. So I put the car in reverse and told him I was taking him to the hospital and he got out of the moving car. I, then, emailed him later and informed him that he needs to get into counseling and that our relationship is toxic. That we cannot be alone together only in public because when we are alone the fighting starts and is brutal. He did not respond and the next morning his sister called and dad was really worried about him because of us two fighting and he didn't go home and wasn't responding. He finally did, he had went back to his school apartment without telling anyone, wanting us to worry.
Customer: I really needed validation that my opinions/thoughts on this were not so off the wall, so to speak. Thanks for that. The last time we were together, we were fine in a public restaurant, but once we got in my car he started again on the cabin thing. The fighting/arguing started and he told me he feels like no one likes him and that he just feels like killing himself. So I put my car in reverse and said I was taking him to the hospital. He immeadiately got out of the moving car.
Customer: I really needed validation that my opinions/thoughts on this situation were not off the wall, so to speak. Thanks for that. The last time we argued/fought, we were fine in a public restaurant but once we were alone in my car, he started in on the cabin issue again. He got so mad and stated that no one cares about him and that he should just kill himself. At that time, I put the car in reverse and told him I was taking him to the hospital because he needed help. He then got out of the moving car and left. I, later, emailed him telling him, I loved him and do care for him and I want him to get help with counseling or whatever will help him. I then told him that until he does we cannot be alone together because then all we do is fight/argue and it is not good for him or me. I told him that we need to agree to disagree on that issue and get past it instead of keep dwelling on it. I told him that it hurts me when he continuously tells me he is going to harm himself.
Customer: I really needed validation that my opinions/thoughts on this situation I, later, emailed him telling him, I loved him and do care for him and I want him to get help with counseling or whatever will help him. I then told him that until he does we cannot be alone together because then all we do is fight/argue and it is not good for him or me. I told him that we need to agree to disagree on that issue and get past it instead of keep dwelling on it. I told him that it hurts me when he continuously tells me he is going to harm himself.
Customer: I really needed validation that my thoughts/opinion on this situation were not off the wall, so to speak. Thanks for that. The last time we were together, in a restaurant, we were fine until.....we got alone in my car. At that time, he started in on the cabin issue again. I told him I wasn't discussing it anymore and that in a few months, if he was in a relationship and I met him, then we could maybe talk about it. He got angry and told him that no one cares about him and that he should just kill himself. I then put the car in reverse and told him I was taking him to the hospital because he needed to get help with that. He then got out of the moving car and left.I, later, emailed him telling him, I loved him and do care for him and I want him to get help with counseling or whatever will help him. I then told him that until he does we cannot be alone together because then all we do is fight/argue and it is not good for him or me. I told him that we need to agree to disagree on that issue and get past it instead of keep dwelling on it. I told him that it hurts me when he continuously tells me he is going to harm himself. He did not respond.The next morning, his older sister called me to see if I had heard from him. His dad had called her and told her that he was worried about him because he knew we were fighting and he didn't go home last night. He wasn't answering his phone. Found out later he went back to his school apartment and didn't tell anyone because he wanted others to be worried. He did respond to my email finally, the next day and told me he would like to go to counseling with me to work on our issues. I agreed to find counseling for the two of us because if it gets him there I will go too. We did meet for pizza and had a nice time last night, with no mention of the cabin or any fighting except I did tell him that it is not fair what he did taking off like that and worrying his dad, me and his sister and to not do something like that again. All I can hope for is that he finds happiness in his life so that I can be assured that I am not being the awful, uncaring parent that he tries to portray me as. Any other suggestions that you could possibly offer to help in this situation would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Sue
Dr. L : Good Morning Sue,
Dr. L : I think you did a wonderful job of setting limits on his interactions with you! If being together at home causes arguments and fights...then yes keep to meeting and talking in public areas so that you can limit those toxic interactions. That he went back to his school apartment without telling anyone so that everyone could worry is really childish and passive aggressive behavior. What you now know is that he will take extreme measures to get his way...so stay on the lookout for this next time around if/when you get into an argument.
Dr. L : I will give you a website that will help you find a therapist:
Dr. L : www.psychologytoday.com
Dr. L : Click on the top tab for "Find a Therapist". You will be asked to give your city and state so that it will give you a list of people in your area. There is a list on the left hand of the screen that allows you to indicate what issues you want to address. This helps to narrow the search to practitioners with expertise with these issues.
Dr. L : Please continue to look at setting boundaries so that you limit the toxic interactions. As you did with the suicide threat and arguing in your home, telling him what the consequences will be for "poor" behavior will be extremely helpful. That he says no one cares about him is just more manipulation. I encourage you not to feed into this by telling him that his statement is simply not true when it comes to your feelings about him and that you will not get into a discussion about this. If he wants to play the pity card, you could tell him, then he will have to find someone else to talk to.
Dr. L : From what you have written...you are a concerned parent who does care deeply about your son. While he may continue to try to portray you as the uncaring, mean parent...please don't fall into that trap. I know it is hard. Parents want the very best for their children and having lost one son to suicide you are very sensitive to this sons moods and needs. But please remember that he must be responsible for his choices and for the things that come out of his mouth. You can't control these things. If he wants to act like a whiny child...then you can tell him that you are going to end the conversation until he is able to act more maturely. Shutting down these kinds of negative interactions will establish a new way of being together...and that is precisely what you are doing when you decided that you could only interact in public.
Dr. L : I do wonder if part of what gets you "hooked" is that this son is getting very close to the age of your son who suicided. It would only be reasonable that you might be especially sensitive to this age marker. If this might be true, I would encourage you to consider a few sessions of individual therapy as a way to process your feelings. I am also going to suggest a very good book that will help you walk through your feelings of grief and loss:
Dr. L : Remembering With Love. Messages of Hope for the First Year of Grieving and Beyond.
Dr. L : I am also going to suggest a website for you to take a look at that might also prove helpful in setting boundaries and limits with your son:
Dr. L : www.loveandlogic.com
Dr. L : This parenting program is extremely useful and very easy to use. I highly recommend taking a look at this.
Dr. L : I do think you are making some very good decisions here regarding your son's behavior and your desire to establish a healthy, loving, and happy relationship with him.
Dr. L : Please let me know if I can be of further help.
Dr. L : Thank you!
Customer: Thank you so much for your help and advice. I really appreciate it. One more thing, do you think it would be wise for me to show these to my son in an effort to have him understand where I am coming from and that I am not off my rocker? Just curious what your thoughts are on this?
Dr. L : Hello,
Dr. L : I think it might be fine to show these to him in an effort to prove that you are concerned about him and are seeking help to make good decisions.
Dr. L : If you show these to him, I would like to state that I am a clinical psychologist with 30 years experience. My credentials are listed on JustAnswer for him to read if he would like.
Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1166
Experience: Licensed as psychologist and marriage and family therapist
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