Have Parenting Questions? Ask a Parenting Counselor for Answers
Thank you for your question. You sound like a responsible and concerned parent and I appreciate you taking the opportunity to follow up with your concerns. I also commend you for working with your son's counselor in addressing the mental health needs. Adolescents are tough. Especially when they are about to turn 18, they tend to think that they are already all grown up! They don't have to listen to mom or dad anymore and tend to have a jaded perspective on reality-- one that usually justifies their behaviors. I think that it will be important for you and your husband to have a united front and discuss with your son the importance of understanding the boundaries in place. I would ask him to participate in a conversation about the expectations of the home. If you feel that he is at risk to himself, then I would encourage you to have a safety plan in place. Kids his age also want to feel that they have a say in the systemic functioning or rules. I would encourage you to approach him with love, identify how important his well-being is to you, ask him with humility to please identify what problems in the home he feels exist, ask him how he feels that these can be managed, and then discuss what you guys feel you can do to help the functioning of the family to be healthy. Most people need to feel "heard" or listened to, so even if you don't agree with what he says, ask him to explain and do your best not to "react," but "respond." I think empathy goes a long way. Find out if he feels that only "rules" exist in the home and no "relationships." And just ask his input. Then discuss the responsibility that his role carries as a sibling to three other children that are in the home. Find out what he feels is missing. Have a plan in place and work as a family to carry these out-- not just with your son, but with all of the children.
There is a book called "The Five Love Languages of Teenagers" by Gary Chapman. You can also look at his website to see if you feel that there is an unmet need for your son.
Also, check into your community resources and find out what services are available in your area, if you need additional support. His counselor should be aware of these, as well.
I hope that this is helpful.
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