After almost a year, back in contact with Difficult StepSon.

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by culturanta, Feb 17, 2017.

  1. BloodiedButUnbowed

    BloodiedButUnbowed Active Member

    Difficult stepson is having a terrible year in school. We haven't spoken to him since last spring, but we keep tabs on him through his school's online gradebook and weekly reports from his counselor (he has a 504 plan).

    He is 16 and a junior, and won't have enough credits to graduate next year without summer school probably this summer AND next, meaning he's hosed his chances to graduate with his classmates regardless.

    Throughout this long-term estrangement, my wife (his mom) has been keeping in touch by sending him cards in the mail and texts he didn't return. I would also occasionally send a text to say hello and remind him we are still his family and are here for him.

    Earlier this week, after hearing from his counselor that he was beginning to talk about dropping out of school, that he didn't see the point of a diploma, etc. I sent him a text saying in part that we would much rather he go to school online than drop out, but that there would be conditions. And for the first time in many months, he responded. He said that he had been "contemplating" reaching out to his mother and me for a while and didn't want me to think that the possibility of online school was the only reason he replied. But he is adamant that traditional high school is not working for him and online school is his "only chance".

    He lives with his dad who is very secretive about how he is raising Difficult Stepson and his younger brother. We know that Difficult Stepson has a friend, possibly girlfriend, across the street who is attending online school. His younger brother has told us that the girl does very little work and we suspect that part of Difficult Stepson's angle is to simply avoid the responsibility of having to complete assignments and follow directions from teachers.

    At the same time, while I think manipulation is there, there's also a cry for help buried within. We haven't told him we are willing to give the go-ahead for online school. Difficult Son suggested we get together to discuss it so we are taking him out to dinner tonight.

    I will keep the thread updated.....
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    My daughter did a homeschool curriculum because she was in trouble at school. You had to finish the work. She did even though she was still using drugs (we really were not sure then) but she got her diploma then finished cometology school with A marks. Later she enrolled in community college, graduated in culinary arts and even got to teach a few classes. She was off drugs by then.

    Are you talking about online public school? If he isn't doing much in live school and may drop out, maybe that's a good way to get a diploma. In the long run, it did not hurt my daughters ability to get into schools or get jobs. She is doing great now.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2017
  3. Crayola13

    Crayola13 Active Member

    You said he doesn't see any point in getting a high school diploma? Even certain fast food restaurants won't hire drop-outs. Does he not have any goals for his future? If that is how he really feels, he needs to be counseled by a guidance counselor or therapist. If he thinks he can have a career path without a high school diploma, he is mistaken. Trade schools, seminary, military, bus driver, and every other job requires a high school diploma. Kids who drop out do not fare well in life. They commit crimes because they can't make a living and end up in jail. His chances of becoming a convict go up drastically if he drops out. I can't imagine he would want to do nothing with his life. If he thinks he can get a job at a fast food restaurant and work his way up to manager, it still can't happen without a high school diploma.
  4. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    You can get a GED. These kids are not geared toward school or high level careers right now or we would not be here on this forum. Low school performance goes with poor life choices. They lack motivation and dont think much about the future. Drugs are often a problem. These are not typical teens eager to launch into adulthood. They are sadly different.

    Very few college kids are on this forum. Many dropouts. Many refuse counseling and we cant make them go.

    I work at a restaurant and i am not sure you need a high school diploma to work here...just the ability to do the job. Many work their way up. What we want for our kids we have to put aside if they dont want it too. We cant make them do our dreams. They wont listen. One day a light may turn on. It must come from them.

    I personally feel online school is a good option for one who may drop out. If 50% never finish that means that 50% who never cared about school DID get a diploma and thats good.

    Not everyone fits into mainstream school and not all are troublemakers. Its worth a try. Jmo..
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2017
  5. JRC

    JRC Active Member

    How did things turn out over dinner?
  6. pigless in VA

    pigless in VA Well-Known Member

    I work at a middle school and see some perfectly bright kids sitting and doing nothing in class. I don't know why these kids are choosing not to participate, but they do. I even see some not doing "work" in art class.

    In my opinion, if he doesn't believe school is the place for him, at least online school is another route. I know several kids who went the online route for the end of high school due to bullying at the brick and mortar school. They completed their work and graduated.
  7. BloodiedButUnbowed

    BloodiedButUnbowed Active Member

    Dinner went okay. On the positive side, he hugged us and told us he had missed us. On the down side, we were left with the impression his main point in meeting us was to emphatically demand that he be permitted to attend online high school. He wasn't happy to see us because it had been almost a year, he had an agenda he intended to fulfill. He is still the same person, refusing help for his anxiety and depression, insisting he "doesn't need it" and blaming others for his struggles. He doesn't accept authority and thinks he's above it all. At one point he became aggressive at the table and raised his voice, cursed, and slammed his fist on the table. At other times he avoided eye contact and spoke in a mumble. It was obvious to us that he was depressed.

    He drove to meet us and when he realized he wasn't going to get our approval instantaneously, he became frustrated and remained with us for just a few more minutes before leaving. He did kiss us goodbye before he took off, so that's something.

    We are leaning toward giving our blessing for online high school. We want to select the school but he's got one in mind, the one his girlfriend attends and which he claims is "easy". He wants everything to be easy, but after spending time with him on Friday and seeing the extent of his depression I am now understanding that for now this is the best he can do. Potential is meaningless really, isn't it?
  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Right now in my opinion getting a diploma trumps getting a perfect education. He isnt going to college anytime soon in his frame of mind. I say be happy if he gets the diploma. It will help him. If he gets better, he csn always go to school again later in life.

    Hugs for a hurting heart.
  9. BloodiedButUnbowed

    BloodiedButUnbowed Active Member

    Thanks for all of the feedback. Last night we spoke with his girlfriend's parents, who were very nice and answered all of our questions. Their daughter sounds very similar to our son, and she has had success in this program, so my wife decided to give her blessing to his attending the same online HS she does.

    We spoke to his father about the fact that stepson would be expected to continue attending his current school until the transfer is completed. Father agreed that this was the expectation. No surprise, he is absent from school today. We have accepted that son does as he pleases and his father will not discipline him, or provide him with any structure whatsoever, and that we have no influence due to many long-standing factors having to do with my wife's decision to leave the parenting primarily to his father.

    Online school won't solve our son's mental health issues, but if it makes the road a little easier for him and provides him with the flexibility he needs to complete a HS diploma, then it will be worth it.

    Son is going to get a part time job to pay for this himself. We support the idea. He may value his education more if he is choosing it himself AND bearing responsibility for it. Any responsibility is a positive in our eyes even if it is non-traditional.

    Son seems to care for his girlfriend, and we are also supportive of that. He has always been very isolated and introverted, and the fact that he has a trusted confidant and (now) girlfriend is wonderful progress for him. Her parents told us that our son is a 'great kid' and that they include him on many of their family activities. It sounds like he has found a haven there and for that, we are grateful. We suggested to her family that we all get together sometime and they were very enthusiastic about the idea.

    Thank you for your feedback on this, as you really helped me get some perspective and support my wife in making her decision to allow him to attend school online. Now it's up to him to follow through. I think this will make life easier for him, and hopefully will end in a diploma and a job/post-secondary education (he has expressed interest in our local junior college), but as I said above, his mental health issues will persist.
  10. BloodiedButUnbowed

    BloodiedButUnbowed Active Member

    Quick update: my wife just received an email from our son's counselor, who is also the coordinator of his 504 plan. They are so concerned about his struggles that they were planning to initiate another IEP evaluation for him, before we decided to withdraw. I still feel that we made the best decision for him at this time, but it's very interesting that after denying him an IEP one year ago, NOW they realize how troubled he is and that he cannot function in a traditional school environment. Too little, too late.

    His father would never allow him to be evaluated again and son would drop out rather than suffer the humiliation of being "Special Education" so it wouldn't work anyway. This should have been done when he was 10 years old.

    Just feeling sad at the moment.
  11. pigless in VA

    pigless in VA Well-Known Member

    It really sounds like he is taking steps in a positive direction. I'm sorry that the school did not help him sooner. Do you think he finds school embarrassing? Does he have limitations that he perhaps shares with his father? Is that why the two of them cannot stomach the idea of "special education?" If so, your wife may want to offer assistance with the online school in case he has difficulty with the material.
  12. BloodiedButUnbowed

    BloodiedButUnbowed Active Member

    Stepson is very intelligent, but suffers from anxiety and depression. He is in denial about both, and insists that he is "fine" and "doesn't need (therapy, medication, etc)". He is literally a different (much better, much more reasonable) person when he is compliant with his medications, but he went off them with his father's knowledge and consent.

    All we know is that medicated, he could attend his traditional school and function. He wasn't a straight A student, but he did well enough. Unmedicated he cannot handle the daily stress of living.

    He is capable of doing college level work. He just can't get past his mental illness.
  13. pigless in VA

    pigless in VA Well-Known Member

    Ugh. What is your wife's take on her ex? Does he have similar issues to stepson? Or is he anti-medication?

    My own mother spent at least 10 years in a serious depression, because she is completely anti-medication.

    I would also like to comment that I am so pleased that you care enough about your stepson to post here. Keep talking to him. One day he may experience an epiphany.
  14. BloodiedButUnbowed

    BloodiedButUnbowed Active Member

    Dad is a codependent enabler. If you have any experience with Al-Anon, Difficult Stepson is in the role of the alcoholic (and we know he does have some substance abuse history), and Dad is the hand-wringing caretaker following after him, cleaning up his messes and making excuses for him.

    Difficult Stepson controls the reins in the household they live in. Dad will not stand up to him or set any boundaries with him. Stepson does exactly what he pleases.