I feel like I "can't" discipline my depressed teen

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by LonelyBee, Jan 31, 2016.

  1. LonelyBee

    LonelyBee New Member

    His depression scares me to be quite frank. I am a single mom and I feel like my hands are tied when it comes to disciplining because I worry about what he will do. He doesn't make threats to harm himself but he says he has thought about it more in the last few months. He is 16 and recently diagnosed with major depressive disorder and general anxiety by the psychiatrist that I finally got him in to see. For the last 3 weeks or so he has been on Cymbalta, the last week of which is at 60mg daily. I'm not sure if it's working yet. We also have weekly appts with the psychiatrist. He never went back to school after the xmas break - said he couldn't. He is planning to take the CHSPE in March and just be done with school. He may then sign up for classes at the community college but time will tell. He works as a barista and aside from that and outings to his girlfriend's house, he rarely goes anywhere. He prefers to stay in his room and play on his computer.

    So last night I was gone - every once in a while I get up the nerve to go out of town overnight. At 16 he should be able to be trusted to be home alone, and as long as his mood is okay then I will sometimes go ahead and make plans. Without going into all the specifics about how I caught him, the long and short of it is that he ended up planning an overnighter with his girlfriend here at the house. He also took a bottle of my wine for their consumption. She is 15 and they both got in trouble 3 or so months ago for her coming over and hanging out here without either mine nor her parents permission. The were both apologetic - her more than him.. he was just mad that he was caught and that I informed the girlfriend's mother. I tried to explain to him that if the situation were reversed, I would be very upset if I weren't told. So here we are again last night - she is "staying the night" at a friends and he has the house to himself. Well I called her mother who promptly drove over her and picked her up. Afterwards my son says I ruined his life. He says they "were fine" and "weren't going to do anything" but just wanted alone time together. It's not even that I think they were necessarily going to have sex (they hadn't yet).. I mean, I'm not an idiot so I know THAT is on his mind, but I know he really wanted to fall asleep with her. I almost felt bad when I got home and saw his room all prepared with candles and roses. Still, it's NOT okay that she come over without a parent home, particulary SLEEP over, and the alcohol? That is the worst part of it for me - him willing to drink wine and give HER wine also, not to mention how that might interact with the Cymbalta. Her mom doesn't even know that part, or about their intention to stay the night together. The other real kicker for me is him blaming me and not having any remorse for making bad decisions - no, I am at fault because I called her mom and ruined his life. If I "wouldn't have called then none of this would have happened" rather than "if I wouldn't have snuck her over..."

    So here I am trying to figure out how to discipline. Last night on the way home I had him on the phone - he was angry with me and made sure I knew it. I was trying to figure out if he was "managing" or if I had to worry about him. I wasn't sure what to do, but it's very scary to me to feel trapped by his depression... like I have to walk on eggshells around discipline because he might take it too hard and consider suicide. He talked last night like it wasn't out of the question, like why shouldn't he and he's not going to be able to see his girlfriend anymore (or for a very long time) and she is the "1 thing that makes him happy"...
    I have to work Mon -Fri and he has been here alone all day. That has been fine but if I implement some sort of consequence that he finds particularly unfavorable then I will worry about him all day long. I do believe in a punishment that fits the crime but in this situation I just don't know. I currently have him locked out of the internet but did not take his phone. Not having his computer and means to connect with his online friends is going to sting, and so would taking the phone but I think that might push him over the edge (figuratively speaking). I don't think stripping him of every outlet would be the smartest thing to do.

    What would you guys do in this situation?
  2. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Hi Bee,

    I am glad you found us. First, here is something that you need to consider, I think. If you give in to your son, holding back your power and consequences, you face another kind of risk beyond suicide. You empower him. You risk creating a monster down the road, even more difficult to deal with for you, and harder for him too.

    Many if not most of our children use threats of suicide to manipulate us. What we recommend is that every single time call the police (good that he has not done so as yet. He may up the ante. So be prepared.)
    That he is working and has a girlfriend are big things.

    If he manages to get himself to work, he cannot be that depressed. Ditto with the girlfriend.

    It sounds like he just does not much want to go to school. So he does not.
    Good for you. You did the right thing.

    If it were me, like you are doing, I would seriously think through the home routine, internet access, etc.

    This trap, I think, is of your own creating, with a lot of help from him. I would not ask him anymore about suicide. It just empowers him, and lets him know that he can use this topic as a means of manipulating you. (You have done the right things so far. Therapist. Medication--good that he is compliant. Take any threat seriously, by calling the police. Stop talking with him about it, I think.)

    Let me give you an example of how the manipulation works. My own son is rabidly against religion especially Christianity. He is homeless, or borderline so, so he knows his bread is buttered by showing well-meaning people that he is open to their ideas, so as to solicit their support. He lies and says he is "open" to believing in Jesus Christ. These kids manipulate. They use our care and concern as tools to extract what they want. They turn our care against us.

    The key here may be to re-assess everything between you and the house, and to take back your power. Turn the tables on him so that you are the one who is controlling, the situation, so that you have influence by doling out what he wants.

    As far as the suicide risk, I will speak to it with regards to my own son. He has told me he has made attempts. He has been hospitalized as a suicide risk several times. He receives SSI for mental illness--mood disorder. Still, I will not allow myself to be manipulated by threats of self-harm.

    We cannot keep them alive. Only they can. That they may be sad does not take away their need to conduct themselves according to rules and the expectations and welfare of others.

    Nobody can tell you what to do. If it were me, knowing what I know now, I would take back control over my home and my life. I would tell my son that if he is so severely troubled that suicide is in the picture, that we need to consider residential treatment. I would take him seriously and begin to research possibilities.

    If his depression is so serious, he needs an IEP at school (USA) and to be considered for a non-public school placement for behaviorally and emotionally disturbed teens or a special class for Seriously Emotionally Disturbed teens. Take him seriously, that is what I would do, and insist that he (not you) experience the consequences of his choices.

    In sum: He is calling the shots, it sounds like. This is not good for him. Or you. Take back control.

    I am glad you found us. Keep posting. As much as you can.

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    Last edited: Jan 31, 2016
  3. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    He is behaving in ways that show you he cannot be trusted to be in the house when you are not there. Therefore... perhaps it is time for him to learn how to spend the day outside of the house? He can go to the library, for example. Something. Anything except be at home when you are not there.

    I'm assuming his computer is attached to YOUR internet connection. You have the total right to control when that is available. It definitely doesn't need to be available at night, and not when you are out of the home.

    Been there done that. For quite a few years, one of us stayed home ALL of the time, so that our difficult kid was not left alone. Partly for our safety and partly for his safety. It was a very long road. It is much harder as a single mom. Nobody gets a break.

    He is too young to exercise this option. If he were already 18, maybe. But he NEEDS to be in school - or some alternative school solution that will keep him moving forward. He doesn't get to just decide he's "not doing school". Not at 16. Either that OR... he has to immediately switch to full-time work. As in... either he is in school full time, or working full time, or some appropriate balance between the two. And if he is working, he needs to be paying board.
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  4. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    I agree with every word of Insane's post.

    You are going to think this is nuts. But I will say it anyway. Your son seems to have decided that he is in charge of his life. And it seems that this includes that he is in charge of what he does in your home. In the USA there exists a way to emancipate a teen who wants to be emancipated by going in front of a judge.

    I do not believe your son has the maturity or the stability or the judgment to qualify for this. But the thing is he is showing you by his attitude and choices that he is assuming this control for himself, regardless of what you say.

    This has got to change. Either you get control over him, or he needs to take responsibility for himself. Because by allowing him to so to speak drive the car of his life, is legally to as if condone it. And this you cannot do.

    If you are in Canada or someplace else the laws are of course different, affording a different range of options.

    I would speak to him and tell him: I am the parent here. That needs to be understood. We can discuss which type of school setting would be your preference, but you must go to school full time or work full time. Staying home is not an option.

    I might also discuss with a family law attorney what are my options and the risks to me of his behaviors. There may be consequences to his not going to school for you. If there is sexual behavior between the two children, involving alcohol and/or drugs in your house...there may be liability to you. Better to know.

    Last edited: Jan 31, 2016
  5. PiscesMom

    PiscesMom Active Member

    i totally agree with ALL of this - especially Copa saying:
    You risk creating a monster down the road, even more difficult to deal with for you, and harder for him too.

    My situation was different, as my son has conduct disorder and then later psychosis (he is at a Residential Treatment Center (RTC), and will have a full psychiatric evaluation so I will have more of a diagnosis) - BUT I was too soft a parent when he changed, and he really used that against me. I am a softer, more discussion oriented parent, but it sure didn't work well for him!

    Your school district really should work with you finding free and appropriate public education for him. My son's school district is paying for his Residential Treatment Center (RTC), and my district has just placed my daughter who has autism and pretty bad social anxiety at a therapeutic school (part of the district, not private). What is CHSPE? Is it like a GED? I would ask for an IEP meeting, bring documentation. The school is responsible for educating him.

    I am also a single parent. Things were just peachy til the teen years.

    Read more: http://www.conductdisorders.com/com...ipline-my-depressed-teen.61680/#ixzz3yrz93wNK
  6. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Me too. I am a single parent and everything was peachy until teen years.

    I think that Bee and her son may live out of the States
    (Canada?) With different educational options. But there must also be responsibility of the school district to educate him, and to transport him, if necessary.

    Putting aside mental illness diagnoses (how can you, really) it is harder for sons of single mom's to separate just as it is harder for single mom's of son's to keep control. I think there is really a lot of love there, and they need to pull away, to be men. So some of the anger that is directed towards us, is a means for them to reject us, to emancipate.

    There is a Mom on this board who was not a single Mom, but very loving and lovable. In a sense she had the same kind of dynamic. I was very flexible. Too flexible. I just did not have the skill set to get control--when he started to fight me.

    I still have trouble if the truth be told.

  7. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    Hi Bee, I am so sorry for your troubles, it is hard raising a child on your own. After reading your post, this thought has been gnawing at me in my gut all day, so I feel compelled to share it.
    Please forgive me, but I have got to write this, but it is a huge possibility, they have had sex already, and were planning to the night you caught them.
    Two of my girls were pregnant teens. I gave them the "talk" several times. They both told me that they were not "stupid" and promised me they would tell me if and when they wanted to be sexually active.
    My second daughter went as far as to say "Don't you think I learned from my sisters mistake?" Obviously, she didn't.
    Kids have sex at younger, and younger ages, it is just what they do. They find ways and one of them is to use whom ever's house where there is no parent home. I am not writing this to add to your troubles. Sometimes we cannot imagine that this would be, we cannot fathom our children turning into teens with sexual desires.
    Candles, roses and alcohol are not meant for just sleeping.
    I hope I am wrong. But, odds are that it has happened.
    One of your concerns has got to be if this girl is on any kind of birth control.
    Also, if son is at home, and you are working, it would be really easy for his girlfriend to skip school and go over to the house during the day.
    I am sorry, I hope you are not upset that I wrote this.
    It is just the times we are living in, most kids this age are experimenting. Well heck, not just these times, it has been happening forever, even more so now.

    Please forgive me for my straightforwardness. It would be a shame if this girl ended up pregnant, this would only add to your sons issues.........

  8. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    Who diagnosed depression and how bad is it?

    I ask because I had severe depression as a teen, but I still needed to do t he right thing. It is unlikely he will commit suicide because you ban his girlfriend from sleeping in his bed in YOUR house. Yes, it is YOUR house and that is way beyond disrespectful. And he knows it and is using his depression to get you to fear disallowing it. You absolutely have every right and in my opinion SHOULD put your foot down on that. And, as one poster said, maybe he needs to be out of the house during your working hours. He can go to the library and maybe learn something. NEVER EVER leave him alone at night in your house. That's temptation for ANY teenager.You did not "ruin my life." He isn't going to marry this young teen. You put your foot down and enforced your rules in your own house.

    Are you positive he is not taking recreational drugs? I mean positive? Is so, how? After all, he is drinking. I would lock up every liquor bottle you have. All of it.If the cops ever find out, possibly from a friend your son or his girlfriend tell, that there is underage drinking in your home, YOU could get into trouble. It's your job to make sure it doesn't happen.

    Hugs and more hugs for your hurting heart, but please take care of YOURSELF. You matter too and I hate to see him seeming to manipulate you to get to sleep with his girlfriend in your home. You really don't know if they are just cuddling or having sex. My guess would be having sex, but either way, this is not acceptable in your home, your sanctuary, your castle.

    To me there would be serious consequences. He's not in school. He doesn't need a cell phone or the internet and he should get a job if he wants name brand clothing or junk food. If he doesn't want to get a job or go back to school, well, he can live a boring life without you paying for his toys and junk food. Nothing motivates by making a teenager bored. I'd even consider selling his videogame systems to bore him further.

    I guess he also doesn't want to drive. I wouldn't pay for him to drive if he won't follow your rules. Without work or school, he certainly doesn't need to drive. j

    I am sorry you are having such a hard time! Hugs :))
  9. LonelyBee

    LonelyBee New Member

    Thank ALL of you so much for your responses.. I truly appreciate everyone's input. I can't address all the responses as I'm short on time but I did want to answer a few questions that jumped out at me.

    SomewhereOutThere: His psychiatrist diagnosed him with major depressive disorder and general anxiety. It seems pretty bad to me. He was unhappy all the time and would sometimes cry for no apparent reason. He says his wheels are always turning and can't turn it off, even at night.

    No I am not sure he isn't doing any drugs but I don't think so. I have busted him several times with marijuana in his room and he claims 1 time he has tried cocaine. This was before the psychiatrist and the medications we are now trying. Hopefully he isn't dappling anymore but unless I drug test him regularly I really won't know. I did test him a few days ago for marijuana only and he was clean.

    Ieafy: you haven't offended me so don't worry. I am totally aware that sex is a HUGE possibility. I am fairly certain they are both virgins tbh but I did by him several boxes of condoms some months ago and have talked with him about their importance.

    More later...
  10. pigless in VA

    pigless in VA Well-Known Member

    Lonely Bee,

    My son used threats of suicide to manipulate me since he was 8 years old. Strangely enough, it wasn't until after his father actually died from suicide that I realized that I couldn't allow that fear to control my choices. My late husband never really grew up. It still blows my mind that as a 55 year old man, his father would come bail him out of jail. I was the one who put him in after he violated a protective order (long,ugly story). When I was terrified of my mentally ill husband, my father in law sprung him from jail. It would have been safer for everyone for him to stay put.

    My son has a much greater risk of suicide than the average person. BUT, I cannot allow fear of what MIGHT occur to cloud my judgment when parenting him. I've become much stricter in the past few years, and Ferb has responded by becoming more responsible. Remember that as parents it is up to us to attempt to mold these uncivilized children it more civilized adults. We do that by giving them rules and expecting them to carry their own weight.

    I also wanted to tell you that right after I discovered that Ferb had run up my credit card bill without permission, I refused to allow him to stay at the house alone. I made certain that he was properly supervised for another 3 months. When we went out of town, he had to stay with family members. It was a huge inconvenience, but he had to earn back the right to stay alone in the house. I also have spying neighbors who will rat him out if necessary. Sometimes you have to ask others for help in parenting. Most of the time, people - family, friends, neighbors, understand that and are willing to lend a hand.
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  11. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    It is extremely difficult to do this alone - even as a couple/family (I can't imagine single parenting challenging kids!)

    Most of the time...
    For some of us, we live in the middle of a perfect storm, where there is nobody to even ask for help. The few that might help, are too far away, and the others are not interested.

    You are SO fortunate to have help from family and neighbors!
  12. pigless in VA

    pigless in VA Well-Known Member


    Maybe that was a silver lining in dealing with my husband's illness. His behavior went off the charts, and I was forced to talk to friends and neighbors about what was happening. I think my candor, my love for my husband in spite of his psychosis, and my resolve to keep my kids as safe and away from the furor as possible enabled people to step-up. I cannot express how mortifying it was to tell the parents of my children's friends that "my husband is crazy and not safe to be around." I swallowed my pride, and asked for help. People responded with offers of a safe room to stay in or took my kids to give them a break from the craziness. Some people even tried to talk to my husband.

    I've always counted on mostly friends to be there for me. My family is not particularly close or supportive. It is SO's family who is stepping up to help counsel, guide and watch over Ferb. We reciprocate by taking their kids and giving them a break.
  13. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    I ditto this. In our case, I had no family support and my neighbors turned against and gossiped about me. I felt so betrayed. And alone.

    You are doing so good! I look forward to your next post. I hope you stay with us. Take care.