New member - frustrated and concerned

Our son Matt is 18 years old. He has been raised in a very typical suburban middle-class household. My husband worked out of our home part-time and was basically a stay-at-home Dad to our son and his twin brother. Although I worked full-time, I was home for dinner every night and we were both actively involved in our kids activities, including swim team, soccer, boy scouts, etc. Our marriage is very stable and we spent a lot of time together as a family when the boys were young. We adopted these boys as infants.

Neither of our boys were particularly good students and struggled with ADHD and some minor learning disabilities. Matt suffered from some anxieties, mostly related to separation, throughout childhood. Things started to go down hill for Matt in high school. He became very withdrawn and irritable. He had trouble sleeping. We started him on a low dose of anti-depressants as a freshman. He was resistant to therapy. In his sophomore year we discovered he was using weed and failing most of his classes. We again tried unsuccessfully to get him into therapy and wound up increasing the antidepressants at the recommendation of a psychiatrist. Things were ok for the rest of sophomore and junior year. In the first semester of senior year, he began talking to friends about suicide. He did a one month outpatient therapy program where he made little progress.

The following February he was arrested for stealing about $200 out of the cash drawer from his employer. A couple of weeks later he was picked up for shoplifting at Walmart. At this point, he agreed to go to therapy if we gave him some money ($20) for each therapy session. This was his only source of income since we were no longer giving him allowance. The therapist is excellent and he has been seeing her ever since.

Both boys graduated from high school. The brother went away to college an Matt asked to be enrolled part time in junior college, mainly because his girlfriend wanted him to. He found a good part time job but was having trouble getting to work on time and was laid off after a month. He broke up with the girlfriend in early fall and we recently learned that he was lying about attending classes. After several months of unemployment, he is now delivering pizzas and has stuck with that job for about 2 months now. The therapist believes the depression is better and there has been no more talk of suicide that we are aware of. We have started weaning him off his antidepressants. (He does not want to take antidepressants and we really can't force him to so this was a necessary step.)

Today, we learned that he was arrested for possession of marijuana. Fortunately it was a misdemeanor. We are trying to decide how to react to this. Matt regularly lies to us and has been lying to the therapist as well about his use of weed. (The therapist is out of the country until next month.) I know a misdemeanor cannabis possession is small compared to what some of the parents on this site have been through but I feel there is no upside with this kid. We do not have a great relationship with him - its not like we are having major fights but he avoids us an d basically just uses the house to sleep. I would really value some insight and guidance from others with experience.


Well-Known Member
We adopted these boys as infants.
ADHD and some minor learning disabilities.
My son, now 28, I adopted at 22 months, also had these issues. Plus anxiety since a toddler, and depression which began when he was about 18.
Matt regularly lies to us
While my son has not been arrested that I know of, (he is now 28) the lying for the past 5 years or so has been a problem. He is defensive, he externalizes responsibility to external causes, he is resistant to learning from his mistakes, and argues every point. He wants do overs continuously. Lately he has been calling these, a new leaf. But the thing is, he does not link sufficiently the verbalized commitment to change with the need to change in actuality his behavior.

This leads to a great deal of frustration on our part, pain, and discord. And WE seem unable to learn from our mistakes, either.

What parents on this site (I have been here a little more than 18 months) represent, is that WE CANNOT TAKE RESPONSIBILITY to suffer the consequences of their acts, or to help them evade responsibility for same.

I know it may not seem so, but you and your son are LUCKY the transgression is minor--he will not suffer lasting consequences from having to experience the full force of the consequences for his breaking the law.

Many of us on this site (but not all) do not minimize the destructiveness of marijuana, especially for our own children many of whom lack motivation, direction, stability or a great deal of self-confidence, and many of whom like your own, may have underlying developmental challenges, mental illness, or difficult events in their pasts to work through.

While adoption to us may feel like the greatest of blessings, to our children, there are issues of abandonment, possibly, racial confusion, and a sense of defectiveness and self-blame--because their birth parents may have given them up or by their behaviors, abandoned them.

Finally, I want to say something that may or may not pertain to you, but I feel is true to me. My son is the love of my love. I wanted him more than I ever wanted anything or anyone. With him, I was truly born. He was a dream come true.

An awful lot to put on one little boy, is it not?

I jumped several social classes in the course of m life. And I was a single mother. I did it all myself. Did I really think that my love for him could overcome what he felt was his destiny, or his sense of damage? Did I really think that opportunities for international travel or the ability to learn various languages or an enriched environment in terms of exposure to this and that would assuage the hurts that he would feel and need to deal with coming to grips with his history and his life? How could I? And yet, I did.

Each of us, and all of us, must come to terms with ourselves and our lives. My son. Myself. Your son and you, too.

We all live to make sense of who we are, at the heart and core of us, and what our lives mean. To ourselves, and to others. This is very, very hard to watch from the perspective of a parent--and at the same time we personalize it all, too. How could we not. Even if we try not to. We do.

And adoption presents a myriad of challenges, on top of a typical upbringing and adolescent, which itself is no walk in the park. But of course you know all of this. I hope it eases your burden for a moment to hear it said again.

We cannot expect them, our sons, to be happy and flourish when they are dealing both with developmental challenges and challenges unique to their own history and the need to work these out. Development is not only a straight line progression. Not for any of us.

In fact, it is not necessarily progressive. It can be a spiral or a backsliding for a while. And then a jump ahead, or not.

Our job as parents is to learn to step back and to learn to tolerate their working through their own challenges. This is waaaay hard to do, from my perspective.

You will find on this forum an article on detachment which while very helpful, was daunting ( for me, still) and very foreign to me, too.

We are glad you are here. Other people will respond and have different viewpoints. Some of which you read will be helpful, not all .

There are some people here that believe that the issues and problems our adopted children have are due to their genetic or inherited differences, and that our problems as parents may stem from our expectation that our children be like us, when they are genetically different. While this can be an element, I disagree with this point of view. Many or most parents have expectations of their children--birth or not--that those kids fill or do not But I do not agree that adopted children's issues are due to genetic influences, or differences in the main. But about existential issues--that all of us have--whether we face them or not. But about this, you will have your own beliefs.

I want to conclude this way: much of what you write about your son is very, very positive and hopeful. His response to therapy. That he has had jobs. That he has a girlfriend. The fact that there have been no episodes of violence or overt aggression. His involvement in social and recreational activities.

I hope you keep posting. It helps a lot. Take care. We are glad you are here.

Finally, finally. Do not blame yourself. Try not to. This is part of your son's development. Not because you worked or did not. Or because you did one thing, and not another thing. That is what I think.
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Well-Known Member
Hi. Adoptive mom of four. One is very successful but didn't attach, but I and the adoption psychologist I saw without my son for two years (he would not go) think that his being in an orphanage for six years made it hard for him to love us back. Over ten years since we have seen him. My other three are grown and thriving and close, in spite of being adopted and different races. They are all different

Hon, the other twin is thriving. You can not blame yourselves for this twin, who may have received the short end of his biological DNA so he struggles. He has to find his way. Or not.

While I'm not a pot fan and think that it is like alcohol (some people use it recreationally with no problems and some use it daily with problems, it is the theft that would worry me the most. He may be using more than just pot. We are always the last to know.

Lock up bank info and credit cards just in case. Be proactively careful. Many of our kids end up stealing from us and it hurts. It is in my opinion good to prevent it.

I feel badly for your situation. You obviously provided all the love he needed. Now the rest of his life is on his shoulders, not yours. You will find he will only change when he is ready. We, the parents, can not force them. We CAN enjoy our friends and family who make us smile and to always take best care of ourselves. We matter. We can control ourselves, not others.

Try to have a serene night and many hugs.

so ready to live

Well-Known Member
Hi Concerned. So sorry you have had to come here.
There are many on this site with good advice, take what you like, ponder the rest.
Those of us who are adoptive parents are still parents, at the heart, always wanting the best for our children. The nature vs nurture question can remain, mattering so much less right now to you than the facts. He is 18, has been in trouble a few times and is in trouble again. It does sound as if you have done all you can, over and above to point him the right way. You love him, that is obvious.

It helped us early in our struggles with our son to set small boundaries. If your son did not take responsibility, financial and personally, in the past (shoplifting, stealing $) then have him do that this time. This one's on him and should be. All of it. That being said, I agree with SWOT about being very careful with your $ and bank info. We thought our son would never do that. We were wrong. Once drugs/alcohol are involved, the whole picture changes. Our son, like yours, was driving, ours was no doubt impaired many times. Be sure you are not contributing to this -His car, his insurance, his gas $?
I do get the backing off on the antidepressants. We had to do that also as it seems pretty silly to hand an adult their medications and watch them take them (or pouch them or "forget") it was obvious he didn't want to and we couldn't make him.
My heart goes out to you. This is so very hard. Be strong, you can. Prayers.
I very much appreciate all of your thoughtful responses. I will take the advice to heart. I'm so glad I found this forum. It's a relief to find other parents with similar issues. We live in an affluent area where parents and schools stress achievement. I think this has impacted Matt's self-esteem, as well as his brother's. Both boys are reasonably bright but their peers are the biological children of highly educated people. I don't think my boys received the same genetic gifts as their classmates. Our school system always seemed perplexed by their learning issues and was not well equipped to handle them.

Copabanana - your comments on adoption really resonated with me. We adopted after 5 years of infertility and adored these boys - still do.

So Ready and Somewhere - We have had trouble with Matt stealing credit card and cash in the past, using the credit cards to pay for video games. We have protected all of out assets and have not had a problem with the stealing for more than a year. He took responsibility for the theft from his employer. We told him to write a letter of apology and he did - no arguments. The first job he got after high school actually paid well and he was able to pay every cent of his court fines and fees himself. Charges were ultimately dropped. He also paid the fine to Walmart for the shoplifting out of his own money. He actually did a good job in terms of stepping up to the consequences of his actions with a decent attitude and no arguments. I should also say that Matt has never been violent and there were no behavioral problems at school. He avoids us but is not mean to us. He was a very good partner to his girlfriend - even his therapist remarked that he was very loving and supportive to her.

We do pay for his car, health insurance and cell phone. He is responsible for gas and maintenance. The car was purchased with money his grandparents gave him at birth that we had put away for college expenses. We live in a suburban area without a lot of public transportation. It would have been impossible for him to work or school without the car.

We tried hard to steer him to a different job than pizza delivery but we couldn't get him to cooperate. He found the pizza job on his own and we accept that it is an honest days work. However, it leaves him with a lot of cash from tips. He has enough income that he will be able to pay his fine for these offenses.

Does any one have any advise on whether he should have a lawyer? I'm thinking not since its just a misdemeanor and his first offense, although prison time is a possible penalty. (The theft charges were dropped.) It a hard balancing act to decide whether to rescue or allow him to face consequences. I think the line would be crossed if prison time was a realistic possibility. I think serving time in his case would be detrimental. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.

Tanya M

Living with an attitude of gratitude
Staff member

I'm so sorry for what you are dealing with but you have found a good place to be here with us.

Does any one have any advise on whether he should have a lawyer?
This is a slippery slope. If you do get him a lawyer, he may interpret this as "I don't have to worry about getting in trouble, mom and dad will bail me out"
Also, getting him a lawyer is no guarantee that he will stay out of trouble.

My husband and I never retained a lawyer for our son but we made sure that we were always there at his court hearings. My feelings are this, if someone manages to get into trouble with law then they need to own the consequences no matter how bad or hard that may be.

We raise our children teaching them right from wrong. They make choices to not obey the rules whether it's house rules or the rules of society or the law, they need to deal with the consequences of those choices.

It's a very personal choice that only you and your husband can make. There are no right or wrong answers. You know your son better than anyone and that should help you decide if or when you would get him a lawyer. Be prepared that your son may try and manipulate you into getting a lawyer for him. These types of tactics are very common with adult difficult children.

Again, I'm so sorry for what you are going through.

((HUGS)) to you........................
Thanks Tanya. Surprisingly, we haven't had a problem so far with him taking responsibility or his actions. He is not pressing us to find him a lawyer or asking us to pay his fines. We will definitely go to court with him.


We chose a lawyer for our son, because what he was arrested for was during his addiction days. We told him this was his one pass....we are still going thru the motions, but he is being offered a youthful offender deal with probation...this allows him to move on in his life without a record. A misdemeanor would give him a far he is on track.

If your son continues to smoke..and sees no issue, well he could be. Caught again....and it only gets harder.


Snow White

On the Mad Tea Party Ride
Hi Concerned Mom & Dad. I just wanted to welcome you. I don't have anything I can offer with regard to having adopted children, as my difficult child is biological. I'm sorry you are going through this.

It's a very personal choice that only you and your husband can make. There are no right or wrong answers. You know your son better than anyone and that should help you decide if or when you would get him a lawyer. Be prepared that your son may try and manipulate you into getting a lawyer for him. These types of tactics are very common with adult difficult children.
This pretty much says it all.

We are here to listen and help you through this.