Q&A: What’s Wrong with my 17yo?
A reader asks, ” I have a seventeen year old boy . He has always been brilliant at school – loved school, loved life. Two years ago he began a downward spiral, he has bashed myself and his sister a number of times. He refuses to go to school. He wants to stay up all night and play on his phone. I’m a single mum… 5 ft and he is 5ft 8in and strong. My son has high functioning autism and is so accustomed to people excusing his outrageous behaviour he excuses himself. He is in danger of not matriculating because of not attending school and I at my wits end.”
Dear friend, that is so hard!
The thing that stands out to me when I read your question is that the change is probably the significant part here. You’ve got a good boy with good grades who is now depressed and refusing to go to school and is behaving badly towards his family. It looks like something is really wrong in his life.
I would look for signs of an addiction to porn or gaming. Depression and apathy are huge signs of these problems. Both porn and gaming cause a hormonal response in the brain that causes an addiction similar to alcohol or heroin. Kids begin to live for their next fix. It’s not as obvious as a drug or alcohol addiction, though, because you don’t see the spaciness or physical damage that comes with those things – they look clean.
I would suggest sitting down with him and *lovingly* explaining reality, “Son, I’m worried about you. In just a short time you are going to have to either get a job or go to a university. Right now, you couldn’t do either. I want you to succeed. I love you! It seems to me that there is something bothering you, something making life harder for you.”
Explain to him how things like that can be addictive. There are resources to help you do that on our site here: raisingrealmen.com/purity. Tell him you are on his side and want to help him, but he’s got to cooperate. Talk through the effects this addiction is having on his life, how hard it will be to quit, but how much you love him and want to help him.
I’d then ask him for his phone and tell him you think he needs a break from it. Be sure to express your love and concern all the way through. Expect him to get super upset after a few days without his phone — that’s normal, there really is a physical withdrawal and that can be pretty upsetting. You’ve got to remember he’s seventeen and can walk away from you very soon. You’ve got to preserve your relationship with him to have any long term influence on him. You have got to persuade, not so much demand, with a young man this close to leaving home.
Of course, there may be something else going on, but this is my first thought. May the Lord give you the grace and wisdom to help him!
Hal & Melanie