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Fighting for My Teenage Son

This is the story of what happened in my family as my son became a teenager. From the moment he went to high school at age eleven, he went from being a bright, curious, funny, intelligent, sensitive boy to being bad-tempered, disaffected, disinterested, angry, agitated, and unhappy.

The right-wing government in England has made some major cuts to the funding of education. This has led to my son’s publicly funded school being completely overcrowded, with thirty-plus students in a class. The teaching standards have dropped, and the teachers are completely overstretched. More significantly, there has been a shocking lack of care for the well-being of my son and the other students.

My son is good at thinking for himself. He has a great sense of humour and likes to do things his own way. The teachers always liked him, and he was interested in what he was learning. He had good relationships with his teachers and was popular with his own age group. As soon as he began high school, I could tell1 things were wrong. He would come home looking disconnected and angry and go straight to the computer to play violent video games. Then he would shout and scream when I insisted he come off them. He started eating sweets in a manic obsessive manner, and I would find sweets wrappers hidden all over his room. He also began demanding that I buy expensive and unnecessary things for him.

Normal teenage behaviour? I understand that teenagers have a natural need to be independent and separate from their parents, but this was more than just the separation process. His body was tense; he was irrational and compulsive. I could tell he was really unhappy. He was not engaging with the education he was getting. He said he was learning nothing, that he could not see the reason for what he was doing, and that he could learn more from a few hours on the Internet.

After a year and three months at the school, he banged his head badly while in the school building. He told no one at school until he began to feel unwell the next day. Then he became extremely ill with problems associated with the injury. Sickness and headaches from the injury are still ongoing, nearly two years later.

Despite repeated attempts at communication, the school hardly responded. A pupil in their care had suffered a head injury, but they did nothing to help him get back to school. There was no extra support, care, or resource—just business as usual. His dad and I were so shocked, upset, and stressed about our son that we were struggling to manage what was going on.2 No one called us.

For the last three years I have found it difficult to focus on my own life, as I have been so busy with my son. I have decided to make it my job to be someone whom my son can take his difficult feelings to. He has used me well! In order to have the attention and time to be with him and listen to him, I have tried to stay as rational and healthy as possible. This has been a very big job.

The special time3 he has chosen has all been on screens. It has included playing video games (which I hate), reading Facebook messages with him (I am not a fan of Facebook either), and watching numerous Youtube videos and vloggers (video bloggers on the Internet). He has invited me into his world, and I’ve realized how little I’ve known about the world in which teenagers now live.

I have been so restimulated by everything that has happened that I have hardly been able to have sessions about anything except my feelings and worries about my son. I have Jewish heritage, which also explains how big this has been for me. I have a session every day. I have done a huge amount of discharging. I have let my heart break a thousand times and looked again and again at what happened to me in my own teenage years. It has not been comfortable.

My son still has ongoing health issues, and he and his dad and I eventually took4 the decision to remove him from school. Since then he has been doing better. I can see some signs of recovery. He looks more relaxed, his posture has changed, and he is starting to get back some of the spark he had many years ago. He has begun to spontaneously play and is engaging with some schoolwork again. He is not demanding to buy things all the time, and our home life is calmer. He is still suffering from headaches much of the time.

He says that at times he feels like a different person. There is a whole new set of problems as a result of his not going to school, but I feel that at least he is on a positive path now.

It has been hard to think clearly over the past three years. I have fought to get my son back and to some extent succeeded. It has been a huge journey for me and incredibly difficult. I am still struggling to see the gifts and positive outcomes from this struggle, though I am sure they will be revealed in time.

I have been shocked by the lack of care for the well-being of teenagers in school. What is happening in the lives of other teenagers? What can we do?

Let’s not forget what it’s like to be a teenager. Let’s discharge on our teenage years and not wait until we are forced to look at them because of the difficulties facing our children and grandchildren. Things are even harder for teenagers now, with the digital world bringing more complexity and putting more pressure than ever on their lives.

M—

(Present Time 182, January 2016)


1 “Tell” means see.
2 “Going on” means happening.
3 Special time is an activity, developed in RC family work, during which an adult puts a young person in full charge of their mutual relationship, as far as the young person can think. For a specific period of time, the adult lets the young person know that he or she is willing to do anything the young person wants to do. The adult focuses his or her entire attention on the young person and follows his or her lead, whether the young person tells, or simply shows, the adult what she or he wants to do.
“Took” means made.


Last modified: 2020-07-01 19:14:07+00