The heartbreak of being powerless to stop your teen on their self-destructive path

Photo: Alamy
Photo: Alamy 

My 15-year-old son is refusing to look up and make eye contact. He knows I'll see straight through his clear blue eyes. He hasn't mastered how to hide the truth from me, yet.

I've read articles about those with blue eyes are descendant from Vikings, but right now my son is not showing any warrior characteristics.

When he finally lifts his head to look at me, he's showing his "faraway" look. I call it the "I'm here but not home look."

I've seen it many times. The teenager disengaging when he's receiving advice. I'm not sure what he's thinking but I'm guessing it's something along the lines of, "here she goes again with more of her dumb advice."

I'm the mother of  three boys.  One Monday morning a few weeks ago, I sat through a very painful meeting with one of my 15 year-old twins. It was in a room next to the Principal's office at the high school he'd attended for the last three years.  The week prior to that meeting he'd been suspended from school for four days.

He was grounded at home. Four very long and boring days for him. Four very long and challenging days for me, who works from home.

X-box was disconnected, his mobile phone and school computer taken away from him. All the devices a teenager connects to the outside world and mates were purposely removed. 

What could he do? 

Sleep and a long list of chores his mother created to keep him "busy" during school hours.

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"If you're not attending school, you can still work," I told him firmly. "This is not a holiday!"

The meeting at school the following week was foreboding. It was with the school Principal, the Assistant Principal and the Head of House. We gathered around a very large table. My son sat closest to the Principal. After a string of detentions, warnings and an earlier suspension, I doubted the school would tolerate any further disruptive and annoying behaviour. My mother's intuition sensed he would not be allowed to stay at school.

My son on the other hand, believed he was going to be given another chance. 

My gut instinct proved to be correct, the school had run out of patience and felt it was in everyone's best interests for him to make a "fresh" start.

Elsewhere.

Phone calls were made to locate a new school. An interview set up. Explanations given in a roundabout manner why our child is moving to a new school.

Time to press the re-set button.

But what will change?

How can a 15-year-old understand the decisions they're making right now have the potential to significantly impact their future life. And not necessarily in a good way.

Teenagers care little about tomorrow, the next week or even the next year! Friends are the priority. Ignoring parents is the norm.

The rush of hormones, the body changes, the social media messages bombarding their young minds create a tumultuous time of conflict and identity struggles for today's teenagers.  Add the pressure of school and it's an unsettling, confusing time.

Parents know a teenager doesn't have the maturity or capacity to make wise decisions. The scientific studies suggest an adolescent male brain does not fully mature until age 25 (for females its 21.)  But try telling a teenager about results of science and you'll receive a massive eye roll.

The benefit of hindsight must wait.

Will my son choose to hit the re-set button at his new high school?

If he doesn't, he won't finish his high school education and instead will have to enter the work force, where he'll be forced to grow up very quickly.

I'm not saying this is a bad outcome, as many kids who've elected (or been forced) to leave school before finishing senior (years 11 and 12) have made a decent living and successful career choices.  For some that is the better path to follow.  I just want my son to not look back in the future and regret some of the decisions he made as a teenager.

Because I know he doesn't have the capacity or foresight to make wise decisions, I must continue to encourage and show him the love he needs at this age despite the angst he causes. To be there when he hits the bumps in the pot-holed filled road called life.

I'm also learning to ignore the glazed expression my teenager seems to have perfected.