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Teenage Problems/Problems with 19 year old son

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Question
Hi, thank you for volunteering your time! We are having quite a time with our 19 year old son, who will be 20 in 2 weeks. He has 0 motivation and I am so worried for his future. He works part time as a dish washer and other than that hangs out with his friends and smokes pot. We do NOT allow it in our house, but we are well aware of it. He started smoking pot at 16 and we did have him in a out patient re-hab but it did not help. He has 4 younger brothers and recently took a couple of their xbox games and sold them (he has done this in the past with our stuff). I just don't know how to help him.

That's the problem. Aside from this he is a good person. He is respectful (besides the above#, his brothers love him, he has a great relationship with us #besides the above). I don't want to just throw him out. God only knows what happens then. He is not a school kid at all. He struggled all through school. He went to summer school every year from grades 7-11. He ended up going to a GED program his school offered and got that. He doesn't drive or have his license, which I think is best because of his pot use. He just doesn't seem excited for anything. My husband and i are taking him out for dinner for his birthday and I want to have some suggestions for him.

Do you have any advice how to spark his interest in something. My husband and I are both hard workers. I recently went back to school, so he "sees" good modeling. I just want to see him excited for his future or have an active interest in something and certainly and opportunity to meet different people!

Any suggestions/advice would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you,
KG

Answer
Hi there KG,

Thank you for taking the time to write to me and I hope that I can help. Firstly, let me apologise for the delay in getting back to you, there have been a couple of incidents at work which have tied me up and not allowed me time to get near a computer, so I apologise.

One thing that I will have to say from the outset is that it sounds like you and your husband are doing a brilliant job at bringing your son up and you have given him the best possible opportunity so far for him to grow and develop into a nice young man; and as you say, he generally is but he just has an issue with pot affecting his motivation. You and your husband and your other sons should not take the burden for his choice or lack of motivation, you have done all that you can so far and it is down to your son ultimately to make choices in his life based upon what he has learnt from you and the way in which he has been brought up. As a parent, you hope that your children will always make the more positive of choices because you have warned them against the perils of not but it is not always the case and again, I have to say, that your son's choice is nothing to do with what you and your family have or haven't done, it is just a choice that he has made. Congratulations on going back to school and improving your knowledge; it is good for your career prospects but also for your children to see their mom challenging herself.

It could be that if your son has always struggled throughout school and he feels that academics are not for him; that he almost just gave up which would mean that he would begin to hang around with people who shared his apathy for education. It could be that this group of people, because they struggled with school, became close through their mutual dislike of school and their outlet for their frustration has been to smoke pot opposed to ask for help and admit that they are struggling. This has then probably become habitual and part of your son's social life to the point where it dominates most of his spare and free time; and the fact that he is selling his brother's Xbox games to get money for pot emphasises this.

I think that from what you have explained at the moment that he lacks the motivation to change his ways because he has no incentive to want to stop smoking pot. There are two things that need to be done in order to tackle this, firstly, the family needs to take a tough stance on the fact that he has stolen his brother's computer games and regardless of the justification for it or it as a 'one off', it should still not have happened and it needs to be made clear to your son that it is not fair on his brothers what he has done. He needs to understand that his actions have consequences that reach just beyond him getting pot, there are legal implications if he chose to continue down this path and potentially break the law in order to fund his habit.

The second thing to do is to find something that he really wants to buy or achieve and use this as a motivator. You have mentioned about his licence and how he has not interest in it at the moment, if he could be sold the benefit of being able to drive and have his own transport, including the ability to have access to a car then this could help him to see the bigger picture and learn that he stops wasting money. With a car comes the need for money and this includes him picking up extra hours at work to help pay for the car or potentially taking on a second job.

If he chooses not to use this a motivator to change then the other way around it is to cut his access to funds for pot and this may mean that you have to start taking money off him for housekeeping from his part time wage. This may sound harsh but what you are doing is teaching him responsibility for managing his finances and even if the money that you take goes into a savings account for when he is older (but he is not told about it until he needs it) it will reduce his access to money to buy pot and this may mean that he reduces his intake. As a family there is only so much control that you can have over him and what he does because when he is outside of the house he can be doing anything and there is little that you can do if he is doing it out of sight.What you can do is lay the foundations of unacceptable behaviour at home (which you have started to do) by explaining to him that there are negative consequences from smoking pot that affect not only him but the rest of the family and if he does continue to go down this path then he runs the risk of ending up either in prison or potentially losing everything because people will only put up with so much.   

He sounds like a good kid and it is unfortunate that he has decided to experiment with pot to the point where it is becoming almost a weekly thing. Research is split over the short and long term damage about what it may actually be doing to his young brain but more concerning is that fact that if he is smoking it with tobacco that he faces an increased risk of developing lung cancer and having a stroke. Similarly, as pot chills people out and gives them a sense of invulnerability whereby he may take risks that could result in him getting hurt. Some professionals (including one that I have worked under) have listed pot as being less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco but then other research suggests that excessive consumption, especially during teenage years, may lead to an increased risk of schizophrenia in later years if the person is already pre-dispositioned for it (for example, there are known mental health issues in the family).

All of that said, again, there is little you can do but to explain the consequences of his actions, limit his access to funds for it and attempt to find him a motivator for changing his behaviour. Drawing the lines of what is acceptable and not within your household and putting on a united front should also help and hopefully, all of these will mean that he can withdraw from his habit and then ultimately stop.

I hope that helps.  

Teenage Problems

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Daryl Taylor, BSc (Hons) Psychology, PGDip (pending certification)

Expertise

My expertise covers everything and anything to do with growing up, being a teenager or a young adult or being the parent of one of the pre-described. I can cover issues on identity, sexuality, love, relationships, families, drug/alcohol abuse and anything and everything in between.

Experience

I have volunteered for AllExperts.com for over ten years now, but even before that I was trying to use my experience to help others by working with Advice4teens.co.uk, Teenadviceonline.org and even Lycos and Ask Jeeves. My experience comes from being a teenager primarily but this lead me to work with young people from the age of 13. I have worked front line, face to face and over the telephone, e-mail and webchat for a government department called Connexions UK (aimed at young people aged 13-19); as well as being student counselor in New York, a Peer Mentor, a student teacher and working for my school, college and University to help raise the aspirations of young people. My life has not been easy and I have been through my fair share of issues; so there is little that I haven't been through in reality opposed to just reading it from a book or from my academic studies. I have been featured as a case study as achieving through adversity for a number of magazines and I have featured in a couple of books on both sides of the Atlantic; even though I am UK based.

Organizations
The Albert Kennedy Trust

Publications
Relationships: Cathy Senker, 2012, Raintree The Dean and Chapter Positive Nation GTEN Television Aim Higher

Education/Credentials
BSc(Hons) Psychology Post Graduate Diploma in Multidisciplinary Design Innovation Basic Counselling Skills Effective Listening Skills Mental Health First Aid

Awards and Honors
Outstanding Student achievement Adult learner's Award

Past/Present Clients
Allexperts.com Advice4teensuk.org Teenadviceonline.org lycos.co.uk askjeeves.com Connexions Direct

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