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How can I help my 17-year-old son with severe behavior problems get on the right track?


​My son recently turned 17. He is struggling with so many concerning behaviors that I don't know where to start, and I fear it is too late to make any critical changes in his life. I don't have money to send him to places that could be of best help to him. He has substance abuse issues, anger issues, authority issues and academic issues. As a matter of fact, he was just arrested yesterday for domestic violence. To make matters worse, my husband and I have had differing views on how to handle this; and now, I fear for his ability to cope and carry on as an adult in a safe manner. He has always struggled in school and has had significant behavior issues since kindergarten. I feel like I have failed him. Because my husband and I can't see eye to eye on pretty much anything, what can I do for him?


Boys Town - Rebelious Teen

/parenting/questions-and-answers/PublishingImages/Rebellious-Teen-Blog-Image.jpgThank you for reaching out. It sounds like you are in a tough place right now and just want what is best for your son. Parenting is not easy, especially when you have teenagers that have severe behavior issues. It is great that you found the courage to ask for help today! 

It sounds like there is a lot going on. If you have not already, it may help to connect with your son's school, especially since he is struggling academically. See what supports the school can offer – school counselor, IEP's, family support, tutoring, etc. Schools typically have a lot of support available to students and their families, so it may help to connect with the school to learn more about the programs they can offer. 

You mentioned your son was arrested yesterday for domestic violence. Unfortunately, we don't know the entire story of what exactly occurred, if your son is currently detained and if there was a court hearing set. If there is a court hearing set for this charge, it may be beneficial to attend the hearing with your son and advocate to the judge about your son's issues and needs. Court hearings can be overwhelming, so you may want to try to write a letter to the judge beforehand. This way, all of your concerns can be addressed during the hearing. 

Finances can definitely be a factor when looking at treatment and supports for your son. It may help to call your son's insurance provider and see if they can provide you with a list of places they cover. You can also try looking at sliding-scale places. Sliding-scale facilities/programs are typically more reasonably priced because they factor in what your monthly income is and base pricing off of that. 

The most important thing is to be on the same page with your husband. If you both have different views on how to handle his behaviors, nothing will get resolved. Your son likely sees this difference in how one parent addresses things over the other, which gives your son power of the situation. Try sitting down with your husband tonight and talking with him about the importance of being on the same page. It may take time to create a plan of action that you both agree on and will likely include each parent needing to be flexible, but it is needed. Once you and your husband can address your son and his behaviors as a unified team, your son will understand that he no longer has the authority over you both.

Hopefully these suggestions can point you in the right direction on what to do next. Like was said earlier, parenting is not easy! Please continue to reach out to your supports, including the Hotline, at any time. Crisis Counselors are available 24/7 to provide whatever support possible.