15 Year-Old Son Becoming Hostile in Family Situations

Reader’s Question

My 15 yr old son and I get along OK; he asks me for things when he needs them. Lately, though, he has been getting mad over the littlest things and calls me names, like B**ch, and A**hole. He has called his sister names, too (she is turning 10 soon). He can’t fight with me, or won’t, so he fights with her. I have been very ill for 2 months and the doctors are trying to figure it out, but he gets mad because his friends can’t come over (his friends are loud, rowdy, disrespectful, and some of them I have cut off, due to recent info they are using drugs). He thinks as long as they aren’t doing it IN my home, it is OK, they should be allowed to come over. I tell him no, I’m the parent, it jeapordizes our family/home, and that’s all there is to it. He gets mad and says it’s BS and starts in on his little sister, and then comes at me pushing, and calling me names.

I don’t have anyone whom I can send him to stay with while I deal with medical appointments, etc. and can’t have him here fighting me and my daughter. The police here have dealt with him plenty, and they said if they take him to the detention center, they would just release him in a couple hours (due to overcrowding, and not enough staff). I don’t have a car to drive to the center and pick him up after, nor would I want to if he just assaulted me or my daughter.

I just left a Domestic Violence situation in January of this year, and he suffered the brunt of the abuse (mine was mostly emotional, verbal, sexual; my daughters was a bit physical and verbal/emotional). I always tell him I am sorry we didn’t leave sooner and tell others in front of him, that unfortunately he suffered the worst. He just says, well, remember what Grandpa (my Dad) used to say? What doesn’t kill ya makes ya stronger? (My dad passed away in 2003, and I thought my son was getting better and dealing with it and now this.)

I can’t work because of my illness, but when I get better, I won’t be able to leave him alone while I work, because I can’t leave my daughter alone with him. They fight so badly and he threatens her, so she goes to a friend’s and he is home alone. But when I get home he has all his friends over (even the druggies), and they are eating all our food (we get food stamps), and messing up our house, going through stuff. I have had stuff come up missing, and can’t pin it on any one person. I can’t lock him out of the house, or make him leave (the cops said it is child abandonment, and I will go to jail), so what do I do?

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I am so depressed, and feel like I don’t know how to be a mother, and don’t deserve to be a mother, and feel like I should sign them over to someone else, and disappear. What should I do? I know he probably needs a psychological evaluation, but there aren’t any psychologists in our little town, and he doesn’t get out of school till almost 4. What do you think? ANY info would be helpful. Thank you!

Psychologist’s Reply

The biggest concern is the amount of stress your family has been under over the past year. The family was subjected to domestic violence, then leaving that situation which is additionally stressful. Your illness is likely to be increasing the stress in the family as well. Under such severe stress, some children become withdrawn while others become angry and hostile. Your son is obviously very angry and resentful about the entire situation — an anger he is now expressing toward you and your daughter. It’s possible he is experiencing a type of panic — the male parent out of the picture and Mom with a serious yet unknown illness. From his standpoint, his life has become unpredictable. He would clearly benefit from counseling. While there may be no psychologists in your area, there should be a community mental health center nearby with clinical social workers or counselors.

While the behavioral problems are in your son, it’s also clear that you are very depressed and overwhelmed. You’ve experienced severe social and personal stressors over the past two years and are probably emotionally exhausted. This emotional state will make any physical illness/condition much worse. While physicians and specialists are working up your physical symptoms, please discuss your severe depression with them as well. They should be able to add an antidepressant to your medications to provide some relief from those symptoms.

Your daughter is probably just as stressed as you and your son. She may be quiet about it however. Try to arrange some private time with her, mother-daughter time, if possible. While your son may feel hostile and angry — and you overwhelmed — your daughter is likely to feel helpless.

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