Patented Q & A Database


I live as a single mother with my 23 year old son. He may or may not have mental health problems with depression. in any case, my problem with him concerns his behavior. During the last 4 months he has become, sullen, surly, uncommunicative, and vacillates between periods where he talks to me in a reasonable way (more typical of his past behavior) and increasingly frequent periods where he doesn't hardly speak to me at all, avoids me, stays in his room and goes out til 5 in the morning. He rarely does any chores around the house, and he's messy. I have to choose between picking up his mess or living in it. To the best of my knowledge he does not take illegal drugs. He has a prescription for an anti-depressant. I don't know for sure that he takes it regularly as prescribed. I feel that he is not taking resposibility for his problems. It am told there's nothing I can do because "he's an adult." I feel stuck, I can't make or enforce rules because "he's an adult" and at the same time I have to maintain the house and pick up after him like he was a little kid. We live in a sec-8 apartment, so we pay only a little bit in rent. In the lease I am listed as "head of Household" and he is listed as "other adult." I am currently unemployed and attend school part-time with a grant that only covers tuition and school supplies. He is signed up for classes at school part-time that he may or may not attend. I am thinking of just moving out. It would be a hardship as I have a little income (but not enough) and savings for a about 3-4 months. I feel confused, frustrated and alone. I beleive he is not taking responsiblity for his problems. I don't know whether it is CAN'T or WON'T. How can I tell if he can't or won't take responsibility for his problems? Is moving out a reasonable option? What rules if any can I reasonably enforce?


Ashley Hammond Replied: As the head of your house you are always the one in control. Like with any behavior modification however you must be prepared to honor your punishments and consequences if you set them. Ultimately it may require that you ask your son to leave but if you are not prepared to do this then you will need to set small tasks and consequences for a failure of these tasks buiding to more reasonable living environment. Respecting mutual living rules and standards is not goverend by age or relationship. if you require ordesire a better standard then it is yours to demand and consequences can and should be set and followed. If you beleive that your son has depression then you must seek medical help. This is a serious medical condition that may be treated in a variety of ways. Remember it is your house and you can set the rules. start small and work towards a more functional house. you will need to be prepared to action your words with anger and shouting NOT the answer! Ask your son to sit with you and write a contract that you can both agree upon that you can post and follow. as your son is out late and into the arly hours it is quite reasonable to ask him to submit to drug testing as a rule for living in the house. If this is something that you cannot tolerate then you should ask him to leave the house. Local government or town counselors are often availabler for lower income familes and I would suggest seeking guidance locally, alone at first and then with your son as the therapist sees fit.
Posted On 2010-05-04 01:06:35
Dr. Vicki Panaccione Replied: You are absolutely right---your son isn't taking responsibility for himself or his life. And whether he can't or won't is unclear. What is clear is that he is facing no accountability on any aspect, and most likely won't on his own. His change in mood and behavior suggests that either he is emotionally unstable, involved with alcohol/drugs and/or is involved in some troublesome activity. Obviously, he has had past issues of depression, hence the medication. Unfortunately because he is of age, you are no longer able to insist on medical treatment, or even consult with his physicians. However, in order to remain under your roof, you need some kind of agreement with him. That means taking a firm, authoritative stand; not moving out. You might want to require that he sign a release allowing you to consult with his physician, to find out whether he can't or won't. A clear set of rules and boundaries needs to be set in place, (including demanding compliance with treatment) or you may need to take more drastic action. Changing the locks, packing up his stuff, etc. may be in order. As an adult, he has the right to be sullen, spend time in his room, be non-communicative, messy and stay out until 5 in the morning…that doesn't mean he has to do it under your roof.
Posted On 2010-05-03 00:22:32
Dr. Tom Greenspon Replied: The situation sounds dire, and it isn't surprising that you feel powerless and discouraged. Indeed, you can't make your son seek help, but the suggestion that there is "nothing you can do" is only the legal reality -- not the emotional one. Since he is an adult, you have to be thinking more about your own limits than about setting limits for him. It sounds like he has had some kind of diagnosis to get the anti-depressant prescription. Depression, chemical abuse, anxiety disorders, and other forms of mental and emotional disorders may underlie his behavior; help is available for any of these, so there will be resources in the community, perhaps starting with the County social services department, that are available to him. In one of those moments when he is his old self, have a talk with him about the situation. You love him and you want the best for him, but you are struggling with the fact that despite all of the support you have willingly given him, he is not taking care of himself or of his obligations as a member of the household. This has become a burden that is too heavy to bear, so there seem to be two choices: he can seek help, in a consistent way, for whatever emotional difficulties he is having, and you will be there to support him. Alternatively, he will need to find his own place to live and his own way to build a life. You will continue to be supportive, but it is necessary for him to have his own life separate from yours. This is tough love, indeed, and it would be useful for you to find a support group -- look to the County, or a church, or a mental health clinic or hospital for resources -- where there are others going through similar situations. They can provide information about resources, but more importantly they can provide you with emotional support as you work this out. Best of luck to you!
Posted On 2010-04-30 12:36:50
Stephen Jones Replied: I think that you have taken the right step by seeking a solution for your problem. It sounds like both of you need to sit down and discuss this with a counselor or pastor. There are counselors that will come to your home. Adults carry into life habits that they have formed when they were young. You must sit down with him one on one if change is going to occur. You set the standards that he must adhere to in terms of cleanliness. Write down what you expect. Discuss potential consequences. He needs to be accountable for his behavior. Why should you move out. I think you should discuss potential alternative housing arrangements with your counselor. If he is able to stay out until 5:00 in the mornning, he can do the things that you request.
Posted On 2010-04-30 09:42:19
Jack Marcellus Replied: He may be an adult, but there are still house rules and he must respect them. You need to seek the help of a skilled professional to determine the can't or won't part. If he can and chooses not to then tough love could be in order as difficult as that may be. However, if he can't then I would do everything possible to get him help and impress upon the importance of positive activities AND strictly following the doctors orders. Be sure that medications are really needed as they could be part of the problem. The irregularity of the medication is not good and could be the cause for the behavior swings.
Posted On 2010-04-30 07:51:39
Press Esc to close