Is your defiant teenager depressed or extremely manipulative or a combination of both?

My 14 (almost 15) yr. old son is dating a 17 yr. girl. Just about the time he started seeing her, my almost 17 yr. son came to me because he felt his brother was showing signs of depression. The oldest son is very mature, kind, very religious, and sensitive towards others, particularly his brothers. He showed me how to access his brother's instant messaging e-mails. I was then able to get into my son's head (he's not very talkative) and find out what is going on with his girlfriend because I had some concerns about their relationship. Also in his e-mails, he told his friends that he was very sad but didn't know why and that he doesn't believe in God. I kept on eye on it and didn't see anything more in the e-mail about him being sad nor did I notice him looking down until I grounded him. The younger one has had his moments of bad moods over the years, and with the combination of hormones and having a girlfriend in the picture, I decided to monitor it.

Long story short, I told him I didn't want him to be alone in the car with her. That's what started the terrible outbursts. My husband and I came home to them in our driveway and I knew they were doing more than kissing. I found out more on the e-mail. They are not there yet (physically) but will be if I don't try and prevent it. He doesn't know about the e-mail, of course. After I told him my concerns about being alone in the car with her, he had a major temper tantrum like I never saw before. He swore at me, threw things and screamed at me. I grounded him over the weekend. That meant more tantrums. My husband was out of town so I had to do this all by myself. My son took full advantage of his dad not being around and let it all out. Screaming and crying for hours begging and begging to go out.

He was telling me how very sad he was and that he needed to talk to his friends. Normally, he is a very good kid. Does very well in school (except after I told him about the car issue and the straight A student received a D on a test recently) and has great friends (including his girlfriend). I stood my ground with the grounding, but he was wearing me down. He followed me throughout the house crying and begging. I felt like a prisoner in my own home. I went into the bathroom a lot that day (yesterday) to get away from him. Sometimes he would get into a fetal position. At one point he grabbed a knife and said he was going to use it on himself. I didn't let on but I didn't believe him. The 17 yr old got it away from him. My older son was so upset that he broke down sobbing. I ended up calling the police after he threatened to take some pills. They talked to him and got him on the phone with a crisis center and recommended that he see someone. He told the counselor that if he had had a gun, he would have used it.

Afterwards, he was very tired and calm after 8 hrs of crying and went to bed (it was rather late). I was exhausted. At 6:45, he woke me up (it was a Sunday) to ask if it was now all right for him to see his friends that day. Technically, he was still grounded. After the scare from the night before, and the fact that I didn't want to go through it again...I told him yes. He ended up telling me his plans (his girlfriend was going to pick him up) and they were going out to eat and then her parent’s house to watch a movie. He was smiling when he walked in the door after being with her. He then asked me when dinner was because he wanted to go for some ice cream with her. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop when he was going to approach me again to tell me what his plans were. I didn't want to get into because I wasn't sure what stand to take. Apparently, she couldn't go, so instead of eating dinner, he went to be at 7pm. 
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I am so confused. Is he depressed or extremely manipulative or a combination of both? Regardless, I know he has a problem of some sort but....... it’s difficult to parent because I'm afraid of what he might do. I am going to seek help. I've already tried someone today but he wasn't available. On Friday, I did put a call into the guidance counselor but he wasn't available. Who should he see?

Thank you


Dear Parent,
Whether or not you feel that he is serious or just wanting the attention from it, you need to get him help. And I do not mean, talking to a counselor at school when he might be available next. I mean inpatient care if possible.

This can be done through a family doctor, or the ER. After any threat or attempt, it is best to have the teen evaluated by medical professionals.

This does several things. It helps to "feel out" if it was a threat or real. If it was real, it will be the first step in getting him help, and in helping him to understand that there are better ways to deal with his emotions. Second, if he was using it as a tool to get what he wants, he will learn very quickly that threatening to harm himself will not get him what he thinks it will - and is not ok to do.

Next time you do ground him, I would suggest to prevent what happened over this instance, don’t just ground him to your house. Take the computer, the cell phones, and tell him he comes out of his room (a) to eat when you call him to eat, (b) to go to the bathroom (but no more than 10 minutes can be spent in the bathroom at a time), (c) for emergencies of course - but not self created ones.

While I don’t advise reading your teen's emails, I feel that in this case you had reason to do so. I am not sure if you ought to read each and every email though. You might want to sit down with his girlfriend’s parents, and address some of your concerns about the physical part of your son's and their daughter’s relationship. It may very well be that they are unaware of the extent of it.

Remind your son, that due to federal and state law, once his girlfriend turns 18, the relationship with her will have to stop. She will be considered an adult, and he is still a minor.

But most important, I wouldn’t wait more then 24-36 hours before he sees someone. Admit him if you have to.


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