Dear Career Doctor:
My son is in the 10th grade. I believe he suffers from depression. He is often abusive towards me and very often won’t attend school. It’s been told to me that he might benefit from anti-depressants but he refuses to try it. He goes to therapy on occasion. It seems not to help at all. He blames me for everything. I’m divorced from his father who was also abusive. I wonder how I can get him to take medication and to get him to go to school regularly. Thank you for any new suggestions.
This problem is too big to handle on your own. You need — and deserve good back-up.
Meet with the school psychologist and have him/her try to determine why your son is missing school. There could be several reasons: depression, trouble understanding the school work due to undetected learning disabilities, or kids bullying him. The psychologist should discuss this with your son’s therapist and teachers and work out a plan to address the issues.
At the same time, have the psychologist arrange for the principal (or some other authority figure) meet with you and your son, to explain that attendance is not optional. Both you and your boy are legally required to have him attend regularly. If he becomes physically abusive and his lack of attendance becomes excessive, the courts could force him to behave by issuing a PINS (Person In Need of Supervision) order. Getting a PINS order is a last resort, because control is in the hands of the court, not the parent, but sometimes just knowing about PINS makes an out-of-control teen know that bad behavior can have very serious consequences.
It is so hard to be a single mother, especially when you can not turn to the father for help. You should know that kids tend to take out their problems, and be their worst, with the parent that they trust won’t leave them. But this is absolutely no excuse for your son’s bad behavior. I just want you to know that it is often a sign that the child trusts you to stick with them and help them solve their problems. I wish you luck and hope the school gives you the kind of back up you need.