Does Your Teen Stay Up All Night and Sleep All Day?

Mine does! I know I’m not alone as a parent concerned with this type of sleep pattern. My son recently turned 19 and is old enough to schedule his own sleep cycle. He is a “night owl”. He loves to play video games during the calm of the middle of the night. He watches Hulu, Netflix shows and Star Wars movies while most of us are sleeping. He Snapchats with friends and Facetimes with his long distance girlfriend (she lives in Canada, we are in California) at 1am, 2am and even later.

As teens head toward adulthood (at least in chronological terms), their lives become their own to manage. They are developing their own sense of self and what’s important to them. The connection with friends has always been easier for my son online, rather than in person in many instances. That was true before he went away for treatment and especially now, while at home during our pandemic.

My son will often stay up until 3am, 4am or 5am and sleep until noon, 1pm or 2pm. This pattern is fairly standard, even with his work schedule, which is right now just one day a week, at the local grocery store. He has complained for a long time that he just can’t get to sleep at night, even with some reinforcement by his taking the natural aid of melatonin.

We know he’s up at night because of the sounds of frequent trips into the kitchen: cupboards opening and closing, the refrigerator door opening the closing, as well as the washing machine for his weekly laundry. We joked with him recently as he started a load of laundry at 11pm, that it seemed awfully early to be doing laundry! He didn’t find it too funny. I guess laundry isn’t funny!

The phenomena of staying up all night and sleeping all day has been reported recently in the media. One commentary titled: Let Your Teens Stay Up All Night, And Other Pandemic Parenting Advice by Marlene Major from May 19, 2020, notes:

“Adults tend to do best with normal sleep and wake cycles. But our teens and college students might actually benefit from living in opposition to our values and expectations.”

Another article in the Boston Globe entitled: “Teens up all night and sleeping half the day. Endless Netflix binges. In lock down, kids carve out whole new schedules” by Hayley Kaufman points out that teens are also struggling during the pandemic and their schedules have turned them into “vampires”.

Ms. Kaufman quotes Dr. Stuart Ablon, the director of Think:Kids, a program in the department of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital:

“Seeing points of friction through a different lens can provide a lift for parents. Take sleep schedules, for example. According to experts, staying up later and sleeping in fits better with teenagers’ biology. Optimally, teens need eight to 10 hours of sleep a night. Their circadian rhythms tend to make them night owls, something early school start times and bus schedules can wreak havoc with during a normal academic year.”

 

We are fortunate that my son’s school is out of session currently and if he does have classes for college in the fall, they will most likely be online, in the evening. We have also talked to our son about his current sleep patterns and it is clear to us that he is not concerned or worried about the hours he keeps. Having talked to other parents, I know my son is not the only one! As with other behaviors, it comes down to what a parent or family can accept vs what issues they want to take on.

On the positive side, a benefit when he is sleeping during the day, is that the house is very quiet and it is without any conflict. He doesn’t complain about typical noises coming from our kitchen, as we prepare breakfast and use the blender for smoothies. His best self comes out during our common time, in the early evening. We usually meet up in the kitchen and have quick conversations, as his mood or wake-up level may dictate. At 8pm, he is just gearing up for a long night ahead!

Another article from The New York Times published in 2019 called: “When Your 200-Month-Old Can’t Sleep Through the Night” by Perri Klass, M.D. states that their may be many factors can affect teens and their sleep:

“Social media and electronic devices in the bedroom. Intensely caffeinated drinks. The pressures of heavily overloaded schedules, including academic demands, extracurricular activities, travel sports teams, jobs and social lives.

What teen is without these things in their lives? Very few. So it is possible that the valuable “good sleep” is something our teens are missing from their development and may prevent them from performing at their best. The article goes on to say that if something is important enough, then solutions can be found: turning screens at night and avoiding caffeine can help, along with practicing consistent bedtime patterns. We have tried mentioning those ideas and others, like using a phone garage that can “park” their phone and charge it at the same time, during sleep hours.

Except for when our son had no devices at all, during his time away at treatment, he continues to be connected to many screens. At 19, he is now at the helm of decisions on usage. The fact that he purchased his current iPhone himself, and took over his own phone plan at the end of last year, makes it much easier for me to deal with his usage issues. So, it is really is up to him from here on out!

What About the Science of Sleep?

Much has been written about circadian rhythms or the bodies’ biological clocks, the teenage brain and the science of sleep. Another quote from the article above:

“Amy R. Wolfson, a professor of psychology at Loyola University in Maryland, and the co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Infant, Child, and Adolescent Sleep and Behavior, said that high school students tend to perform better in courses that meet later in the day, and perform better on cognitive tests when they are given in the afternoon.”

Many school professionals have discussed the topic of starting the school-day for teens slightly later, which matches what is known about teens’ biology. It makes sense that since teens stay up later, and they need their proper rest, that learning environments should reflect this information.

Is All Hope Lost?

No, I don’t think so. Part of growing up, especially for the older teen, is what they learn to do for themselves. That would include: healthy choices regarding sleep, eating habits and hygiene. We don’t have to agree on all their decisions, but hope to understand and give them room to succeed and fail. As parents, we know how important sleep is and it may be just a matter of time for those youngsters to figure it out, too! Until then, I will enjoy a quiet house in the middle of the day! Pleasant dreams!

Does your teen stay up at all hours? How are you handling it? Please comment below!

Additional resource about Sleep and Anxiety: All About Anxiety: Why Is It Preventing You From Sleeping? by Rose MacDowell from Sleepopolis

 

It’s Not Always Easy….And Yet We Keep Moving Forward

It's Not Easy, But We Move Forward

It has been two months since our 18 year old son has been back home for good from treatment. It’s been great to have him under our roof after twenty-seven months away. We all have been making adjustments to living together again. Not perfect, but rather a work in progress. We have continued with our family therapy calls with his therapist from Utah, by phone. That has been very important and helpful when we need to bring up difficult subjects and clear the air at times. It gives each of us a voice.

Dr. Tim Thayne, author of “Not By Chance: How Parents Boost Their Teen’s Success In and After Treatment says “The choice to place your teen in treatment was the hardest decision you have ever made. And the second hardest decision you will make is to bring him home again.”

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Very true indeed. There is so much unknown ahead. We have to focus on what is right in front of us, one day at a time. My son is in his self-proclaimed GAP year, which means he has chosen to get a job and work right now. Our communication has been tough at times, since he is at the age when he is trying to break away from us and that isn’t easy honestly, since we finally have him back again. Another way to look at it is, he was away when he should have been home, and he is home when he should be away. A bit of a flip flop for us as parents.

So for today’s post, I want to focus on what positive things have been happening for my son in the past six months:

1) Son passed the CHSPE exam (California High School Proficiency Exam) in June and is done with High School. BIG!
2) Son graduated from his step down program at the end of September 2019. Gave a brief, but important speech acknowledging his successes while away at treatment.
3) Son has looked into college, toured one and began application. Took the SAT, but has decided a GAP year is his path currently.
4) We agreed on a contract of boundaries and house rules for his return home. Still a work in progress on implementation of household duties/chores and our expectations, AND his.
5) Son wrote a relapse prevention plan, which was awesome on his part. So far so good.
6) Son applied for a job at Best Buy while in Utah so he could begin work right when he came home. Had interview beginning of October, was hired and has been working, mostly part time. Increased work hours coming slowing, but achieved his first forty hour week at Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
7) Saved some money, spent most of it on paintball equipment and some clothes. Started saving again.
8) Planned a trip to meet a friend in Canada before Christmas and renewed his passport on his own.
9) Bought his own plane ticket, with his own money!

10) Started his own phone account, is now off our plan and took over payments of his iPhone purchased in August. REALLY BIG!

His independence is beginning, maybe not quickly, but it is happening. Next up is the driver’s license! When I ask about it, his reply is, “I’m studying.” Okay then, there you have it. A lot of good. Most of it slow. He is not the best communicator in the world, but that may not be surprising to those parents out there with boys!

For me, it’s been a process of letting go. In an email from a parent support group that I belong to was the most perfect reminder of this difficult concept. I am sharing it with you below (many thanks to my brave, unnamed fellow support group parent)!

TO “LET GO” TAKES LOVE
by author unknown

To “let go” does not mean to stop caring,
it means I can’t do it for someone else.
To “let go” is not to cut myself off,
it is the realization I can’t control another.
To “let go” is not to enable,
but to allow learning from natural consequences.
To “let go” is to admit powerlessness,
which means that the outcome is not in my hands.
To “let go” is not to try to change or blame another,
it is to make the most of myself.
To “let go” is not to care for,
but to care about.
To “let go” is not to fix,
but to be supportive.
To “let go” is not to judge,
but to allow another to be a human being.
To “let go” is not to be in the middle, arranging the outcomes,
but to allow others to affect their own destinies,
To “let go” is not to be protective,
but to permit another to face reality.
To “let go” is not to deny,
but to accept.
To “let go” is not to nag, scold, or argue,
but to search out my own shortcomings and to correct them.
To “let go” is not to adjust everything to my desires,
but to take every day as it comes, and to cherish myself in it.
To “let go” is not to criticize and regulate anybody,
but to try to become what I dream I can be.
To “let go” is not to regret the past,
but to grow and live for the future.
To “let go” is to fear less and love more.

My family has come so far, and yet the road ahead is still unknown. We are working on accepting that……

Wishing you Peace and Happiness,
WARRIOR MOM

It’s All About Balance With Electronics

It's all about balance with electronics

A lot has happened in the eight weeks since my 17 1/2 year old was enrolled in the step down co-ed boarding school in Southern Utah. He is doing well and according to his advisor, he is not only compliant and respectful, he has become a favorite of the staff and fellow students alike. He is friendly to everyone, continues to make new friends and has stayed out of the normal drama which can frequently happen in a high school setting.

Isn’t that wonderful?

You bet! And with the good news and his positive progress, comes more responsibility and privileges. After his initial two week orientation, my son was able to request privileges towards more independence and “freedom”. Every Friday there is a staff “board meeting” where the advisors and administration consider the requests of the students. The students have to fill out forms with info of what privileges they are asking for and why they should be granted.

At this boarding school, there are of course rules, but it’s not just “one size fits all”, as it was at the Residential Treatment Center before. Along with parent’s input, the student’s off campus therapist’s comments, teacher’s recommendations and their advisor’s observations, the student moves forward at a pace that is tailor made for each of them individually. If the privileges are broken or rules disobeyed, then the consequences are given as learning opportunities rather than strictly punitive, giving the student a chance to learn from their mistakes in a healthy way. It’s like a built in safety net, which can be very positive and still instructive.

So far my son has earned many privileges: trust walks in the neighborhood surrounding the campus, dorm alone time, time off campus without staff AND the use of a cell phone. The cell phone we chose to re-introduce him back into the electronics world is an old fashioned “flip phone”. It can of course make phone calls, but has a lot of limits to texting and other uses that “smart phones” have made common place. Many have commented that this “retro” style phone is becoming popular again!

My son’s therapist says that he likes to “front load” the electronics use for kids at the boarding school, so the patterns of usage and potential problems can be addressed right away. For my son, he jumped back into the use head first. It was actually surreal when I purchased a new phone from the AT&T store and sent it to Utah initially. It took me right back to a time before my son went to wilderness that was not pleasant to remember. At that point, his iphone use was constant. He kept the device by his bedside all night long. He texted non-stop and was on social media too frequently.

He even recently shared that as he was being told he was heading to wilderness that fateful middle of the night, that he texted a friend to “Please keep my string of texts going on SnapChat for me!” That’s how out of control he was: as he was being sent away, his texting “string” was still his biggest concern.

As a family, we have discussed these old and often negative patterns in many conversations since the time he’s been away (end of June 2017). We talked about the anxiety and depression that the phone has caused for many, including him. We came to an understanding that while we as parents really thought of his electronics use as an addiction and he didn’t, there would have to be a balance of use/non-use in the future. We know that we are not going back to the “string tied to tin cans” kind of communication of the past and that the cell phone is here to stay, in all of our lives. Yet, that  balance is so essential for our minds, bodies and overall health. That goes for kids and us adults alike!

So when my son came home for his Spring Break, five weeks after beginning the “step down program”, he had his phone with him as he came off the plane. The list of his approved contacts were only a handful at that time. The list has been growing, as we continue to talk about who should be added and who should not be. Though it is somewhat limited, he is able to be in contact with his fellow classmates at the boarding school. He has reached out to some boys from wilderness and the Ranch and a few old friends from back home. We will see which ones rise to the top quickly enough. We are encouraging positive connections moving forward!


It's all about balance with electronics

​Well, as you have guessed, it was super easy for my son to resume using his phone, even a flip phone, for more time than we wanted to see. This was expected, especially after twenty months without having one to use at all. We were able to set boundaries of keeping the phone on the charger downstairs in the living room at night, so his sleep wouldn’t be interrupted. That was an improvement! We did see some old patterns come back, but we talked about them in family therapy. Part of our agreement is making sure that he is active and participates in family duties and chores, when he is visiting at home and does his homework and other obligations while he is at school. He has been agreeable to those terms. Even my son’s therapist says he is working on those same balances with his thirteen year old. It is a common dilemma these days and one we knew we were going to face!As the newness of the phone wears off, it will be up to him, to make these choices of amount of use and who he can call or text. In the meantime, we have received very good weekly calls from him. It’s always good to hear his voice when he’s away. Our week long visit was good overall, and we want to continue the conversation of balance as we move forward with this part of our journey. It will be an important topic for many families, I suspect!

Next up, adding a computer, internet and approved social media to the mix. Privilege by privilege we are heading down the ROAD TO EIGHTEEN when he enters adulthood officially near the end of July.

As challenging as re-introducing the phone has been, we are glad he has jumped back in! The question remains: How well will he balance it all?

“The future is ours to see, Que Sera, Sera”.

I remain ever grateful,

WARRIOR MOM

Balance
Balance

Screen Time Dilemma

Screen Time
Screen Time

This post is a bit different, but a very important one, none the less. Have you seen this article from The New York Times? It’s titled: “A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley” by Nellie Bowles. After reading this piece dated October 26, 2018, I was reminded of our old life, when my young teenage son was on his phone, computer, playing video games and watching TV, ALL of the time. It was a big part of what ruined our family life.

“It’s time to get off”, I would say to him.
“Okay, I will, I will, I just have to finish this game….post….video….text….movie….coding….fill in the blank. It didn’t matter that I turned it off or took it away, he found a way to get it back.

Over and over I would ask for him to stop and he wouldn’t or couldn’t. Part of it was our fault for letting him have the devices and part of it was his fault for using them. However, according to this article, it is becoming well known in the tech community that part of the problem lies with them too! Most of the big wigs in the industry do not let their own kids have much screen time and have at least monitored it. Steve Jobs’ young kids weren’t allowed to use Apple iPads! Bill and Melinda Gates wish they would have waited longer to give their four kids cell phones.

What positively changed for us was my son’s forced absence of screens. In the Wilderness Therapy Program my son went to last summer, at fifteen years of age, there was no screen use at all. Period. Cold turkey. Nada. What that did for his brain was let some “green” in and allow nature to cleanse and let his mind mature on it’s own. His mood became better. He actually could participate in conversations without constant distraction. Without the use, mis-use and over-use of screens, it made him a better person. He became less isolated and ultimately happier.

Another plus from no screen time, was that the majority of his anxiety went away. Bingo! What a concept. If we as adults, who already have formed brains, have a problem, how is a young person supposed to put down the screen? This article points out that the developers know how to program their content to go right to the pleasure centers of our brains. We are at a severe disadvantage that allows the devices to win every time, just like the casinos in Las Vegas, the house (the screen) will always win!

This article is eye-opening to the degree that those in Silicon Valley understand what their products are doing to the people they are selling to (us parents). One tech magazine higher up calls it closer to “cocaine than to candy” as to effects on the brain. Is anyone paying attention? I hope so! It’s all around us, and we are paying them to do it to us!

As far as our story goes, my son is able to use a computer to type some school assignments at the RTC. He still has no phone use and no internet use. When we visit with him, we talk about how we will move forward with technology in  the near future. The ironic part is that technology is an area of interest and skill for him. We will continue to explore and examine the pluses and minuses of that use. In the meantime, read the article and ponder why Silicon Valley is keeping this dark secret?

Staying positive,

WARRIOR MOM

Facebook for Six Year Olds……Really?

Facebook for 6 Year Olds?

 

Below is an important article written by Cecilia Kang and published last week by The New York Times. It is quite alarming to see what Facebook has up its sleeve for our kids and social media. I hope you join with me in letting Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, know how harmful it could be for the development of our youngest members of society. You can snail mail  letters to him at Facebook’s headquarters: 1 Hacker Way, Menlo Park, CA 94025.

Full disclosure: I am on Facebook. I am an adult. My brain is already fully developed. I do enjoy sharing comments, links and stories with friends and family. I am aware of the risks of overuse and addiction concerning social media and technology. I know limiting its use can be challenging for me and other grown-ups.


New York Times
“Turn Off Messenger Kids, Health Experts Plead to Facebook”
The New York Times Technology Section

By CECILIA KANG JAN. 30, 2018WASHINGTON — At the age of 6, a child is full of imagination and may not distinguish reality from fantasy. She is beginning to read and can’t grasp nuances in written communication. She also doesn’t understand privacy. Citing those reasons and more, dozens of pediatric and mental health experts are calling on Facebook to kill a messaging service the company introduced last month for children as young as 6.

 

In a letter to the company, they said the service, Messenger Kids, which pushes the company’s user base well below its previous minimum age of 13, preys on a vulnerable group developmentally unprepared to be on the social network.

The letter was organized by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, an advocacy group that has successfully pushed companies to abandon marketing like a Pokemon Go app that sent children to fast food and other stores, and McDonald’s advertising on the envelopes of report cards in Florida.

Facebook’s new app for young children opens greater concerns, the group said. “Younger children are simply not ready to have social media accounts,” the experts said in the letter. “A growing body of research demonstrates that excessive use of digital devices and social media is harmful to children and teens, making it very likely this new app will undermine children’s healthy development.”

The opposition to Facebook’s app adds to growing societal concerns over digital media and devices. Some big Apple investors called on the company this month to work harder to make the iPhone less addictive, and some former Facebook employees have warned about how effectively the service hooks users.

And academic research, including a study released last week, shows that the rise in smartphone and social media use tracked with greater unhappiness among teenagers. Messenger Kids is a texting-type service that a parent sets up for a child. The parent uses his or her own Facebook account for the child, but the app is otherwise not a part of the main Facebook service. The app doesn’t have News Feed or a “like” button, which some mental health experts have linked to anxiety among teenagers on social media.

But many elements of the social network are there, including emojis, selfies, video chat and group texting. Facebook says Messenger Kids provides a safer environment for children than many online experiences. The app has no advertising, for example. The company said it had consulted with the National PTA and several academics and families before introducing the app. “Messenger Kids is a messaging app that helps parents and children to chat in a safer way, with parents always in control of their child’s contacts and interactions,” Facebook said in a statement. But many health advocates say the app is still engineered to hook users, and that it is giving Facebook early access to its next generation of users.

“Facebook is making children into a market, and the youngest children will be more likely to get hooked even earlier,” said Michael Brody, a former chairman of the media committee of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

A version of this article appears in print on January 30, 2018, on Page B5 of the New York edition with the headline: Turn Off Messenger Kids, Health Experts Plead in a Letter to Facebook.

How can the use of this new App not be of concern to parents everywhere? Why do kids need this? We have seen the increase of anxiety in our teens? Do we need to push it down to elementary aged kids, too? Will babies be next? This is insane! Please feel free to comment below. I will be sending a letter to Zuckerberg this coming week. Please join me!

Flabergasted,

WARRIOR MOM

Getting Help

 

computer programming

My fifteen year old son is technology whiz. He can code and program with the best of them AND take most things apart. Putting them back together is more of a challenge however. I remember days going to a local thrift store and buying rotary dialing phones and other old fashioned electronics for him to fiddle with, for pennies on the dollar. It seems that he may have some kind of future in that broad field of computers or engineering.

But, in order to be able to get a job down the road, completing school is important. That goal became a problem during the second semester of his freshman year. My son’s interests started to change. He seemed anxious and depressed. Something had to be done. He was not himself anymore.

My son has gone to doctors for his ADHD meds since 7th grade. But after going to one for a while he decided that he didn’t like that one anymore and would refuse to go to any appointments. Ugh. So I had a brilliant idea. I said to my son, “Find a friend you trust. Someone who likes their doctor and get that doctor’s name and I’ll make an appointment for you.” Agreed, at least their would be some street cred if a friend suggest it! I called and started the process of my son becoming the new doctor’s patient. This psychiatrist has his office in the next town from us, so it was pretty convenient to see him. He required a couple of consultation appointments before therapy would begin which seemed fine to me. The only draw back was the expense, wow was he expensive. Gulp. I made it happen.

ADHD

I filled out the paperwork before we met and gave a history of some of the challenges and problems that we were having as a family and for my son as a teenager. Where to begin?  I compiled a laundry list of problems to work on. It seemed so daunting: ADHD and school failure, marijuana and negative friends, technology addiction and just plain ‘ole defiance were at the top.

The first thing the doctor said to me was, “Let’s talk about Plan B”. I replied, “What’s that?” And he continued………(find out more in tomorrow’s blog post)

Ever hopeful,
WARRIOR MOM

Orthodontist vs Computer

Toothbrush

This is Day Two of The Ultimate Blog Challenge for October. If you are a new reader, welcome. My story is simple: I am a mom of a sixteen year old teenager. That’s it in a nutshell. You might be thinking, “Okay, that’s nice…” but a blog about that? Well, if you haven’t noticed lately the world is becoming inundated with technology and it’s causing a few problems. That is seriously true if you are a teenager with an iPhone, iPad, computer and TV. There is way too much screen time AND social media! A young person’s brain is filled with so much information and instant communication, there is NO down time to just hang out and be bored.

And for my family it has put us into crisis! Our once fun-loving interactions have become tense and no fun at all.

To pick up where the last post left off, my son was on strike, with silence and school truancy. He decided not to attend any of his high school classes for a week. It was also so abnormally quiet it felt like an Egyptian tomb in our house. My son engaged in NO conversation at all, not even a grunt. UNTIL, caught off guard in the basement while he was building something with wires, he answered a question about how it worked. He began explaining what he was trying to do, until he realized that he was talking and he clammed up once again. Darn, almost got him!

The difficult part is that I needed him to go to the orthodontist to get his braces checked. He was so close to getting them off and that part was something he was looking forward to. So I had to make a deal. “You go to the orthodontist and return to school and you can have your computer back with certain time restrictions.” We drew up a contract and he agreed to it….for the moment. I had a need (getting him to see the orthodontist and going back to school) and he had a need (to get his computer back again). Plus, by this time of two weeks away from friends, he was certainly missing them (and the marijuana, I’m sure, too).

So things returned to back to normal pretty quickly. No homework, no chores and minimal engagement. My frustration level put me on a mission of how we were going to get through this teenage mess. But at least for now, the braces were checked and school was being attended.

Hanging in there,
WARRIOR MOM

The Sleep In and No Talk Zone

Dark Bedroom

As this saga continues, I want to share that this blog will be part of the Ultimate Blog Challenge and that it is my intention to blog everyday during the month of October. At least that is my goal. Our story will move along much quicker and I hope you will post comments when something moves you.

Life with a fifteen year old can be up and down to say the least. Teens have biological needs to sleep more and most will also begin to stay up later and later into the night. That was certainly true in our house this past year.

Freshman year in high school for my son was becoming more and more miserable. No school work was getting done, at least not at home and reports from teachers said that he was always tired at school. He would often put his head down on the desk and zone out while in class. He told his teachers he had trouble sleeping at night. I told the teachers it was because he was gaming and on his phone “Snapchatting” most of the night. He refused to use the family charger and get that “thing” out of his bedroom to be able to get proper rest. But NO GO!

So instead of repeating idle threats, we took action to get his attention! We took his computer out of his room and out of the house. Boy did that shake things up! He came home and went ballistic! He turned over chairs, put more holes in the walls of his room, yelled and basically threw a tantrum just like a toddler would. Only he was much bigger and stronger. Funny how much the teen years resemble toddlerhood! Or truthfully, not so funny!

The timing of the computer removal was at the beginning of Mid Winter recess also known as Ski Week in our area. We had planned a family trip down the state to visit some of our family, his aunt and uncle and cousins. He said, “No!” and wouldn’t get out of bed. He also said that he was sick and honestly I didn’t believe him, but in fact he did have a low grade temperature and sore throat as we later discovered.

We tried and tried to get on the road and at then realized we were not going to be going anywhere. He was controlling our house and it felt like we were helpless. It was his way of telling us that he was mad that we took his computer away. We stood firm. He stayed in bed. By the time school was back in session the following week, he was still in bed and by now not speaking to us at all.

The silence was “deafening” as they say. “Would you like something for lunch?” I’d ask. No reply. “Are you going to take a shower today?” was another line from me, but no response. NOTHING. It was becoming a huge stand-off. At least it was a peaceful protest, but difficult for me to swallow, none the less.

If only he could use that determination towards a positive goal or school work. It was an amazing thing to witness. No talking, at all! For over a week. Until……….(check back tomorrow to see what broke the silence spell!)

Until then, I remain a CALM:
WARRIOR MOM


Right Under Our Noses

Backpack
To pick up where we left off last time, the answer to what was in the backpack was like an ongoing game of surprise and shock. Lighters, bongs, rolling papers, containers with marijuana buds, soda pop, candy, sharpie pens, and of course power cords and phone charging cables, you name it, it was in there. My son carried all this stuff around for himself AND his friends. His backpack was the UBER backpack of the group. Now that’s one way to stay popular! It’s what I have called being a WILLING TOOL!

As I shared the story of what daily life with our 15 year old teenager was like, with friends and family, we received responses and comments like, “Oh, this too shall pass” or “That’s typical of a teenager, don’t sweat it” or “Don’t you remember how you were as a teen?”. Frankly, after hearing those lines repeatedly, even their well meaning intentions became hard to take. We were zooming into unchartered territory and choppy seas. Seriously, we needed dramamine in our house on dry land just to survive.

Our son’s moods were controlled by the digital contact he had with his friends, by phone or computer. If he received good texts, he was somewhat nice. If the texts or posts were not, he was somewhat mean. If you asked him to do anything resembling a chore or household task, “I will, I will, later” was the response. Or with very good manners, he would often reply, “No thank you.” He also would grunt and roll over while laying in bed, binge watching any number of Netflix shows. Occasionally, we could bribe him to go see a movie like “Rogue One” or out to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant. But no sooner would we get home, his moodiness began all over again.

One particular holiday weekend we took him to do his favorite activity: play paintball. Not an inexpensive hobby, in reality. Even if you have your own paintball equipment, the paint balls themselves aren’t cheap and that’s what you need in order to play! We thought we were connecting with him, doing the fun things he liked, eating the food he liked, going to the movies he liked. You get the idea, all about him, just to keep him engaged. During this period of time, for some reason he had the door to his bedroom back on the hinges. (That wasn’t always the case, because if a door gets slammed over and over, parts of the house start to fall apart, truly. So we removed his door a year earlier.) Can you say, trust factors?

Well, after what we thought was a good weekend for all of us, we smelled something unusual coming through the vents soon after we went to bed. We marched into a room filled with smoke and our son was just sitting there smoking pot. And what was shocking was that he totally denied it. We SAW it with our own eyes! WE SMELLED it with our own noses! And he said he WASN’T doing anything. I couldn’t believe it. Really, right in our own house? You’ve got to be kidding me. All I could muster to say to him was that I was really disappointed in him, and turned around and went to bed.

The next morning he acted as if nothing had happened. I was still realing and very upset. He went to school and I called a therapist, for myself. Now to put things into perspective, I know many kids do this behavior and some can handle it, but not my son. He was also failing in school but never want to talk about how to improve the situation. So the only way left to get his attention was to take the computer AWAY. And what happened after that was surreal. The saga continues…….

Anyone else out there have difficulty with teens and their moods? How did you handle it or get through it? I would love to read any comments you have.

Hanging tough! Thanks for reading!

WARRIOR MOM

Getting High in High School

Marijauna Plant

High School. Let that sink in for a moment. What does it really mean? You got it, my son got high in school! And he kept the iPhone connected to his physical person every waking and sleeping moment. Not to mention the amount of gaming on his computer that took place and you can see what a “wonderful” time it was at our house!

We didn’t really know the extent of the marijuana use. There are ways to cover it up: stay away from home longer, use eye drops, stay in one’s room in the dark. 9th grade can be a time when teens seek independence and have less monitoring by parents. They want to “hang” with their friends and not be with their parents as much. I get that, but in our case we were being pushed away every day.

On top of that, his computer and phone use was obnoxious. We suggested trying to take some time away from the devices and chill, but to no avail. A couple of our son’s doctors suggested putting the charger outside of his bedroom and charge AWAY from where he slept, but that wasn’t even an option in his mind. The net he threw out to friends and their friends was so large that “someone” would answer a text, join a snapchat or post some pics on Instagram. It was a full time job just keeping up with all the groups and “friends” he connected with.

Those devices became the biggest distractions from doing any homework at all. None, zilch, nada. And the grades reflected just that. “Do you have any homework?” I would ask daily. “Nah” is the refrain I heard over and over and over. “How is that possible? I’ve checked your online portal.” He would tell me to get off of my computer and stop checking on him.

He was a master of avoidance, a student of social media and a habitual user of being connected. ALL of the TIME! His sleep was disturbed because he would answer or send a text in the middle of the night. I could gather some info from using a parent app connected to our phone service. I was able to squeeze out of him some of the repeated phone numbers and who they belonged to in his group of friends. But short of turning off the phone, which we did do a number of times, he was out of control.

Now, this is the part where I will say “don’t judge”. Some of you may have kids who actually responded to “NO”, but our son was becoming a monster, no matter what we did. Honestly, his disposition was dependent on if a social media “friend” responded to his text positively or not. Sometimes he came out of his room to comment on the crazy election and we’d share a laugh. Other times he didn’t speak at all. We were beginning to be held hostage by his moods related to his online conversations, use and postings.

I turned off the modem, I changed network passwords, I turned off his data. You name it, we did it and then some. I even pulled an important wire from his room to disconnect him and the next thing I discovered is that he actually “cut” the internet to our whole house!  That didn’t hurt him, he just went to the local Starbucks and used their internet connection. He was out for revenge!

One of the oddest things was his obsession with carrying cords and plugs and extra batteries so he could charge his phone from where ever he was. And he carried all these cords in his famous “backpack”. Whenever he left the house, the backpack was with him. “What’s in the backpack?” was our daily question. “Oh, just chargers, cords, batteries so I don’t lose power”, he replied. But sometimes, he did lose power.  And, he was never without this backpack. He even took it into the bathroom with him when he showered. REALLY?

I do not consider that behavior normal, however it was very OBVIOUS that he was hiding more in the backpack than just cables and batteries. You can’t believe what we found in there……Come back to the blog for the next post and find out.

Peace for now,

WARRIOR MOM