quietmedic's picture

Looking for advice...good teen stumbling under stress of dysfunctional family

Thanks to all who read this; this is about a friend of mine who I want to help, but don't know quite how.

My friend is one of the most real, caring giving woman I know. Unfortunately, life has led her down an unfortuntae path and bad choices made out of a pure heart.

Background: My friend (we'll call her "Gail") grew up with numerous sisters and brothers, with a difficult (sometimes abusive, sometimes drunk) father in a suburb of a major US city. They hail from a very traditional type of family; her parents are immigrants from their country. Gail grew up here. Unfortunately, due to the poor role model of a father, bad choices in men run in the family; several of gail's siblings are divorced with kids; despite being harmless, sweet people, they ended up marrying the loser types and paid the price.

Gail herself married a loser and had a son who is now 16. They of course divorced long ago; a decade later she married again, but this guy (let's call him "Mel") turns out to be no better. They have been married seven years and had two more children together, but in time it became obvious he was rather unsavory as well. He is not a beater, but he is quite the mental abuser and game player. He barely works, hides whatever money he does earn, neglects home responsiblities, neglects the bills (which fall on Gail to earn while simulaneously running the house and raising the kids), just yells and screams at his own two children, and generally does his own thing at home and outside, coming and going as he pleases, leaving all the home, administrative and child-raising duties to Gail. Significantly, he also mentally torments her 16 year old son (who we will call "Ben"). Gail has thrown Mel out many times, but eventually he plays sweet and she lets him back in (in part out of necessity....maybe he will pay for food this week !!).

Gail is an intelligent, edicated, caring, sweet person (I wouldn't befirend her otherwise!) but she is forever stuck in this vortex. She has bills to pay, children to raise, her own family problems to contend with (her father is now going off the deep end and her siblings have their own problems which they make sure to make her's, and she being who she is only wants to help everyone).

The pressing issue now is Ben. I know Ben well since he was six. He is a golden sweetheart of a kid, gentle, loving. But over the last months and years the situation has been taking it's toll, and he has been acting out, understandably. He was thrown out of school in 9th grade after being party to a petty theft; over the past year and a half in his new school, he has begun messing around as well. He has had numerous suspensions (for mostly benign things...yelling back at a teacher, repeated absences, etc). He skips school, sleeps over at freind's houses without telling his mother, spends his time hanging out with immature friends until way too late, skips his responsibilities to go to teen dance parties, smokes hookah, and now this week he got drunk at a school event, the police were called, and he was suspended for a week.

I know in his heart he is just confused. He hates his mother for marrying Mel, who treats Ben like dirt. He has no positive role models, just older "friends" who misguide him. He comes and goes as he pleases (just like he sees Mel do!), yells at his mother (but still takes care of his little siblings). He is lost, does not care about school or rules. He wants to be a grown up, make money, and be his own man (like most teens, I guess), but he has no direction, no heroes, just a mom who is worried to the point of physical illness over him, an absentee Dad and an abusive stepdad. He is a good, sweet kid at heart, and would never hurt a fly, I can vouch for that. He is not into drugs as far as I can ascertain (though he has probably tried weed and cigarettes like the rest of us), and wants to do the right thing, but is angry, disillusioned and off the right path.

I don't know what I can do to help. I care about Ben like my own child (I am a single family friend), and I want to help him, tell him the right things, get him back on track. But I don't know how. Help!

canary12's picture
Wow, sounds a really rough family situation! Sometimes it seems like it's so hard for kids to break out of the patterns of their parents-Sad. As far as advice goes, the first thing that comes to mind would be looking into some family counseling. It would also be great if there would be a way for this young man to find some healthy male role models. Perhaps through a local church? Maybe get him involved in some community activities? Something to give him some positive influences in his life. Also, your post reminded me a lot of some comments I heard on a radio show recently called "Healing Your Family's Wounds." It talked about kids who grow up in dysfunctional families and how they can break that cycle. So, you might want to look it up at focusonthefamily.com and take a listen. They also mentioned a book called "Becoming a Family that Heals." Well, not sure if any of that's helpful, but I hope so!