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Teen Has Severe Mood Swings

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I live on Long Island in New york. I am having difficulty with my 14-year- old son in school. He is currently on medication for severe mood swings, which is helping, and Paxil for depression. He also goes to a psychiatrist for counseling and his medication. Now the real problem is getting him to school. So much damage has been done before the medication was begun. He is in an alternate setting within the school. Due to his poor attendance, the school is now asking me to consider a "pins" petition. I cannot get him out of the house and he will physically go after me if I try to dicipline him. Please tell me about a "pins" petition and what rights do I end up giving up. Will the courts take him away from me if keeps up his poor attendance? I am so confused. I've tried everything and he just takes me for granted and is no longer afraid of me and my consequences. Help me decide.

A: You are understandably overwhelmed by a situation which has had a long history but which has only recently (I'm assuming this to be the case) been receiving considerable professional attention. You do not "give up" your child by filing this petition. Clearly you are viewed as "the enemy" for attempting to discipline him and/or insist that he attend school. Obviously, this boy's life will only be further complicated if he is allowed to run his own life as he sees fit; presently if it were up to him , he wouldn't attend school at all.

You definitely have to change what you're currently doing, for the good of your son (even though he will rage at you initially for this) and for your own safety. I know this sounds like a nightmare and that you probably feel guilty about not being able to keep the court out of this, but you are being worn down and he is placing himself in a deeper and deeper hole.

I would strongly suggest that you attempt to secure the services of a sympathetic lawyer or child advocate who can fully explain all the details of this petition to both you and your son. What we in our profession call an intervention, is needed. Please insist on the fact that your son receive continuing, intensive therapy (not just meeting with a doctor for five minutes and getting a medication review) . I would also highly recommend that you find a good therapist for yourself; this is a crisis-laden time and anyone who would be dealing with your dilemma would need all the wise counsel and support they need. Good luck. I'll be hoping good things will slowly begin to happen for you and your boy.

More on: Expert Advice

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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