Worried about my teenage son

My middle child is 16, recently had his exams cancelled due to covid and has now left school.

He’s always been a happy, chilled out home boy. In year 6 and 7 he had issues with his feet and required surgery. He gained a bit of weight and was bullied badly in school. This carried on into year 7 in his first year at high school. As a result he started suffering from anxiety and panic attacks about school. It was a horrendous Yorkers for him and for us seeing him struggling. He started therapy within the school therapy services and he admitted to her he was having suicidal thoughts, he would never act on them but he felt that low. CAMHS took a while to see him but in the meantime I helped with teaching him how to manage anxiety and panic as I’d suffered in the past so knew how to deal with it. It worked and within a year his anxiety and panic attacks were gone. He made new friends and was settled for the following 3 years. He was still a home boy but loved going out with his friends and even started a paper round last year.

Then late last summer I found out my son had smoked weed a few times, his sister found out and told me. It broke me and I cried for weeks after, it wa a huge shock. My son knows how anti drugs we are as I’ve a family member who did drugs and caused me a major trauma due to his violence towards me and his own children, and I don’t have them in my life as a result. Anyway, he opened up and admitted he felt pressured and didn’t want to be without friends again like year 7 so he did it a few times to fit in. These boys knew my son worked so they were getting him to buy it as well. I immediately started having his paper round money every weekend and banking it.

Soon after returning to school in September he started not wanting to go out. We grounded him for a month after finding out but once lifted he didn’t want to go out to meet these friends. Which I was ok about as I didn’t want him mixing with this group again anyway. He then told us he had cut the group out and something had happened but he didn’t want to discuss it. He said these boys turned on him when he told them he wasn’t touching drugs again and wanted to still be friends but he wouldn’t do weed. His sister told me that this group then spread nasty rumours about him that weren’t true because he no longer wanted to do drugs and they were angry at him.

My son started suffering from panic attacks in school like he did in year 7. He broke down crying to us that he had no friends and was struggling. We spoke to school and they invited us in, they were amazing and offered him a reduced time table as he has passed some GCSEs anyway . They told us we should be very proud of him, told us what a lovely young gentleman he was and not to worry, his anxiety was very normal under the circumstances and to finish year 11 and move on from this group. The boys weren’t hurting him but he just felt so alone and anxious in school, and he cried saying at 16 he should have friends so he felt different.

He did well in the reduced timetable. He still went to school and did his paper round every day but he didn’t want to go out other than that incase bumped into his old friends. We still got him out to shops, see his great grandma, grandad etc Then we locked down and school finished for him. I thought he would be relieved but he got upset and said ‘that’s it, it’s over, everyone else is off to college once lockdown is over and I will be here’. He was very down for a few days after GCSEs were cancelled. He said he felt differed to other children his age. He said kids at 16 have mates they hang around with. He said also ‘why am I so sensitive? Why do I suffer from anxiety at times, I feel I’m different to other lads my age?’ I reminded him that many suffer from anxiety, men and woman, kids too and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. We’re the best kind of people, with big hearts. I told him he would make new friends and we will support him no end and that this anxiety he felt was due to all he had been through in year 11, nothing more. He felt better and since then in lockdown his anxiety has only spiked a few times.

He plays on his pc, he plays with his online friends and has a lot of confidence chatting to them. He’s made good friends around the world and it’s done him the world of good. He sometimes texts some friends from another school that he knows and used to meet with so that’s good. His old friend from that group contacted him recently, and apologised for the nasty rumours they spread and said how sorry he was for being a bad friend. He said he would be there for him but understood if he couldn’t forgive him. I told my son he sounded sincere but he made it clear he didn’t want to be friends with anyone inked to that group and he felt anxious talking about them. He is so polite he thanked this old friend for his message and accepted his apology and left it ag that. I understood and respect his decision. They really hurt him and caused him so much hurt and anxiety.
He doesn’t want to go on to college in September because this particular group will be there. I understand that. They are all still doing drugs, they were doing them in school and one of them collapsed and the teacher had to do CPR on them in front of my son. My son wants to put all that behind him and he has decided not to go onto College. This makes me sad because he wanted to do a media course because he wants to work in the media, but he has made the decision that he doesn’t want to go on to further education and needs a break. I have to respect that, he said it would cause him too much anxiety and he needs a break from school and education after a difficult time in high school ok and off. He’s going to be leaving with good grades and he’s a very intelligent young man. He’s a whizz with computers. He’s built his pc from scratch recently and just built one for his brother. Absolutely amazing. I’ve told him he could go far with computers.

He initially said that he wanted to get an apprenticeship after the coronavirus but we had a chat last night and he said he is considering going back to his paper round after lockdown but leaving in a month or 2 as those early mornings made him really fatigued. I said he would miss the money and I don’t want him to leave it as he really liked the money and saving for things for his computer. He said he will see how he feels. We think it’s because he doesn’t want to go out incase he sees any of these boys which is highly unlikely. He also admitted he gets a anxious around people when we spoke just before lockdown so it of course worried that’s the reason and he will end up not wanting to leave the house. He said yesterday ‘I’m just happy at home mum, I don’t want to get a job yet or be pressured into more education I’m just happy at home right now ’ I honestly didn’t know what to say but I can fully understand. I was assaulted 8 years ago and had to take some time out to have therapy and I stayed at home as much as I could as I found outside a huge trigger and needed a break from the world. So I can empathise and understand.

I am just really worried that this last year in school will have affected him, being locked up at home due to the virus as well coming at the same time I’m just really concerned that he will develop agoraphobia not be able to leave the house.

I have spoken to my friend and they think that we shouldnt pressure him to find an apprenticeship straight away just give him a little bit of time off and let him continue to do his paper round and build his confidence. Which I agree with but of course I worry that he’s not going to go onto further education will that affect his mental health further because he seems to compare himself to other people his age a lot. He worries he’s different because he has suffered anxiety so I worry that if he hasn’t gone to college will that affect his mood.will it make him feel even more different stuck at home. I’m worried if he’s at home he’s not meeting new friends and I worry he will end up struggling with his mental health more.

Maybe I should not worry too much he’s only 16 and he has been through an awful lot during his time in high school. I’m incredibly proud of him for deciding to not follow that destructive path of drugs and being brave enough to walk away from a group of children that had become quite damaging to him. I just feel incredibly sad for him because he’s such a lovely young man, and I just want him to be happy, like he was when he had a group of friends before they all turned to drugs.

I know I’m probably overthinking things but I would just appreciate anybody who has been through something similar to reassure me that everything will work out for him and maybe I’m just over worrying about his future. Any advice is appreciated. I have mentioned therapy to my son but he said he doesn’t feel he needs it and he said therapy just makes him feel even more different to kids his age. So I’ve agreed it’s his decision if he feels he doesn’t need it, of course if he ever did we would pay private and get him support straight away, no waiting list.i think he does need it but he’s refusing it right now so I guess for now I will just leave it.

He’s happy at home. He’s staying up late at night to chat to his online friends so I allow it but worry he’s messed up his sleeping pattern as he sleeps until after lunch to catch up but we’ve been strict waking him at a certain time otherwise he would sleep all day so he could stay up again all night. He eats well, takes our dogs in the garden for a wee and play, he just right now won’t go for walks as he doesn’t want to bump into these boys. He talks to us all, some days can be a bit quiet but we always try to cheer him up on those days. He’s so laid back and quiet but happy. I can tell though that he carries a lot of things in his mind but he doesn’t like talking about what happened with his friends. So we avoid pressuring that discussion as he wants to move on and forget it.

He’s even said I wish we could move and have a fresh start somewhere quiet and I wish I could do that for him.

This is long and I’m sorry, it’s taken me a lot to discuss as it makes me feel so upset. I’m so worried my son will end up at home doing nothing with his life and not have any friends. I am worried I’m letting him down and not doing enough.My husband says he will be fine, time out will do him good and I’m worrying far too much about his future by worrying he won’t ever have friends or a job. Maybe he’s right but if he stays home for a while I’m worried it’ll make things worse.

I didn’t know where else to turn, this forum seems lovely. My husband cares for me as I have CFS/ME, I’m on PIP for my condition and myself and my husband manage my condition so that I can still be mobile and help out and he helps on days I need more rest. That’s what led me to this forum and I thought I’d ask here for some advice about my so .

Hi Libby,
Welcome to the forum.

I don’t think your son is the only young person with a messed up sleep patterm at the moment. A lot of my neighbours teen and adult children are the same. It is hard to maintain a routine under lockdown and teen brains are wired to get up late if they have the choice. (Hence some secondary schools start later.)

Does your son go for walks under Lockdown? You don’t want him to become unused to going out. If necessary, invent reasons for him to go out - to post something, buy something you have forgotten, leave something on someone’s door step etc

He is at the age where having friends is really important and the only way he is going to make friends other than cyber ones is by being out and about in the real world.

How big is the college? Are the bad crowd interested in the same course as him? The courses might even run on different days/at different times. Is there another college or Sixth Form etc that he could attend? If he is going to be taking a gap year - then how about some voluntary work?

It’s lovely that he is happy a safe at home, but as you say, you don’t want him to become agraphobic.

Make sure he joins the family for meals, movie nights, to help with family chores/DIY projects etc

Youngminds has some useful information too. No time for link - but just google.


Thank you Melly.

He won’t go for walks, my other 2 will but he was struggling going out before lockdown incase he bumped into these boys who have caused his anxiety. So there lockdown cane in and he became more housebound as we all have as I have a health condition and hubby’s asthmatic so we’ve self isolated now, not left the house other than to walk the dogs. Son won’t go because those boys are always out and about where we live.

We’ve said once lockdown is over we’re going to be visiting my gran, his grandad, popping to the shop, drives etc and he has his paper round to go back to. Lockdown has just made things harder now.

He doesn’t want to go to college, he’s adamant. The plan was to do an apprenticeship but now he’s saying he’s not ready so I think we will speak to our GP and try to get some therapy for him to boost his confidence and work on his anxiety. I’m worried the longer he’s home the more isolated he will become as he only has his online friends which he’s very happy with but I don’t want him being too anxious to go out and see people. Lockdown really has affected things and made this situation with our son harder.

You have a really cool son. Not many teens will be able to resist the temptation of drugs. Have you thought about changing schools? I am really glad that you did not scold him for this, but fully understood his condition. You are parents to be proud of! In any case, your child is only 16 years old, his life is just beginning, more than once he will change his attitude towards people, as well as going out into the street. Just give him time, he will decide when to take the first step, do not press on him and everything will be fine!

Hello, when I read your post my heart went out to you as I too have a 16 year old son with similar mental health issues who just wants to stop everything and stay home.(. I have a daughter of 13 who suffers from depression quite badly too). I can really identify with what you are going through and while I too don’t have the end of the story yet I wanted to say hello and send my best wishes for you and your lad.