Avatar universal

My teenage brother won't go to school

My 17 year old brother refuses to go to school. It started about 2 years ago when his biological mom died from an alcohol related accident (we're both adopted from separate families, but still close to our biological families). At first he just missed a few days a week, but now he only goes a few times a month. Our adoptive mom is stressed out. She tried everything to get him to go. At first she tried to be understanding, thinking he just needed time to adjust to the death of his mother. Then she tried being strict, which worked for me when I was a teenager. I'm now 23 and am in University. She tried talking to him about the importance of education. The school has recently begun calling and sending letters, saying he will be kicked out if his attendance doesn't improve. She asked me to have a talk with him, but he won't listen to me either. I know he's using marijuana, I found out a few months ago, but our mom doesn't know about it. I'm close to my brother, we like to joke around and sometimes I take him with me and my friends when we go watch a movie, go mini-golfing or something innocently fun like that, but when I try to bring up something serious he shuts down and gets defensive. I don't know what the next step is, I'm completely lost on what to do. I love my baby brother, I don't want to see him have a tough life. What can my mom and I do to fix this situation?
7 Responses
535822 tn?1443976780
I think you need to speak to your mom about the marijuana thats possibly why he wont go to school.Your Mom could really speak to a school counselor see if they can help. Is your Dad around to help sort your brother out .Good he has you on his side , what are his friends like do they also smoke the stuff?
377493 tn?1356502149
I agree that your parents should know about any drug use.  Marijuana can make you feel quite lethargic and sort of cloud thinking and judgement when abused.  And it should never be used by someone who's brain is still developing.  Also, if he is already depressed over a death, marijuana can increase that.  When he isn't in school, what is he doing?  Is he just sort of laying in bed all day, or is out?  I ask because I wonder if the depression is really bad.  Some signs are lack of interest in hygiene and grooming, sleeping a lot, and just a general lack of interest in things that used to make him happy.

A couple of other possibilities.  High school can be tough socially.  Does he have good friends?  And if so do they attend, or is there a similar problem there?  Could there be a bully in the picture making him not want to go to school?

And how are your parents handling this?  In my house there was a rule, you went to school or you got a job and paid rent, etc.  In other words there need to be consequences, but first I would be addressing his overall mental health.  It could be that right now he just doesn't care, and if that's the case, treatment for depression and/or grief counseling might be necessary.
973741 tn?1342342773
Ugh.  Sadly, I know of this happening to two families in my extended friends circle.  Both very well educated parents, nice lifestyle, kids that are smart and have a lot of advantages in life.  Two different outcomes for these two families.  

One, the mom decided to let it be.  His decision as she can't force him to go.  So, she let it be and at 18, he is asked to move out.  Welcome to the real world son.  This is the life you set up for yourself.  Um, no.  You can't take 'your' car because we bought it for you.  He left for a  month and then asked to come back home.  He was allowed but he had to pay rent or would be evicted.  This boy got very fed up with the whole thing and got his ged and then went onto community college where he is at now.  He 'got' it.  HE was making choices that would set up what he got in life.  

The second scenario is a friend of mine that has six kids.  Her son decided not to go to school.  He dabbled in drugs.  She figured out a way for  him to finish highschool in an excelerated format.  (Many schools do have programs for kids at risk of dropping out).  He did get his ged but didn't graduate with his class.  He had a job.  She let him use the car, let him stay in his room, still took care of him.  He's still there.  Working part time and getting high.  He never 'got' it

I'd say that you can encourage your parents to teach this boy the truth.  That he is completely dependent on his parents to live.  And there WILL come a time when that is unacceptable.  No buying him  clothes now.  No using the family car or buying gas.  No just helping yourself to the food.  I'd do a rough budget of what he'll need to live independently when he turns 18 and present it to him.  And I'd have a list of how things will change if he doesn't finish highschool or find a way to be a productive adult.  Life doesn't go on as usual.

anyway, that is just my take on it.

I have a nephew that had everything given to him.  Best of everything.  He squandered it all.  Even got himself kicked out of a cushy private all boys school for cheating.  His parents always felt sorry for him or that he just needed help because there was an early divorce in his life.  He went to a huge university and dropped out.  They got him into another school that was a good college----  after 5 years, he went on a ski trip and never returned.  He's maybe one or two classes shy of getting his degree.  But he doesn't care.  He's living out west as a ski bum, night clerking at a hotel.  He's 29.  How can he do that?  To this day his parents send him money every month.  I think they've enabled him to be a man child.  It's sad.

So, just don't enable someone and it helps them see what they need to do.

Oh, and not everyone is college material.  Some do better in a trade school in which they learn a skill they can make a living at.  I pay my plumber and electrician a LOT of money.  These are worthy professions.
1548028 tn?1324612446
There are some people who grieve and can get passed the loss and there are others who get stuck.  I think he needs a counselor to talk to about how he feels.  I also think your parents need to know about the marijuana use.  Soon he is going to be 18 and then you can force the issue of counseling.  He is so lucky to have you and I am so glad you do things with him.  I am so sorry for his loss and I hope he can find himself again.  Maybe just needs a little help to get back there.  Goodluck.
973741 tn?1342342773
Grief counseling can be very helpful.  Been there---  and found it valuable.  It is so hard with teenagers of that age.  They are still kids and yet their choices set up so much of how the rest of their life goes.  A lot of pressure.  My parents were very clear in that I was given so much time before it was me on my own.  You do so hope that kids will find their way so that they'll have the best chance for a successful, independent life.  
1006035 tn?1485575897
It really is sad to watch young adults spiral down this path. I think sometimes it even starts when they are very young. My daughter is 5 and has a few simple chores and is expected to help out in small ways around the house. She puts away silverware, carries laundry baskets, and loves to bake. We make it fun and she gets rewards. Here's the thing, she's autistic and she still has responsibilities. It just shocks me when I hear other parents say they can't get their kids to do chores so they just gave up asking. As a parent you don't make it an option, your child has to do what you say (within reason of course).

Your poor brother sounds like he is struggling a lot. He sounds like he needs a lot of extra love and a big push in the right direction. He experienced a loss that no teen should have to go through, but hopefully he will realize that his mom would want him to keep living a good life. I would definitely take him to see a therapist. That I would not make an option.
Avatar universal
Thanks everyone, you all gave very helpful answers. He recently started going back to school again. My mom has been trying the strict thing again, making sure he gets on that bus every morning, even though it sometimes makes her late for work. I still haven't told her about the marijuana yet though. I just don't know how to bring something like that up. But things are improving so far, so thank you!
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