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Lying Teenager

by Worried Mom

My son is 18 and just graduated high school. He has his first serious girlfriend. My son asked us if he could go to our family cottage for a weekend with some friends. I told him immediately that I thought that would probably be okay (he has to ask his grandmother first - it's her cabin) but that I wasn't comfortable with a mixed group - did he mean his male friends or did he mean a co-ed trip. He told me just his male friends. We like all his friends and we okayed it.

This is his first big trip away (aside from a couple of camping trips last summer). I also said I needed to know all the details of his plans so that I would be comfortable about his getting there etc. (it is a 5 hour drive from our house). He gave us lots of information and had a long discussion with his grandmother where she set out all her expectations and the rules for being up there.

He left this afternoon and as I asked he called me when he got close to the cottage (as I was worried about the drive). The cottage does not have a phone. I have just found out however (through Facebook) that a bunch of girls are going. I don't really know for sure who is there or if his girlfriend is along too but I expect that she is if the other girl is there.

I am thoroughly saddened and upset about his level of lying. I really believed him with all the information he was giving us and all the plans he was making. We gave him the money for the gas to make the trip (which is significant).

He just graduated and has been incredibly stressed about life. He has a new girlfriend and doesn't know what he wants to do with his life. He decided against university (but says he will go back). We have had a lot of stress and arguments and conflict over lots of his behavior lately - staying out really late, the girlfriend over here late, staying in his room alone etc.

I know I am quite tough on him and have a lot of rules over the years. I am trying to "lighten up" on him a bit lately - letting him make his own decisions and support him in those as best I can. My husband and I are starting to disagree about how we parent him at this point. We have been on the same page up to now.

I know I am not parenting an 18 year old boy in many ways anymore. I am trying to forge a new relationship with him as an adult in our house now but it is very difficult for me. I am having trouble letting go and I can't just "not" parent him as my husband thinks I should now.

Regardless with the current problem of his lying about this trip I don't know what to do when he comes home (in 3 nights). I don't want to alienate him. I don't want to ruin our relationship. I don't want him to hate me or to leave our home. He doesn't even have a job yet - but we have told him we expect him to either go to school or get a job (although the job market is NOT easy out there obviously). Regardless, I also don't think that I should let this behavior pass.

I am entirely shocked and upset by the lying and deceit and really can't figure out where we went wrong. In many other ways his is a very responsible nice young man. But this level of deceit makes me question a lot of the other stories we get from him. We have had very rational discussions about being disrespectful to us, about living under our roof, about the new relationship we need to have, about making decisions at the fork in the road times of life. He never did drugs. He mostly listens to us (up until now). My husband keeps saying "it could be worse" and really it could. I do know that. He is really a nice, good, responsible kid most of the time, but I can't really say that now with this new level of deceit and disrespect I think. I'm very concerned about our future relationship and how he'll react and what I should say to him when he gets home.

Comments for Lying Teenager

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Letting Go Parental Roles - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

It is hard as a parent when our kids lie to us, we see it as a betrayal and it has clearly made you question the very foundations of the relationship with you - and even yourselves as parents - where did we go wrong?

I am going to say though, your husband is right - this is not a child anymore, this is a young man, and the very fact that he feels he has to lie to his parents to make is own decisions is a pretty clear indication of the conflict between you.

Please don't make this bigger than it needs to be, this is actually a great opportunity to keep addressing the process of him becoming an adult, and you letting go. It is a process, it doesn't just happen overnight unless a child moves out from home - and even then as parents we still worry about them and are concerned that they are making the right decisions.

Of course when an adult child still lives under our own roof, the lines are blurred, he has to respect your home and you have more rights to make the conditions about him living with you, but at the same time he needs to be pulling away and being responsible for his own decisions - and that includes mistakes.

You have said he is a nice responsible kid most of the time - please hold onto your vision of him as nice and responsible - you have done a wonderful job raising him and although your are struggling to see him as a young man (he will always be your little boy!) - your main job as a parent is done. Sure you will always be a mentor for him if you allow the relationship to open and flourish in a new form - but you now have to trust you have done the best you can, and you have to trust that he has the ability to make great decisions and to move into an exciting future.

As you say he has just come through a very stressful time - we actually put way too much stress on our teenagers with such a huge emphasis on school qualifications. The primary developmental stage at this time is actually learning about social relationships, decision making and independence. So your son is totally doing what is most important at this stage.

As parents our concern that their schooling doesn't suffer, actually is often hindering their optimal development, when we restrict their social relationships. And also in the process we are often setting up a dynamic with our teen where-by they feel they have to lie to protect the relationship with you. He does not want to disappoint you, he does not want your disapproval. But at the same time he wants to do the things that are most important to him. So his compromise is to lie to you to avoid what he would expect would be inevitable conflict.

Part Two Follows . . . .

Letting Go Parental Roles - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

When you hold yourself as the maker of his decisions, and want to control his social interactions then if he wants to try to maintain the relationship with you he has to do so dishonestly.

Now I am not saying his lying to you is acceptable, I am pointing out to you your part in creating the situation where-by he feels he has to lie. This is a wonderful opportunity for you both to move to a much more honest and deeper relationship. I would recommend you do share with him your feelings of betrayal and shock when you found out how creatively he painted the scenario for you. And share with him your struggle in letting him be an adult.

Some parents are never able to shift from a parental role to a mentoring/friendship role - and many adult children dread visiting their parents because they immediately feel like they are 6 years old again. You can have a much more meaningful and deep relationship with your son if you can let go more of your Mom role and start seeing him as an independent young man.

Sure there are lots of negotiations still to come - he is not financially independent, so your requirements that he either work or study are totally reasonable. He is still living under your roof, so you will have to figure your way through a transition phase of what your requirements are. If you are totally not comfortable with him having his girlfriend stay over, then you have every right to set restrictions regarding that. But at the same time, he has the right to total privacy in his bedroom and it really is not your business what he does there.

It is difficult in this transition phase, as he may have lifestyle choices he wants to make the you cannot accept under your roof, and yet he is not able to make a choice to live elsewhere at this stage. And the last thing you want is for him to leave home in anger or resentment.

The most important thing is keeping the lines of communication open and acknowledging the relationship and ground rules are changing. Being honest about your difficulty in letting go your responsibility as a parent, and your worry about him making good choices, brings your honesty into the relationship. Telling him you value honesty and you would prefer to try to negotiate around the issues that he is trying to protect you from would be more valuable than holding too tightly to your rules and forcing him underground.

Part Three Follows . . .

Letting Go Parental Roles - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

His part in this requires him to start to be honest too - and this may mean he needs to front up to his grandmother and apologize for lying to her (if he did). The consequences may be she will not be happy about him using her cottage in the future - but that is up to her to decide.

In terms of YOU having consequences - you have to move beyond the role of being the one with the power and move into a relationship that is more equal. The consequences are pretty clear already, you are hurt and shocked, and feel you can't trust him - but you really do not want to stay in that position as it does not serve either of you. I would suggest you look at this as a gift and a wake up call for you both. Clearly he loves you very deeply and wants your approval, or he would not have been at all concerned about re-assuring you with an elaborate story - and probably most of that was true - he just omitted big chunks!

The other thing I would encourage you to do, is examine what this transition means for you. It is usually the Mom that has the hardest time letting our kids grow up. We have usually held the major parenting role, and our role as a Mom maybe the most important part of our lives. When our hands on parenting is coming to an end, it is time to take a look at what other roles we can put more energy into.

My son was 17 when he left home - like your son he graduated, chose not to continue into University, and after being turned down for an apprenticeship with the Air-force (thank goodness!) he got a job selling mobile phone plans that required him to go on the road. So one week he was at school, and the next he was living away from home. It was a shock as I did not have any transition period, and because he then went on to travel and live overseas it was some years before I got to spend any length of time with him. It was very strange to see my son as an adult, making decisions and running a household and having moved his way up in a company to a responsible position. I was actually amazed at how like me he was in many ways!

So you can be assured, the values and work you have put into parenting your son, are a huge part of who he is, and you have to step back now and trust in that and learn to develop a new relationship with him as an adult. The more you see him as a young man, the more he can participate as an equal, instead of relating to you as a naughty boy - or even a devious boy!

Part Four Follows . . .

Letting Go Parental Roles - Part Four
by: Annie Desantis

So getting back to you - now may be the time to re-focus on other areas of your life - maybe career options can expand, maybe you can re-introduce some zing into your marriage. You may have areas in your life you want to explore, such as spirituality or creativity or you may have intellectual areas you want to expand. You can use some of the energy that was going into parenting, and start putting it into you. It can feel a bit bereft if our primary focus in life shifts.

Being a parent is likely the most important thing you will ever do, and of course you are always still a parent, but the day to day energy and focus that requires is now far less, and maybe you are still pouring too much attention into that aspect of your life. You are not loving him any less, or caring any less about him, but you are turning your attention and focus to other aspects of yourself. It would also be great for him to see you as not just his Mom!

Don't agonize over this too much while he is away, just focus on your love for him and keep seeing him as a great young man - just one that may have made a bad decision to lie. But trust that this is all part of a natural pulling away/letting go phase, and that is not always smooth and comfortable. It will all work out, and he will be a fine young man. You've been wonderful parents, and I am sure you can foster a close relationship with him more as a equals.

Good luck with it all,
Annie D :)

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