High School Dropout Has Lost His Way

By Sylvia Rimm

April 16, 2014 6 min read

Q: I have read your writings for many years and am hoping you can provide suggestions on what to do with my 19-year-old son. His credits are only up to completion of sophomore year in high school.

I've decided that my son's child support should end. He isn't in school or working. I told him that if he's not in school or working full time, or a combination of the two, he cannot live in my house. He still hasn't made an effort to work on his education or find a job, but he's "thinking." He's begun with a new therapist. Hopefully, he won't leave this one as he's done with others in the past.

My son complains of boredom, and my answer is, "Good. Perhaps you'll find something to alleviate the boredom." He talks about attending a prestigious college, but doesn't know what he wants to study. I say it's OK to go to college to try different courses. He's aware that with his history, he won't get accepted to a college. I told him he has to prove he can finish a class by taking a couple of courses at a community college. He won't apply for a job, because he wants it to be meaningful. But he doesn't know what that is. He claims he doesn't want to give up on high school, but he won't be satisfied at any of them.

According to testing, he's gifted, has dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and slow processing speed. His biggest learning challenge is organization in writing, so he refuses to write. He's worked with tutors, but won't do the work.

My son doesn't have social issues but has social anxiety. He says he wants to find others like himself, and I tell him that he has to put himself out there to meet people. He refuses to get involved in activities.

It's hard for me to watch my son waste his potential. His father doesn't trust that he'll follow through on anything, therefore he is reluctant to pay for services, and I'm a student and can't afford to pay. My son and I have a good relationship, but I'm scared for his future. Any suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated.

A: You have an extraordinarily difficult situation, and now that you've set a boundary, you'll have to follow through. The fact that your son is going to counseling may indicate you've reached him. It's too late to get him enrolled for this last semester, so getting a job could be his best alternative until summer school. You've mentioned his father, whom you infer doesn't get along as well with him. Perhaps for the last months of his official adolescence, a stint living with his father is exactly what he needs. He could continue to visit with you, but young males often hear similar messages from men very differently than they do from their women.

Dyslexia is a most difficult disability to cope with. Dyslexic students are often motivated to help others who struggle with similar problems and can learn much in the process. Perhaps a local elementary school would appreciate your son volunteering to help tutor children who have reading problems. This couldn't be considered a job, but it could become a motivator for going back to school and could make him feel as if he is capable of doing something worthwhile. Because his graduating class will no longer be in school next year, community college might be the best opportunity for classes of his choice. If he combines those classes with a part-time job and tutoring other children, he could find his direction.

A visit to a college campus might also help your son set expectations for himself. He might be able to actually sit in on college classes in interest areas. If he believes that attending a university will be exciting and provide him opportunities to learn, completing high school with community college classes or passing a GED test may allow him to matriculate at a college. He could start as a part-time student so you could avoid wasting too much tuition should things not work out.

If you know a smart young woman who could guide him in writing, it's possible she could also inspire him to return to school. More than one young man has reversed his underachievement under the tutelage of a young woman who likes him.

Your son could make the next steps even before my answer reaches you, if he believes that you'll follow through on your threat to send him out of your home. Hopefully, you won't have to follow through if he takes further initiative.

For free newsletters about "Visiting Colleges and Decision Making," and/or "Growing Up Too Fast — High School Students at Risk," send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the address below.

Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com. Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or [email protected] To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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