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Seventeen-Year-Old Is in Trouble with the Law

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: My son is 17 and has one more year in school, but I don't think he will make it. He has changed in the last year. He lies to his mom and me about everything, he has been getting into trouble with the law, and no matter what happens, it doesn't seem to affect him. He will be 18 in less than a month, and I have tried to explain that he will soon become responsible for his own actions. His mother and I have been divorced for over six years, but we have a good relationship. I don't know what to do. He has a great personality, gets along with other kids, shows respect to other adults, but lies to us. Now he is hanging out with kids that are known to get into trouble, and I feel helpless because he is heading down the road of destruction.

A: You hit the nail on the head with your statement that he is turning 18 and will be held responsible by the law for his actions. It appears that you and his mother have done all the right things. You have a good son who right now is at risk for getting himself on the wrong track -- and it may be impossible for him to get off. He is making the choices. If he is getting in trouble with the law, I'm wondering if he's involved in sports, music, art, helping others, working with you or his mother at your jobs, or around the home.

What I'm going to suggest is not going to be of much comfort to you. I suggest that you continue doing what you are doing: Loving him, encouraging him, talking with him and letting him know that you will support him in all except behavior that endangers him or the family. Talk with his mother and decide what consequences both of you will use for his lies and/or behavior and follow through on them. It is really important at this point, especially, that you be extremely firm. You might want to enroll in a parenting support group for ideas and support! There are also some good books at the library for dealing with tough teens. Another source of help may be your local police or the school resource officer. They may have ideas about programs that will assist.

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Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.

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