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My 20 Year Old Son Acts Like A 15 Year Old

by Faye
(Rochester, NY)

I have a 20 yr old son who is learning disabled. He has processing deficits and was in Special Education throughout school. He also seems to have some anger issues. He is very immature and I know that is partly due to his disability.

I have been a single parent all of his life. His father sees him on a regular basis but has not/does not provide for him. My son is currently scheduled to begin a supportive employment program in the next week.

My problem is that he is totally in love with a married 33 yr.old. This woman has an 11 yr old daughter she just lost custody of, when she split from her abusive husband. My son believes she is the be all and end all.

I have noticed a huge change in him since he met her. He is disrespectful to me, does not listen to me when I say she cannot spend days/nights at the apartment I pay for. I know she is having a very difficult time in her life and I would let her stay for a week or so but I am afraid I am going to be stuck with her forever.

My son does not listen to me. I will be away for the weekend and I just know that she will be at my home when I come back. This whole situation is making me sick. I am at my wit's end with my son's behavior.

He needs counseling but I can't afford it. I don't know how to get him the emotional help he needs. He does not understand what he is doing, how I feel, or how he has changed. Any suggestions?

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hello Faye, and thanks for telling your story here. Your situation is very challenging, to say the least. There are no easy answers, but I encourage you to believe that you will find a healthy course of action to pursue for your own and your son’s best interest.

From what you’ve written, I can’t tell if he lives with you, or in an apartment that you pay for. It sounds like the latter may be the case. Either way, as long as he is dependent on and supported by you, your current stress will most likely continue. In this type of situation, your best plan is to do your best to move him toward independent functioning, where he has maximum responsibility for his life and well being.

You stated that this situation is making you sick. I understand how that can happen, because of how difficult and stressful this is. Consider that you absolutely must work steadily and persistently toward his independent functioning, for your own sake as well as his. Your current scenario is not good for either of you, and you’re not doing him any favors by getting sick on his behalf.

The supportive employment program sounds like a good place to start. Also check around your city and find out about adult independent living programs for disabled individuals. These do exist, and your son could possibly qualify. There are many people in the world with limited abilities who are still capable of functioning independently or semi-independently.

Make up your mind that you’re going to resolve this, Faye. When you get up every morning, set your intention to take one more step toward resolution. You can do this.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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