Is it typical for teens to lie to their parents?

Modern Parent

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My SO and I have always tried to be laid-back parents. Our 13 yo has had very few expectations from us, probably too few as we’ve given him unlimited screen time and enjoy his life as he pleases; we’ve merely asked him to do his best in school (he’s always been an A student although he has an ADD diagnosis that he has chosen himself to not treat medically) and to not lie to us, but instead talk to us about whatever is bothering him. We’ve encouraged him to ask questions about pretty much everything in life, including sex and relations, and we’ll answer truthfully, not about personal stuff, but generally speaking.

It’s been going well up to around this past Christmas. But in the past months, something has felt off about him. We figured it was raging teen hormones, but he just didn’t feel like our old kid anymore. Something was off and we couldn’t figure out what was off. He pretty much shut us down when we asked if something was wrong. He duped us for months until everything came to a head last week.

Okay, first a needed backstory: The deal we’ve had since he got his own phone two tears ago, was that he can’t have his phone in his room when he goes to bed. Several nights, he said he didn’t know where it was when we asked to have it to charge it in the living room. We accepted it because he lever lies. But one night last week, my husband got a weird feeling (I’d already been getting a weird feeling about the missing phone but couldn’t figure it out) and caught our son red-handed hiding the phone under his pillow after telling my husband to look in the bathroom. This was the first time ever we caught him lying and our son just went quiet and couldn’t come up with an explanation.

Turns out, he and one of his female friends started a “secret relationship” and I put that in quotes because he’s been in distance learning since March last year and hasn’t seen any of his friends irl since then. She made him promise not to tell anyone, including us, because of a self-harming ex of hers. So we knew nothing.

The relationship has changed him, to say the least. He repeatedly stopped handing in his assignments and doing his homework. Suddenly, F after F popped up in his grades. He’d “forgotten” to turn them in. He’d handed them in but somehow, they got lost or “unturned in”. When asked, he always said he’d done his homework. When the Fs started to show up, he always assured us he’d fix it, he’d email his teacher and take care of it. We accepted it, because he never lies.

The morning after, he finally told us about the secret relationship and how she wouldn’t text him first and kept playing mind games, how he was feeling sad all the time, how he gets panic attacks and constantly feels stressed (but mind you, he has lots of time to actually work, he just…doesn’t) how nothing about school felt important and that nothing felt meaningful anymore. We promised him to get him the help he needs (we have an appointment with his pediatrician this week) and asked him to strongly reconsider the relationship with his girlfriend. We also explained how important it it to be honest and truthful, how hard it is to regain trust once you’ve lost it and how hard he will have to work to make us trust him again.

We sat up with him two nights until midnight in a row to help him with all the missing assignments before the trimester deadline, we took him for long walks to talk through stuff he was worried about, we really thought we had a breakthrough. He was of course grounded and we took away both his phone and computer. However, we let him keep his school Chromebook, because he needs it to do his work. We also emailed his teachers to explain that he is going through some stuff right now, but that we are working on it and that we’re keeping a close eye on him.

And then we caught him lying about having done his homework again last night. See, now we’re suspicious and had checked his google classroom and his Securly (something we’ve NEVER done before because we trusted him and wanted to respect his privacy) and found that he’d been mostly looking at pointless shit on youtube while “working” in his room. When we saw the empty documents and the “turn in” button still lit, we asked him where his homework was. He kept up the lying; the document he’d worked on was “somewhere else” but, he couldn’t show us where. Finally, he admitted that he hadn’t done it because there were so many words he didn’t understand (Industrial Revolution in Social Studies) and he didn’t want to ask us for help and he figured he’d just do it tomorrow instead. We were so incredibly disappointed in him for lying again. He KNOWS we have his back if he just asks us for help, why does he still pull this shit? And yeah, he still seems to feel bad when getting caught, but it’s just a question of time before lying becomes normalized to him and he won’t feel bad about lying, just about being caught and that’s easily fixed by becoming an even better liar.

So this is where we are today. He’s not allowed to sit in his room for distance learning but is instead placed in the dining room where we can keep an eye on him. We are considering removing the door to his room because he can obviously not be trusted to do his work in there with the door shut. (He’s had his door shut since December, when he started acting all sneaky.) And to me, it feels like I have an acquaintance’s son visiting that I’m not very comfortable around. He just doesn’t feel like my old, great kid anymore. It’s killing me.

So, if you’ve made it this far, what the hell do I do to fix this? How can we get through to him? Can a depression show this way? I’ve had depressions on and off since I was 15 and always knew there’s a possibility he’d inherit my shitty gene, but apart from the anxiety attacks, he’s not behaving that way I was, because we’re all different. He’s never been an easy going kid, but we’ve always been able to talk and communicate with him and I feel I just don’t know him anymore and it has kicked in my own anxiety gear. Are my husband and I exaggerating the problem? Do all teenagers lie and is it normal for a teenager to just stop caring about school and the future? And how will we ever be able to trust him again?

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