DEAR ABBY: As I have watched and cried about the tragedy in Littleton, I have wondered what I could do to help. Today I am writing in the hope that my family's experience with our teen-age son may help other parents.
When my son was a sophomore, our previously reasonable boy began acting out in an angry, defiant and violent way. After several months of this unexplainable behavior, I discovered some hate-type drawings on the desk in his bedroom. I couldn't believe this was the work of my son. My husband and I had worked hard to create a strong, happy family, and our son had been involved in church, Scouting and sports for years.
One evening after an angry episode that left me in tears, it suddenly became clear that our family needed help. I told my husband we needed counseling to help us understand what was happening, but I did not feel comfortable admitting to our minister or doctor that our family was in such trouble.
Long before this happened, I had heard about a local counselor who worked with adolescent boys. We knew our son would be so resistant to the idea of counseling that we needed someone who spoke his language and understood the local high school scene. The next morning I could hardly breathe as I picked up the phone and called the counselor's office. It was the hardest thing I've ever done.
My husband and I met with the counselor the following week. When we told our son what we had done, and that we would be taking him for weekly appointments, he was very angry, but we did not give in.
After several months, we again met with the counselor. He did not disclose the specifics of his sessions with our son, but he did say our son felt intimidated and threatened by groups of older students at his large suburban high school. The counselor also gave us a short course in modern-day male adolescent development issues in the context of today's high school environment and recommended several books.
Gradually we began seeing a change in our son. I just thank God I had heard about that counselor years earlier. He helped save our son -- and our family. Our son graduated from high school and is a successful college student today. My hope is that the media will run stories identifying counselors who specialize in adolescents.
Abby, I know this is long, but I'm sure there are many other parents out there struggling with their teen's unexplainable behavior. -- A MOM WHO LOVES HER SON, ANYWHERE, U.S.A.
DEAR MOM: Your letter deserves space in this column, and I commend you for having recognized that you had a serious problem brewing in your family and for seeking professional help before it got out of hand.