Dear Dr. G.,

My son is 15 and is hardly attending school. He is failing all his classes so far in his first semester of grade 10. He is totally disengaged in class and doesn't do any work.

A Failing Mama

Dear Failing Mama,

First, please don't think of either yourself or your son as a failure. Your son is going through a difficult time and I'm sure that it is equally difficult for you. I really do believe the saying that you are only as happy as your least happy child. Yep, once you become a mom something deep inside changes and you become fiercely protective of your offspring.

My first question is whether or not your son is using drugs. Have him evaluated for substance abuse and if he is using then get him treatment for substance abuse. If he is evaluated and the evaluation and drug testing are negative then I suggest the following:

Get your son to a therapist immediately. In addition, I suggest that you get psychological and psychoeducational testing for him. He may be depressed, have learning issues, school performance, or social anxiety issues. Once you find out why he is disengaged in class, doesn't do his schoolwork, and is failing his classes- his therapist, the school, your family, and your son can begin working on the problems.

My hope is that your son will connect with an excellent therapist and receive a thorough evaluation of his strengths and weaknesses as well as ongoing therapy. He should then go on to have positive mastery experiences in life and in school. As you know, we all thrive on challenges and achievement when we have the support that we need.

I am a firm believer in behavioral change and have hope for every teenager. I have worked with dozens of teens and have seen incredible and very heartening changes in their lives.

Good luck,


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