Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Carolyn: One of my college-age brother’s friends, “Joe,” has friended me on Facebook. Joe has had a rough time — many stepfathers, lots of moving around, and a mother with mental-health problems who died a couple of years ago. Joe is now a young father and has split from his son’s mother. I don’t think he has much of a support system.
Neither my brother nor I live in the same city as Joe anymore. Joe has started posting really bitter, depressed and otherwise troubling messages. I’m worried he could hurt himself or others, but I don’t know that it’s my place to say anything. Should I reach out to him? Encourage my brother or parents to reach out to him?
MEDDLE OR MYOB?
Encourage your brother or parents to say something, yes, but also consider commenting on his posts: “Hey, Joe — do you have someone there you can talk to?”
It’s really important that you don’t get sucked into being his amateur therapist, drama reward system or just shoulder to cry on; this will only give him a place to hide from real help. This trap is often very hard to avoid.
If he responds affirmatively, urge him to get in touch with that person.
If he responds negatively, then do a little research on crisis resources in his area, and send him a few numbers. Then step back and let him do what he needs to do. (And give these numbers and suggestions to anyone else you enlist to help.)
If you see any alarms about the child, call Childhelp, 1-800-4-A-CHILD.
Carolyn: Just found out that we’re having a boy. You’ve got three! Any books you’ve thought were great so that I can be prepared for this adventure?
Congratulations! The best thing you can do is raise the boy you have, vs. the archetype of a boy.
The one must-read is “NurtureShock” by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. It’s not only fascinating, but it also blows huge holes in conventional parenting wisdom.
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