Tue | Jul 17, 2018

Dear Counsellor | My son has problems

Published:Tuesday | September 27, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Q: My son, who is my youngest child, is having a difficult time. My wife and I have three boys and this one has had a challenge moving from adolescence into adulthood. He is having the worst time of his life, and he knows that he has a problem, and that makes him depressed. He is not sleeping well and has bouts of anxiety. He sometimes has ideas of grandeur and hopes to make it big as a reggae artiste, although he has very limited musical talent. At other times, he wants to make it big in the fashion world, but he is not willing to put in the work. He has got over that fleeting fantasy; however, he is not settled.

My oldest son was a perfect student in high school, getting virtually all As. He was also a gifted sportsman. He recently graduated from university as one of the top students. His problem is whether to do post-graduate work or start working. His future is bright.

My second son is an almost perfect student. He went to preparatory school. He is in a healthy state of independence. We do not have to monitor him. He will be applying either to law school or to do psychology. He has great potential.

But the youngest was never a good student. He was always more artistic. He loved the outdoors. He was the class clown who kept all the girls laughing. He has a carefree spirit most times. The truth is he is not doing well at university. Sometimes he is angry at himself, the lecturers, at the world and even us, his parents. I do not know what to do. I need help.

A: Your youngest son needs the support of both parents and his siblings. He needs to be made to feel good about himself for who he is and not how he compares with his brothers. You need to help him through this rough patch, which seems to be affecting his health.

You mentioned that he is not doing well in university. Is he doing a degree because it is what is expected of him? Is it in a field in which he has interest? Try to gently encourage his artistic side and pursue disciplines in which he has skills and aptitude and then provide the necessary support and guide him to 'grandeur' in his chosen field. Reassure him of your love no matter what he does career-wise. At the same time, you have to exercise tough love when it comes to him putting in the hard work necessary for him to succeed.

Perhaps you are trying too hard with him to become the son you want. You used the word 'perfect' a couple of times. It could be that you are a perfectionist and your youngest son feels he cannot match up, so he creates these ideas of grandeur, feeling that he can be somebody by being famous and having a great fortune.

Help him to accept himself, create a realistic vision, and work towards achieving it.

You mentioned that your son is depressed because he is aware he has a problem. Being aware that he is at a good point to start making changes. It means it will not be difficult for you to get him professional help. Approaching the matter of getting professional help will require you to draw on your emotional intelligence skills as a parent.