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Dr. Ficus, MD
Dr. Ficus, MD, Pediatrician
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 711
Experience:  14 years in general pediatrics and mother of two great kids!
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I dont really know where to turn for this, but Im desperately

Customer Question

I don't really know where to turn for this, but I'm desperately seeking advice. I'm not a parent, so maybe this is the wrong place to be, but I'm worried about my brother. Over the last few years he's seemed to have gotten onto the wrong path. Our parents divorced about 3 years ago, while I was away at school, he was stuck at home with them. He had to bare all of their passive fighting until they finally split. When they did it was like neither of them would put much discipline on him. It seemed they were more caught up with themselves than with their kids. But, point of all that, he's pretty much been able to come and go as he pleases. Because of this, not long after our mom moved out of the house, my brother was arrested. Him and two of his friends went to various schools in town and vandalized the place, one of the kids stealing laptops. Luckily, he wasn't sent to jail (it was an option the judge threatened to make an example of them).
After all of that, he seemed to be straightening up. He wasn't around those boys anymore and he was doing a lot better in school. Not long after, the house we grew up in (the one him and our dad were living in) was foreclosed. Now they live in a two bedroom apartment with our dad's girlfriend.

I just found out about a week ago that he's just dropped out of high school. Apparently he wasn't going, and it got to the point where if he missed just one more day it would be a huge fine for every day he missed. Now, our grandmother is looking into home schooling. So many people are bending over backwards to help him, but it seems like he just doesn't care. He doesn't want to bother with school at all. He won't talk to anyone. One day our grandmother got so upset with him she just snapped and told him that he's "treating everyone like shit and he doesn't even seem to care"... and he cried. He wouldn't tell her what was wrong. Something obviously is, and no one can get him to say a word, and our parents don't seem to be keeping tabs on him. During Christmas I remember my dad saying that he hadn't slept in the apartment for about 3 weeks... Like I said, he comes and goes as he pleases.

I'm just kind of grabbing at nothing right now and it's frustrating. Everyone is turning to me now to talk to him, like he'll magically listen to me. I'm trying anyway I can. It's putting SO much stress on our entire family and every time I call home is seems like everyone is crying because of this. I just need to find some help or answers to anything I can try to do for him to get him in some good direction. I know he's a good kid, I just want to know if he's okay.

Someone please help.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Dr. Ficus, MD replied 2 years ago.

DrFiscusMD :

I'll do my best to try to help you with this issue. If you're available for chat, lets get started. If not, I can switch to e-mail.

DrFiscusMD :

I'm so sorry you're having this trouble with your brother and I can tell from your post that you are very scared for him and for his future. You don't list his age but I'm guessing he's around 17?

DrFiscusMD :

He's certainly been expected to manage a difficult situation and, as you said, your parents have dropped the ball.

Customer :

Thanks so much for responding. He's 16.

DrFiscusMD :

It doesn't really sound like he HAS parents right now and one can't really blame him for being off course

DrFiscusMD :

How old are you and are you in college now?

Customer :

I'm 24. I just graduated, but I have a full time job about two hours away from him.

DrFiscusMD :

Wow. This is certainly a heavy thing for you to have to deal with with a full-time job and living away from him.

DrFiscusMD :

Is your relationship with him such that he could live with you? Or his grandmother?

Customer :

I've suggested that he can come live with me, but as of right now I do live in a one bedroom apartment, and I'm about to move to a different state soon.

DrFiscusMD :

So that doesn't sound like a great option.

DrFiscusMD :

Does he have a close friend (one that's a good person) or an aunt or uncle that he might be able to live with?

Customer :

Our parents do try what they can, but our dad works long, odd hours. He's up at 3 am and gets home around 7pm, and our mom works two jobs. They do worry, but there isn't much room in their own schedule right now for much

DrFiscusMD :

Well, there's a couple things I see here:

Customer :

Our family if really small, it's just really my grandmother left.

DrFiscusMD :

1) Kids feel like no one cares about them if there aren't boundaries. Your parents have totally dropped the ball on that one and have expected this young man to raise himself during some of the most difficult years of his life. That's a huge problem. If someone can't get your parents to understand that they are being ineffective parents and need to put some emphasis on your brother this situation isn't going to get better.

DrFiscusMD :

2) He may very well be depressed. Given all he has been through with the break-up of your parents and essentially no good social support he may himself feel that things are quite hopeless.

DrFiscusMD :

Where is your grandmother in all of this with regard to proximity to him and willingness to help support him?

Customer :

They live in a small town. She's willing to give all the time she can to home schooling. He does much better in school actually when he's not in a class room. We're all pretty much willing to try anything at this point.

DrFiscusMD :

Can he live with her?

Customer :

He doesn't want to. What kid who has the freedom he has with our dad would take the option to live with our grandma? He's not doing the things he needs to, he just doesn't want to and no one can seem to make him.

DrFiscusMD :

It sounds like she's your best option. Here's what I might suggest you try (and you're right, much of this ends up falling on your shoulders because you are the only one who might have the power to help).

DrFiscusMD :

I would sit down with your parents (both at the same time, if possible. If not then separately (and without the girlfriend)). Let them know that he's in a tail spin and that they are his parents and that this is their responsibility. They have the ability to turn his life around but it's going to have to be a united front coming from all sides. Try to speak as calmly as possible and practice your language ahead of time as this is obviously an emotional subject. Tell them that you understand that you all want what is best for him but that what's happening right now just isn't working and see if you can talk a while about how you might devise a plan to help him. If home schooling is agreeable to him and your grandmother is willing then I would certainly go that route (doesn't mean it has to stay that way and he may decide to go back to school eventually) as he's in a tough place without at least a high school diploma.

DrFiscusMD :

When you've met with your parents then sit down with your grandmother and tell her what you all have come up with. Encourage your parents to join you if they can/want to. Your grandmother should be treated like the important ally that she is and it should be made very clear to her that her willingness to help is greatly appreciated and invaluable to the process of getting him back on track.

DrFiscusMD :

Once you 4 can feel like you have a decent plan/proposal together as many of the 4 of you as possible sit down with your brother (sort of like an intervention) and talk about it with him. Take the "firm but kind" approach and let him know that he's made the decision to drop out of school but that he has to finish his education and, unfortunately, can't call all the shots while impacting everyone else's (especially your grandmother's) lives.

DrFiscusMD :

Unfortunately 16 yr old guys are very near-sighted. They only see what's happening right now and have a very difficult time understanding the ramifications of the decisions they make. It's going to be tough to get him to see that but everyone around him upon whom he counts for support is going to have to be on the same page.

Customer :

These are all things we've actually discussed before. I think my parents are hesitant sometimes with what they do so not to upset the other. My grandmother and I have talked about an intervention type of deal. We sincerely believe that something more is troubling him, but it's hard to get him to talk.

Customer :

Our uncle has offered to help him find someone to talk to if he doesn't feel comfortable talking to anyone in the family. It is easier to talk to a stranger than your own family.

DrFiscusMD :

Absolutely. And I think getting a counselor/therapist/psychologist involved is a great idea but may be even harder for him to accept. You know him best. Go with whatever plan you think he'll more readily accept but get one together and get to it before he does anything else to get himself into trouble. The longer he is allowed to languish in this type of irresponsibility the harder it will be to get him to turn it around.

DrFiscusMD :

If you haven't gotten your parents in the same room to discuss this I think it's crucial that you do. They need to put aside their own relationship issues and come together to parent their son. Also, when you get everyone in the same room, YOU will have to do a lot less back-and-forth between parties.

Customer :

I definitely agree. I do think I may be able to get through to him a bit, but I was his age not too long ago. I was the same way too, I held everything in. Little problems are a big deal as a teen and it's like no one else get's it.
I will be going back home for Easter, and my uncle will be there too. I think the plan is to really have a sit down then.

DrFiscusMD :

That sounds like a good place to start and it sounds like getting your uncle in the room will be a good thing, as well.

DrFiscusMD :

I'm so glad that your brother has you looking out for him (even if he doesn't appreciate it yet he will eventually).

Customer :

I think the biggest challenge will be to just get him to sit down and at least listen.

DrFiscusMD :

If this information has been helpful to you kindly click "accept" so that I may be compensated for the time I have spent assisting you. Feel free to post further questions/clarifications as needed. I wish you the best from a tough situation!

DrFiscusMD :

I agree. You might have to find a place where he can't escape and where there's enough physical power in the room (uncle, dad, etc) to keep him there whether he wants to be there or not (I'm not suggesting violence, just door blocking.)

DrFiscusMD :

You might also want to sneak his car keys away just before that encounter just in case.....

Customer :

Oh, he's wrecked that car into the ground... He's only had it a few months too.

DrFiscusMD :

Oh good grief! Well, at least you don't have to worry about that now!

DrFiscusMD :

have a good night!

DrFiscusMD :

Please remember to click "accept" before you leave the site if I have been of assistance.

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