Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I was terribly shy and lonely as a kid. Somewhere in my teens I decided to break out of it. I became a performer, have two degrees and have taught at universities around the world. I raised three wonderful and successful children with my wife of three decades. My oldest son’s wife is a psychiatrist. They have three beautiful sons, but when she sees the same symptoms I lived through as a kid, she has fancy Latin terms for them and is determined to “treat” them, instead of helping her kids to learn to master them and adapt. As the children go through medications and therapies, any ill behavior is chalked up as part of the disease. They turn into little monsters with no guidance and no boundaries or self-discipline, all the while thinking that they are “defective.” Even though the “spectacular symptoms” only manifest with their mother, my son “trusts the professional,” and considers any question or suggestion as an attack on his family. I love them dearly, including my daughter-in-law, but it breaks my heart. Are these kids going to be “victims” for the rest of their lives? Is there anything we can do?

Not Sick

DEAR NOT SICK: I agree with you about the potential negative impact of a “diagnosis,” certainly if it is a misdiagnosis delivered by a parent. I also agree about using medications to treat childhood behaviors which might respond better to effective, structured and loving parenting. You might ask your son if they have received a second opinion concerning the children. Their teachers and counselors at school could be excellent and insightful resources.

The key to good parenting is to allow children to be themselves and to develop workable strategies to their various challenges. Developing insight and a mastery over their own behavior (as you seem to have done) empowers children to meet their highest potential.

Stay loyal to the children. Do not criticize their parents, but do say, “You know, I was a little boy like you. Everybody has challenges and I know you do, too.” Share your story, offer them lots of opportunities to be with you, and love them through this.

DEAR AMY: Two years ago I lost my fiance to a break-up. This deepened my depression. I stopped going to class (college) and failed out of the next two semesters before finally deciding I needed to take a break. I’ve been living in my parents’ house for the past year and pressure is mounting: “When will I leave?” “When will I get a job?” I halfheartedly apply to jobs and don’t get them. I simply can’t fathom going into the meat grinder of employers taking advantage of the system, classing me as “full-time temporary/seasonal,” even when I applied as part time, just so they could have me working more than 60 hours a week with no overtime pay. I can’t seem to get a friendly job, or one in my field, and I can’t get out of my parents’ house until I do. My parents are getting serious about kicking me out. My counseling hasn’t seemed to help. What do I do?

Dead in the Water

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DEAR DEAD: Your depression is not your ex-fiance’s fault, and your unemployment is not the fault of the system. You are responsible for your health and your first job is to make sure your depression is under control.

There is also your sense of entitlement and your refusal to work, which are failures of character and not a function of your mental health. There is no such thing as a “friendly job.” If you don’t have a degree, then you don’t likely have a professional “field” to worry about. Enroll in community college to finish your field of study. Take whatever part-time job you can get to fill in your schedule. Your folks giving you the boot might be a blessing, because it would force you toward action.

DEAR AMY: I came home from work one evening to find that my 18- and 19-year-old daughters had gotten tattoos. I cried. Hard. The next day I calmly told them if either of them got another tattoo while living under my roof I would consider them to be adult and they would be sent into the world as such. Because I never made threats or ultimatums that I didn’t keep they respected my words. Neither has gotten another tattoo.

Massachusetts Mom

DEAR MOM: If they ever got another tattoo, it should say, “Thanks, Mom.”