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Parents with troubled son worry about disclosure

DEAR AMY: We had a very difficult summer. We had to send our 14-year-old son out of state to a wilderness program because of his substance abuse, defiance and high-risk behavior. We were totally caught off guard by the substance abuse issue. We are first-generation immigrants and were not exposed to drugs growing up in our birth country. Our child spent 11 weeks at the program, during which we learned more about his behavior (drugs as well as alcohol, stealing to support his habit and so on). It was shocking and unbelievable. He worked hard to overcome this behavior and picked up a good set of coping skills. He has since transitioned to a small residential therapeutic treatment center where he will get continued help, while completing his schoolwork. When his friends (the ones we want to keep him away from), as well as other well-meaning friends, ask about him, what do I say? Right now I simply state that he is at a private school. Some accept the answer, and others continue to probe. I say that the details are not important and walk away. We as a family have gone through too much pain. All this probing only makes it worse. I want our child to choose when (and if) he wants to share his story with others. What is your advice?

Pained Parents

DEAR PAINED: This is your family’s business, and it should be up to you to choose what you want to disclose (and to whom). One way to handle this is to be deliberately vague, but also polite (making a statement and then walking away is impolite and may raise more questions).

You can say, “ ‘Steve’ is in a boarding school that seems to be a really good fit for him and we’re feeling great about his progress. Thanks for asking.”

If people continue to ask questions and it makes you uncomfortable, you can say, “You are kind to care, but we’re keeping things private. Why do you ask?” You may find that other parents have had similar experiences to yours; if you find other people you can open up to, they might be compassionate and helpful resources.

DEAR AMY: I’ve been divorced for three years. My new boyfriend moved in two years ago. He moved from out of state. He didn’t have a job and didn’t look for one for almost a year. He has never given me any money toward rent, utilities, internet, etc. He rarely helps with groceries. In his defense, he used to own a mortgage company, and is now driving a school bus for $18K per year. He doesn’t seem to be trying to get a better job, and he is more than capable. He also claims to have $50K in credit card debt, but in the past year and a half, he has purchased things for himself, and yet he claims he doesn’t even have $20/month to give me to go toward the quarterly trash bill. We didn’t discuss finances before he moved in, and I knew that he was coming in without a job, but I’m really starting to resent him. My family and friends think he’s taking advantage of me. What do you think?

Wondering

DEAR WONDERING: I’m expressing my own surprise that you would welcome someone to move in with you without discussing finances beforehand. And now, after two years, your partner’s willingness to contribute to the household is still a mystery to you.

So talk about it. Put your household bills and expenses on the table and figure out how (or if) you will share them.

If he is unable (or refuses) to contribute anything, and if this is a deal breaker for you, then you should be brave enough to say so.

DEAR AMY: “Homeowner” wrote to you about a potentially tragic accident at his home, when a toddler ended up in his pool. The parent who fished the baby out had his smartphone destroyed in the process. I liked your idea to contact the manufacturer to see if they would replace the phone, gratis.

Fan

DEAR FAN: I figured it was worth a shot; manufacturers might find this quick-thinking act of bravery something to celebrate.

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