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Ask Lisi: Give son time, space to heal from traumatizing year

Love and patience from parents will hopefully give traumatized adult son the strength and courage to come out of it a mature and strong young man.
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Advice columnist Lisi Tesher.

Dear Lisi: Of my four children, two are extremely successful in their paths to highly sought-after careers; one was never very academic and chose to follow her fancy, which constantly changes, but she makes enough money to live independently and is soon to be married.

The fourth is lost. He finished high school but then took a gap year. He had a plan that we approved of, but halfway through the year, it fell apart, no fault of his, and he scrambled to find something else worthwhile.

It wasn’t the year he had hoped for and he still felt unready for university. So, he made some money and opted to travel. Again, we approved of his six-month plan. While travelling, he found a group of people with whom he connected and joined them. I won’t call it a cult, but he followed them wherever they went, doing whatever they were doing. He wasn’t asking us for money, or doing anything that frightened us…. he just didn’t seem to be moving forward.

After another six months, my husband and eldest son flew out to visit him. What they found was an emaciated shell of our son. They gathered his things and brought him home. He spent two weeks in hospital, malnourished and dehydrated. He’s home now, gaining strength daily, and focusing on healing. He won’t talk about what happened, but has agreed to speak to a professional.

How do we help our child move past this and find a life path that is healthy and fulfilling?

Devastated parents

I’m so sorry for what you are all going through. He obviously hooked up with the “wrong” crowd and got swept up in whatever they were doing. Give him space and time, remove all pressures. Allow him the comfort of your home to heal, and the safety to work through his experience. Your love and patience will hopefully give him the strength and courage to come out of this a mature and strong young man.

Inadvertently, this may have helped him find his path. Give him the luxury of time to figure it out.

FEEDBACK Regarding the woman with children who don’t look like her (Oct. 25):

Reader – “I sympathize with the writer - mixed parentage produces highly unpredictable effects. My ancestors were from northwestern Europe (already varied) and my three children’s father’s people came from eastern Europe, northwestern North America, and South Asia.

“I can see genetics from each source in all of them, but with different results and expression in their body build, skin colour, eye colour, etc. One has blue eyes, like mine, but in some lights, hers go a lovely pale green. One has brown eyes, like her father’s, but much lighter than his. The third has hazel eyes, with green flecks.

“Physical appearance can be seen as the story of the travels of one’s ancestors - the first peoples in Europe after the ice drew back, the travels of the Rom (gypsies) from India to all parts of Europe, the journey of the steppe people west, the journeys of people east from Siberia into North and South America. And before all these journeys, the ones out of Africa (dating from the time of homo erectus), escaping climate change and following the animals.

“My approach would be to teach the children about all their ancestors, where they lived, and why they moved. That’s the fun of history and family trees. The Rom were a surprise in our family, but it explains the lovely long hair that some of us were blessed with.”

Lisi – Thank you for this lovely explanation. I hope Genetic Smorgasbord reads this and creates a family tree with her children.

FEEDBACK Regarding the grandparents and Christmas (Sept. 27):

Reader 1 – “I didn’t read the original. Why not have two celebrations? Those of us with kids’ post-separation do this all the time.”

Lisi – I’m adding this comment because this person raised something not yet mentioned. Separated and divorced parents have to share their children all the time with their ex-partner.

So, again, I stress – it’s the quality time with family that, in my opinion, trumps everything else.

Reader 2 – “Lordy this is getting ridiculous. My own parents did the same thing, leaving before Christmas for their Florida home.

“We had a family gathering with traditional holiday food, a few decorations, gifts, and some Christmas music.

“It gives the children and, us parents, as much joy to see how much everyone likes their gifts as it does the grandparents. It is NOT a big deal unless you make it one. Get over yourselves everyone, enjoy the special time together…. LIFE is too short.”

Ellie Tesher and Lisi Tesher are advice columnists for the Star and based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email: ellie@thestar.ca or lisi@thestar.ca