The Family Project: Supportive mother
Q. My eldest son barely graduated from high school and will be released from juvenile detention. I am a single mother, and his brothers will be entering their freshman and sophomore high school years. Since graduating, my son has done nothing to find a job, and he shows no signs of wanting to move out. How can I help my younger sons stay on track despite their older brother’s influence?
The best thing the mother can do for all her children, according to panelist Michael Ramsey, is to let them know that she is going to support them through whatever happens. “The younger sons will be motivated more by seeing their mother supporting the older brother.”
How she models her behavior with the older son is important to the behavior of the other boys, panelist Mike Daniels said. “The mom has a negative view of the son. She seems stuck on the probation and the idea that he ‘barely graduated from high school,’” Daniels said, adding that she should focus on the fact that he did graduate.
Panelist Chad Stefanyak recommended that the mother go out to lunch with the son and start a conversation that begins by her saying, “I love you. We’re not getting along so well, and I want that to change. How about you?” Then, he said, mom could say she is concerned and wants to help. “Mom needs to find out what the son is interested in. What is his passion, and how can she help him pursue it?” Stefanyak said.
Before she has the conversation, Daniels said the mother needs to get clear in her head if she has written off the older son, or if she wants to be supportive. “She needs to understand that there is difference between being supportive and judgmental or supportive and enabling. The son’s sitting home and doing nothing is not an option,” Daniels said.
Getting angry with his mother when she brings up getting a job may be a reaction to his own fear of the future, or his feelings of inadequacy, panelist Erin Continenza said. “The mother can help by stressing the boy’s strengths, and helping him see them.”
Calling the juvenile parole officer an “ally,” panelist Pam Wallace suggested that the mother get in touch with him to identify any barriers there may be to the son’s employment, and to discuss programs and resources that are available to help.
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Wanda Mercado-Arroyo, former teacher and school administrator; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; Michael Ramsey, MS, LPC, Program Supervisor, Valley Youth House; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, CTS; and Denise Continenza, extension educator.
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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.
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