Moises: How can I reach out to my son?

·3 min read

“DAD VADER:” Hi, Singlestalk. I work in City Hall. I’m a father of a 25-year-old son who doesn’t have any ambitions in life. His mom left when he was about five. I was happily married. She wasn’t. I raised him singlehandedly. It took him six years to finish his degree in Physical Therapy. Barely passing. He did not take the board exams. He now works in a call center and parties heavily on weekends. Since I worked double time, we did not bond much. I want to reach out to him and talk about his future. I don’t know how young people like you think. Any suggestions?

DJ: I’m not a parent as the column’s name suggests. But I’ve got a lot of exposure with young people in various capacities and it’s probably rubbing off a bit. That’s why you think I’m young. Thanks, man! Your situation feels like a test you didn’t study for. That’s why I have great respect for single parents. Amazingly, a lot of young people actually want to share. We just have to let them speak. Uninterrupted. Any topic. Not necessarily about his future. The goal is to show him that you value his thoughts, ideas and opinions.

Talking about stuff like a heartbreak or frustration can be hard for a lot of people. Regardless of age. When your son opens up, he is seeking your support at that moment. You don’t have to agree with his choices but giving snarky remarks about what he just shared is like punishing him for opening up. I am patriotic. My bias, for example, is for talented Filipinos to stay and serve the country. We need them here. I’ve had discussions with young people—nurses in particular—I reserve my comment only when asked. Some eventually left. The others stayed. But they are all alive and okay. Contradicting your son’s plans in the onset will only decrease the chance that he will open up to you in the future. Show an interest in whatever he’s up to. Listen without judgement.

Put your foot down only on moral and legal issues but the consequences of his choices ultimately rest with him. These allowances demonstrate that you recognize that he’s a grown up. Chances are he’ll rise up to the challenge and he’ll open up more. Creating a healthy communication line, I suggest, is your priority at this time. The rest will just follow.

You were once a young person. The golden rule still applies. Treat your son as you would have wanted to be treated. Whatever made you clump up most likely will keep him silent, too. Then there’s the platinum rule, too—how you want to be treated does not also mean how your son wants to be treated. Your son is his own person now. I’m sure he appreciates having you around. Probably he’s also just trying to find the words to tell you that.

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