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Help – need advice on dealing with my son

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  • #409740
    Pradeep
    Participant

    Hello all, I live in India. My 30 year old son lives with me (not uncommon in India). He had a job in another city, during COVID & WFH moved home. Recently, he had differences with his company and quit, that’s 5 months back. Since then, he claims to have done a lot of interviews but says none match his needs. What I need to tell early is that he is addicted to gaming. He spends entire night playing and sleeps in the day time till 2pm. This addiction has made him a loner as he does not want to go out to meet friends since it will keep him away from his precious PS! Even the job is a distraction from the game I feel and that’s why he is doing his best to ensure that he does not get one. Mix in a indulgent mother who is willing to play along (though she is distressed by his behaviour) he is having a gala time doing what he loves best – gaming with no responsibilities. I am terribly worried. I want to give him a deadline after which I will ask him to move out and fund himself hoping that would force his hand – my wife is against this saying that she is worried as to what will happen to him (I’m sure my son knows this and is using her). I sent him to a therapist but he always gets out after a couple of sessions saying that they don’t understand him. Please, please advice, what should I do?

    #409747
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Pradeep:

    When it comes to a serious addiction to a substance or an activity (like gaming), it is most often futile to try moderation and the only way to put a stop to the addiction is to remove access to the substance or the activity. After some time of no access, the very strong habit, aka addiction, comes to an end.

    There is a website, olganon. org, standing for On-Line Gamers Anonymous. It has a section called: “For parents of adult children (18+) with video game problems“. In it, it reads: “What to do?There are parental control programs, though most adult children who are computer-savvy will hack right around these… Cancel your internet access if you feel that you and the rest of the family can get along without it. If you cannot cancel the access entirely, consider switching to dial-up. This does make it more difficult, though not completely impossible, to play most sophisticated (games)”.

    It also reads: “You and all the other adults in the house (spouse, significant other, grandparents) must be on the same page as much as possible about this“-  which means your wife needs to be on the same page as you.

    And it reads: “Be sympathetic to your child. These games were designed by experts using well-known (psychological) principles to draw your child in and keep him there. This is not his/her fault. It is also not your fault so don’t waste time beating up on yourself with what ifs…  Welcome to OLG-Anon. We are here for you“.

    I hope to read more from you, maybe together we can figure things out.

    anita

    #409772
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Pradeep,

    when someone is addicted, it’s usually to soothe some sort of emotional pain, usually the pain of feeling unlovable or unworthy. It could be that your son doesn’t have a too high self-esteem and feels like a failure, specially now, since he has had a fallout at his previous job. The pressure to find something else, plus living with his parents, who have expectations from him, could be adding to his feeling bad about himself, feeling like a failure.

    You may not be aware of it, but your words show that you still see him a child, because you said “I sent him to a therapist.” You didn’t say “I suggested he visits a therapist”. Again, you may not be aware of it, because you want the best for your son, but he won’t be helped if you see him as an unruly child who needs to be disciplined. It will only cause him to feel worse about himself and go deeper into addiction.

    Rather, if you would see him as an adult and show that you value him and think highly of him, this will much more likely change his attitude. Because as I said, him feeling bad about himself, feeling like a failure, is what most probably causes his addiction. So try to talk to him with empathy and understanding, and show support for him, tell him that you believe in him, even though you understand that it’s hard for him at the moment. And then see if anything changes in his attitude… But try to be honest, don’t fake your good will and support.

    If nothing changes and he is still waking up at 2 pm every day, then you can set some boundaries and some rules, e.g. tell him that you won’t be able to let him stay at your house and to move out. But use the tough approach only if the soft approach doesn’t work out. First use the soft approach – it will do good to your son, and to the relationship between the two of you!

     

    #410159
    anita
    Participant

    How are you, Pradeep, and how is your son?

    anita

    #410267
    Pradeep
    Participant

    Hello Anita, my apologies for not responding earlier, dealing with an aggressive skin allergy that has laid me low for a few weeks, hopefully I am getting better. I think you are bang on – he does have low self esteem and all the other issues you mentioned. Though I can’t figure out why because right from his childhood his mom quite her job to be with the children and I eased up at 40 to be available to my kids and have supported them throughout. But it is what it is. I did try to empathetic approach for a while. may have been too short though. As to treating him like a child, we are Indians – we never seem to grow old as far as our parents are concerned LOL! But I get your message loud and clear and will try to change my attitude to this issue. But I have one more question to ask of you: whenever the topic veers to anything to do with him, he immediately becomes aggressive, shouts may be to shut us up. How do I get him to open up considering he refuses to even sit and talk with me?

     

    #410276
    Pradeep
    Participant

    Also, thanks for the information on OLG-Anon. Just signed up and shall read up. Really appreciate your help Anita and I do sincerely hope I can pull my son out of this addiction.

    #410278
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Pradeep:

    You are welcome and I hope that you continue to recover from your aggressive skin allergy!  You received two replies on Nov 7: the first from me (anita)- in regard to an online support group for gamers and their parents, OLG-Anon, and the second, an excellent reply, from Tee- where she suggested a soft, empathetic approach (I guess you thought the two replies are from the same member because they both start with “Dear Pradeep”).

    You shared less than an hour ago that whenever you bring up the topic to your son, “he immediately becomes aggressive, shouts… he refuses to even sit and talk with me“. You also shared in your original post that he quit therapy (more than once) after a couple of sessions, saying that the therapists did not understand him.

    I think that it is an excellent idea that you and your wife change your attitudes regarding your son and treat him like an adult, and not like a child. It will take a long time though, for the two of you to consistently practice this change of attitude, and for your son to trust this change. For quicker support (and not as a substitute to what I just mentioned), maybe if he himself joins OLD-Anon…  maybe he will find understanding there, among his peers: young people his age…?

    anita

    #410531
    Tee
    Participant

    Hello Pradeep,

    Tee here 🙂

    I am sorry about your skin allergy – wish you a speedy recovery!!

    I think you are bang on – he does have low self esteem and all the other issues you mentioned. Though I can’t figure out why because right from his childhood his mom quite her job to be with the children and I eased up at 40 to be available to my kids and have supported them throughout.

    Hm, I don’t want to speculate why he might have developed low self-esteem, nor am I saying that it is your (his parents’) fault that he is like that. It seems you and your wife did everything to provide him a nice childhood, not just materially but also emotionally, since e.g. your wife quit her job so she can spend more time with the children. And it sounds like you were not an “absent father” either – you said you were quite supportive too.

    If you feel you provided enough emotional support, without too much criticism, scolding, or making him feel like he isn’t good enough – well then, it’s not your fault. There could be other reasons for his low self-esteem, e.g. his school (bullying by his peers, just as one possible example). Or his sensitive nature as well. Or a mix of both.

    Whatever the reason, he is an adult now and should take responsibility for himself. The fact that he is behaving irresponsibly and gets angry and dismissive if you even bring it up – shows that he isn’t willing to take responsibility for himself. He isn’t willing to look at his problem and address it, but wants to behave a little like a “spoiled child” and wants you to leave him alone.

    Your wife might be somewhat of an enabler, fearing that if she is strict with him and sets some boundaries, it will be even worse.

    Dr. Henry Cloud, a clinical psychologist, has a very interesting video on the topic of parents as enablers, and how to deal with problematic adult children. The video is titled “Breaking Codependent Patterns with Adult Kids“, and I recommend you watch it. I don’t know how much it applies to your son, but the point is that you as his parents should not be the source of help, but a bridge for him to find help (e.g. you should encourage him to seek therapy). Your role is to strengthen his capacity to help himself.

    You may e.g. demand that he goes to therapy, or that he wakes up every day at a certain time, otherwise you can’t have him stay at your house, for example. The point is that the current situation isn’t helping him and I think you need to set some boundaries. You don’t need to be cruel with him, but you can set boundaries lovingly. Let me know how this sounds…

     

    #410641
    Pradeep
    Participant

    Hello Tee and Anita, thank you so much for making the time to help me. Tee, after reading your first post, I decided to change tack and befriend him, less of fatherly stuff. Seemed to work. He started engaging with me and has started coming and spending time with his mother and me, however little, but that’s a big change. Even bigger is that he has agreed to drive with me to a beach resort for New Years (he has so far avoided driving much claiming that he feels car sick). When I first ask his help on driving, he said that just the thought made him queasy. When I pointed out that he was running away from his fears and he needed to confront it sometime, he agreed with me and said OK. Great. He also signed up for the gym. Its a long road ahead, but my wife and I are enthused. Since I took your advice of empathy, I also seemed to have distressed and feeling better. Will plough on. A heartfelt thanks again from a grateful father. Do keep your advice and encouragement coming, that’s important for me. God bless you all!

    #410652
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Pradeep:

    You are welcome and I am glad that Tee’s quality input and guidance has been so helpful to you! Reads to me that you are a good father: logical, sensible, realistic… and empathetic, and that you are on the right track!

    anita

    #410655
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Pradeep,

    you are so welcome! I am really happy your son has started to open up, engage with you and his mother more, and even enrolled in a gym! That’s wonderful!! It seems that both you and him are benefiting from having a relationship based on empathy and understanding, and you being more like a well-meaning friend than a strict, demanding father. Fantastic!

    I am really happy for you, and I hope it will only deepen and last. If there are some setbacks, please let us know. Wish you luck, and keep up with the good work!

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