“Mortal Kombat”? “Angry Birds”?
Dear Margo: I think my college-age son is addicted to video games. It is possible he is just depressed, but in any case, something is wrong. He doesn’t love school, but can do well when he sets his sights on a goal. He’s home for the summer, but he refuses to look for a job or consider summer school. He does nothing, and the family can’t handle it anymore. We find it a bad example for the younger siblings and just plain bad energy. It was because of this that I told him he couldn’t stay here anymore. I kicked him out yesterday because I think it’s time for tough love. On the other hand, I’m worried. –Sick at Heart
Dear Sick: Well, if the kid is old enough to go to college, he is old enough to fend for himself — given the fact that he was welcome to live at home if he showed some sign of life, i.e., having a productive summer where he was doing something. Video games can be an addiction, so perhaps steer him toward a counselor or a support group that deals with this. Tell the young man that your door is open to him should he decide to be useful. And do remind him that playing any kind of game for hours at a time is not an occupation. And who knows? Maybe your determined action will do him some good. Here’s hoping. –Margo, hopefully
A History of Flying Off the Handle
Dear Margo: I need advice about how to cope with my older sister who flies off the handle, often for no reason at all. We are both in our 60s. The pattern of our adult lives has been to get along fairly well for a while, until she blows up at me for a real or imagined reason. Most of the time, her anger is completely out of proportion to the offense. She says things that are so hurtful that my reaction is to retreat. There have been times when we have not spoken to each other for years, followed by one of us (usually me) trying to patch things up. This happens over and over. Only once, in an argument, did I scream back at her and say the worst things that came to mind. I had always wondered what would happen if she got as good as she gave. It didn’t make any difference … except I felt even worse afterward. And it precipitated a four-year “separation.”
We recently got back together, but it has already started all over again. This last time, I refused to retreat and told her we had to learn how to communicate better with each other; that her blowing up and my retreating are both unhealthy. What makes people have such different styles of communication? As much as I try, I have a hard time forgetting some of the terrible things she has said. This has kept us from being as close as sisters should be. What can I do? –Gun Shy
Dear Gun: It sounds as though your sister not only has a temper and impulse-control issues, but I’d bet you anything there is something seriously bothering her about her life, and you’ve become the target. (Proving, yet again, that siblings from the same home can be entirely different in temperament and the ability to manage.) It’s possible there’s some carried-over resentment from the younger years. Maybe you were the favored child or prettier or something that made you a frenemy in her eyes. (And I know what you mean about feeling wounded by things she has said.)
Her pattern has become clear (and repeated), so you need to accept that this is who she is. She will not change. As for what to do, you can lie low and let things drift … perhaps into no relationship at all. Not everyone gets a great sister. –Margo, genealogically
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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
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