Dear Carolyn • One of my college-age brother's friends, "Joe," has friended me on Facebook. Joe has had a rough time many stepfathers, lots of moving around, and a mother with mental-health problems who died a couple of years ago. Joe is now a young father and has split from his son's mother. I don't think he has much of a support system. Joe has started posting really bitter, depressed, and otherwise troubling messages. I'm worried he could hurt himself or others, but I don't know that it's my place to say anything. Should I reach out to him? Encourage my brother or parents to reach out to him?
Meddle or MYOB?
Dear Meddle or MYOB? • Encourage your brother or parents to say something, yes, but also consider commenting on his posts: "Hey, Joe do you have someone there you can talk to?" It's really important that you don't get sucked into being his amateur therapist, drama reward system or just shoulder to cry on; this will only give him a place to hide from real help. If he responds affirmatively, urge him to get in touch with that person. Seems obvious but even a nudge can help. If he responds negatively, then do a little research on crisis resources in his area, and send him a few numbers. Then step back and let him do what he needs to do.
Dear Carolyn • Just found out that we're having a boy. You've got three! Any books you've thought were great so that I can be prepared for this adventure?
Dear Raising Boys • Congratulations! The best thing you can do is raise the boy you have, vs. the archetype of a boy. So whether he's a fort-building, knee-scraping adventurer; or a thoughtful, bookish guy; or a natural nurturing type; or a jock of all trades; or, most likely, some finely shaded combination of these the best thing you can read for raising him is your son himself. Watch and listen and attend to his needs. The one must-read is NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. It's not only fascinating, but it also blows huge holes in conventional parenting wisdom.
Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.