While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On helping a child who wants to drop out of school • Talk to your kid about WHY. To get to the point of dropping out, which is a pretty extreme step for most kids, they might have found the whole or part of the experience really miserable. In addition to any substance abuse issues: Do they hate the social scene? Are they being harassed? Do they have learning-skill issues, like ADHD, etc.? Their answers to your respectful, concerned questioning, over the course of one or more conversations, will help you figure out if and how you can help. I dropped out after spring break during my senior year in high school. I ended up getting my GED. I hated the high school social scene, had always felt like an outsider, and couldn't relate to the subjects taught to my turbulent inner world. I had undiagnosed ADHD, and was probably clinically depressed to boot. You can outline for your kid why schooling will help them control what happens to them in life, why it's really important to learn self-discipline and how to work hard, but there are other places than a high school where one can learn those things. Most important, let them know you're in THEIR corner, you love them, and you just want to see them be able to create a happy, productive and fulfilling life for themselves, no matter what the path.
On using family instead of enjoying their company • When I saw the live chat post June 22, 2012, about the woman who was asked to hold a dog at a wedding, I blew milk out my nose. Last winter, my son and his wife drove 1,000 miles with their baby and dog to visit her parents, who live 60 miles from me. They stopped at my house long enough to drop off the dog and then spent the next two weeks very busy, oh, so much going on, oh, all her family is in town and there is so much company to see, ad infinitum ... I saw them again on their way home when they came back through town to pick up the dog. I've had trouble coming to grips with what I've perceived to be a gross insult. I have tried to shrug this off for six months, but today I was finally able to laugh out loud.
Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.