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Ask Amy

Preparing for cost of son’s graduate studies

Q. I have a 22-year-old son who just graduated from an out-of-state university, which we paid for.

Now that he’s back home, he tells us that to maximize his major (psychology), he will “need” to pursue a master’s degree because he would like to be a clinical psychologist.

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He now has a part-time job and is also paying rent/bills. He wants us to pay for his additional schooling.

He does not want to be in debt and take out loans because he believes we have some extra money to help out. What do you suggest?

Mommy Big Bucks

A. Your son sounds impressively self-directed (working, paying rent and expenses). He is correct that in order to pursue the goal of being a clinical psychologist he will require more schooling.

The next step for him will be the burden of successfully negotiating with you about what you will (or won’t) pay for. This is great practice for a future psychologist. He is solely responsible for fulfilling his own goals.

He should research and pursue financial aid through grants, scholarships, or fellowships. If (after putting together his financial package) he still needs a financial bridge in order to fully fund his education, you might be willing to formally loan him this money (at low or no interest), to be repaid once he completes his education and secures a professional job in his field.

If you can’t do this — or simply don’t want to — he will have to decide whether he is willing to take on personal debt or pursue his higher degree in stages, as he can afford it.

Q. I am worried about verbal/emotional abuse to my grandson by his father. I have talked to my daughter about this, but the situation doesn’t seem to be improving.

I have also talked to the school counselor. She says she would have to reveal the source of this complaint/concern, and I am afraid I will not see my grandchildren again if it is revealed that I have complained.

I don’t think this abuse is intentional, but comes from ignorance of any other way to “control” the boy.

Where can I turn for help in this matter?

Anxious Grandmother

A. You don’t say how old the boy is, or the nature of this mistreatment. Parents do have a right to make individual choices about how to parent their children, even if you don’t agree with their choices.

On the face of it, going to the school counselor will be interpreted as an overreach. However, if you feel strongly that professional intervention is necessary, then you should pursue it, regardless of the risk you perceive to your relationship.

Your daughter already knows you are concerned about how the child is being treated; you should assume that even if the counselor discloses you as the source of the complaint, it won’t surprise this couple in the slightest because they would already assume you are the source.

You should advocate not only for your grandchild, but for the parents, too. If you are able to influence them gently and effectively, everybody wins.

Your whole family should read, “It’s a Boy! Your Son’s Development from Birth to Age 18” by Michael Thompson and Teresa Barker (2009, Ballantine Books).

You can contact Amy Dickinson via e-mail at askamy@tribune .com. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or “like” her on Facebook.

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