Q. At the beginning of the pandemic, my husband and I moved across the country. Our adult son was laid off because of the pandemic and struggled with depression. We decided to invite him to move with us to help him get on his feet again.
It took him a while to get a part-time job, and now he was finally hired full time. We are very happy for him.
However, he gets upset when the subject of having him move out and be on his own comes up. He tells us that because of his depression he is afraid to live on his own and needs to have family around. He is already on antidepressants, but doesn’t follow through with seeking counseling.
We are getting close to retirement and don’t want to have children living with us when we do retire. We also have a younger son who is living with us and attending a local university. We are fine with helping him out until he graduates.
We just don’t know how to help our oldest son get to a place where he can live independently. What would you suggest?
A. You should take this in careful stages. The message to your elder son should be, “Our goal is for both of our sons to live independently and to develop rewarding pursuits and relationships. We’ll help you get there.”
Your elder son has already made great strides — he moved across the country and is now working full time. That’s huge. He is being honest regarding the impact of his depression, but he may also be using his depression as a crutch.
The pandemic has proved a serious setback for many young adults. According to a study published by the Pew Research Center, “At the height of the pandemic, more people under 30 were living with their parents than were living on their own ... the highest percentage since the Great Depression.” Many of these young adults are now struggling to relaunch.
My point is that your son is not alone. His depression is certainly a factor, but he’s also nervous about undertaking a big change that seems lonelier than that first big step out of college and into adulthood was.
Your son should be seeing a therapist. You could start with therapy on your own and invite him to join you and your husband, with the goal to discuss how he is managing his disease, including the fears and challenges he anticipates, and ways you can be helpful (perhaps with him living nearby or cohabiting with his brother, for instance).
The National Alliance on Mental Illness is an invaluable resource. Check their “family members and caregivers” page for ideas and professional and peer support (NAMI.org).
Q. Unfortunately, we have a growing homeless population in our city. I understand the causes and feel a great deal of compassion for the difficulties that they face as individuals. Where I struggle is how to respond when asked for money — often it is very uncomfortable.
I can easily afford to give out a few dollars, but is this the right thing to do? What is the best way we can help as individuals?
A. I don’t believe there is any definitive answer to this. Because you are both aware and concerned (good for you!), you could do a lot of good by helping organizations that help the homeless through financial support and/or volunteering.
Instead of cash, some people give out socks, gloves, or gift cards for small amounts to be redeemed for food.
I think the one important thing is to look someone in the eye and at least recognize their humanity, even if you choose not to give to them that day.
Q. “New Job, New Me” had previously worked for a well-known company, and didn’t know how to respond to new co-workers’ extreme curiosity about the previous job.
I worked for a prominent New York City socialite who was married to a powerful man. After I left and was job-hunting, everyone I met with (from my doctor to friends, recruiters, and prospective employers) wanted to know what she was like. I avoided those questions by saying I had signed a confidentiality agreement (which I had) and was not at liberty to answer. That usually stopped the questions.
“New Job, New Me” might try that excuse.
I’M NOT TALKING
A. Good advice. (I’ve now spent the last several days trying to guess the identity of your previous employer.)
Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.