Worried About Grandchild

Q: My only grandchild, a 14-year-old boy, is a product of divorce. He lives with his mother, who has joint custody with his father who lives hundreds of miles away. His mother has remarried and has relinquished her parental responsibilities to her new husband. My grandson has demonstrated fear of this man, who reprimands him by yelling and who refuses him any special favors such as sports, school activities, and friends his age. His mother only shows affection for her husband. The boy must stay in his room most of the time except for dinner. He rarely goes out since he lives in a rural community and has nothing to do. His biological parents do not communicate. The stepfather admits he does not want him there. I fear social maladjustment. How can he make it in this isolated environment? -- Meredith, 76

Dr. Susan: I would be worried, too, Meredith. Your grandson, if what you say is true, is being emotionally abused. School activities, sports, and friends are not "special favors," but the normal way of life for a teenager. Is your son the biological father? As he has joint custody, he has the legal standing to look further into this situation and get some attention paid to what's going on. If the stepfather doesn't want the boy there, and his own mother shows him no affection, perhaps the boy should be spending a lot more time with his father. I suggest you spend what time you can with him and reassure him that he is loved. Do your best, without badmouthing anybody, to get at the reality of what's going on (keeping in mind that kids this age have been known to exaggerate to get extra sympathy). Try to offer your grandson opportunities to get out into the world whenever possible. The boy's father, no matter how far away he lives, needs to keep informed about his son's well-being and do what he can, including taking legal measures, to ensure the boy isn't being treated cruelly.

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