Uncle of a teen who wants to help his nephew communicate with his dad

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-02-2014
Uncle of a teen who wants to help his nephew communicate with his dad
14
Thu, 01-02-2014 - 8:44pm

Hi,

Recently my brother asked if I could come talk to my nephew because his grades have been dropping in school.  Some background info on my brother:

1. Single working dad

2. He works the graveyard shift and goes to school in the day time so its hard for him to find time to talk to his son.

3. I can't say for sure but I'm sure having this schedule makes him stressed out and irritable at times.

After talking to my nephew, I found out that he needs to get tutoring and help with staying organized.  I asked him why didn't he come to his dad when his grades started dropping and he said he doesn't know (I suspect maybe because he's afraid of how his dad will react to the bad news).  While I'm always happy to help my brother, I feel like there should be an easier or at least more effective way for my nephew and his dad to communicate.  I don't have any kids yet so I don't know what its like to be a parent of a teen but I do feel like there's a communication barrier between teens and their parents.

What tools have you guys used to help with communication?  Are there any external tools or applications that would help? 

Thank you!!!

Pages

Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999

There is no "communication barrier" between teens and their parents unless there is also a commonsense barrier.  The way I communicate with people, is to TALK TO THEM.  No tools, no apps, no magic, no rocket science.

If you brother is working all night, going to school all day, and sleeping somewhere in there also, WHO IS SUPERVISING THIS CHILD???  WHO IS PAYING ATTENTION TO HIM???  WHO IS TALKING TO HIM???   The answer is, obviously, nobody.

Your brother needs a good swift kick.  Tell him to sit down, WITHOUT DISTRACTIONS, and talk to his kid.  Pay attention to what he says, and what he DOESN'T say.  Talk about who his friends are, what he does in school, & after school.  Tell him to go to the school with his son, and talk to the guidence counselor, the special ed counselor, and the dean.  Find out what THEY recommend.  Find out WHAT his son has been doing, not doing, and what he needs.  Then do EVERYTHING they suggest.  In addition, get the kid the tutor he asked for, and if your brother still can't be bothered, then he should pay someone to actually be there when his son get home from school, feed him, talk to him, supervise him, and care about him.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-02-2014

Sabrtooh, thanks for the reply although your response was a bit harsh.  My brother is a great dad and not a deadbeat that your post seems to imply.  Maybe I wasn't descriptive in my original post so I apologize for that.  My brother works as a Support Engineer at Netflix during the graveyard shift.  He is going back to school in the day time to get his college degree.  He does all this as a single parent because he loves his son and wants to create a better future for them.

The struggle here isn't the lack of effort, he has talked to his son before and tries to stay as involved in all aspects of his life as possible.  I feel that the his busy lifestyle along with my nephews busy lifestyle (school, sports, government) makes it hard for them to consistently find the time to talk and I'm asking if there are tools to help.

Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998

I think that the boy's school is good place to start. They may have tutoring at school, or be able to recommend where to find a tutor. Sometimes schools have classes about personal organization/study skills. YMCA, community centers, etc might have afterschool tutoring available. Places like Sylvan learning centers offer tutoring and study skills but they're rather expensive. If there is a university in their city they might be able to get a college student to tutor, and that person may have suggestions on organization too. The school counseling center is probably the best place to start finding resources. Dad should also talk to the son's teachers to see why they think the grades are dropping and anything else they have noticed about the teen.

There are time management apps for the phone but a person first needs to learn how to manage their time before using a tool to help. Communication app? Talk or text! But nothing beats face to face time spent together.

How old is your nephew? It sounds like he is "home alone" a lot. Is there an adult there overnight while Dad is at work? Is Dad home during the afterschool hours? As someone who has raised 2 kids to adulthood I would be concerned about a teen with minimal supervision. There are numerous reasons why grades would suddenly start to drop so Dad needs to make sure that its not for a reason like drug use, too much time alone with a girlfriend, addiction to computer game, etc.

Why does your brother want you to talk to his son? Why doesn't HE talk to him? Its good for teens to have a trusted older person to confide in but it should be in addition to the parent, not instead of the parent.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-02-2014

Thanks for the reply Elc.  It's apparent to me I phrased everything wrong.  My nephew is 16.  My parents live with my brother and my nephew so my brother is working to support both his son and my parents.  He does make time to talk to his son and try to attend school functions as much as possible.

I guess my question is how do you get children to open up to you more instead of just one word answers.  You can talk to your son/daughter every day but what if they don't want to talk or care to talk?  Is it teens being teens or something else?

Avatar for suzyk2118
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-1997

Knowing how teen boys can be, with ANY 'confrontations' with parents (either gender, and honestly a lot of it's not meant to be a confrontation but that's how they perceive it), I'd suggest texting or email vs. anything in person to start (truly depends on the teen but definitely worked better for my son to not do 'major stuff' in person).  Short and sweet (by Dad, not you), and not argumentative, etc.  Sometimes it takes a LOT of rereading before sending to make sure there's no possible misconception.  (As an example when ds went to college, if I emailed him, 'How's it going?' he took that to mean, are you handling everything ok? which was an affront to him - if I just sent newsy stuff and jokes, he was more likely to fill me in on his own.)  Start with chit chat, then sneak in a type of 'how's it going' and build the relationship back from there.  And yes, I'd encourage Dad to get with his son's school counselor and let them know what's up, and maybe the counselor can just 'randomly' call him in and they can talk without him knowing Dad was behind it, if that'd help for now.  It's 'sneaky' but sometimes the only way to get through at this age.  Best of luck, and thanks for caring.

Sue

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-14-2000

Hi and welcome to the board. I agree with the others that the school guidance/counselling center would be a good place to start re: tutoring help. Your brother sounds like a great guy to be working to support his son AND folks and going to school at the same time. It sounds like your nephew can open up to you so that's good. I'd continue to be there for him while at the same time encouraging him to open up to your brother more. It could be that your nephew is afraid of putting more stress on your brother if he talks to him about the dropping grades. I also agree with Sue that perhaps they can start out with text/email type communication. Teens these days have grown up with this and sometimes it's easier for them to communicate that way. Right or wrong - it is what it is. Keep us posted!

Pam
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999

I think it might be good for your brother & his son to find some regular times during the week to be together, at least for dinner and hopefully to do some activity.  I think teens talk when they are in the habit of doing that on a regular basis.  Maybe you are right that the son sees that his dad is working so hard that he doesn't feel like he wants to add to the burdens.  But if your brother is in college himself, he must be studying and doing homework at times too--so maybe they could study together and your nephew could learn from his dad how he manages his time and how to organize his HW.  

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-02-2014

Wow this is a great forum, you guys are really passionate about helping each other!  I'm definitely coming here when I have children.  I'm 33 now and plan on getting married in a year.  When my girlfriend and I fight, one method we use to help with arguments is to step away from the situation, clear our head, and write each other emails.  I find that this allows us to cool down and speak without trying to impose our will on each other.  However more importantly, while reading each other's email we can read it without juding or being judged.

What do you guys think if I asked my brother and nephew to apply this?  Maybe my brother could ask my nephew a few questions each week in an email and have my nephew reply in his free time.  The questions would be something simple like:

1. What was your highlight of the week?

2. How are you doing overall?

3. Is there anything you need from me?

This isn't meant to replace face to face communication but maybe it could help my nephew open up more and my brother listen first without trying to judge, lecture, or "parent".  How do you guys feel about something like this?

Avatar for suzyk2118
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-1997

Going back to my overly sensitive kiddo,believe it or not I think he'd find #1 and #2 prying (he's truly an overly sensitive soul!).  I found it easier to email some comics/silly pictures (he loves cats so I'd send some silly lolcats pics, for instance), and then just have a lead-in somehow - maybe start with the 3rd question so it looks like you're just chit chatting. And throw in something like a study date or even just a coffee/fast food date proposal if they have a small amount of common time - and keep that light.  I find the fewer questions I ask, the better - I more or less have to just ask 'how's it going?' and see what happens. Good luck!

Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998

My kids were most likely to open up while riding in the car with me, especially when it was dark out. This was before everybody had a cell phone so I was the only person around to communicate with lol. 

Pages