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How can I encourage my son to be more focused in life?

Q: My 13-year-old son is not doing his work properly. He is not reading or writing and he is working far below his potential. He is not concentrating and not focusing on anything. He has just experienced the death of his father figure. He has no motivation. He watches TV, plays games and chats on the computer for hours. He is extremely intelligent, but receives failing grades. He claims that he is trying, but I feel he is not. How can I handle this and get him to pass so that he can go to high school next year? How do I get him to care about the consequences? Its getting worse day by day.

A:The key sentence in your letter is that the child has suffered from the death of his father figure. He is bereaved and has to be treated gently and patiently to accept the loss and get on with his life. But this might require some professional help, like that of a Psychiatrist or Psychological Counsellor or at least a very experienced teacher or social worker. His lack of interest in school work and his inability to focus are both predictable under the conditions. I do not know whether you live in a city where such a specialist is available. If it is possible, try to locate a suitable person in the family or in the neighbourhood to listen to him, while he is painting or working with his hands on a given task. He has to be able to speak about his grief. Time is a healer, of course, but you would like him to be going on to the next level with his classmates. So finding a counsellor seems to be important. In our families, we tend to treat a 14-year-old as grown-up and not in need of babying. But he would benefit from being held warmly or letting him sleep with his head in a parents lap. He must be told that it is OK to cry if he wants to. In our languages, we often associate crying with being girls. This is unwise, of course. All human beings have to be able to express their emotions. Boys must also cry and feel sure that they are not considered sissies for doing so. But the problem may be more complicated than just grieving and we must listen to his reasons and his doubts. Everything will fall into place once he gets over the feeling of loss. Affection, care and patience will work wonders.

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