The Family Project: Sister concerned about single-dad brother
Q. My brother is a recently-single parent taking care of three children ages five, nine and 11. The children are becoming unkempt-looking. And they all seem out of sorts. I have asked my brother if he needs help, and he says, “No.” He has gone from a happy individual to a withdrawn, isolated man. I am concerned and am not sure what to do.
The panelists noted that the question does not explain the reason for the brother recently becoming a single brother.
It could be from death or divorce. Whatever the reason, the panel acknowledged that the brother and his children ere grieving a loss, and are having to make a huge adjustment in their lives.
“The sister’s awareness of the situation is to be applauded,” panelist Mike Daniels said, adding, “She recognizes that some of this is just not normal, but she needs also to be aware that there are going to be changes in behavior.”
“Some of these changes no one can predict,” panelist Erin Stalsitz said, “and there are some things no one can control. To say, ‘out of sorts’ is too broad. I don’t know what that means.”
Daniels said the panel has no references to what life was like for the brother and the children, or what the relationship was between the brother and sister before he became a single parent: “Was stopping by normal for her before, and did she help out in the past?”
The sister’s approach seems to be to ask if her brother needs help, Stalsitz observed, noting, “Most people, especially men, will answer, ‘No.’ She needs to step back and give her brother some time.”
“What she can say to the single dad is to acknowledge that he’s been through a lot of changes lately,” Daniels said, urging, “Then she can add, ‘I just want you to know if there is anything I can do to help, I’m available. I’d also like to spend more time with the children.’”
The sister should be encouraged to stay in touch, Continenza said, because isolation is a natural response to grieving.
She and panelist Pam Wallace suggested texting the brother every couple of days, and asking him and his children out to dinner or to a movie.
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Denise Continenza, extension educator; Mike Ramsey, program supervisor, Valley Youth House; Erin Stalsitz, Lehigh Children & Youth; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, and Charise Edwards, Functional Family Therapist, Valley Youth House.
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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.
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