Life Advice



Ask Amy: Grandson in distress needs immediate help

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: Our middle school-age grandson has struggled with behavioral issues for most of his life. He now has been diagnosed with serious mental illness.

The family is reeling. He is unsafe to both himself and others. Few options are available for a person this young, and the expense for treatment is far out of reach for the family.

Other children in the family are being affected.

As grandparents, we’ve been asked to help with the financial part of a very costly potential residential treatment that we aren’t comfortable with, not only because of the cost, but also because it wouldn’t address the dynamics of the family.

The boy’s father — our son — is angry that we aren’t on board with paying for this treatment.

We don’t believe that a child with his degree of illness can be sent away to be “fixed.” We see this as a long-term process that our grandson, his parents, siblings, and extended family will need ongoing help with.

What can we do?

– Feeling Helpless

Dear Feeling Helpless: Early intervention is important, and I agree that these parents should commit to a family-centered approach.

However, your reasoning might be backward.

If your adolescent grandson is an immediate risk to himself and others, then a residential treatment program might be the best option for him right now.

However, any treatment program should start with a comprehensive professional assessment.

If they already have a diagnosis, then they could check with their local medical center, university, and county mental health department to research the best options for him.

They can also call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357). SAMHSA also has a Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator on its website that can be searched by location.

I agree that it is highly unrealistic to expect to send a boy with severe mental illness away to be “fixed,” but whether he receives in-patient or out-patient treatment should be determined by the medical and mental health professionals engaged in his care, as well as his parents’ capabilities.

They must carefully research any residential programs they are considering, and only choose a program with a proven and compassionate approach, as well as a stellar reputation.

You have a deep concern for their welfare, but you should ask yourself if your current stance is most helpful to this distressed family during a crisis.

Dear Amy: I live in a condo community in a suburban Midwest community. Recently, a new neighbor moved in.

The day they moved in they began displaying a Black “lawn jockey.”

My husband and I are deeply disturbed.


My husband believes that perhaps they don't understand the deep racial implications of this statute and that we should talk to them.

I believe that, of course, these people know this, and that this statute is a message to any African Americans looking to build in our community that they should move on.

Our covenants prohibit political displays, but says nothing about lawn art.

What should we do? We don't want to live in a community that displays hate.

– Troubled

Dear Troubled: In researching your question, I’ve become aware that there is a “false history” to the lawn jockey by some who have claimed these objects were originally used as beacons of sorts by the Underground Railroad, guiding slaves toward escape.

This has been widely debunked. The Black lawn jockey is a racist symbol, and it’s hard to imagine any modern person seeing it as anything else.

Your neighbors have made a visual declaration: “We like this!” And so, as with any visual décor outside the home – whether it is a planting, a sculpture, a mural, or a flag – you can ask them about it: “Hi. Welcome to the neighborhood. We’re curious about this object you’re displaying in your yard. Can you tell us about it?”

You can then respond frankly: “We want you to know that this is a racist display, and it is offensive.”

Do you condo owners own the lawn outside your units? (These are often considered “limited common elements.”)

Report it to your condo association. They can explore legalities regarding a unit owner displaying this on common property.

Dear Amy: I was distressed by the question from “Distressed Sister,” whose parents were keeping her sister’s adoption a secret.

Parents! What is wrong with you? No challenging topic should be kept a secret from your children. Certainly this one, which concerns a child’s identity!

– Upset

Dear Upset: Readers (and I) agree: Children have the right to know the truth.


(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2022 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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