I have two sons, 17 and 19. The 17 year old has struggled throughout school with learning disabilities and since middle school has had to attend a school quite a distance away. He is now a senior in high school. His time in the public school was not a happy one and he didn’t have any strong relationships with peers when he left, so it was difficult to maintain friendships in our town. He has friends in school, but they live an hour away so they don’t get together outside of school often. My 19 year old is the opposite – always did well in school, has a very strong social circle that he does things with all the time. Gets up, goes out for coffee with them. Comes home for a period of time, then goes out again with them for some activity – basketball, watching a game on TV, playing XBox, etc. Then comes home for dinner, and goes out with them again after dinner for the evening. He is in college, so this is happening over the winter break and sometimes over summer when he is not working. While my older son is happily busy with friends, the younger one is sitting home, miserable and depressed because he doesn’t have anything to do or any friends to hang out with. He is very shy, and despite our attempts to help him make friends locally, it hasn’t happened. He does work over the summer, which helps, but can’t during the school year because of the distance he travels to school. The younger one would love it if the older one would choose to spend some time with him, and they do get along well when they are together. We have talked to my older son about spending time with his brother, and he agrees, but never makes the time to do it. How much should we push this? I don’t want to create animosity between them by forcing the older one to hang out with his brother once in a while instead of his friends. I find myself getting angry at my older son that he doesn’t see how sad his brother is and step in to help. Of course, my husband and I would love to spend time with the 18 year old but that’s the last thing he wants! (From the USA)

A:  I admire your desire to get your boys together, but if it isn’t happening with the recommendation you may want to think about a regular family gathering or, perhaps, have your husband initiate an outing with the 3 of them. It may be that the bonding may take some nudging from mom and dad — or just dad to help launch it.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral