Dear Prue: ‘I have had a terrible row with my son’

Dear Prue,

I have two sons: the elder an unemployed geologist, the younger a teacher. My younger son recently bought a new house and organised a house-warming party in September to celebrate. He invited friends and family, including his elder brother.

From the moment of his arrival, my elder son started ranting about countless subjects: the Government, tax­ation, traffic, speed limits, migration, and anything else that entered his mind. His rants were liberally spiced with expletives.

The tirade continued when we sat down to dinner. Something had to be done, and I took it upon myself to do it. I asked him if he would please stop talking gibberish and moderate his language. He promptly turned his anger on me, accusing me of never having helped him in any of life’s endeavours and declaring how much he had hated his childhood – and me. It was painful to listen to, not least because I really don’t think it was true: he had received nothing but love and affection from me and his mother. I held my tongue until the point was reached where I and my partner felt it prudent to leave.

Since then, my son has in effect disowned me. He has blocked my telephone numbers and does not reply to letters and emails. I want only to restore family ­harmony, but fear this will not happen. I am 78 and this is causing me great anxiety. My research indicates my son may be suffering from bipolar disorder, but I can’t persuade him to seek help if he won’t talk to me. Please can you advise?

– Michael, via email

Dear Michael,

If your son really has bi-polar disorder then all you can do is wait for this phase to pass and the inevitable, awful depression to set in, when he will probably be convinced he is useless and unlovable. He may then be less resistant to your approaches; though I doubt relations between you will get much better.

Bipolar or not, your son could definitely do with some help. Have you talked to his brother about this? Could he be a peace-broker? Or persuade his brother to see his GP, or get some counselling? Could your partner, or one of his close friends?

I’m only guessing, but could the fact that his younger brother has a new house, and a job, be bugging him? Being unemployed is not easy: it takes away your self-esteem, preys on your mind and makes you wonder if the world wants you or not. Yes, his views may be obnoxious and his language offensive, but I think they are signs of frustration with the world – the whole world, not just you. You are, as parents so often are, the lightning conductor for the thunderbolts of unhappiness.

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