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He’s Improved But Still Gaming

Young Man Studying In Library

saddeneddeeply reports news of some significant improvements in his Loved One’s life. Making it through a full semester with a strong GPA is a big turn-around from where things were last year. There are still some problematic behaviors though, and he’s not totally out of the woods yet…

I have a bit more good news to report. My son survived his last semester at Cornell University without failing a class. He got almost 3.5 GPA for the semester. Not as much as he should be capable of getting, but a world of difference from where he has been. He still plays video games, sometimes 6 hours in a row, which sucks all his "spare" time away. He only does things in school to the extent to make sure he is not getting kicked out. He does not take care of things that are not "urgent". For example he did not bother to look for summer intern. He still skips classes. He still does not sleep well. He does not send his tennis racquet out to restring. He does not fix his broken I-phone screen or send it out for fixing. Much smaller things compared to the challenges a lot of people in this community are facing. Yet he is not normal. He is not free of addiction and he does not want therapy. I guess I should be grateful. Yet I don't know how to get him completely off video game addiction.
As far as what worked for him, I think first is his desire to go back to Cornell which he earned himself (he spent a summer at home to prepare for the standard tests and my wife drove him all over to see almost all the ivy league schools and beyond which motivated him), the technique we learned here to reflectively listen to him and love him no matter what which is not easy to do when he is out of his mind. But we often reminded ourselves: if we don't love him, who will.

Thank you for the update. Your son has come a long way from dropping out of Cornell and living with you. He went back to school and completed the semester with a very decent GPA. He is not totally out of the woods, but now he is nearer to the clearing.

You’ve changed your approach and now listen to him more carefully. You have seen how using reflective listening can make a big difference. He is still frustrating you, with the gaming and the lack of responsibility for his things… But again, all in all he is handling the main challenge of academics at Cornell. Not an easy accomplishment.

You have done so much to help your son and the changes you report here are your reward. Let the dropped responsibilities kick him in the backside, as they are bound to do. They aren’t dangerous.

The gaming is a tough one, since it is acceptable in society – even promoted in some societies. If he didn’t spend all that time gaming, he might get that racket re-strung. True enough. But the gaming must not feel good, after 6 hours of avoiding everything else. It is like gambling. Nothing ingested…  just at the end of the 6 hours wasted, a little humiliation perhaps, and things left undone all around.

We change when we want something more (a wish) or when things hurt (a dip). Your son has figured out how to walk the tightrope of avoiding dips sufficient to not lose his place at Cornell. Let him struggle with this balance on his own. Give him the space to work it out. Don’t talk about it with him unless you are ready for a sit-down with options. For now, he has found a way to succeed at Cornell. Cornell is the reward. He has cleaned up so much of what was problematic. I believe he knows how to clean up the rest.

As his parents, you’ll have the most helpful impact on him if you focus on the positive more than the negative. Acknowledging the positive is a stronger move in maintaining your relationship than critiquing the negative. Letting him know how proud you are of him will feel good for both of you.

With the other issues you are still seeing, try to let them be for now. When you find yourself wanting to push him about some of the other, undesirable behaviors, let them be a cue for you to take some time to check in with yourself. Instead of getting carried away with the negative thinking, consider what else you can do to help ease yourself into a different mindset. Take these thoughts as a message that you could use a walk, some more time to take care of yourself, meditation, or a little time writing in a journal. Make it a point to focus on these kinds of practices that can be your allies as you work through some of those frustrations.

All parents can relate to being frustrated by their children’s behavior. Taking care of yourself helps create a buffer from those inevitable frustrations. Then whenever things do intensify, you have more strength and resilience to see them through with love and compassion. This really is what our children need from us. Your love has made such a difference through the struggles. You’ve seen how it has helped. The journey to becoming a self-responsible adult is not a straight line. Keep listening, keep building the bridge. He still has much to learn, as we all do. But together, you have cleared a major hurdle.

Thank you for writing in. Your situation is important for us to read about. We are so heartened to hear of these improvements in your son’s situation and his successful semester. This is a big deal. And it’s a lot to be thankful for.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. Thank you for the incredibly important reminders and encouragement. AIR always helps me stay on track and redirect my focus so I can be a better parent to my son. AIR gives me air and reminds me to breathe:-)