Agony Aunt: My son has begun distancing himself, shutting himself in his room frequently

Irksome isolation

My son has recently been shutting himself in his room frequently and has begun distancing himself away from my husband. We used to share a very strong relationship and he would always tell us about his day at school and his extracurricular, but now it is difficult to even talk to him without it turning into an argument. His room is almost always kept dark and cold and I have heard from his friends that he has been acting very distant from them as well. I don’t know what has happened or how to help him. What should I do?

For a young child to retreat into a shell could be due to various reasons. A lot of care and gentle coaxing will be needed to convince him for seeking help. A gentle yet persistent effort to bring him out of his shell is important. The focus should be how to help him rather than finding possible reasons. This will help your son feel more secure and less liable to answer intimidating questions.

Fear vs reality

I have started becoming extremely scared of losing my parents. It was recently my father’s 75th birthday and he has become a lot weaker as the years have progressed, and I realised that he will soon meet his end. I really do not want to lose my parents since they have always helped me and given me great reassurance during times of need. I cannot help but keep fearing death and how it will steal them away from me. Please help.

I understand that the thought of losing parents could be quite daunting and one can go to any extent to avert the same. Ageing has its own set of challenges, with mortality being the biggest one. It is quite natural to feel the way you are feeling at this point, however, this thought of losing your parents is taking you away from spending quality time with them. Living in the present is important than constantly worrying about what will happen in the future. You have better control over present than you can possibly have over the impending future.

Confused over sexuality

I have recently become conscious about the concept of sexuality and have begun questioning my own sexuality. Nobody I know personally identifies as anything but straight, so I don’t know whether my feelings are even valid or if it is just a coincidence. I feel completely conflicted and it has started disrupting my daily life because I feel sudden attractions towards member of the same sex, but I cannot tell whether my feelings are valid. What should I do?

I would like to begin by saying that being confused about sexuality and wanting to find an answer for the same can happen to anyone and at any age. It is a good thing that you have realised that you feel differently about your sexuality and that it requires further exploration. There are a lot of professionals who work specifically in the field of gender identity, helping people who are confused, wish to explore their sexuality and in general become more aware about self. You can approach such a professional and seek assistance in gaining better understanding and an answer to the confusion of whether your feelings are valid.

Money & the misery

My neighbours are quite financially stable and have no financial problems as such. When they moved in, they gave me a very expensive memento as a ‘house-warming gift’. Since then, they continue showering me with expensive presents and food. I feel useless in comparison and I do not know how to repay them since I am quite poor and can barely afford the rent. However, I still feel like repaying them in some way due to their continuous generosity. What can I do?

It is important to first assess the root cause of you feeling so strongly about this financial gap. It appears that there is strong insecurity at play that is possibly making you feel inadequate to match up to your neighbours. It may not be mandatory to repay your neighbour's generosity in the same manner or up to their financial status. Your perception about how to repay their generosity if changed can help you relax more in their company. Keeping aside the financial difference and thinking about other ways where you can be present for your neighbours can help make you feel that you are doing your bit. MINDTEMPLE