Dear Harlan,

My son is in his second year of college, and he suddenly hates it and is miserable. Last weekend he drank on campus, decided to show others how fast his car went, and totaled the car. He and the passenger are OK, thank goodness, but he spent the night in the county jail. This is a wonderful boy who has never been in trouble and gets great grades. When I ask him what he plans to do after we get through sanctions by the school, court and insurance issues, he says he doesn’t know. I’m six hours away from him, a single mom, and just panic-stricken. Is there anybody else out there who has dealt with this? I called a school representative for advice, have an attorney lined up and have counseling set up for Christmas break. What else can I do? I’m losing my mind! This affects his future, career, etc.’

Mom Looking for Advice

Dear Mom,

Forget waiting until Christmas break — I’d get him home before he breaks more laws. Anyone who acts this reckless and self-destructive shouldn’t be by himself. He could have easily killed himself or others during his drunken drive. Then there wouldn’t be any question about what to do next. As a rule, when a child’s actions result in possible death, jail time or both, that’s a kid with serious problems. He might not see it, you might not see it, but his lawyer, judge, arresting officer and I see it. And this sudden change in behavior is just as concerning. I’d want to know if he has a drinking problem (and yes, he does when he totals a car and gets arrested). I would want to know if he’s suffering from depression (quite possible). I would want to know why he did this and how to make sure it never happens again. I would take him out of jail and back home. I’d pack his stuff and get him out of there. I’d then talk to an academic adviser to see how to minimize the academic impact. Forget waiting — there’s no time. He doesn’t need to be six hours from home. He needs to be home. He needs help.

Dear Harlan,

My older brother is a junior in high school. His friend is really cute, and I’m starting to think I have a crush on my brother’s friend. What do I do?

Confused and Crushed

Dear Confused and Crushed,

It makes perfect sense that you would have a crush on your older brother’s friend. His friend is always hanging around. You know him. He knows you. It’s so convenient. But it can become very inconvenient in the future. Let’s just say you go with your crush and decide to date him. First you’ll need to get your brother’s permission (dating behind his back would be bad). Then you’ll have to find out if this friend wants to date you. If your brother doesn’t approve or his friend isn’t interested, things can get complicated. If your brother approves and his friend wants to date you, chances are it will get complicated in the future. You’ll date for a while. Things will go well for a while. Then, eventually, you’ll break up or get married. If you break up, you’ll lose your boyfriend and your brother might lose a friend. If you get married, it won’t be for a long time. So, until you’ve dated more boys, I wouldn’t date your brother’s friend. Date guys who can love you, hurt you and teach you about dating before dating your boyfriend’s friend.

Write Harlan at [email protected] or visit online: www.helpmeharlan.com. Send paper to Help Me, Harlan! 2506 N. Clark St., Ste. 223, Chicago, IL 60614.

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