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Thursday, 22 March 2001

Help for Fourteen-Year-Old Boy

Written by  Naomi Baum, PhD.

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I am writing to ask you how I should handle my problem with my 14-year-old nephew who refuses to go to school. My sister, whose son I am talking about, has several children from two marriages. She is currently living with a man who is the father of one of those children. He beats her regularly. She has left this man several times and each times swears she will not return. The last time she left, she came to stay in my house with her four children. After one month, she decided to return to her husband, the man who keeps beating her.

My oldest nephew, who is now 14, begged her not to go back to him and when she insisted, he refused to go with her. He told her she would have to choose between him and this man and she chose to go back to this man. I would have chosen my son.

Her son now lives with me. The problem is that he doesn't want to go to school at all. He has missed 10 days and it's just the first six weeks of school.

I've tried to talk to him about going to school and how important it is, but he said that he does not need to go to school, that he can live off welfare if he needs to. I also told him that he is only 14 years old and that he had to go to school, that was the law, and if he didn't they would come and get him and put him in a boys' home. He said that he didn't care. I also told him if he got into any more trouble that he had to go home to his mother. He said that he was not going back to her ever and that if someone tried to make him he would run away.

I would never make him go back if he would just go to school. But he doesn't want to go. He wants to do just what he wants to and he doesn't want anyone to tell him what to do.

My hands are tied. What should I do?

Please help.


You really do have a difficult situation to deal with. Your nephew seems to be a kid who in a lot of ways has his head screwed on straight. He is removing himself from a toxic, violent situation, even at the cost of losing his relationship with both his parents. My sense is that if you are supportive of him, he will find his way back to school.

I think that it is very important for you to make contact with the guidance counselor or social worker at the school and share with him/her what you have shared with me. If the school understands where your nephew is coming from, they will hopefully be able to be supportive and understanding of him.

In addition, the guidance counselor may know of resources that could help your nephew through this very tough time. She may be able to provide some supportive counseling or some individual tutoring for him to help him try to catch up to his class. I would not count on this boy's mother going to the school and doing this and since it is clear that you care about your nephew so much I urge you to turn to the guidance counselor at the school, as soon as possible.

Good luck!

Last modified on Wednesday, 23 February 2011 14:11
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Naomi Baum, PhD.

Naomi Baum, PhD.

Naomi Baum is the Director of the Resilience Unit at The Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma and the National School Resilience Project. Her work at ICTP focuses on developing programs to build resilience in communities that have been highly exposed to trauma and stress. She has successfully brought her approach to Biloxi, Mississippi in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Her work there included seven visits to the city, she trained teachers, social workers, school nurses, and counselors. She has also worked with the population in Haiti following teh earthquake. She has written about Trauma and Resilience in several published articles and books.

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