Dear Dr. Meg,
My grandson has autism. He cannot speak, but he is very sociable. It is not him that worries me, it is my daughter. She is getting very depressed. Her world is closing in on her. I have suggested that she needs to get to know others that have children with autism. I am afraid she has taken up drinking as a means of coping. She has two other boys who will also feel the pain of her coping. While my wife and I try to talk to her she will cut us off, if we mention anything about the drinking or how she corrects the boys then we won’t see they for a month or more.
There is a bright side of this. The boy’s father who had a terrible home-life as a child has confided in me and has grown to trust me. I can talk to him and he sees the same things. While my daughter was brought up knowing God, he has not felt the need for Him. I do see that God has a purpose in this dilemma.
What resources can I suggest?
A Concerned Dad
Dear Concerned Dad,
You sound like a wonderful father. Your daughter appears to be struggling with depression and this is why she’s turning to drinking. I would encourage you to begin talking with her about how he is feeling instead of telling her what she needs to change. She knows that she isn’t coping well and when she feels that people are going to give her more things to do and change, she feels overwhelmed and she withdraws.
One of the best approaches that I have found is to gently ask how she is feeling and then listen. Don’t offer advice and don’t tell her to change anything. Over time, continue to tell her that you realize that she has a tough life and that you want to help her and support her in any way that you can. Then, ask her how you can help. Let her know that you are her ally, not someone who wants to “manage her.” If you take this approach, she is far more likely to open up to you.
If you get her to admit that she’s really struggling, then tell her that it might be a good idea to go to her doctor to get a check up. If she agrees, you can offer to make an appointment for her. When you do, ask to get a message to the doctor that you are very concerned that she is experiencing serious depression which is affecting her family. Then, when she goes in to see the doctor, he/she can explore this with her without you there. Good physicians are used to helping patients with depression and there are many good ways to treat it.
If there are any times when you can help her with her children by taking them for a weekend or afternoon to give her a rest, this will really help. Also, it will let her know that she can trust you to be there for her. Remember, don’t get preachy to her, just treat her the way God would if he were in the room.
Finally, pray for her every day for one month and ask God to move in her heart to ask for help. If you have trusted friends, ask them to pray as well. Prayer changes lives.