Adulthood: Transitioning Into Expert Forum
Son did not come to family in time of crisis
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Questions in the Transitioning Into Adulthood forum are answered by Dr. Jason Greenberg, PhD. Topics covered include Anxiety, career choice struggles, depression, drug/alcohol abuse, job issues, living on one's own, relationships (parents/family), relationships (romantic), responsibility issues, separation issues, sexual issues, sexual orientation issues

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Son did not come to family in time of crisis

My sister's then 18 year old son was accused of improper sexual behavior by a female student while at college more than three years ago.  The relationship ended and the young woman was very upset and said things that were found to be untrue by the college deans who investigated. Apparently, there were also witnesses supporting my nephew and he was exonerated.  My sister found this out third hand just recently from another student who revealed all this while intoxicated, so we aren't even sure of the veracity of this related experience.  Needless to say, we are devastated.  My nephew apparently does not know that his mother was told all this and how heartbroken she is.  His father passed away last year.  Do you think I should talk with my nephew or should his mother--we don't know where to start or what to say or even if we should say anything.  I know my brother-in-law was a great father and I'm sure gave his son sage advice regarding sexual matters.  I should say that my nephew doesn't share much about his personal life (we thought that was pretty normal teenage behavior) but has shared even less since the loss of his dad.  My sister was even more hurt that her son would not turn to her when he was going through this terrible time in his young life.  He's a good kid, has never been in trouble, does well in school, has lots of interests, has many friends, both men and women, and many of his friend's parents admire him as well.  Where do we go from here?  I don't think he will ever come to us.
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This is a tough one -- clearly, your nephew did not want his family to find out about the incident and preferred to handle it himself.  Further complicating things is his father's death, as it sounds that he leaned on his father more than other family members, and to come to others may be a reminder of his father's absence.  With that said, there isn't a "right" thing to do here.  You and your sister could say nothing to him and let him continue to dictate the terms of your relationships, you could also let him know what you've learned and that it's up to him to tell you what he'd like you to know.  

As far as the last comment you made, I refer you back to your initial comment about this being "normal teenage behavior."  It is the norm to keep things, particularly sexual matters, private, it is a way for teenagers to feel safe enough to become more independent and autonomous.  This does not mean that he will never come to you or your sister, but it may be some time before he does.  
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Dear Dr. Greenberg,
Thank you for helping us put everything into perspective.  Your advice really gave us a sense that all will work out in time.  We were really blindsided and your thoughts guided us to a calmer place.  
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