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June 2012
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Beware of potential video game obsessions

Dear Annie: I gave my 5-year-old son a PlayStation 4 for Christmas. He has since logged countless hours on his new favorite game, "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim."

I would have no problem with this, except he has played the game so much that he has mastered the made-up language and, whenever I try to talk about his newfound obsession, pretends that he can't understand me and that he can speak only the dragon language.

He keeps running around the house in a loincloth trying to pickpocket his siblings and me.

When he is discovered, he swats at us with whatever his sword is that day.

We've been paddled with spatulas, wooden spoons, empty paper towel rolls and more. The most recent time I tried to take the system away, he ran into the woods and tried to call dragons out of the sky.

Annie, how do I remove such unnatural and annoying tendencies from my son? It has gone beyond cute, and it is now obnoxious.

Any advice? -- Worried Parent in New York

Dear Worried: Imaginative play is important, healthy and intellectually stimulating. (Just think how impressive it is that at 5, your son learned a whole new language.)

But it's not so wonderful when he starts to imagine himself as the boss of you (with an army of dragons at his command, to wit).

I would limit the amount of time that he is allowed to play the game, and I'd provide other outlets for his creativity, such as arts and crafts.

When his behavior becomes too much, talk to him and tell him to stop.

Explain that no one likes to be hit with any instrument or have her pockets picked. Be firm, as children crave boundaries. Remember that you are in charge, not him.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from "Stuck in a Rut" and wanted to offer another resource to him.

Though he identified himself as having "a mild form of autism called Asperger's syndrome," that mild form and his lack of work history may be enough to qualify him for services through his state vocational rehabilitation program. VR is a type of program that helps people with diagnosed disabilities gain employment.

These programs have a variety of services that they provide at no cost, and the counselors who work in the programs are skilled at identifying and alleviating the barriers certain people have, whether it's their own impairment or a societal bias.

The counselors focus on abilities and strengths and do amazing work helping people to achieve success in the professional world.

I would really encourage "Stuck in a Rut" to explore that option in order to obtain employment that may be more in line with his strengths and abilities than his previous work of busing tables. -- Wishing You Well

Dear Wishing: Thank you for this excellent practical tip. I've passed it along to "Stuck in a Rut," with the hope that it can get the ball rolling for him.

People looking for more information can check with their state's department of rehabilitation or comparable agency.

Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.

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