Their answers to your respectful, concerned questioning, over the course of one or more conversations, will help you figure out if and how you can help.
I dropped out after spring break during my senior year in high school. I ended up getting my GED. I probably could have dropped out junior year and successfully completed my GED, and I'm no Einstein. I hated the high school social scene, had always felt like an outsider, and couldn't relate the subjects taught to my turbulent inner world. I had undiagnosed ADHD, and was probably clinically depressed to boot. My parents were completely flummoxed by my behavior and didn't know what to do.
You can outline for your kids why schooling will help them control what happens to them in life, why it's really important to learn self-discipline and how to work hard, and why it's useful to know how to survive socially, but there are places other than high school where one can learn those things.
Most important, let them know you're in their corner, you love them, and you just want to see them be able to create a happy, productive, and fulfilling life for themselves, no matter what the path.
On using family versus enjoying their company:
When I saw the live-chat post June 22, 2012, about the woman who was asked to hold a dog at a wedding, I blew milk out my nose. (Fortunately the cookie and laptop are fine.) Last winter, my son and his wife drove 1,000 miles with their baby and dog to visit her parents, who live 60 miles from me. They stopped at my house long enough to drop off the dog and then spent the next two weeks very busy, oh, so much going on, oh, all her family is in town and there is so much company to see, oh, we were up so late last night and are so tired today, ad infinitum. . . .
I saw them again on their way home when they came back through town to pick up the dog. One letter-writer saw taking care of a dog at a wedding as a great honor, and in fact, I do like this dog and took good care of him. But I've had trouble coming to grips with what I've perceived to be a gross insult. I have tried to shrug this off for six months, but today I was finally able to laugh out loud.
E-mail Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.