Q: I’m about to get custody of my daughter after four years, so I’m a little out of the parenting etiquette loop. A friend of mine has a daughter, “Autumn,” who is an absolute terror and a bully. The girl has been rude to my daughter during the times she has visited.
I know I won’t be able to avoid social functions because Autumn’s family is always invited to a mutual friend’s events. My daughter wants nothing to do with her, and I don’t know how to easily avoid play dates. Please advise. — Perplexed in the West
A: Talk to Autumn’s parents about her behavior, so it can be corrected. If you are worried about your daughter having to interact with the girl, suggest that she socialize with the other children at the event and stay out of Autumn’s way. If the girl acts out against your daughter, tell your child she is welcome to come and spend some time with you. While you can’t completely insulate her from unpleasant peers, this may lessen the pain.
Q: I’m in high school, and I’m having some problems with my friend “Dave.” I’m in every one of his classes, and he keeps coming to me and asking if I want to work with him. I need to say no, but I don’t know how. It would be nice to work with other friends, but how do I tell that to Dave? — Connecticut Sophomore
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A: Be frank with your friend. All you have to say is: “Dave, I like working with you, but I also want to work with other people. If we both work with some of the others, it will keep us sharper.” And if he indicates that he’s taking it as a personal rejection, tell him it isn’t true, that you like him but think it’s not smart for either of you to limit yourselves. (It’s the truth.)
Q: I could use some advice about family roles. Mine always seems to be the peacekeeper and mediator. Without going into too much detail, my family has some issues, and they usually volunteer me to fix the problem. It’s extremely stressful, and I feel guilty when I don’t succeed.
I am a travel nurse, and I accepted an assignment across the country to try to step back from it. Some of the drama follows me here, but it’s nothing like when I was home. My guilt continues because I feel like my duty is to be with my family, especially my sister, who is emotionally co-dependent on me. Any advice to help divide the roles? — Overwhelmed in Phoenix
A: Please stop feeling like you did something wrong in taking that assignment. You made the right choice. By doing it, you have gifted your family with the opportunity to learn to deal with its issues without relying exclusively on you. By now it should have dawned on YOU that you cannot fix your sister’s co-dependency problem. Only she can do that, if she’s willing to recognize that she has a problem and accept that a licensed psychotherapist — and not her sister — can provide her with the tools to overcome it.
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