Dear Annie: I have grown children from my first marriage. I now have a 7-year-old son from my second marriage, and we are home-schooling him.
My older children, who all attended public school, aren’t terribly keen on this. One of them, “Jenny,” criticizes home-schooling and then gets into what she considers insufficient socialization. She says if her baby brother doesn’t turn out right, it’s because I deprived him of something. When she’s finished with that topic, she criticizes the condition of our 30-year-old house. Then she says my house is too cluttered, which I admit, but it’s fairly well organized, and I regularly donate old clothing and appliances. Jenny has offered to help me with the clutter, but I suspect that’s an excuse to throw away all of my things.
Jenny’s latest complaint is that I’ve “changed” and she can no longer talk to me. We used to be able to talk about everything, and now Jenny feels that I bring up God too often. My faith has deepened, but I remind Jenny that I am still the mother I’ve always been, albeit older. But she has decided to cut off communication for an unspecified period of time, saying she “needs space.”
Jenny has an illness that flares up periodically, and she takes steroids regularly. I’m concerned that this is affecting her behavior, making it more extreme. I suggested she speak with her doctor, but she insists the steroids aren’t a problem.
I’m baffled and hurt. We used to have wonderful talks. Her little brother adores her, and it breaks my heart to think their relationship has been put on hold. Any advice?
-- Upset Up North
Dear Upset: You may be right about the steroids, but even so, you cannot force Jenny to address it. You need to back off a bit and let Jenny work through this herself. Send her a note saying you love her and miss her, but you will respect her decision and wait for her to get in touch. If nothing changes within, say, six months, you might consider asking one of your other grown children to act as an intermediary to find out whether more is going on and how you might be able to improve things.
Dear Annie: My friend is going through a rough time with her family. She has resorted to self-harm. I am worried for her. She says she wants help, but she doesn’t want people to know she’s cutting. I respect this, so please tell me what to do.
-- Helpless in Illinois
Dear Helpless: Some people resort to cutting as a way to cope with intense emotional pain. The problem, of course, is that it’s not a useful way to manage pain. The cutting will create scars, she might accidentally cut too deeply, and if the cutting continues, it can become compulsive and addictive. Some people who cut also suffer from underlying depression or other mental health issues.
You don’t say how old your friend is, but please encourage her to talk to a professional. This might mean confiding in her parents or other relatives, or a doctor, school counselor or teacher, or going to a nearby mental health clinic. This is not something that either of you should keep secret. Discussing her family problems will help, and a counselor can work with her to find more productive ways to deal with her emotional pain.
Dear Annie: I took my 13-year-old cat to the vet yesterday and found out she has diabetes that is treatable. I will be learning how to give her shots.
I don’t drive, so my mom gave me a ride back from the vet, and I told her the diagnosis. She said, “You might want to put her down if you’re not able to give her the shots.”
Why would a person think so negatively? Why would she advise me to do such a thing when I’ve barely had an opportunity to start administering care? Please tell people to keep their negative attitude to themselves.
Dear Iowa: Mom was probably projecting her attitude onto you. She might not be as willing to take such care of her cat and uttered that thought aloud. Most people do not intend to say unkind, negative things. They simply open their mouths before their brains are in gear. Please forgive her.
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