Girl needs a fam­ily’s love

Los Angeles Times - - COMICS -

My great-niece is 11. She’s lived with her grand­par­ents (my younger brother’s fam­ily) since she was young.

She doesn’t have much con­tact with her own mother or fa­ther (who split up years ago).

She re­cently found out her mother is preg­nant by a new boyfriend and is go­ing to have a baby girl.

I asked my brother how my great-niece is han­dling this and he said, “Not very good.”

My con­cern is that she stays in her bed­room all the time and seems with­drawn, de­pressed and un­happy. She used to be happy and smil­ing. Any help on how to han­dle this sit­u­a­tion?

Wor­ried Un­cle

Dear Wor­ried: Sur­round this girl with love, af­fec­tion and at­ten­tion. You can prob­a­bly imagine how con­flicted and hurt she is feel­ing — her mother, who aban­doned her, is now start­ing an­other fam­ily. This will re­vive ev­ery aban­don­ment sad­ness she has ever had and will likely in­tro­duce more feel­ings that she can’t ar­tic­u­late and doesn’t know how to han­dle.

Her guardians should not let her iso­late her­self.

Ev­ery­one in the fam­ily should at­tempt to talk to her about this. Don’t as­sume she is happy about this news, and don’t force her to­ward a happy nar­ra­tive (“Hey — you’re go­ing to have a lit­tle sis­ter!”). In­stead, ask her, “Can you de­scribe how you are feel­ing?” If she is inar­tic­u­late or si­lent, don’t cor­rect her. Re­as­sure her and en­fold her in her fam­ily’s em­brace.

If there are safe ways for her to see her mother, she should be of­fered this op­por­tu­nity.

Books will help her to process and tackle some of her sad­ness and worry. Give her good, age-ap­pro­pri­ate books to dive into (I highly rec­om­mend the site amighty­girl.com for book sug­ges­tions). Read to­gether.

If it’s pos­si­ble, she should also see a coun­selor with ex­pe­ri­ence in work­ing with chil­dren. An in­de­pen­dent, car­ing and sup­port­ive adult could coach her in ways to process and re­spond to her big feel­ings.

Dear Amy: My par­ents have been di­vorced for sev­eral years. They refuse to rec­on­cile, and they refuse to let me live with ei­ther one of them.

Most re­cently, they also de­cided against con­tin­u­ing to fi­nan­cially sup­port me.

I have been in and out of law school — most re­cently out — be­cause I flunked out. What should I do with my life?

Should my mother or fa­ther agree to take me back in and/or fi­nan­cially sup­port me so I can live com­fort­ably un­til I’m back in school or have a high-pay­ing job? Please ad­vise.

Prospec­tive Law Stu­dent & As­pir­ing Ac­tor

Dear Prospec­tive: No, your par­ents should not pro­vide you with a com­fort­able liv­ing while you get your act to­gether. You’re on your own now. And this is what it feels like to be on our own.

Law school might not be for you. For one thing, your own judg­ment and crit­i­cal­think­ing skills seem so faulty that you just don’t seem cut out for a ca­reer in the law.

Act­ing, how­ever, will al­low you to in­habit fan­tasy and ex­press your cre­ativ­ity. Act­ing is deep and hard work, how­ever.

It’s time for you to ex­pe­ri­ence the ter­ror and joy of mak­ing your own way in the world.

Send ques­tions to Amy Dick­in­son by email to [email protected]­dick­in­son.com.

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