The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Life - You can con­tact Amy via email: [email protected] dick­in­

Dear Amy: My son has been bring­ing his longterm high school sweet­heart, “Terry,” to our home for sup­per now for a cou­ple of years.

Terry was not brought up with ta­ble man­ners, and as a mat­ter of fact, her family doesn’t even own a din­ing ta­ble. They eat in front of the TV or in their bed­rooms by them­selves.

She ar­rives with­out say­ing hello, picks at her food, and worst of all picks her fin­ger­nails and split ends be­fore and af­ter the meal at the ta­ble.

I haven’t said any­thing so as not to put a rift be­tween us.

The be­hav­ior is thought­less and rude. She acts as though she could not care less about our family din­ner hour.

Please ad­vise me how to kindly coun­sel her. My hus­band and I have had enough!

Sab­o­taged Sup­per­time Dear Sab­o­taged: Poor girl! I can un­der­stand why she spends so many sup­pers at your house – her own seems de­void of im­por­tant meal­time close­ness.

Even though “Terry” seems rude and dis­en­gaged while at your ta­ble, it is likely be­cause she sim­ply does not know how else to be­have and is pos­si­bly em­bar­rassed by the con­trast be­tween your house­holds.

Be­cause she hasn’t re­ceived even nom­i­nal train­ing or guid­ance at home, you should of­fer it to her at your house.

You could do this in stages, ex­actly as you would with a young child. Start by ask­ing her (and your son) to help you set the ta­ble. Show her where im­ple­ments and glasses go and ask her to fold the nap­kins and place them un­der the fork. En­gage her in var­i­ous cook­ing tasks such as chop­ping veg­eta­bles and mak­ing a salad. Ask her what her fa­vorite dishes are, and see if she and your son could cook from a recipe for the family.

Dur­ing meals, en­gage and in­clude her in con­ver­sa­tion (please re­mem­ber, she has never done this be­fore). The more en­gaged she is, the less she will fall back on her anx­ious (or un­con­scious) be­hav­iors.

Af­ter the meal, de­pend­ing on who did the cook­ing, she and your son should clear the ta­ble and take care of wash­ing the dishes.

I hope you will con­tinue to ap­proach this with pa­tience. If you are able to bring her along, it could have a pro­found im­pact on her.

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