Young girl needs fam­ily’s love

The Mercury News - - Legal Advertising And Public Notices - Ask Amy Con­tact Amy Dickinson via email at [email protected] amy­dick­in­

DEAR AMY >> My great-niece is 11 years old. I’m very con­cerned about her.

She’s lived with her grand­par­ents (my younger brother’s fam­ily) since she was very young.

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

She re­cently found out that 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.” He asked me for any ad­vice. I told him that I wasn’t sure how to han­dle this.

My con­cern is that she stays in her bed­room all the time and seems very with­drawn, de­pressed and un­happy. She used to be happy and smil­ing. Any help on how to han­dle this very dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion? — Wor­ried Un­cle DEAR WOR­RIED >> Now is the time to 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. Pri­vacy is im­por­tant for young ado­les­cents, but iso­la­tion will con­trib­ute to sad­ness.

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. Watch a fa­vorite movie to­gether. Go bowl­ing and ice-skat­ing. Put her first.

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 some good, age-ap­pro­pri­ate books to dive into (I highly rec­om­mend the site amighty­ for book sugges­tions). Read to­gether.

A book for the adults to con­sider is “The Worry Work­book for Kids: Help­ing Chil­dren to Over­come Anx­i­ety and the Fear of Un­cer­tainty (An In­stant Help Book for Par­ents & Kids),” by Mu­niya S. Khanna and Deb­o­rah Roth (2018, In­stant Help).

If it’s pos­si­ble, she should also see a coun­selor with ex­pe­ri­ence in work­ing with chil­dren.

DEAR AMY >> “Ex­pe­ri­enced with Equine” cor­rected your use of the phrase “jump­ing at the bit” by say­ing that the cor­rect phrase is “chomp­ing at the bit.”

I beg to dif­fer! The cor­rect phrase is “champ­ing at the bit!” Any­one ex­pe­ri­enced with equine mat­ters knows this. — Cor­rect­ing the Cor­rec­tion DEAR COR­RECT­ING >> The beau­ti­ful thing about this is that I’ve heard from sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple who are deeply en­gaged and knowl­edge­able about both horses and lan­guage. My un­der­stand­ing is that both spellings are used. Thank you all.

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