Q: I have a box of mementos in my closet. Recently, I found the box disturbed, and I’m pretty sure it was by my 12-year-old daughter. There are some photos in there I had taken when her dad (who I am separated from) and I were first dating. While they’re not pornographic, they are of the “boudoir” variety. I find myself angry at her but also embarrassed. How do I address this?
Ah, boudoir photos packed away in a closet. How downright Victorian. Someday soon, most kids will be unearthing their parents’ spring break photos on the Internet!
Your anger is understandable, but remember that she’s 12, she’s curious, and although she needs to learn to respect your space, coming down too hard on her can ruin the entire tone of this discussion. And what of the discussion? Figure out the main points you want to convey, which I’m guessing involve privacy, female sexuality, body image and relationships. Choose a quiet, private time to have the talk. As squirm-inducing as you find this conversation, her nausea is probably worse. Once you get your points across, you can reassure her that you never need to talk about it again.
Q: My sister has ruined so many family gatherings because of her flakiness and lateness. I no longer expect her to show up at anything, and if she does, I know she’ll disrupt everything with her lateness. My parents, however, treat every event like they have no clue what she’s going to do, and just get upset all over again. How can I stop this constant frustration?
You’ve got two problems. One is your sister’s behavior, but the second is your parents’ reaction.
Ideally, you’ll handle both through individual conversations. I’d urge you, as aggravating as your sister’s behavior must be, to make sure you do more listening than talking. Depression, social anxiety or substance abuse problems can manifest themselves as flakiness. Or, perhaps she simply can’t be bothered to care about other people’s feelings. Regardless, she needs to know that her behavior hurts others, and you can offer your help in trying to improve it. Tell your parents that it bothers you to see them continually upset by her actions, and that it’s time for a reality check. Otherwise, your sister’s not the only one ruining these gatherings.
Andrea Bonior, a clinical psychologist, is the author of “The Friendship Fix.” www.drandreabonior.com.
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