Q: My mother constantly talks about her weight and appearance in front of my young daughters. She cannot turn down a dessert without explaining long-windedly what it would do to her body. I overcame a lot of body image insecurity that I picked up growing up with her and am not about to let my daughters be affected by it. But every time I bring it up she says I am overreacting.
You’re wise to be vigilant, but her habits might be so ingrained that she may always think you’re overreacting. Point out to her that you have the right to react, overreact and underreact as you see fit with your children, and thus you get to decide what you want them exposed to. “Mom, I have strong feelings about this, and as their mother I’m going to lay down some ground rules.”
It might not be realistic to make her leave the house, but you can change the subject, not engage her, and otherwise drown out those lines of conversation. Finally, open a dialogue with your girls about this. Seeing you stand up for your principles and value their feelings will go a long way to counteract what she’s throwing at them.
Q: I’ve been hurt by my family’s refusal to include my boyfriend of four years in invitations for gatherings. My sister is about to graduate from college, and despite my dad telling me there would be a ticket for my boyfriend, they said at the last minute they couldn’t get one – untrue! They also didn’t invite him to a baby shower they threw for my stepbrother and his wife. He is as much family to me as they are, and I’m beyond upset.
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Do you know what drives their lack of inclusion? Is there any reason to believe they think he treats you poorly? Is it some sort of prejudice? Is it a garden-variety personality clash? If the discrimination is truly unjust – honest friends can help you determine this – then you’re forced to take a stand. When he is actively non-invited, you can be a conscientious objector by not attending the event. Warn them of this in a general sense, before another invitation comes – letting them know you are committed to him, their exclusion of him hurts you and that it forces you to make a difficult choice. The longer you put up with it, the harder it will be to change the situation.