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Mom worries that dysfunction will follow kids

                                                                                          Q. My husband and I have two amazing teenage daughters. They are mature, intelligent, and conscientious. I’m very proud of them and look forward to seeing what they do in their lives, but this is also where my fear lies.

They have grown up witnessing an unhealthy codependent relationship between their father and me. Although we are currently working toward a healthy solution, I fear that some of the damage has already been done.


Our daughters were never in danger and as parents we always tried to prioritize their needs over our own, but I see some of my not-so-admirable traits of low self-esteem and hints of his addictive behavior in them as well. I’m afraid they will make the same mistakes and choose unhealthy habits and/or relationships.

What advice can you give to help them recognize and avoid this? I certainly hope these apples fall far from this tree.


A. You don’t outline the specific nature of the dynamic in your household, but I would venture a guess that some of the traits you mention might be hardwired for your daughters, while others are situational and learned behavior (based on the dynamic they witnessed and absorbed in early childhood).

It is important and useful to be as honest as possible with your teen daughters regarding your own mistakes, failings, and frailties, but when it comes to parenting, “Do as we say, not as we do” has a very limited utility.

If you and/or your husband are struggling with an addiction, it is vital that your daughters receive responsible information and support. Introduce them to a “friends and family” peer support group, like Alateen (Al-anon.org).


I think it is also important that you seek professional help on your own. The message should be, “I’ve sought help for my problems; I’m working my program, and it is helping.” Do not hide or stigmatize the role of therapy or support groups; these are lifelines.

In addition to all of this talking, it is also vital that you listen. Your daughters need to know that they can be honest with you and that you will listen with compassion and do your best to support them when they need it.

Q. My loving husband of 45 years died unexpectedly three years ago. He was the most loving, caring person I have ever met. I had a young daughter from a prior marriage when we met. He adopted my daughter and treated her and the son we had together beautifully.

My husband was 71 when he died. I haven’t been able to get on with my life.  People tell me he wouldn’t want me to not move on with my life, but he was my life. He was my best friend — he was everything to me. I regularly cry myself to sleep.

What am I to do now? My mom helped me the most, but she and Daddy were married for 63 years until she died last year. The women in our family live long lives.


I do pray all the time, and it has helped, but I need to do something else. Can you help?


A. I’m so sorry for your losses. Grief is the most challenging of all emotions, because it cuts you off from even the smallest pleasures of living in the world.

Connecting with other human beings in an authentic way will help you, but your grief has effectively cut you off from others.

You say that prayer is helping, and because you seem spiritually-oriented, I suggest that you join a faith community. The current pandemic has actually opened up the opportunities for worship, because so many houses of worship have moved their services online. Researching your question, I have watched several inspiring services — all available online any day of the week. An Internet search should get you started.

Professional grief counseling would help you tremendously. Your doctor could help you connect with a counselor. Your local hospice center will host in-person (or online) grief groups, where you can connect with and communicate with other grieving people.

Think communication and community. This is the way forward.

Q. “Allergic” complained of a very serious allergy to poison ivy, often transmitted to her by dogs when they rub up against her on the hiking trail.

Instead of chastising dog owners, why didn’t you simply suggest she use a different trail?


A. This is truly a case of “the trail wagging the dog.” Maybe the dogs should use a different trail.


Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@amydickinson.com.