Q. My only granddaughter is 17 years old. Her mother was my only daughter, but she died 15 years ago. We have lived 1,600 miles apart for years.
When she was going to turn 12, my husband and I flew her out to our house and she traveled with us for about three weeks. We bonded well. I thought everything was going great when we dropped her off back at home with her father and stepmother.
Since then she has pretty much ignored us; she never answers her phone, and rarely answers texts. I’ve written letters, sent stamped self-addressed envelopes and paper, but only received one letter back.
We send birthday and Christmas cards (always with a check, which is always cashed), but no response, no thank you — nothing.
I think I’ll continue to send gifts but stop when she turns 18 next year. I may continue sending cards, but I’m not really sure if I should cut out the communication.
What do you think?
A. I am very sorry that you are not being granted the relationship you want to have — and deserve to have — with your grandchild. However, she has been with you in person one time in her more recent memory. For most kids, that is not enough.
Teenagers are driven by extremely complex emotions and interactions; they simply do not have the foresight or hindsight to always do what is good for them.
You have tried mightily to keep this connection going and growing but her father and stepmother would have to be very active participants in order to promote such a remote relationship.
Pressure and pleading don’t work. Keep in touch and yes — send her gifts until she turns 18, and then cards and notes after that.
If possible, connect with her on social media in order to see what she’s up to, but don’t pressure her on any of those platforms.
When she turns 18, send her some photos of her mom at that age. Share some memories of her mother that would make her smile. She (and you) lost her mom at a very young age, and you are the link to that part of her past.
Q. I share custody of my 9-year-old son with his mother.
The other day as I was dropping him off, his mother told him that he’s “getting a belly” from eating too much junk food. He was upset by her comment, which I think was not only rude but unwarranted. He’s always been pretty skinny.
I’m all for pushing our son toward healthier eating choices, but how do I get his mother not to make judgmental comments to our son about his body?
In the past, she’s made harsh comments to her 17-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, which has damaged not only their relationship, but her daughter’s self-esteem.
How do I protect my son from his mother’s sharp tongue?
A. You are insightful to realize how damaging this sort of body assessment can be for your child. When parents do this, I always wonder how they would feel if someone in authority over them chose to critique them in this way.
I hope you will find a way to explain your perspective to your ex. However, you don’t want your son to feel bad about the parent he lives with half of the time. You should make sure he always feels comfortable sharing his feelings with you. (Young boys are often told to “hold it in” when they should be encouraged to “let it out.”)
You can ask him: “What did it feel like when Mom said that to you?” Reassure him: “You know that you are 100 percent perfecto, exactly as you are, and you’re growing tall and healthy just like that tree over there.”
Follow up with some gentle statements: “Sometimes Mom says tough things — and I know it can be hard — but I don’t think she means to hurt anyone’s feelings.”
Q. “Leigh” added to your advice to the “Widower,” about moving on and dating after the death of a spouse. Leigh told about how her father’s choice to find another loving partner was a tribute to his love for her late mother.
Her words moved my stone-cold heart. What a beautiful soul! I mean WOW! What an amazing way to look at a situation.
She is so right! I wish we all could be more like her.
A. “Leigh’s” parents taught her how to love well.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.