Q. I am a mom with two grown children, “Charlie,” 26, and “Liza,” 23. Liza recently let me know that she and her brother were molested for many years throughout their childhood by my sister-in-law.
I am terribly sad that my children thought they could not come to me and tell me this when it was happening. My heart breaks for them that they endured this alone.
My daughter has been in therapy for a while now and is dealing with it. My son, however, has been using hard drugs for several years now.
I would like to tell him that I know what happened and offer to get him help. I am torn, because this is obviously something that he does not want me to know.
Should I respect his privacy, or should I tell him that his sister told me?
I am afraid if I say the wrong thing his drug use may spiral out of control again.
A. You should be honest with your son. Please do not let his addiction control your willingness to face this heartbreaking challenge openly. You cannot control how he will respond, but I hope you will hold fast and stay in his corner.
Holding onto this secret must have been excruciating for both of your children.
You don’t mention any consequences for the adult who abused these children. I hope your daughter will permit you to attend a session with her therapist to discuss next steps, including going to the police.
Male victims of sexual violence are an underreported demographic, and your son deserves to tell his story, to be believed, and to receive help. Malesurvivor.org is a resource dedicated to male survivors and those who love them. You and your son can be connected with other survivors and with counselors.
Q. I have a family member who lives out of town. She has two children under the age of 4. They are completely out of control, screaming, crying, running, and climbing on everything in sight. They throw temper tantrums daily.
I work in early childhood education and have seen a gamut of behaviors, but these two are off the charts. Their parents constantly overstimulate them by tossing them in the air and dangling them upside down.
Their mother looks like she is at the breaking point. Everyone is tired of the situation, and I feel like I can’t extend advice because it will look like criticism.
My grown children have informed me that if this family is present for the holidays, they won’t be coming.
What is the answer to this situation?
TIRED BEFORE THEY EVEN GET HERE
A. If you’ve worked as a childhood educator, surely you have seen other parents whose behavior or reactions amplified, rather than mollified, their children. Parents sometimes believe that countering overstimulation with more stimulation will somehow “tire out” their children, but as you know, overstimulated young children can’t focus, and tired children melt down.
There are ways to offer fellowship and support, where you can piggyback some gentle “coaching” onto your compassion in order to offer these overwhelmed parents some commonsense advice. You might start by acknowledging that two children under the age of 4 is a lot, no matter how you slice it.
Obviously, the children won’t be climbing all over everything in your house, because you’ll calmly stop them and say, “You can’t climb on top of the furniture at my house, but over here is something you can do,” and point them toward a different activity.
If you are able to catch a quiet moment with these parents, you could start by simply asking them how things are going. Is the older child in preschool?
You can say, “Well, I’ve worked with a lot of kids, and I can see that your two are very active. It’s a lot! Let me know if you’d be interested in some tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years. I also have a couple of books I could recommend, if you’re interested.”
Watching you interacting calmly and appropriately with these children might make the light bulb go on for the parents.
Q. On the subject of holiday meal leftovers, several members of my family show up with carry-out containers, enter the house, fill their containers, take them out to the car, and then come back in to eat with the rest of the family.
Now that’s gall.
A. I’d call that cheeky — as in: how chipmunks eat.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.