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Ask Amy column

Q. My mother-in-law has no situational awareness. She often pets or strokes my 1-year-old daughter in a way that makes me extremely uncomfortable.

For instance, she will rub her leg all the way up to her diaper over and over, and let her hand rest at the top of her thigh, or will put her hands under her shirt to rub her chest. This makes me uneasy. I feel that if I don’t say something now, very shortly those things are not going to be OK. Some of the areas my mother-in-law touches are my child’s private areas and should be off limits.

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My mother-in-law will also stroke my child when she is in my arms and her hand will brush against my breasts. She will also let her hand rest in my husband’s upper thigh and crotch. He has talked about how uncomfortable this makes him, but he won’t say anything to her.

The whole thing gives me the heebie-jeebies. I want it to stop, but I am not sure how to do that in a way that is effective but doesn’t permanently damage the relationship. My mother-in-law has early dementia, so whatever I do will have to be reinforced over and over.

A. You must tell the truth about this unwanted touching — and you should do so in a way that is respectful, gentle, and repeatable.

You don’t say whether your mother-in-law has always done this, but this sort of stroking might also be a symptom of her dementia.

Tell her, “Mom, I’m a little ‘touchy’ about touch. Always touch ‘Baby’ over her clothes.”

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If she rests her hand where it is not wanted, you (or her son) should gently take her hand, place it elsewhere (on your or his arm, for instance), say, “Here. This is better for me,” and pat her hand. She craves (and we all need) physical contact. Be patient, firm, and kind.

Q. We are a small group of young, hard-working, academically successful college students studying for a degree in elementary education. We have advanced far and are looking forward to graduation, when we can become teachers.

We are enrolled in a very boring class, however. Our instructor is nice, but doesn’t speak the greatest English and has little sense of classroom management.

The assignments are not useful. This has caused us to engage in uncharacteristic behaviors such as talking and laughing in class, doing crossword puzzles instead of group work, reading novels, and engaging in other immature behaviors.

We decided to ask you for advice or words of motivation to make it through to the end of our semester.

A. Talk about a teachable moment! Here you are, future teachers, and you are squandering classroom time because your professor doesn’t have a sense of “classroom management”?

I know it is challenging to rise above a teacher’s weakness, and, of course, I appreciate your choice to write to me while you fritter away your education. However, you paid for this class; I assume it should cover valuable material; and you have a right to a competent teacher.

You should raise this issue with the administration. Your end-of-year evaluations will reflect this teacher’s weaknesses. You could also use this experience to further your educations by forming a study group to cover material the professor is missing. If the professor can’t manage your class, you’ll have to do your best to manage yourselves.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

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