Dear Annie: My sister-in-law, “Nina,” is my husband’s only sibling. She is divorced with grown children.
Nina appears to be sweet to most people, but she can get pretty ugly, especially when she drinks. She has ruined more than one occasion with her offensive outbursts, often directed at members of my family. She says these horrid things in front of my children, which makes them uncomfortable.
Nina frequently pops in at our home, so I make polite chitchat and then proceed to go about what I was doing and let her visit with my husband. I don’t want to prevent him from having a relationship with his sister. Apparently, this is the wrong approach, because Nina now tells my husband she “has no idea what she ever did to me” and doesn’t understand why I “hate” her. He sticks up for me, but it puts him in a tough spot.
I should also mention that in the past three months, my sister died, my children left for college, and I had to move my mother into a senior center and sell her house. I do not hate my sister-in-law, but clearly, I have other priorities at this time. I realize I cannot control her behavior, only my own. So, any advice for me?
— Trying To Fly Under the Radar
Dear Trying: We don’t believe there is a “right” approach to Nina. She is simply looking for reasons to respond negatively to you. Let your husband deal with his sister. Be as polite and pleasant as you can manage, but otherwise, ignore her. You should not have to jump through hoops to please someone who isn’t interested. You have enough to deal with.
Dear Annie: My husband and I were raised to eat dinner with our families. We ate what Mom prepared, or we went without. We have continued this tradition with our three children. With the exception of sauerkraut and Brussels sprouts, they will eat any food put in front of them. I believe that few children are picky eaters. Rather, their parents have catered to their preferences because it is easier.
We have many friends and family with children the same as age as ours, and I am appalled by what they eat. And they wonder why their kids are often sick and grumpy. I don’t say a word, but it drives me nuts to see a kid eat nothing for dinner but be the first in line for dessert.
My question is this: When we are entertaining other people’s children and one of them says to me, “I don’t like that,” is it OK for me to say, “The appropriate response is ‘No, thank you.'” And can I say that telling the hostess you don’t like her food is considered rude? Am I blowing this out of proportion?
— Midwest Cook
Dear Midwest: These are things the parents should be teaching their children, but obviously, they are sleeping on the job. If the parents are not present, you may educate the children. If the children are your relatives, you may also correct them, provided the parents do not object. However, if they are other people’s children and the parents are present, you may say the first part, but not the rest.
Dear Annie: This is in response to “Curled,” whose ex-husband barely sees his older kids now that he’s remarried and has a baby.
I would highly recommend that the writer and any couples with similar issues look at family mediation programs. Many are low-cost or free. The presence of an unbiased mediator gives parents the chance to explain their perspectives while ensuring that the conversation is productive, centered on the needs of the children, and directed toward visitation and custody solutions. In addition, mediation can also allow parents an opportunity to understand how their behavior may be affecting the children. She can call her local family court to learn more.
— Las Vegas
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