While I'm away, readers give the advice.
To help friend living with abuse, be supportive and not too harsh
Va.: On helping someone awaken to (and get out of) an abusive relationship: I would encourage people in this position to be as supportive as possible of their loved ones in all respects, because they will need a confidence boost if/when they decide to leave their relationships. I'm so grateful my parents played such a delicate balancing act of supporting me and voicing concerns about my boyfriend, while not bad-mouthing him too much. Don't force loved ones to choose sides; they might choose the wrong one, and feel all alone when they realize it.
Teens need guidance, but also room to find their own way
Mother of Boys: On instilling values in kids: I have been a high school teacher for 18 years and I am the mother of three handsome teenage boys. Girls are always around them. This summer, three girls came to my door and asked to speak to my son. They were all in bikinis and wanted him to come to the pool.
When he returned from the pool, I asked what he thought of each girl. He described one girl using a word that rhymes with "cut," and explained that she had done sexual things with some of his friends and afterward his friends had dumped her. She is now trying to be my son's girlfriend.
I asked him why he thought she might be having sex with these boys. I asked him what her relationship was with her father. I asked why she wanted to be with a boy. I wanted him to focus on why she was behaving this way. This girl is desperate for attention and thinks this is the only way any guy would want her.
I told my son I would be deeply ashamed if he ever took advantage of a girl like this. He should be kind to her. I asked him, "What does it say about your friends who took advantage of a girl who just wants to feel loved and cared for, not used for sex and then talked about in locker rooms?"
N: On instilling values, continued: As a pediatric psychiatric RN, I've learned that what all kids desperately need from their parents is a reasonable amount of their undivided time and nondictatorial attention: Be there for them without laying down the law or telling them what they should be doing. Parents need to have the courage to listen to what their kids really have to say, what their problems and viewpoints really are, unfiltered by their own biases. Parents may express their own views, but not in a manner that implies their kids should fall in line with them. Kids are in the process of learning to be their own persons and learning their own feelings. They live in a different world than the one we grew up in.
This takes a lot of fortitude on your part as a parent, but can be the greatest gift you can give your children.
It's hard to be there for your kids when you're working two jobs to keep food on the table, etc. Share your struggles without laying your problems on their shoulders or expecting them to solve your problems. They sense something's wrong though, and — if you don't talk about things — they just feel left out.