Dear Amy: Last year one of my sister’s children came out to me as trans.
“S” asked to stay with me because of the trauma of being around their mostly conservative and media-illiterate family.
S has been living with my husband and me for a year.
In many ways having S stay with us has been an amazing opportunity for growth, but I continually run afoul of them by talking about commonalities in our experiences.
They make assumptions and rebuff me when I try to communicate about my own experiences.
As someone on my own mental health journey, I find this incredibly hurtful.
I get that I DO NOT understand what it is to be trans, but I do understand various other aspects of trauma, and want to talk about it.
I know I need to be “the adult” in the situation, but it’s painful when they don’t accept my experiences as valid.
My husband thinks I should ignore my feelings. I have a hard time with confrontation and S flips out if they are ever put in the position of being in the wrong.
My husband and I are prioritizing them over just about everything else.
I’ve found S a therapist, while I am still looking for one myself.
We have invested so much it trying to get S to a stable and healthy place, but interactions often leave me feeling regressed to previous levels of self-doubt and frustration.
I am trying to treat S the way I would want to be treated.
How do I get through to S that I need to be treated the same?
— Uncertain Aunt
Dear Uncertain: First of all — thank you for being a hero to this young person. What you are doing is huge.
I’m assuming that you don’t have other children/teens in your life, because if you were a more seasoned parent, you would understand that much of what you are experiencing is fairly typical behavior of an older teen.
You are expecting to have a series of rich and rewarding dialogues with “S,” where you relate to them by sharing your own experiences, and where you both benefit from a deep and enlightening relationship.
But a typical 18-year-old mainly wants to narrate their own life. When they talk (and it’s great when they talk), they’re monologuing more than dialoguing.
People at this age are at the cusp of emerging fully in the world, and before they go, they want to get their story straight. This helps them settle into their identity, while they’re still safe and taken care of.
This would be especially important to a trans person.
You and your husband should continue to provide a loving, safe and stable home. Listen with patience and compassion, without insisting (or expecting) that S should relate to you on your level.
You two adults should take care of your own relationship and gradually loosen the strings, so S has the experience of emerging with a degree of independence — while still experiencing your home as a safe place where they are loved and accepted.
Dear Amy: The holidays are coming up and our daughter (in college) has let us know that she has a “serious” boyfriend whom she would like us to meet.
We are of course eager to meet him, but my wife and I are already very nervous about this.
He lives about an hour away and will be visiting us during the college break.
We are concerned. What if we don’t like him?
— Dad on Tenterhooks
Dear Dad: The glib answer is: If you don’t like him, then you shouldn’t date him. This response is a reminder that your daughter is the primary actor in this drama. You have a walk-on role. Go easy.
If you use a scale of 10 to judge people, let this young person start out with a score of seven. No matter what, he gets a seven, because your daughter has chosen him.
Don’t grill him. Don’t test him. Understand that he will be nervous.
Afterward, do not make any negative comments about him to your daughter. Withhold judgment. Let his seven points stand until he either gains or loses over time.
Dear Amy: I can’t believe that you neglected to tell “Teacher in a Quandary” that she should consult the school’s yearbooks to try to identify a child who left a valuable collection in her classroom.
It was so obvious!
Dear Disappointed: I agree that checking yearbooks is obvious. That’s why I didn’t suggest it.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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