Don’t want to rock the boat

(Ben Claassen III/For Express)
(Ben Claassen III/For Express)

My half-sister and I physically fought when we were younger, and then she sued me when we were in our 20s. I really don’t want to have anything to do with her any longer. She’s planning a family cruise for our father and her mother’s 40th anniversary. I am close to my father, but I have no desire to go because of her. I would rather celebrate the anniversary another time. But there is a lot of pressure on me to go. -Pressured

Where’s the pressure from? If your dad understands your absence and said pressure stems only from your litigious half-sister, I imagine you can devise a way to ignore it and block her without using upper-cuts.

If it’s from your father and stepmom, it is meaningful pressure to consider. You don’t want to punish them for your sibling’s transgressions. Remember that a cruise does not have to be purgatory — unless the norovirus is involved — and if you decide to go, you can find a way to get space from people you don’t want to be with. And the discomfort of an unwanted trip starts fading when you step back on shore, whereas the regret of missing it can’t be as easily remedied.

Tough Enough For the Future

My husband feels that our teenage son is not tough enough. He doesn’t care that he isn’t into sports and stuff, but our son gets emotional sometimes, and has a lot of empathy toward animals. I find these qualities to be mostly positive. But my husband thinks he is going to get hurt if he doesn’t develop a thicker skin. -Differences of Opinion, Va.

Crying at a movie or wanting to rehabilitate an injured squirrel shouldn’t jeopardize your son’s ability to handle future setbacks. If he is debilitated for days after bad feedback from a teacher, however, or thrown into a weekslong depression after learning about a historical injustice, then that lack of resilience is more troubling.

So what is his overall functioning like, and what other qualities does he have? How realistic are these hypothetical situations where he’d need to develop a thicker skin, and how sure of his reaction could you really be? Once you troubleshoot the particulars, you both can decide whether — and how — changes need to be made. And if they do, it shouldn’t be a personality overhaul, but rather a fuel injection to his coping mechanisms.

Dr. Andrea Bonior writes Express' advice column, Baggage Check.
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Vicky Hallett · December 31, 2013