Q. My two children seem to genuinely hate each other. My son is 25 and my daughter 23, and I always thought their relationship would improve as they grew into adulthood. But the competition and the sniping and the downright cruelty and indifference they show to each other has not improved. They have a good relationship with us individually but they act like being in the same room together is terrible. They are mean to each other in ways I have never seen them be mean to others. —Sad Parent of Adults
It is a good sign that they are capable of having loving and respectful relationships with other people, which makes me think this problem with each other is extremely deep-rooted, or indicative of a serious incident you’re not aware of.
Use your good connections with them to your advantage, and sit them down individually in a relaxed context. Frame your discussion as asking what you can do to help them get along better, instead of calling them on the carpet for being pains in the arse (as right as you’d be). If they still don’t improve with your help, and they show no motivation to work on it, at least set boundaries for civility in your home. Warn them that you’ve got to protect the vibe of your family gatherings when you can — and people will be given a grown-up timeout accordingly.
On the outside looking in
Q. I am in a circle of friends who have been hanging out for 10 years, since our 20s. I was the first to get married and now I am the only one with kids (an infant and a 2-year-old). I know I cannot hang out with them as much anymore, but I feel hurt and jealous that I am not invited as much. I see their gatherings on social media and feel angry and sad, even though if they had asked me, I would have said no. How do I stop these feelings, which I realize are silly? —Feeling Left Out
No feelings ever went away just by being told they’re silly, as amusing as that would make therapy. Instead of trying to outlaw an emotion, do something about what’s causing it.
Start by acknowledging the problem: You’re human, and so you miss your friends and feel left out and frustrated that you can’t hang out as before. Carve out more time with your friends on terms that work for all of you — Netflix at your house after the kids are down (or semi-down!), forays to coffee or pedicures or brunches or concerts or book clubs that are planned long in advance. And put some stimulus control in place — if social media is making diaper duty more arduous or making you feel more lonely, set limits on the duration and frequency of your online jaunts.
Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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