Q. I am trying to get my husband to take better care of himself. He has had an awful year: He lost both his parents over seven months, he has had to lay off several people and he had a bad ankle injury. But he just goes along like normal. I see the toll it is all taking on his body. He looks like he has aged 10 years. I wouldn’t say he is depressed, but he clearly needs a break. I want him to be able to do things that help him. For me, it’s working out or a spa day. I feel like he hasn’t got anything like that. I try to get him even to take a day off work and he won’t. —Worried
No two people are sustained by the same things; one person’s relaxing massage would make another person jump out of his or her skin. And one person’s spontaneous hooky-from-work mental salvation is another person’s panic attack. If anything, try to avoid putting “take a break” as one more chore on his cognitive checklist to worry about, and throw out preconceived notions about what stress relief should look like. Instead, start from scratch.
You know this man. What does he need? Start an open-ended conversation that focuses on two things: When is he happiest and most relaxed? And how can you make that happen more?
I wish she’d start acting her age
Q. How long do you think is realistic to watch your adult child struggle trying to make it in a career that is not working for her? I have tried to respect that she is 28 and can make her own decisions. But my daughter left college to pursue acting and singing, and has spent her 20s working small gigs that leave her constantly borrowing from her father and me and unable to have health insurance. I know it is her dream, but I think there is a compromise to stay artistic, like finishing her degree and teaching. She is actually great with kids. But she tells me she is an adult and can make her own decisions. —Concerned Parent
Clearly she can make her own decisions, right up through the choice to “constantly borrow” your money, which upgrades you from Potential Helicopterer to Person Whose Opinion Holds Weight. You also have the choice — and responsibility — of setting a boundary, sticking to it and not being an enabler. The parameters are up to you.
Perhaps you’ll make your help contingent on her researching A, B or C job, or looking into X, Y or Z teaching requirements. It’s not like you’re telling her to become an investment banker. For a loving, financially supportive parent to express an opinion about how his or her daughter’s talents can be used in a way that will allow her to support herself independently seems reasonable enough to me.
Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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