Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I have one child, a 10-year-old. She is very good friends with our neighbor, also 10, the youngest of four. These girls go to different schools but have many mutual friends.

A problem arises when my daughter has a sleepover with anyone but the neighbor. Even though the neighbor sleeps over often (just the two of them or with other girls), when my daughter has another girl over, this neighbor throws a fit to the point where her mother has gotten involved, asking if her daughter can please be included!

My daughter is now starting to turn down fun suggestions from me because of how neighbor will react. For example, a school friend is spending the night next weekend and I suggested sleeping in a tent in the back yard. My daughter said no, because “if [neighbor] finds out, I’ll never hear the end of it.” Thoughts on how to handle in the future would be appreciated.


(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)

Neighbor: Agh! That mother!

Please encourage your daughter to live her life as she chooses without hiding. Use this experience, in fact, to teach her the points on the Live Without Hiding scale, from “flaunting” at one extreme, to “just being” in the middle, to “hiding” at the other extreme. You want to teach her to be comfortable in the “just being” zone, which means she’s mindful of flaunting and resistant to hiding.

So, have other girls over. Maybe pass on the backyard tent — arguably a flaunt — or save it for when the neighbor is included.

When the mother gets involved, you must stand up to her kindly, armed with something your daughter agrees you can offer: “I’m sorry, I told Daughter just one friend tonight, but if Neighbor would like to come over tomorrow for brunch, that would be perfect.”

You can use yourself as the heavy here — having one girl over is different from two or three, and it’s your house so you can draw that line — but you can and should also point out that your daughter knows her neighbor has other friends and an independent social life and feels no less close to her for it.

Meanwhile, coach your daughter to handle someone who won’t let her hear the end of it. Role-play it, even. Standing by “no” as a complete answer is a really, really good thing to know how to do.

Dear Carolyn: My brother-in-law recently confessed to me that my sister is abusing him. From his description, the abuse is emotional, psychological and sometimes physical. And their young children often witness these things.

I tried to broach the topic with her by asking how her marriage is doing and she just gave me the generic “It’s fine.” I’m not sure where to go from here.

Approaching Possible Abuser

Approaching Possible Abuser: Urge him to get help. He can call 800-799-SAFE to find out where he can go locally for counseling, just him to start — this is not time for couples counseling. As soon as he gets his bearings, he’ll need to get help for the kids, too.

It sounds as if you believe him and believe your sister is capable of this. Tell him so, and treat this as the emergency it is. Encourage him to do the same.

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